August 22, 2013

The basic physics of wind energy

In accordance with the 2nd law of thermodynamics, energy must flow from a concentrated form to a more diffuse form in order to do work.

Wind (and solar) is already diffuse, so it must first be concentrated (requiring a very large collection area, i.e., adverse impacts) to be useful, and second, because it is also intermittent and variable, be stored so it can be called upon as needed.

Both of these are substantial barriers to — and the basis of arguments against — practical large-scale use of wind (and solar) to provide electrical energy.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

August 17, 2013

A circle closes

Deutsches Bundesarchiv: Presidential elections, Nazi public address van at Berlin-Pankow, 10 April 1932

Ground was broken [Tuesday, Aug. 13] for a wind farm that will have five turbines located on 1,500 acres east of the Pantex [nuclear fuel fabrication] Plant, about 18 miles northeast of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. The project is expected to be completed by July 2014.”

The 11.5-MW facility of five 2.3-MW turbines is being built by Siemens Government Technologies. It will be paid for by energy savings guaranteed by Siemens, that is to say, by the generous tax breaks paid for by you and me.

But the actual facility being built is far less than the one originally planned.

In fiscal year 2010, the plant spent $2.7 million on electricity usage from Xcel Energy and uses about 7 megawatts of energy daily, according to federal data. Bidders must commit to producing at least 10 megawatts a day, a federal proposal said.”

The facility “will generate approximately 47 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is more than 60 percent of the annual electricity need for Pantex, or enough electricity to power nearly 3,500 homes.”

Note how misleading it is to characterize the generation in terms of "homes", when these five giant wind turbines are intended to provide only three-fifths of a single factory's needs.

Also note that the hoped-for 47 million kWh represents an average production rate of 5.37 MW* (which is 77%, not 60%, of the plants apparent load of 7 MW), quite a bit less than the initially sought guarantee of 10 MW. That 47 million kWh represents a capacity factor of 47%. In both 2011 and 2012, however, the average capacity factors for wind turbines were 34% in Texas and 41% in Oklahoma.

The federal government expects the wind facility to "save" $2.8 million annually, that is, to pay for itself. At a 40% capacity factor (i.e., 40.3 million kWh annually), that would require a cost difference of 14.4 cents per kWh from what they are now paying.

Presumably, this crucial plant is not actually going to rely on the intermittent and highly variable power from the wind turbines and instead it will be sold to the grid from which the plant will buy its more reliable electricity just as before. So add the generosity of ratepayers to meet the inflated price the grid is expected to pay for this merely symbolic boondoggle.

[Siemens' use of slave labor from, even in, work/death camps during World War II was publicized in 2002 when its Bosch division sought to register the trademark "Zyklon" for a range of home appliances, including gas ovens. Siemens already marketed a "Zyklon" vacuum cleaner. The insecticide Zyklon B, of course, was used to kill large numbers of the Nazis' prisoners in camp showers, after which their bodies were burned in ovens. Siemens helped to build V2 rockets (again, with SS-provided slave labor). And here they are still, now generating income from a nuclear weapons plant.]

*47 million kWh = 47,000 MWh; ÷ 8,760 hours in a year = 5.365 MW

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

August 10, 2013

19 reviews of the research literature on wind farms and health

As of 24 May 2013 and today, pro–industrial wind sociologist Simon Chapman has provided his “summary of main conclusions reached in 19 reviews of the research literature on wind farms and health”, increased from its earlier edition of 17 reviews.

As noted previously, he transparently cherry-picks and misinterprets the actual findings of almost all of them. The previous note also discusses now 28 reviews, almost unanimously recognizing the need for more research into the adverse health effects of large wind turbines and the need for adequate setback distances between turbines and homes to avoid such health effects.

Key to Chapman’s misrepresentation on behalf of the wind industry is his characterization of “annoyance”. Chapman would have us understand “annoyance” as nothing more than a mild distraction. Hence, he blames the sufferers of ill health from wind turbines as bringing it on themselves for being annoyed and, not content to get over it, literally making themselves sick. He thus attempts to present a measurable physical disturbance with documented physical effects as mere political grandstanding (classic projection of his own, obviously).

In medicine, however, particularly in the field of public health, Chapman's own playground, “annoyance” means a significant degradation of quality of life. It is not used lightly. It means a real level of external stressors that can cause ill health. Thus, when a review concludes that wind turbines may cause annoyance, which can lead to health effects, that is a direct physical effect, not a product of self-victimization as Chapman insists (and for which he should probably be removed from his position at the University of Sydney School of Public Health).

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights