Wind Power: Promising? Or hot air?

Late last year, the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (a.k.a. MEAN Gotta love those acronyms!) announced:

OK, that sounds fair. Who could be against wind power? It appears to be an affordable alternative, another small piece of the alternative energy source pie.

Whether they ran over budget, I do not know.

At least they got 35% of the planned 20 turbines up and running as promised by the fall of 2002 (according to this Friday’s USA Today article,which says):

My instincts tell me, “that’s great for the people of Nebraska and even a little for the nation as a whole”.

Then some cynical questions begin to surface:[ul][li]How much acreage is this wind farm sitting on?[]Is the money spent ($1 per watt) for a renewable resource cost effective?[]What is PETA gonna say when the first bald eagle gets chopped to shreds flying through the area?[/ul][/li]
When you take a step back and look at the big picture, wind power (as with every other proposed renewable energy source that is economically / technologically feasible today) will, at best, make a miniscule contribution toward finding a solution for this nation’s energy problems. Put another way, it’s mostly hot air, the proverbial fart in a windstorm.

Greenpeace, once again, is all wet.

According to James Lacey at Reality Check, their outrage over the administration’s refusal to commit to generating 15% of its’ power from wind by 2010 is nothing short of ridiculous. In order for that pipe dream to become a reality:

[quote]
[ul][li]6,000 wind farms, at;[]12 square miles each, containing;[]1,500,000 towers standing almost 30 stories tall[/ul][/li][/quote]
72,000 square miles of pinwheels on steroids just to generate 300,000 megawatts of electricity? That’s not blowing smoke.

My state, NY, ranks 15th in favorable power generating wind conditions and yet the most power we could generate is 24,000 megawatts. Deriving power from wind, no matter how laudable the goal, is, at best, a very small part of the energy needs picture.

Instead of wasting resources on inefficient power-generating solutions, perhaps it’s time this country’s policy makers and researchers start developing new, cost effective, practical technologies along the line of fuel cells and fusion technologies.

ASide form the problems you mentoined with wind projects is the fact that they run only when the wind blows, of course. One aspect of having an efficiently run system is that you can generate electricity when needed. That simply is not really the case with a wind farm, you get power when the weather decides, not when there is a need or it is economic to do so. This isn’t sucha problem when it is sucha small part of your generating portfolio, but if you increase it up to 20% then you run into reliability problems. You cannot rely on the wind, say during peak load periods. So what do you do? You have to build units that are relatively expensive, to fill in the need to keep your system reliability where it is needed. Basically you have to build two less efficeint generators to fill the need that one more efficient generator could meet. There is a corrollary of having the wind run when they really aren’t needed and possibly displacing other generation.

Just goes to show, what we really need are cheap photovoltaics.

Cheap photovoltaics would still take up a lot of real estate. What we really, really, really need is for someone to invent perpetual motion and free energy. Not to mention a cure for baldness and the common cold.

Another problem with wind farms is that they can create a radar blind spot.

You know what we could really use? A form of extremely concentrated energy that doesn’t require huge amounts of fuel and expel huge amounts of pollutants in the atmosphere.

Now, if someone could figure out a way to harness the energy of atoms themselves, we’d have something. Split an atom, harvest the excess energy. No pollution, and only a tiny amount of waste. And even better, the waste comes out as a solid so it can be transported and stored, rather than being blown into the atmosphere.

Oh, if only we had such a magical source of energy.

We do. It’s called Mr. Fusion.

Okay, so it doesn’t split atoms, but it still generates a boatload of energy.

“”“Cheap photovoltaics would still take up a lot of real estate. What we really, really, really need is for someone to invent perpetual motion and free energy. Not to mention a cure for baldness and the common cold.”"""

Precisely. I see a problem with air currents, in that air is not very dense to begin with. I would not be suprized if a much cheaper ‘perpetual’ motion compressor could be developed; but it’d have to be awfully big! I’m thinking that a heavy object dropped down a very tight tube could generate quite a bit of pressure using gravity. If you could time it to bounce on the air by the time it reached the field of an electromagnet that was generated by the pressure; you could concievably eek out some extra energy in the process. I think water would work much better though; maybe construct a cloth that accellerates it to the top with the proper polarities to stop super-saturation… letting gravity do the rest as it accellerates around a curve pointed back towards the ground; then back up the cloth again…

-Justhink

Tell me more about this accelerator cloth - are you talking about capilliary action?

And while you’re about it, can you explain how we can move an object back up to the top of the tube using less energy than it released on the way down?

:confused:

What is PETA gonna say when the first bald eagle gets chopped to shreds flying through the area?

One of the reasons that the wind turbines are so large is so that the huge blades turn relatively slowly so they are not a danger to birds.

Instead of wasting resources on inefficient power-generating solutions, perhaps it’s time this country’s policy makers and researchers start developing new, cost effective, practical technologies along the line of fuel cells and fusion technologies.

