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US windpower milestone, 50GW powers 13M homes
August 18, 2012 10:16 PM   Subscribe

While you'd never know from the US media, the US wind energy industry has breezed past a 50GW milestone. That's enough to power 13 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Thanks to a lot of stalling and barriers, it took the US from 1981 to 2003 to reach 5 GW of capacity; it took only 8 years to produce 10 times that. Today 60% of the turbines installed are made in the USA with components from 500 factories. 2.8GW have already been installed in 2012.

But Romney has promised to end Production Tax Credits. And right now, a 2012 renewal faces a battle in the House. As Picasso said, "The older you get the stronger the wind gets - and it's always in your face."
posted by Twang (136 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's great news and terrific timing. After Romney's recent drubbing of the alternative energy sector this is exactly what was needed: solid evidence. Enough mewing about clean coal already...
posted by NailsTheCat at 10:27 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


A lot of people simply refuse to believe that wind and solar could actually work.
posted by delmoi at 10:41 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]




Well, to be fair, Picasso never had anything good to say about Romney.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:51 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


But Romney has promised to end Production Tax Credits.

These little policy bon mots are like finding someone has taken a shit sandwich and then surprisingly pissed in it as well.
posted by jaduncan at 10:56 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are Twelve Times Renewables Support

No way Romney will ever cut those...
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:56 PM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Offshore Wind Energy Development Picking Up Pace
Nine of the top 10 carbon dioxide emitting countries in 2010 have more than enough offshore wind energy potential to meet all their current electricity needs. (The one that does not is Iran.) Russia’s offshore wind resources, for example, exceed its current electricity demand by a factor of 23. Canada’s current electricity needs could be met 36 times over with domestic offshore wind energy.

In contrast to the Pacific Coast’s steep drop-off, the U.S. East Coast enjoys a wide, shallow expanse of continental shelf that is especially favorable for offshore wind development. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that wind turbines installed in the shallow waters of the Mid-Atlantic region could add up to nearly 300,000 megawatts of capacity—enough to power 90 million U.S. homes. For the entire Atlantic Coast, including deeper waters, the resource is estimated at 1 million megawatts.
sustainablog (http://s.tt/1l0xY)
posted by stbalbach at 10:56 PM on August 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


A lot of people simply refuse to believe that wind and solar could actually work.

Specifically people do not believe that they can be economical. A belief which their collapse in the face of losing the PTC does nothing to combat.

We've been working with wind power in earnest for over 30 years now and we're really no better off than when we started. Until the cost of traditional power sources rises dramatically there just isn't an economic case for it.

I should note that I say this as someone who believed the tax credits would allow mass production of equipment and the resulting economies of scale, as well as push materials research advances to the point where wind could become economical. It hasn't happened, and after 20 years of tax subsidies I've pretty much lost faith.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:57 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Russia’s offshore wind resources, for example, exceed its current electricity demand by a factor of 23. Canada’s current electricity needs could be met 36 times over with domestic offshore wind energy.

In fairness, both Canada and Russia would have a metric buttload of transmission losses for most of it.
posted by jaduncan at 10:58 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


push materials research advances to the point where wind could become economical. It hasn't happened, and after 20 years of tax subsidies I've pretty much lost faith.

Those tax subsidies were never consistent or regular, the industry never had a chance, only the past 5 years or so have the tax subsidies been consistent and the industry has exploded as a result. Another 5 years of consistent tax subsidies would be a major boon.
posted by stbalbach at 11:00 PM on August 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


How many billions does the the United States Fifth Fleet cost us each year to keep oil flowing?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:05 PM on August 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


I suspect the cost of wind and solar is closer to the actual cost of energy, compared to heavily subsidized oil and gas, eh?
posted by maxwelton at 11:17 PM on August 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


We've been working with wind power in earnest for over 30 years now and we're really no better off than when we started.
Did you, like, even read the text of the FPP?

This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. Wind and solar are already being used. They are growing rapidly, and fairly low cost. It's true that natural gas is quite cheap, but what it's doing is replacing coal, which is actually fantastic for the environment, and is one of the reason why the U.S.'s carbon emissions are dropping.

In fact, The U.S. just hit a 20 year low in CO2 emissions. We're putting out less CO2 then we were in 1993.

But, some people refuse to look at what's actually going on, and instead assume everything is getting worse, nothing will ever get better, nothing is happening, and bla bla bla.

How is "50GW of Wind Power" not "better off then we were before"? What you just said makes zero sense.
Those tax subsidies were never consistent or regular, the industry never had a chance
Never had a chance aside from the fact that it's, like, booming?

I mean, the text of the FPP is saying we have 50GW of wind power, yet, the comments in the thread are written as if that didn't happen.

Wind power has actually been economical for a long time (if you live in a windy place). Solar power is growing more rapidly, though. Either way, renewable energy is being installed very quickly, much faster then a lot of people predicted.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 PM on August 18, 2012 [36 favorites]


Millions for defense but not one penny for tribute!

wait is imperialism tribute or defense I'm confused



Also, I though environmentalists hated wind power because it kills birds
or is that just NIMBYs and BANANAS as best shown in Nantucket Sound.
posted by dragoon at 11:21 PM on August 18, 2012


Never had a chance aside from the fact that it's, like, booming?

You're going to have to elaborate on "booming" for me, as the case being put forth by the wind industry is that they will collapse without the subsidy.

This FPP would not exist if the wind industry was self-sustaining.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:26 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Millions for defense but not one penny for tribute!

It's true. Once you pay the defencegeld, even the diplomats can't get rid of the defence company lobbyist.
posted by jaduncan at 11:27 PM on August 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


This FPP would not exist if the wind industry was self-sustaining.

Of course, that price comparison assumes we don't cost in the externalities. Which is fine, since coal and gas fracking certainly won't have long term costs.
posted by jaduncan at 11:30 PM on August 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Well, to be fair, Picasso never had anything good to say about Romney.

Yes, but Romney never called Pablo Picasso an asshole ... YET
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:31 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's an enormous wind farm just over into Indiana, heading south from Chicago. It feels like it's about ten miles long, and driving through it at night feels like the future.

How many billions does the the United States Fifth Fleet cost us each year to keep oil flowing?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:05 on 8/19
[2 favorites +] [!]


Well, oil, and all global trade. Everything pretty much goes by sea, and the US is more or less keeping it safe. You can turn the knob on other military spending all the way down, but maritime security is a Good Thing.
posted by samofidelis at 11:38 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


WOOOO YEAHH!!! WIND!
posted by victory_laser at 11:38 PM on August 18, 2012


stbalbach writes "Russia’s offshore wind resources, for example, exceed its current electricity demand by a factor of 23. Canada’s current electricity needs could be met 36 times over with domestic offshore wind energy."

Grain of salt here: much of Canada and Russia's off shore potential must be in the Arctic. A place far from population centres, without transmission lines and a difficult to say the least construction and maintenance environment.
posted by Mitheral at 12:03 AM on August 19, 2012


Also, I though environmentalists hated wind power because it kills birds

Well, personally, I'm concerned about the impact of wind turbines on migratory birds and think study is needed to see how it might be mitigated but I'm also pretty sure it is better overall for wildlife than oil or coal.
posted by junco at 12:05 AM on August 19, 2012


samofidelis writes "all global trade. Everything pretty much goes by sea, and the US is more or less keeping it safe. You can turn the knob on other military spending all the way down, but maritime security is a Good Thing."

Doesn't seem like we'd need aircraft carriers and all their support to combat piracy.
posted by Mitheral at 12:07 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's one of those cases where the design of your forces lags behind your mission needs? I don't know. The USN certainly doesn't need more aircraft carriers; those are just big piles of highly sinkable money. And the littoral ship was a debacle; yet another example of mission creep. Make it do everything, and now it can't do anything.

So, sure. I was being a bit glib -- my point really was something about how a standing navy serves more roles than just pork for contractors.
posted by samofidelis at 12:33 AM on August 19, 2012


Wind is cool and all, but you have to remember that when they say 50GW, a powerfully large number, it comes with a very very large asterisk. That refers to peak output, which can never be achieved everywhere all the time. In fact, capacity is closer to 20%, so it's more like 10-12GW if you were talking coal or nuclear power, which typically run at more than 90%. Also, it's intermittency isn't usefully schedulable, it can all be not blowing at one time, and all blowing another time, without a great deal of predictability. That's why quite a lot of experts think that wind shouldn't ever be more than about 20% of total power supply. Denmark is at about this limit, and sometimes they have to spend quite a lot of money importing electricity from Germany. It wouldn't make any economic sense for them to install any more, except as part of a europe wide supply program.

