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Winded
April 5, 2011 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Winded - a journey to find out the real truth behind Wind Turbines [SLVimeo].
posted by scruss (63 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, how do those people even have any skin on their hands left after all that wringing?
posted by pts at 9:17 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a massive windspill in Denmark recently that is being completely ignored by the lamestream media per usual, there is literally air all over the place now, and its spreading...
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:20 AM on April 5, 2011 [40 favorites]


I have to admit that I was amused by the little piece about how disturbing that shadow was. Given that it would only impact on any given window for a small portion of the day, and given that we already live in a world of endlessly flashing lights.....

I'm not so sure that this gives us the "real truth" so much as the "conflicting opinions" about Turbines, but it was pretty evident that the largest objection is the intrusion on the aesthetics of the landscape.
posted by tomswift at 9:30 AM on April 5, 2011


There has to be some sort of Internet Rule that anything labeled "the real truth" isn't.

One thing that drives me nuts about - I guess you could call them "fundamentalist environmentalists" - is that they always seem to be so self-defeating. Can't use nuclear power because of radiation. Can't use solar because it covers too much ground and the panel manufacturing pollutes. Can't use wind because it kills birds and makes noise. So we're left with, what? Continuing to burn coal and oil for our power needs? That's really the most earth-friendly solution here?
posted by backseatpilot at 9:31 AM on April 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think the "fundamentalist environmentalists" would say that the only way out is to use much less power in the first place and ultimately to have much fewer people on the planet and thus lower needs.

And before even getting to the ethics of it I would say that the first is politically and culturally difficult to achieve and the second is politically and culturally impossible. After that the conversation gets kind of awkward.
posted by tempythethird at 9:40 AM on April 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


More "real truth" can be found in the recent documentary Windfall. Please note the scare quotes.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:47 AM on April 5, 2011


You may scoff at people who fear the health effects of wind turbines, but there is solid science behind it!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2011


there is solid science behind it!

Shouldn't that be gaseous science?
posted by kmz at 9:50 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


...the second is politically and culturally impossible.

On the contrary, I think we're already well on the road to reducing population. Precipitously.
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Teach the controversy!! or something
posted by The World Famous at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2011


"NIMBY - the movie!"

Who was this funded by?
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2011


Watching the whole video, it's actually pro-turbine. It's just a lot of the beginning portion is given over to the NIMBY lobby.

I think at the end he correctly identifies the problem. Its not turbines as such, it's that local people feel they have no control of what's happening in their own environment. Much of the resistance comes from that simple issue even though it's dressed up with lots of other FUD. I also think that the genuine discomfort and anger of mainstream folks to this loss of control gets hijacked by complete kooks pushing various health related idiocy. See the smartmeter debate in California for example.

Anyone who thinks the environment should be fixed by dramatic declines in population should be invited to lead by example.
posted by Long Way To Go at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are only two reasons to oppose wind power: the desire to keep a nice view around your property, or the desire to maximize your profits from traditional energy sources. In support of these aims, people either lie or parrot lies from industry-funded groups.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Harumph! This new technology clearly cannot fix all of our problems, so it must be poised to kill us all. Dumb scientists!

sorry, I didn't actually watch the video

I must say, though, driving north to Minot from Bismarck is awe-inspiring: north of the Coal Creek station (they strip-mine coal there!) are miles and miles and miles of Great River Energy wind turbines. Those things are huge and everywhere, they don't rip up the ground or spew chemicals into the air and have rows of crops around their comparatively-small footprint, so I can't complain about them too much. Sure, it's expensive as hell to build a single turbine compared to continuing to dig coal, but if we stop throwing money at things that don't generate financial returns, well, there's plenty of other places to start.
posted by AzraelBrown at 10:11 AM on April 5, 2011


Real Truth always sounds like a lot of neither.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2011


backseatpilot and AzraelBrown's comments brings to mind an interesting question: How long does a solar panel last? A wind turbine? Does anyone know what the net carbon cost is of a panel/fan is? Yes, it takes energy to produce, but once you have one, how often does it need to be replaced, if ever?
posted by spacely_sprocket at 10:21 AM on April 5, 2011


I'm beginning to think maybe the earth's problems will only be overcome with a worldwide nuclear solution... like with hydrogen bombs.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:34 AM on April 5, 2011


On the contrary, I think we're already well on the road to reducing population. Precipitously.

Really? You're seeing something I'm not.

Nuclear war - without the USSR chances seem to be declining dramatically. North Korea/Iran/etc. will never have enough nukes for a Strangelove scenario. If terrorists manage to get one and detonate it, the effects will be awful but I doubt the retaliation will be nuclear in nature, for obvious lack of targets.

Global warming - Mass migrations and hunger and economic dislocations will suck but I don't see this wiping out a significant chunk of humanity - just making that chunk miserable.

Pandemic - Umm... hrmmm... scary story after this commercial, stay with us!

Anything else?
posted by tempythethird at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2011


Solar panels typically have a 20 or 25 years warranty with a guarantee of around 80% of their initial energy output at end of life. Panels that contain toxic materials (like Cadmium) come with a recycle program.

Yes, solar cells easily pay back their energy input.

The above summary shows that energy payback times for modules incorporating thick silicon cells are, at worst, of the order of six to seven years and possibly less than three years. Since warranty periods of 20 years are routinely offered on such modules[ ] it is clear that the embodied energy should be easily recovered.

I would add that this is only getting better as one of the key ways the cost of solar panels has crashed in the few years is by greatly reducing the material content (a proxy for the embodied energy content). Another way has been building them with low cost labor.
posted by Long Way To Go at 10:51 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Fukushima had been a wind turbine power plant, we would have gotten some really cool videos of wind turbines snapping off and flying backwards like giant shuriken, instead of Cesium-137 sandwiches.
posted by benzenedream at 10:53 AM on April 5, 2011


I always get a chuckle out of hearing "saving the earth". The earth will be just fine, our little environmental catastrophe is mice nuts compared to natural events survived many times before. Humanity will also be just fine, at least as a species. What is in grave danger is our advanced culture, that's really what may not survive climate change.
posted by Long Way To Go at 11:01 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, I'm guessing that wind energy is not profitable enough to pay off people in the area to accept it the way the oil companies do in Alaska? That seems pretty good at getting people to de-NIMBY a bit.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:04 AM on April 5, 2011


spacely, wind turbines generally last 20-25 years, and offset some 30 times their manufacturing carbon cost during their lifetime. One of many calculations.

As to population, we've had this discussion before. The date is a big guesstimate, but world population is likely to peak sometime late this century. It turns out that economic development has a surprisingly swift effect on birth rate. India's has fallen dramatically. Several industrialized nations are already below replacement birth rate, such as Russia and Italy, and the US would be as well if it weren't for immigration (and immigrants do come to the country with higher birth rates, but this is halved or more within a generation).
posted by dhartung at 11:05 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


In support of these aims, people either lie or parrot lies from industry-funded groups.

Some people, as kind of hinted at earlier, parrot these lies without even realizing it. Especially if said lies really sound like empowering, self-determining follderoll.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:19 AM on April 5, 2011


If we fail to develop indefinitely sustainable energy, this world is going to get very ugly, very quickly.

If we develop indefinitely sustainable energy, and unfairly exploit global economic and political differences, this world is going to get very ugly, very slowly.

If we develop indefinitely sustainable energy, and translate it into well distributed benefits for the entire global population, then things could be very nice for us.
posted by Xoebe at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


How long does a solar panel last?

The solar panels my friends put up in 1972 are still working fine, and maintenance is limited to hosing them off once a year.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:49 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man I hate people.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:37 PM on April 5, 2011


I think at the end he correctly identifies the problem. Its not turbines as such, it's that local people feel they have no control of what's happening in their own environment.

Part of my work involves offshore wind energy evaluation and planning. A good part of that work has my coworkers conducting community meetings to share information and get input. And I can say without a doubt, even with lot of say over what's happening in their own environment, public discussions about wind energy are still dominated by nutballs. There's something else at work.
posted by 3.2.3 at 12:51 PM on April 5, 2011


I just ran across this article at mediamatters.org. Interesting numbers on bird deaths, about one quarter the way down the page.
posted by Xoebe at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2011


In Germany wind power is done by local co-ops so everyone is involved and the local communities take pride in it. In Alaska everyone gets a cut of the oil revenue. When you take a common resource from a community, they need to feel involved and/or benefit, otherwise they will resent.
posted by stbalbach at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


public discussions about wind energy are still dominated by nutballs. There's something else at work.

