Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Latest Headline

From Ironic Times:

Dems demand White House rearrange deck chairs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Desperate times for Danish wind

According to a Nov. 10 news item from the Danish Wind Industry Association, Denmark is tackling the biggest problem they have had in integrating wind power. Currently, only a fraction of the wind plant production can be used, because Denmark has built and converted many conventional plants to provide both heat and power ("combined heat and power," CHP), thus doubling the amount of energy extracted from fossil fuels. Because they are providing heat, the plants can not be ramped up and down to accommodate the fluctuations of the wind. But the fact that Denmark exports most of its wind production must be getting embarrassing. The solution is to subsidize converting homes to electric heat! Of course, this means that the CHP plants won't be providing heat any more, so their fuel burning will be back to the old inefficient level, thus raising CO2 and other emissions. New inefficiencies also will be introduced by their being called upon to modulate their output.

But wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, Denmarks' second-largest company (after Lego), is experiencing hard times, and the most important thing is to make it appear that wind energy works. Vestas investors don't care if more fossil fuel has to be burned to make it so.

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Wind power does not work

To the Editor, Manchester (Vt.) Journal:

Rob Roy Macgregor (letter, Nov. 18) would have us believe that more than 50 gigawatts of wind power capacity installed worldwide, or its endorsement by some utilities, is proof that it works. He asks, as if he does not know the answer, where is the profit if wind is so unreliable?

To the first point, one need only ask for evidence that 50 gigawatts (or 10-15, representing the actual output from wind, or even any at all) of energy from other sources has been displaced to discover that wind power does not work as an energy source on the grid, that such claims are as puffs of smoke.

To the second point, endorsement by utilities comes from the same source as the profits: the requirement or expectation to buy a certain amount of renewable energy and the option of buying "green credits" instead. Whether the energy produced by a wind turbine is used or not, equivalent green credits are generated as well. There is great demand for them, and their trade is very profitable. Enron began this model of energy progress, and it remains a scam that benefits only a few investors. Some utilities set up as credit producers themselves, and others are typically bought off, as exemplified by Lyndonville Electric's East Haven deal, with a share in the racket.

Utilities, however, are clear about the futility of wind power. Eon Netz, one of Germany's grid managers, with over 7,000 MW of wind capacity connected, has described in their annual wind reports that they need additional conventional capacity to cover 100% of the possible infeed from wind, because even as it peaks it often drops off very quickly. Many utilities in Japan cap the amount of energy they will accept from wind facilities. A recent report boasting of the U.K.'s superb wind resource also points out that new "spinning reserve" must be built and kept burning to compensate for wind power's fluctuations, thus severely limiting any positive effect on the use of other energy sources. A February 2004 study by the Irish grid found that wind power caused minimal displacement of other sources, that it was essentially superfluous additional capacity. Eon Netz projects that at best wind turbines might displace barely 4% of their capacity in other sources.

Macgregor is right that storing the intermittent output of wind turbines is an essential solution. It only underscores the absurdity of building them now, when large-scale storage, if feasible at all, is still very far off.

If wind power worked, proponents would be able to point to real evidence of energy savings and cleaner air, not just a sales chart.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

"Neighbours Warn of Din From Wind Turbines"

From the Nov. 16 Wellington, New Zealand, Dominion Post:
Manawatu residents say they are being "driven stupid" by noise from wind turbines, despite living twice as far away as those planned for Makara.

Two residents who live up to three kilometres from Te Apiti and Tararua wind farms spoke at the resource consent hearing for Meridian Energy's proposed Makara wind farm yesterday.

On the Makara Guardians group's last day of evidence, Wendy Brock described three consecutive days of relentless noise and throbbing from 18 turbines 2.5km from her Ashhurst home.

"You have this drone, you can't escape it. After three days the residents were just worn down, fed up."

Meridian's Project West Wind proposes 70 turbines, some within 1km of homes. The Makara turbines would also be 35 metres taller than Te Apiti's.

Mrs Brock said Meridian's consultation for Te Apiti did not prepare residents for the noise levels.

"The turbines make noise, lots of it."

... Meridian has already paid an undisclosed sum to move one Manawatu family who could not live in their house because of noise and vibrations.

Daniel Sproull's farm lies within sight of both wind farms. He said he feared for Makara residents if Meridian's 70 turbines were allowed.

"If these go ahead and your place is downwind, you're stuffed."

The turbines' sound at Te Apiti, 3km away, was like a truck rumbling past his house, though "it doesn't pass in seconds, it can rumble for hours".

The turbines were enough to "drive you stupid".

Several nights he was woken by turbine noise, thinking the clothes dryer had been left on overnight or road works were directly outside his property, he said.
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Save the world, save the ridgelines

To the Editor, Vermont Guardian:

I am puzzled by Jane Newton's stand against opposition to industrial wind turbines (letter, Nov. 16). Are not the ridgelines part of the world that needs protecting? If we allow our own back yard to be destroyed merely for corporate profit, how can we go on to save the rest of the world from the same process?

I am surprised by her apparently unquestioning acceptance of claims from the developers that wind power is a step in the right direction. Despite decades of experience, and at least ten years of substantial installation, proponents can not point to any savings of other fuels. It won't move us away from fossil or nuclear fuels, let alone war, exploitation, and pollution. Besides a lack of positive impact, the negative effects are not negligible.

Just as military invasion is sold as "spreading democracy" and corporate piracy as "bringing opportunity," the needless industrialization of our last rural and wild landscapes with wind turbines just as falsely sold as "clean energy."

Newton suggests countering corporate crime in small ways, yet dismisses the crimes of big wind as minor. A scam is a scam, destruction destruction. The fight against it at every level can -- and ought to -- begin in our own back yards. My experience in working with many individuals against big wind is that their concern does not stop at their own ridgelines. The network of individuals and groups helping each other extends around the world. Their activism should be praised not denigrated.

In August 2004, the Point Pierce Aboriginal community of Australia watched 40,000 years of Dreaming destroyed by the construction of 50 wind turbines at Wattle Point. This past autumn, Zapotecos of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico asked Mark Duchamp, a bird conservationist who fights giant wind turbine facilities in Spain and Scotland, to help them against "the imposition of neoliberal megacorporations destroying nature and our cultures" (the whole letter in Spanish is reproduced on the web at www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=2565).

Giant wind turbines on our ridgelines won't reduce the use of other sources of energy in Vermont or anywhere else on the grid. According to a Nov. 18 article in the Times Argus, the U.S. president of the Italy-based company targeting Sheffield and Sutton shamelessly boasted of construction on "state-owned virgin mountain tops" on Maui, Hawaii. It's corporate invasion and conquest, nothing else.

The fight against big wind is not to deny the necessary struggles Newton is active in. It is to join them.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Stooped

'"Just when you thought you'd seen it all, the Republicans have stooped to new lows, even for them," said Ms. Pelosi, who assailed Republicans as impugning Mr. Murtha's patriotism.'  --New York Times

To show the Republicans that Democrats can stoop even lower, Pelosi then urged her party to vote with them against Democrat Murtha's plan to remove troops from Iraq. And all but three members of the House did.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wind developers and the urge to conquer

From today's Barre-Montpelier (Vt.) Times-Argus:
"Officials behind a major wind project proposed here unveiled more details of their plans Thursday evening, meeting with the planning commission as required by the state law that regulates energy projects.

"Massachusetts-based UPC Wind Management presented the update, bringing in its president, power sales director, project manager, lawyer, publicist and environmental consultant. They were joined by Avram Patt, general manager of East Montpelier–based Washington Electric Co-op.

"UPC has ... U.S. offices in Maine, New York, San Diego, Toronto and Maui, Hawaii, where UPC's first U.S. wind project is under construction on state-owned virgin mountain tops," Gaynor said." [Paul Gaynor, president of UPC, which is actually based in Italy]
Sheffield and Sutton residents appear to be overwhelmingly opposed to the project, which will sprawl across three mountain ridges. After the usual private dealings with town officials, whom they easily wooed, the company is clearly upset by the public response. Despite an earlier promise to heed the public's wish, UPC never intended to abandon its quest. Besides the show of force to the planning commission reported here, they have hired an advertising firm to organize a "grass roots" support campaign.

A few supporters of the project argue for property rights, even as they sign away control of their own property for decades in a lease written by the lessee and drastically impinge on the rights of the neighbors to enjoy their property.

But the revealing comment is about the "state-owned virgin mountain tops" on Maui. It's about conquest and nothing else. That's why progressives, feminists, and environmentalists oppose these projects. Industrial wind power provides no mitigating benefit that even begins to justify this rape and pillage.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wind power titbits and news

According to a March 2004 report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy by Craig Cox of Bob Lawrence and Associates (Alexandria, Va.), each of the foundations for the 108 GE 1.5-MW wind turbine towers in Lamar, Colo., contains 1,250,000 pounds of concrete and steel rebar.

According to a Nov. 17 story in the Providence (R.I.) Journal, the hole prepared for a single 660-KW Vestas V47 wind turbine tower at a Portsmouth Abbey is 13 feet across and 26 feet deep.

In Wayne County, Pa., it has been widely reported, the Waymart Wind Farm company is trying to get their tax assessment lowered from $282,410 to $31-45,000 per 1.5-MW turbine. In Meyersdale, Pa., the owners of the wind power facility pay the town $640 per 1.5-MW turbine instead of taxes. Nobody should be surprised that these people try to get out of paying their fair share. But who in supportive communities thinks the crumbs they might throw for a while are worth the tremendous loss of open or wild land?

Finally, the Baltic Times reported on Nov. 16 that Estonia is no longer favoring wind power over other renewables: 'Einari Kisel, head of the Ministry of Economy and Communications' energy department, puts it bluntly: "We do not want to have too many wind mills," he says. "The price of wind energy is expensive. The unstable production causes additional costs to other producers."' The wind developers argue that the high cost and low benefit can be mitigated by selling CO2 credits to countries that must meet Kyoto Accord targets (or at least buy enough tokens of non-CO2 production instead of actually reduce emissions). That is, embrace energy-laundering.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wind power increases emissions from fossil-fuel plants

On May 14, the Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia, carried a story that began, "Could wind power actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in Victoria?":
Andrew Richards, external affairs manager for Australia's biggest renewable energy company, Pacific Hydro, ... rejects outright claims that wind farms can increase greenhouse gases because they cause existing brown coal generators to "throttle back" and produce higher emissions.

"Coal-fired power is at its most efficient at maximum load, there is no doubt about that," said Mr Richards, who also sits on the board of the Australian Wind Energy Association.

"But it is a bit of a furphy to say that wind power is causing greater emissions at this stage.

"With the current state of output from wind in Victoria, we are just background noise compared to demand fluctuations."
"At this stage." That is to say, it appears, that as wind power becomes more than just "background noise" it does indeed cause greater emissions.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New wind report blows away myths of proponents

A report that Britain has the best wind resource in Europe has been getting a lot of attention lately. This has in fact long been known and is evident in the higher capacity factor (actual output vs. full capacity) of installed wind turbines: 25% in the U.K. versus 15-20% on the continent.

Rather than looking just at averages, the recent government-commissioned study from Oxford
University's Environmental Change Institute found that Britain is never becalmed. The researchers examined 35 years of meteorological data and found not one hour when the wind wasn't blowing at least 4 m/s somewhere in the island kingdom, that being the wind speed at which most industrial turbines start generating electricity. They also found that the wind is below that speed in more than 90% of the country only 1-2 hours per year. From this, they argue -- and news articles duly echo -- that wind power is not intermittent as opponents claim and is therefore a reliable source of energy.

The report itself (beyond the executive summary), however, distinguishes between intermittency and variability, noting that "it is the variation in output from one hour to the next [let alone one minute to the next] that poses challenges for its integration into electricity networks."

The electricity produced by a wind turbine at 4 m/s is the merest trickle, which the report also explains. So the planned tens of thousands of wind turbines would be justified by proponents because in one region there will always be a trickle of production. Rather than defeating the argument of wind power's intermittency, this study in fact underscores it by emphasizing the need for many widely dispersed wind plants to essentially act as a single small plant.

Even then, as the report also explains, the need for conventional capacity would be minimally reduced, "due to the variability of wind power." In their example, which assumes a 35% capacity factor for wind (despite elsewhere citing the actual 27% long-term average), the addition of 13 GW of wind plant capacity to an 84-GW network could replace only 3 GW of conventional capacity. They also explain that spinning reserve must be added as well to back up the wind, so some of that 3 GW has to remain. Their estimate is a very optimistic 5% of wind capacity, or 0.65 GW in the example, but German grid manager Eon Netz has determined their need for spinning reserve to be at least 50%. Even halving that need by assuming the U.K.'s wind is so much more steady than Germany's would mean that no conventional capacity would actually be displaced.

In addition to the new wind capacity (without any reduction of other capacity, and possibly an increase of conventional capacity for spinning standby), the report describes the need for new and upgraded transmission capacity and the costs of integrating nondispatchable and highly variable wind power.

Thus wind power is an expensive land-intensive intrusion that fails to make a meaningful contribution to our energy needs nor to cleaning up our ongoing energy use.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

High cost of wind energy

Letter to the Editor, The Times (London), Nov. 14, 2005:
Sir, The figure quoted for the payback time of wind turbines (letter,
November 7) is strictly for the manufacture of the turbine itself and takes no account of the huge energy costs involved in making the massive foundations, the access roads, transmission lines, the re-engineering of other generating plant to enable switching in and out of intermittent supply, nor a share of the costs of back-up conventional plant on spinning stand-by. It is these costs that make wind energy not so attractive and make financial pay-back time more like seven years. For a lifetime of some 25 years per structure this is far less attractive and were it not for massive subsidy the current scramble to despoil our upland areas would not be taking place.

PHILIP BROWN
Brampton, Cumbria
Note that the writer limits himself to the financial payback time. It is probable that the wind turbines never pay back the energy their manufacture, transport, installation, and operation require. See "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind" at www.aweo.org.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

"The Aesthetic Dissonance of Industrial Wind Machines"

Here's an excerpt from a thoughtful essay about the aesthetics of industrial wind turbines, "The Aesthetic Dissonance of Industrial Wind Machines," by Jon Boone, at the online journal Contemporary Aesthetics. (Click on the title of this post for the complete essay.)
Perhaps only the US highway system has the scope and scale to match the aesthetic pretensions for industrial windpower. It certainly has transformed the landscape, as well as much of the culture, penetrating into nearly every aspect of life on the continent. Moreover, its functional success has allowed it to become part of the accepted natural background, much in the way Prof. Saito hopes for the windpower machines. People generally take the interstates for granted these days. Still, despite its ubiquity, the American highway system should present many "thick value" difficulties for philosophers of aesthetics. These difficulties were rather artfully exposed by Godfrey Reggio in his film, Koyaanisqatsi. Here, Reggio shows our highways as foreboding corridors of frenetic technology in service to unbridled consumption, scarring the earth with terrifying consequence and for no compelling reason. He could just as well been documenting industrial windpower, pointing out similarities with factory farms and noting how each corrupts the economy, diminishes the ecosystem, and blights the landscape.
And from one of the footnotes:
... photograph taken several miles away from four of the twenty 375 foot wind turbines atop a 2700 foot ridge over the town of Meyersdale, PA. But the height and elevation are only part of the story. The differentially moving propeller blades dominate the visual experience, taking away the sense of the mountain itself.
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Friday, November 11, 2005

More cons than pros

Kristin Calkins Rowe wrote in the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press ("Wake up on wind power," Nov. 7, 2005), "It doesn't take a genius to figure out there are more cons than pros in this debate." The most glaring cost of big wind is the industrial development of rural and wild areas, which inarguably degrades rather than improves our common environment. That is impossible to justify if the benefits claimed by the industry's sales material are in fact an illusion, propped up by subsidies and artificial markets for "indulgence credits" which allow the flouting of emissions caps and renewable energy targets.

Why do utilities generally support wind as a renewable power source?

Actually, they don’t. In Japan, as reported by Asahi Shinbun on May 18, 2005, utilities severely limit the amount of wind power on their systems, because, as documented above, "introducing too much of the electricity, whose supply can fluctuate wildly, can cause problems for utilities' power grids. ... If there is no wind, the utilities must rely entirely on other facilities. And even when wind power can satisfy all of the demand, they must continue operating thermal generators to be ready for any abrupt shortfalls in wind power."

