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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