I was kinda surprised by the array of "PhD experts" and their arsenal of power point slides and nut case rationales. They are most likely paid for by the coal industry, since wind power projects have essentially killed over 300 proposed new coal plants in the past 5 years or so. It's something of a war going on between coal and wind right now, both sides employing all sorts of devious tactics.
posted by stbalbach at 1:01 PM on April 5, 2011


"...public discussions about wind energy are still dominated by nutballs."

I do a lot of work with municipal agencies, and that means time at council meetings, planning commissions, public art commissions and the like. Public discussions about anything are frequently significantly and disproportionately affected by nutballs.

I call this the Flying Monkeys problem. There will always be some nut who asks "Did you consider [random irrelevant subject equivalent to Flying Monkeys]????" At which point I have to humbly confess that no, I did not. Because you know, Flying Monkeys weren't perceived to be a significant issue during the planning and programming phase, but we welcome your input and will determine what impact they may have on the project. I always neglect to disclose that I am secretly on the payroll of the Flying Monkey Corporation, who seeks to suppress any discussion in public of Flying Monkeys. That also being the first and second rules of Flying Monkey Club.
posted by Xoebe at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


There will always be some nut who asks "Did you consider [random irrelevant subject equivalent to Flying Monkeys]????"

Did you consider the effect of a Tsunami hitting your seaside nuclear plant?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:06 PM on April 5, 2011


Relevant: The argument against Nuclear, Oil, Coal, and Wind.
posted by dry white toast at 1:34 PM on April 5, 2011


@3.2.3
public discussions about wind energy are still dominated by nutballs.

Don Quixote lives?

There's something else at work.

Could you elaborate on this, based on your experiences with the public? To me, opposition to solar and wind makes as much sense as opposition to Teletubbies. The answer -is- blowing in the wind (solar and air).
posted by Twang at 2:08 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


How long does a solar panel last? A wind turbine? Does anyone know what the net carbon cost is of a panel/fan is? Yes, it takes energy to produce, but once you have one, how often does it need to be replaced, if ever?
posted by spacely_sprocket at 10:21 AM on April 5


Depends if they went with high-end components from Cogswell Cogs or cheap ones from Spacely Spro....oh crap.
posted by Hoopo at 2:19 PM on April 5, 2011


Did you consider the effect of a Tsunami hitting your seaside nuclear plant?

I'm pretty sure on a coastline in Japan this was something they would have specifically considered in the planning stages. They either convinced themselves it was safe or merely convinced others it was. Regardless, I don't think this is the place for that discussion as wind power bears no resemblance to nuclear.
posted by Hoopo at 2:27 PM on April 5, 2011


There's a fair bit of academic literature concerning public responses to wind farms. The general jist is that communities are likely to be more accepting of schemes where they can see benefits accrue locally; this can be local companies rather than big anonymous ones at a distance, it can be local jobs rather than overseas or it can be benefits in kind to the local community, which do occur in some places, e.g. for larger plants.

As to some people opposing wind farms, there are legitimate reasons, they might not be ones we share but some people find them aesthetically unattractive and having a farm located close to them places the down side of wind on them rather than those who favour wind but are at a distance. There is a difference between people opposing a farm that interferes with what they percieve as more beneficial than the wind farm and another part of the energy sector opposing them to maintain their market share.
posted by biffa at 2:30 PM on April 5, 2011


Am I the only one to be absolutely thunderstruck over the depth of NIMBYism? We think of ways to overcome it - drawing locals in, bribing then with various economic incentives, giving them financial stakes in the project, endless forums, etc. All of these things on their own aren't bad or misguided, but why do we face such resistance in the first place?

I don't buy that the resistance to wind farms is specifically connected to the downsides of wind turbines. I think rather it comes from some deep suspicion and hostility to all things new and significant, especially when those things are large and visible, and this suspicion seems to override larger political or moral beliefs. I think at root there is some cornered-animal "defend what's mine at all costs" instinct that drives this suspicion, and I'd wager that its unique to the US.