With the movement away from vehicles such as the Clean Air Act, which actually reduced emissions, to so-called market solutions such as renewable portfolio standards (RPS), utilities must buy a specified proportion of their power from renewable sources or buy credits equal to their shortfall. As long as they can say that, for example, 20% of their power comes from wind, it doesn't matter if they're burning as much nonrenewable fuel as ever to back it up. Most importantly, however, "green credits" are generated in addition to actual electricity. They are an echo of the renewable energy already sold that is given as much, or even more, value than the real thing. Burdened with the directive to buy renewable energy, utilities want to be a part of wind power development so they can share in the lucrative sale of the credits.

Ironically, analyses for New Jersey utilities and by the U.S. Energy Information Agency have shown that the only effect on emissions that an RPS might have is to drive down the cost of exceeding emissions caps or missing renewables targets.

With rising fuel prices, however, many utilities have started to demand actual useful energy targets from wind facilities. As Renewable Energy Access reported on Nov. 7, 2005, from an American Wind Energy Association financing workshop in New York City, this has worried investors. Wind turbines produce only the very marketable appearance of green energy, not actual relief from other sources.

[Read the rest of this paper at www.aweo.org/LowBenefit.pdf.]

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"Onerous" demand that wind turbines actually work

The American Wind Energy Association sponsored a financing workshop in New York last week. As reported by Renewable Energy Access:
Another major theme of the workshop was the effect that high natural gas prices are having on the wind power market. In general, the high fossil-fuel prices will be very good for the wind power market, most agreed, as utilities and investors that want to limit their fuel-price risk start looking for other energy technologies that can be built quickly. However, that interest is making project development more difficult in some ways, as well. As utilities try to define power output from a wind project more and more precisely, they are tending to make power purchase agreement terms more onerous -- too limiting in some cases to make the project viable.

In light of that fact, investors and developers are starting to look toward merchant wind plants -- those built without a long-term supply contract. In some markets, especially those with high renewable energy credit prices and predominant use of natural gas for electricity, merchant plants look as though they may be more profitable than those with supply contracts locked in. However, with the exception of a few cases, there has been little action on the merchant plant front yet.
In other words, a wind facility is only attractive to investors if it is not actually expected to produce useful electricity!

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

"The Sheaves"

The Sheaves

Where long the shadows of the wind had rolled,
Green wheat was yielding to the change assigned;
And as by some vast magic undivined
The world was turning slowly into gold.

Like nothing that was ever bought or sold
It waited there, the body and the mind;
And with a mighty meaning of a kind
That tells the more the more it is not told.

So in a land where all days are not fair,
Fair days went on till on another day
A thousand golden sheaves were lying there,
Shining and still, but not for long to stay—
As if a thousand girls with golden hair
Might rise from where they slept and go away.

—Edwin Arlington Robinson

"Noisy turbine annoys neighbours"

From the August 11, 2003, Christchurch (New Zealand) Press. According to a campaigner in the area, the problem has not yet been resolved.
Windflow Technology is shutting down its Gebbies Pass [500kW] wind turbine each night because of noise concerns. ...

The turbine looms over a ridgeline above photographer Julie Riley's McQueens Valley property.

Ms Riley, who objected unsuccessfully to the project at its resource consent hearing on the basis of noise and landscape values, said the turbine was much louder than expected.

Windflow was not able to stick to its resource consent, and people 3km from the wind turbine could hear it whenever it was running, she said.

"They said it would be quieter than 30 decibels and we would only be able to hear it 3 per cent of the time.

"They would have had a lot more people complaining at the resource consent hearing if people down the valley knew they were going to be affected.

"We are hearing it almost 100 per cent of the time when it is running," Ms Riley said.

Two noises were emanating from the site, just more than 1km from her house.

"Two hydraulic pumps run all the time. I can hear those at night," she said.

"When they have the blades going it is terrible. It sounds like 'grind, grind, grind'. It obliterates the bird sounds and all the nature sounds that we have all come here for."
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Wind turbines require high maintenance

It's not just the gearbox. You've got 40 tons of rotor blades turning and changing pitch, attached to a 70-ton nacelle which turns on top of a 250-foot-high tower to catch the wind. A mechanical challenge in any environment to be sure.