We are spending billions on these technologies. Unfortunately, they’re not ready for prime time yet. Fusion is always “20 years” from commercialization.

>> I would not be suprized if a much cheaper ‘perpetual’ motion compressor could be developed

You might not be surprised but people who know the laws of physics would be very surprised.

To my knowledge, DENMARK is the only country that gets a sigbificant amount of power from the wind-around 3%. I have seen the danish windmills-on the island of Aero. They are most impressive, and the blades make a soft “whosh-whosh” sound as they revolve. It works in Denmark because the land is low, and winds from the North sea are constant and strong. However, the capital and maintanence costs are extremely high-but for a country that had no coal, hydropower, or oil, it is attarctive.
I would not expect NORWAY to be interested-their hydroelectric power is among the cheapest in the world.
it is all a question of economics.

“What is PETA gonna say when the first bald eagle gets chopped to shreds flying through the area?”

The only place where birds have had a problem is one location in California where condors couldn’t always cope. Bugs are the bigger problem for wind turbines- the accumulated bug bodies must be cleaned off ocasionally.

denmark: http://www.windpower.org/tour/index.htm

denmark: http://www.windpower.org/tour/index.htm

Actually, according to an article on this website for Danish windpower,

[Note that this is 21% of electricity use … not all energy use, but if Denmark is like the U.S., electricity is a fairly large fraction (somewhere like 1/3-1/2 half, I believe?) of total energy use.]

Another fact to clear up the misconception that the Danes have turned to wind because they lack fossil fuel resources: According to the Lonely Planet travel guidbook for Denmark, “Denmark is self-sufficient for both oil and gas and since 1991 has been an exporter of these fossil fuels.”

Tretiak: As for the issue of the fickleness of the wind, this could be a real issue if wind got up to being a large fraction of our electricity supply. However, there are several facts to consider. One is that the issue of excess capacity is already one we have to deal with simply because demand is not constant but rather gets very high on hot summer days. [In this regard, photovoltaics look particularly attractive since they would tend to produce the most electricity at times when it was most needed.] Second, in a hydrogen fuel cell economy, for example, one can imagine using wind power to do electrolysis on water to produce the needed hydrogen which is then a form of stored energy. Third, the fluctuations in output for wind energy, while high in any one area, would tend to average out somewhat over a larger area, so I am not sure what the fluctuations would really be over the range one could transport the electricity on the grid.

Here, by the way, is an article that I have only skimmed thus far about the wind energy potential for the U.S.: http://www.nrel.gov/wind/potential.html

Would be nice…But, it would also be nice if that tiny amount of waste were not extremely toxic for an extremely long amount of time and if people actually had a good idea of what to then do with it. And, if such power plants were not such attractive terrorist targets because of the damage that uncontrolled release of this material could cause. And, if said technology could compete well in the marketplace with other energy generation technologies. (Admittedly the fossil fuel technologies have quite massive direct and indirect subsidies, but then nuclear has enjoyed some pretty nice subsidies itself. In France, where fossil fuels are less subsidized, nuclear has competed a lot better … Don’t know what sort of subsidies it gets there.)

Anyway, I am not saying this all as being dead-set against nuclear, but just pointing out that the picture is a lot more complicated than the rosy one that you paint.

“”“Tell me more about this accelerator cloth - are you talking about capilliary action?”""

This seems like something that can be accomplished to me. I would bet on it. I did the bottom response first, and want to check your ‘capillary action’, to see what it suggests in relation to what I was suggesting.

“”“And while you’re about it, can you explain how we can move an object back up to the top of the tube using less energy than it released on the way down?”"""

I don’t see how perpetual motion can be achieved right now (I’m not a physicist! or… anything, just commenting.). I believe that all the extra energy might need to be spent demagnetizing the magnet for when the ‘ball’ comes back down… though there seem to be so many vaiations that come to mind; one might not even require demagnetization. The idea would be that a charge builds, until enough pressure is again accumulated to release the charge; at which point the eletromagnet operates at the critical point where the ball floats or bounces (depending on how fast it was started?) on an air cusion; at which point the air pressure difference now accumulated below the object is acting as a propellant once the object is magentized up. shrug Was uncharachteristically pondering this a couple days ago. I’m usually just thinking about philosophy… I did say it’d have to be very big (or move VERY fast) in order to draw any reasonable pressure for generation, assuming that any eeks out at all during the process. Hell, the cylinder tubing could be laced with electromagnets that do the whole ‘+/-/neutral’ thing, placing the intervals tighter together as the air reaches suspension mass for the object travalling down; furthering the accelleration process on both ends.

-Justhink

Photovoltics are not the answer by far, they are very ineffecient for the size. I believe I remember reading that the best effeciency for photovoltic power was around 33%.

There is a reason plants don’t walk around.