Admittedly, all conjecture, and just my opinion.
posted by tempythethird at 2:57 PM on April 5, 2011


I think rather it comes from some deep suspicion and hostility to all things new and significant,

I'm suspicious of anything corporations tell me is for my own good and "you're going to love it! I promise!" I am pretty sure there will be things in the fine print that they aren't telling me, because it'll just confuse my pretty little head. Windmills didn't work? Surely you read in the fine print that once we've tried our Very Hardest(TM) we now have perpetual rights to use that land to crush hazardous waste cans into your water table. And no, we aren't paying taxes- it's a public service. Moreover, if things go totally pear shaped, we'll be stuck with Good Concept, Bad Execution Idea anyway, because things are never ever undone around here, even when they're clearly awful.

I have no idea where this cynicism of mine came from. Anyone have any ideas?
posted by small_ruminant at 3:21 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no idea where this cynicism of mine came from. Anyone have any ideas?

A lifetime of being fed advertising and corporate come-ons and enough experience to produce a rough promise:reality comparison table in your mind?
posted by hippybear at 3:33 PM on April 5, 2011


I have no idea where this cynicism of mine came from. Anyone have any ideas?

I share your suspicion of corporate motivation, but taken far enough, and it does more harm than good. Most things are built by corporations, whether its consumers paying for those things directly or the government paying for those things in our name. Sufficiently severe and unyielding cynicism will gum up the very progress we want. And I don't think anyone other than large corporations are in the position to roll out large scale renewable energy infrastructure, transport, self-driving cars - all those good things.

Guilty until proven innocent is a double edged sword - helps to ensure that you won't be taken, hinders the roll out of renewables while we go on burning coal and uranium.

If we trusted our government to be on our side and to do due diligence in our name, this cynicism wouldn't be warranted.
posted by tempythethird at 4:01 PM on April 5, 2011


In theory, I'm not anti-corporation. In reality, when something is shown as all upsides and no downsides, I'm suspicious.

If we trusted our government to be on our side and to do due diligence in our name, this cynicism wouldn't be warranted.

Yes.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:06 PM on April 5, 2011


when something is shown as all upsides and no downsides, I'm suspicious.

Any large entity - government or corporate - talks to us as sheeple. But I don't think you need to dig that far to get past the PR, there's more-honest interviews and analysis to be had rather easily. Thanks to the internet, any decently large proposal will usually be swarmed by reporters, lawyers with blogs, engineers with blogs, scientists with blogs, etc. Thats where you'll find the upside and the downside. I wish more people would consider all those things before falling into reflexive opposition.
posted by tempythethird at 4:22 PM on April 5, 2011


I can listen sympathetically to possible health issues and bird kills, but when the narrative moves to aesthetics I get really annoyed. Oh come on. Wind farms are among the prettiest man-made structures I've seen. People are complaining about seeing man-made things? (Actually, I sympathize, but I don't care).

(I feel bad for the birds, but they have other serious problems, like office buildings).
posted by ovvl at 4:27 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


For the record, I am completely in favor of wind farms, and think the turbines are pretty, especially the ice-cream swirl shaped ones, and like most things that mean there will be less sprawl next door. Open space is best. Wind farms are less great but much preferred to suburbs.

I have been in the Berkeley area for years and years, come from a counter culture family and am considered rabidly left wing in any town but Berkeley, where I'm considered a centrist (which is kind of a bad word around here).

However... it's not just the corporations that talk down to "us" like we're sheeple. Every side seems to pooh-pooh any questions that don't toe the party line, and honestly, in my experience the "progressive" side has been more blatantly condescending and intolerant than the corporate side.

Just to pick on tempythethird a little: We think of ways to overcome it - drawing locals in, bribing then with various economic incentives, giving them financial stakes in the project, endless forums, etc.

Being in Berkeley, I hear this a lot. It comes across as the Enlightened trying to convert the heathen and grates the same way any proselytizing does. I don't have a solution for it, and I completely understand the frustration, but it would do the "progressives" some good to be especially patient and tolerant and compassionate for people who've had one top-down, good-for-you project after another crammed down their throats.

Since the left is notorious for this sort of thing, I really regret that the left wing as hoisted alternative energy as its own flag. If it were more neutral, more about independence, and more about yay! new, cool tech! American innovation! (or whatever), it would be a lot easier sell.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:55 PM on April 5, 2011


Couldn't resist before knocking off to bed...