The following is from John Galambos, "Brooklyn wind turbine performance over 12 years," presented at New Zealand Wind Energy Association Conference, 31 August 2005. Remember that this single turbine near Wellington (N.Z.) is a demonstration installation, with all the money necessary thrown at it to keep it going. Since most of the financial benefits in the U.S. disappear after a few years (6 years for accelerated depreciation, 10 years for production tax credit), the more likely scenario for most facilities is abandonment, as with many of those in Altamont Pass, California, and the sad specimens at South Point, Hawaii.
TECHNICAL ISSUES DURING OPERATION

Years 1 and 2

Gearbox oil issues with build up of black gunge
  • oil type changed
Part of skylight roof section vanished during 1994 storm
  • 38.5 m/s 10-sec average
  • Estimated 45m/s 3-sec gust, turbine rated for 70m/s 3-sec gust
  • Anemometer cup vanished (years 5 and 11 also)
Slip coupling operating too frequently, required replacement
  • High wind shutdown changed from 25 to 22 m/s
Blackening of gearbox oil

Years 3 and 4

Blade inspections revealed gel coat failures
  • Appear to relate to damage from thrown stones
Tower to foundation ring flange-to-flange bolts started failing
  • Managed by monitoring and change out
Numerous minor factory technical upgrades continued
  • Driven by Service Bulletins not issues on site
Yaw drive issues, noisy
  • motors and worm drive gears replaced
Years 5 to 9

Pitch accumulator leaking - replacement with production loss

Controller required Y2k modifications

Yaw drive gearboxes replaced

Ongoing issues relating to EMC
  • Susceptible to strong local FM radio transmission
Gearbox low speed shaft stiffener fitted
  • Factory modification for high winds
  • Internal expansion sleeve to hollow shaft
  • Too late, damage done, gearbox would require replacement before long.
About year 10

Gearbox high speed shaft bearing failed at 9+ years
  • Noisy gearbox operation
  • Before original gearbox was replaced
Weather mast guy hardware failed
  • Repair can have safety implications
Gearbox replaced at 10 years
  • Refurbished unit, "as new", with warranty
  • Shaft end floats outside maintenance tolerances when delivered
  • Bearing replaced after 3 months
  • Gearbox replaced again after 13 months
  • Condition monitoring trials unsuccessful
Years 11 and 12

Nose cone replaced
  • Disintegrating
Tower section joining bolts corroded
  • Replaced at 11 years
Pitch linkage connections failed,
  • Rods damaged and replaced
Yaw ring and yaw gears failed
  • Long outage
  • No local parts
Other
  • Numerous control card replacements/updates to Service bulletins
  • Included fans to control cards, oil filtering etc
  • Communications issues at times – not turbine related
  • Distribution disturbances have tripped the turbine
  • Some misc contactor failures, replacement repairs, consumables etc.

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"Wind Powers American Dream"

Now-freelance journalist Judy Miller is already working again, using her special access abilities to report the real truth, i.e., the truth those in power need us to believe. Fresh from her work to promote the disastrous invasion of Iraq, she now turns to the domestic challenge of pushing unpopular industrial wind facilities onto communities across the country, as this excerpted story from tomorrow's Washington Argus shows.
Wind Powers American Dream

by Judith Miller

Washington, DC -- I have just spent two weeks embedded with the president of the American Wind Energy Association and cannot convey strongly enough the urgent need for massive wind power development in this country.

Randall Switscher took me with him to see site after site that was either totally lacking industrial development or mostly wasted with low-grade agriculture.

"These people desperately need our help," Randy told me. "We need to bring them into the 21st century, get some investment going there."

Randy's model is the transformation of Nigeria by the presence of foreign oil companies who built schools, hospitals, banks, and communication infrastructure. Nigeria now rivals Sweden in measures of equality and health, he says.

During a retreat in the lovely unspoiled mountains of Vermont, I met Keith Dewley, a college-educated architect. He told me how grateful he is to Mr. Switscher for providing a beacon of hope to Vermonters. It is now normal for a Vermont child to hope to go to college, and that is directly a result of the activity of wind developers from outside, he told me.

Keith's interest verges on the artisitic. "What I learned in college was that aesthetics are about social constructs, about what we expect from our lives. Are we defined by hayfields strewn with rotting manure and mountains left to grow wild without any consideration of financial development needs? When I look up, I want to see the future!"