I'm very aware of how I sound, and I only speak this way because I assume I'm preaching to the choir here. And I have no problem with being in the role of "enlightened trying to convert the heathen."

In case you haven't noticed we have some serious fucking deadlines looming. For millenia there were 1-2 billion people on the planet powering their societies the old-fashioned way. In about a hundred years we've gone to almost 7 billion and power ourselves by chemical energy whose byproducts we dump into the environment.

Of course bottom-up consensus driven change is better, but if you're assuming the same deadlines that I'm assuming, well I don't think we can afford the luxury of patiently engaging with recalcitrant and scared people who probably also hate the messenger for irrelevant reasons. So I'm going to engage in the same salesmanship that bigCo and bigPolitics have perfected - and it sucks and I hate to do it but I don't see a choice.
posted by tempythethird at 5:14 PM on April 5, 2011


I'll add two more cents. West Texas is getting into wind energy in a big way. Last time I was out there, a little over a year ago, it was astonishing to see. The locals and ranchers love them, because they get paid to lease the sites to the energy companies - much the same as oil. Despite the popular myth, ranchers in West Texas aren't often rolling in dough, and most of them sorely need this money.

Now this is no surprise. The reason I mention it is what small_ruminant said above. The left supports alternative energy for two reasons: a) it's the rational, sustainable thing to do, and; b) the left is ostensibly not in the pocket of entrenched moneyed interests. However, in this case, you clearly have a benefit to people who really just aren't in the leftist demographic. There is money to be made, friends! That will draw Republicans like flies.

The problem is that Republicans people want to maximize their money. Good money isn't good enough, they want more - hell, they want all of it. So the biggest difference between production cost and retail price is still in fossil fuels, and our energy producing masters don't want alternative energies cutting into the market share - despite the fact that they could be making money doing alternative energy ventures.

So the left hoists their flag, and the right paints them as the enemy, despite the fact that ultimately, we all live in the same reality. Two hundred years from now, wind and solar energy companies will be suppressing the development of clean, safe fusion energy.
posted by Xoebe at 5:22 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


public discussions about wind energy are still dominated by nutballs

You know, I used to work at a rural non-profit in Nebraska, and we worked with a lot of agencies and held these sorts of town meetings where there's free punch on long, collapsible tables and two groups of metal fold-up chairs with the built-in ass seat indentations, all arranged neatly in rows and columns. And the walls would be covered with poster boards covered in charts and maps and graphs and all the panache of an 8th grade science fair.

And you'd have representatives of faceless organizations that sponsored these Public Discussions, and more representatives from various state and federal abbreviations that no one had ever heard of, and they'd stand up there and talk and maybe take some questions.

But the thing I could never understand was, what was the point? It's not like if the 10 or 20 citizens of East Bumfuck that bothered to show up to these meetings had vehemently, violently disagreed with whatever was being proposed… say, for example, changing the lines of a watershed… it's not like all the machinations of government and industry would suddenly come to a halt because, oh no, these people don't like it. So what?

There were a couple of occasions when I recall this happening, and basically the answer that came back was, "Well, thank you for your input and we'll be sure to take your suggestions under consideration." And everyone just goes forward like nothing happened. So no wonder nobody participates any more. By the time Joe Public is asked to the table the money's already been greased into all the right hands so tough shit if you don't like it and that's what you get for being a nobody with no political or economic clout.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:27 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Two elements that the video maker does not address adequately, and which are significant. I'm basing this on our experience living about two miles south of phase one of a new windfarm development here in Manitoba (phase two will put us right in the middle of it).

Subsidies: Wind energy is not cheap. It's not cheaper than coal. Turbines cost about $3 million each, need regular maintenance, and have a 20-30 year lifespan. The cost-benefit reality only works out profitably if we're prepared to pay more for the energy. Here in Manitoba, our electricity rates (still the lowest in N.A.) are rising this year. Wind turbines are a part of this increase. The government subsidized Pattern energy to the tune of more than two-thirds ($260 million) of the $345 million cost of the 138 Mw project. Pattern energy will invest $95 million in the project, but the tax/rate-payers are supporting the lion's share of this enterprise. I'm okay with helping out a bit, but when a private company requires more than half of the cost of the project in order to see their way clear in the project, I'm skeptical about the economic viability of the whole enterprise. It is a misnomer to suggest that wind energy is both friendly to the environment and economically viable, under present rate-payer expectations of the fair price for power.

Location: Wind energy is intermittant, but our demand for electricity is not. When the turbines aren't turning, other energy generators need to come online. Depending on where you live, that may be coal, nuclear, or hydro-electric. Therefore, depending where the windfarm is set up, it will not eliminate the need for other, perhaps less environmental, sources. The argument here in Manitoba (and in Quebec) is that since the vast majority of our electricity is generated by hydro-electric dams (hydro is our default backup, for the most part, although there are still a few coal plants that come online up here during the really cold days of winter when demand it high and water flow may not be high enough), ours is an ideal place to set up wind farms. When the turbines aren't turning here, the power then comes from hydro. In fact, the word around here is that energy from our turbine farm is almost exclusively for export to the United States.

That's the "real truth" as I understand it. We have had our share of "nutbars" around here too, going on about the other apparent problems of the turbines. Unfortunately their idiocy makes it nearly impossible for a rational discussion that might at least clarify the financial realities and reasonable expectations about windfarms. We probably need these things. We probably should expect to pay more for power, not less, because of them.
posted by kneecapped at 5:37 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you think that's bad you should consider the government subsidies to oil, natural gas and coal industries. Free land, huge loans and tax breaks, not to mention occasional military backup. Also immunity for liability from hydraulic frakking.
posted by humanfont at 6:15 PM on April 5, 2011


kneecapped, any new power infrastructure will cause you to pay more for power. When you're dealing with fully amortized hydro plants and rather old transmission, the required upgrades — required through age, increased demand, or updated grid standards — will cause power prices to go up. Doesn't matter the technology.

Wind turbine lives are usually quoted as around 20-30 years, as i) that's the initial PPA life, and one usually can't say what's going to happen at the end of it, and ii) one may consider repowering with fewer, newer machines. There's no physical reason that the tower and blades wouldn't last longer, just that it may be more economic to replace the unit.

Also, while your linked coal cost article is quite well researched, it's also a decade old. Typical wind turbine unit sizes and efficiencies have increased quite a bit since then. Wind isn't a baseload, and never (?) will be, so it's hard to compare a centralized, capacity rich, pollution heavy source like coal to a distributed, energy rich, pollution light source like wind.
posted by scruss at 8:12 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


scruss, yes. Up here though, the gov't and industry have been remarkably ham-handed in making those points (about infrastructure needs, etc.). They've touted the economic advantages for the region, while most of the labour has been provided parachute companies, and the number of new local jobs, now that the farm is running, is unclear.

Despite the lack of information about the nature of the costs, and who was to pay, the wind project up here has not been a hard sell locally. The farmers have willingly signed over land use permission. What has been interesting is that Pattern Energy is the third private company in the works. First Calgary's BowArk, then Australia's Babcock and Brown bowed out, for reasons unspecified. It just looks like there's a question in private business about profitability.

I expect that power rates will have to increase significantly in order for all of us to maintain our current (!) style of living. I'm not suggesting we compare the efficiencies of wind energy to coal, only pointing out that in some places, like southern Ontario, a wind energy will not necessarily greatly reduce the use of coal, because it's intermittant (at this time - Can we get good enough at storage?).

I've wondered about using wind turbines as hydrogen generators. Put an electrolysis unit at the bottom of the towers. The wind blows, we store energy in hydrogen (which is otherwise a very energy intensive thing to produce), we use the hydrogen when we need it (in cars, etc.). Does that make any sense?
posted by kneecapped at 8:59 PM on April 5, 2011


kneecapped - Babcock and Brown pulled out of everything when they went bust a year or two ago. They were an investment bank heavily involved in infrastructure projects and it all went a bit wrong for them in the financial crisis.

Wind and solar are discussed so much, which I completely support, but wave energy can also make a very valuable contribution. The technology not commercial at present, but many companies are making good progress on this.

Carnegie Wave Energy currently have some very interesting technology in ocean testing that can produce zero emissions energy and desalinated water. I hope this isn't considered spam, it really is interesting tech and relevant to the thread: CETO
posted by estuardo at 11:30 PM on April 5, 2011


Wind energy is not cheap. It's not cheaper than coal.