There are, of course, some holdouts who fear the changes Randy represents. Others selfishly want to preserve a system they have benefited from, however backward. Randy admits that the campaign to win their hearts and minds will be long and hard.

"We may not ever convince some of them," he says. "But we're going in there anyway, because that's our duty as world citizens. Sooner or later they'll have to get used to it. Our mission is bigger than any one of us."

Keith Dewley's daughter Hilary, a proud sophomore at the University of Vermont, echoed the enthusiasm of her elders. "The ancient Egyptians built pyramids as monuments to their beliefs. That's what wind turbines are -- just knowing they're there we can feel better going about our business."

Progress wouldn't be possible without a strong government commitment. I am currently embedded with an analyst in Goldman Sachs and will be writing soon about why massive profits are necessary to guarantee the success of wind power development.
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wind power facts

The most frequently unknown aspects of industrial wind power, according to the shared experiences of people trying to educate their neighbors, are the enormous size of the turbines, the new or upgraded roads required, the irrelevance of oil to electricity generation, and the virtually nonexistent effect of wind power on emissions from other sources, such as coal. These have been compiled into a FAQ page at www.aweo.org/faq.html.

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High cost, low benefit

Here's a picture of what appears to have been once a lovely open vista in Hungary.


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The gearbox: wind power's Achilles' heel

This month's Windpower Monthly examines a little-known twist in the "mature technology" of large-scale wind turbines:
Gearboxes have been failing in wind turbines since the early 1990s. Barely a turbine make has escaped. Six years ago the problem reached epidemic proportions, culminating in a massive series failure of gearboxes in NEG Micon machines. At the time, the NEG Micon brand was the most sold wind turbine in the world. The disaster brought the company to its knees as it struggled to retrofit well over one thousand machines. It has since been taken over by Vestas, the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer. Vestas is still grappling with the aftermath of the gearbox catastrophe.

The wind power industry and its component suppliers now believe that such major series failure of gearboxes is a thing of the past. Today's far larger and more sophisticated turbines, they say, are safe from mistakes encountered in early phases of technology development.

Bigger turbines, however, are proving to be far from immune to gearbox failure, as Windpower Monthly reports in its November issue. ...

The wind industry's gearbox problem has for years been shrouded in secrecy. While blame for the failures has been spread far and wide, questions outnumber the answers by far. At Windpower Monthly we set ourselves the task of finding out the true scale of the problem. Why is it that gearboxes in wind turbines have so massively failed? What is the solution? ...

The good news is that understanding of the highly complex loads that gearboxes -- and particularly their bearings -- are subject to is being helped by a new industry willingness to co-operate and face up to the challenges of wind power's rapid technological evolution. But only time will tell whether a definitive solution has been found -- and whether it will stay the course as wind turbines get ever bigger and more demanding of engineering ingenuity.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Punishment

Here's a picture from the October 9 Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times, of some of the approximately 150 turbines in Phase I of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm on Tug Hill in northern New York. A complete concrete plant was built just to provide for the massive foundations.


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Wind barely better than nuclear

George Monbiot wrote in the October 25 Guardian (U.K.):
Ten cents of investment, [Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute] shows, will buy either 1 kilowatt-hour of nuclear electricity; 1.2-1.7 of windpower; 2.2-6.5 of small-scale cogeneration; or up to 10 of energy efficiency. "Its higher cost than competitors, per unit of net CO2 displaced, means that every dollar invested in nuclear expansion will worsen climate change by buying less solution per dollar." And, because nuclear power stations take so long to build, it would be spent later. "Expanding nuclear power would both reduce and retard the desired decrease in CO2 emissions."
It is notable that wind power is almost as bad an investment as nuclear power for reducing CO2 emissions.

Note: I pointed this out, that wind was hardly better than nuclear, to Mr Monbiot, who has written an incisive critique of the "wind power madness" yet still supports it. His reply was, "20-70% hardly better? Try telling that to an economist." One hopes that some economists are better at math than this. The comparison in this analysis is to what ten cents could buy if best spent, namely, 10 KWh of energy efficiency, so that wind is only a 2-7% better investment for reducing CO2 emissions than nuclear.

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