Not currently, hopefully one benefit of paying more now will be that wind will keep getting cheaper, as it has been for the last 2 decades of rapid expansion. The other problem wioth coal is the externalities, all the damage that coal does to the environment and to human health is not accounted for in its market price, instead the taxpaters and individuals get to pick it up. Subsidising wind is a way of acknowledging its potential future benefits.

I've wondered about using wind turbines as hydrogen generators. Put an electrolysis unit at the bottom of the towers. The wind blows, we store energy in hydrogen (which is otherwise a very energy intensive thing to produce), we use the hydrogen when we need it (in cars, etc.). Does that make any sense?

This has been looked at in a few places, the hydrogen is still pretty energy intensive, even with wind, and only about 50% efficient once electrolysis, compression and combustion is accounted for, whereas you can get about 80% efficiency from pumped storage or from batteries (one option being explored in the UK at the moment is what role electric vehicles might play in a future smart grid, where charging could follow off peak generation and there would be a lot more in the way of price signals for consumers (or their energy service providers).
posted by biffa at 2:42 AM on April 6, 2011


estuardo, biffa: Thanks for the info!
I really hope for all of these things to be true, but until cold fusion happens, or we can install chlorophyll cells and just be outside, rooted in the earth, lying in the sun, and soaking up the rain, I wonder if we aren't just rube-goldberg-ing ourselves into oblivion. I hope not. But our technical solutions are often increasingly complex, rather than comfortingly elegant.

Of course, if we'd all just moderate our demands, maybe elegant (wind and the tides) would work just fine.
posted by kneecapped at 10:01 AM on April 6, 2011


Assuming your deadlines are correct tempythethird (which I tend to agree with, and anyway have no reason to doubt), what do us 'bottom-up' folks do, given that bigCo and bigPolitics are the recalcitrant, scared people who hate the messenger.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 12:33 PM on April 6, 2011


Of course, if we'd all just moderate our demands,

Most people don't get anything like their energy demands met, something like 1.5 billion people don't have access to electricity, which is pretty much a guarantee of poverty. The demands of most of the global population are going to be heading north for some time. If we are going to have any chance of limiting (not stopping) climate change then we are going to have to take strenuous measures to develop technologies which get more done with less and generate energy with a lot less emissions. If we get them up and working then expadning needs in developing countries can be met with a lot less damage to the gobal environment. It's going to cost a lot but so is not doing anything.
posted by biffa at 12:55 PM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the other hand you can have a good standard of living and still not be America, where wasting energy is almost a fetish.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2011


But if everone was the UK then we would still be in the crap. To stay under 450ppm of CO2 the UK needs to be looking at an 80% reduction of UK emissions, and then get everyone else aiming for about the same. And that just limits climate change, it doesn't stop it.
posted by biffa at 2:55 PM on April 7, 2011


@Biffa It's 'too late' to stop climate change. We can stop making it worse. Re the 80%, I'd guess that, like most places, reducing emissions by cutting waste still provides the biggest bang-for-the-buck. Also the UK, like Japan, has plenty of offshore wind that can be tapped.

Like heroin pushers, the coal/oil/nuclear people have done a terrible thing to us. Withdrawal will involve pain. Luckily we still have enough reserves to build the clean, sustainable, non-toxic future we deserve.
posted by Twang at 1:49 PM on April 8, 2011


The most productive wind turbine in Denmark, measured over its lifetime to date, has so far produced 70 Gigawatt hours. It is expected to last another 12 years, producing an additional 100 Gigawatt hours.

http://www.energynumbers.info/surpassing-matilda-record-breaking-danish-wind-turbines


A neat site that contains a spreadsheet updated monthly with historical measured energy production of all turbines in the Danish network.

http://www.ens.dk/en-US/Info/FactsAndFigures/Energy_statistics_and_indicators/OverviewOfTheEnergySector/RegisterOfWindTurbines/Sider/Forside.aspx
posted by Catfry at 6:59 PM on April 16, 2011


If the 170 Gigawatts lifetime output comes true, that will be the equivalent energy of 10 of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima.
posted by Catfry at 7:07 PM on April 16, 2011


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