Which is not to say that there isn't plenty of room for growth in wind power in the US and other places. When the blades are spinning it's quite cheap. But it's absolutely not the complete answer.
posted by wilful at 1:19 AM on August 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


In fairness, both Canada and Russia would have a metric buttload of transmission losses for most of it.

Isn't this an argument for decentralized or nearer-to-user power generation, which renewables like wind and solar more easily facilitate?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:26 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't this an argument for decentralized or nearer-to-user power generation, which renewables like wind and solar more easily facilitate?

Wind power needs decent wind, which certainly doesn't occur everywhere.
posted by wilful at 1:30 AM on August 19, 2012


Doesn't seem like we'd need aircraft carriers and all their support to combat piracy.

Quite. The Dutch air-defense and command frigate HMS Evertsen just returned home from a succesful three month mission for "Ocean Shield".

A few frigates and a few helicopters are sufficient.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:49 AM on August 19, 2012


Isn't this an argument for decentralized or nearer-to-user power generation, which renewables like wind and solar more easily facilitate?

Oh yeah. I'm just pointing out that much of the offshore wind in Canada and Russia is impractical so the multiplier isn't quite as shiny in real life. Arctic conditions, long power line losses and long distances from maintainance facilities. The price would be insane on much of the northern coast, and nobody lives there in either country.
posted by jaduncan at 2:10 AM on August 19, 2012


A few frigates and a few helicopters are sufficient.

Probably can't keep the Strait of Hormuz open with that though.
posted by jaduncan at 2:11 AM on August 19, 2012


Also, I though environmentalists hated wind power because it kills birds
or is that just NIMBYs and BANANAS as best shown in Nantucket Sound.


Have you ever lived with an industrial wind turbine in your backyard?
posted by fairmettle at 2:47 AM on August 19, 2012


Long after the Oil Wars, mankind began using wind power. This went well until about AD 2300, when precious wind resources started to become scarce. Once the perturbation from the burning of fossil fuels was no longer a factor - and global temperature differentials began to stabilize - people realized that the only thing left worth fighting for was the wind.

Around AD 2340 there was a third World War aimed at world dominance of gusts. Many people died, some of them in fruitless battles, hanging on, protecting their breeze.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:47 AM on August 19, 2012


The word "nuclear" has been used once in this thread so far. I'm here to double that figure.

Wind power sounds great and all but if you're serious about reducing carbon output, let's be realistic...
posted by 7segment at 2:49 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]




if you're serious about reducing carbon output, let's be realistic...

Okay.
posted by flabdablet at 3:12 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I though environmentalists hated wind power because it kills birds

There was a meta-analysis of the bird kill studies a few years ago which suggested the average turbine kills ~2 birds pa. Meanwhile in the UK housecats do for an estimated 350mn animals pa. Alongside that there is the likely impact of climate change on all wildlife, which is certain to mean some species extinction, and renewables is regarded as a big part of mitigating that.

There was a lot of criticism of first gen commercial turbines, back in the 80s, as a major Californian farm was located on an important raptor migration route, and something similar happened on an early Spanish farm, at Tarifa. The environmental impacts tend to be given a lot more consideration now and there has been and continues to be quite a bit of work done to increase knowledge in this area.
posted by biffa at 3:36 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


flabdablet, that RMI article you just linked to calls for the continued use of fossil fuels. Of course they don't say that, but that's exactly what they mean. no thanks. Apart from that, it's full of a) shit, and b) wishful thinking.
posted by wilful at 3:37 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bizarrest aspect of wind farms is the opposition based on claimed health impacts. So-called wind turbine syndrome has a lot of profile in Australia, with a parliamentary inquiry and a rang of policies to protect people. Colour me sceptical.
posted by wilful at 4:02 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If displacing coal with other fossil fuels saves more CO2 emissions per dollar than displacing it with nukes does, and does it faster, why "no thanks"?

Amory Lovins, who founded RMI and wrote that article, is about as far from a fossil fuel industry stooge as it's possible to get. He's been pushing an efficiency+renewables barrow for forty years, and has a good track record on predicting the energy use patterns that actually happen. So I'd be interested to see you identify the specific parts of the article that strike you as shitty and/or wishful.
posted by flabdablet at 4:03 AM on August 19, 2012


Enough energy to send Marty McFly back to the future 41 times!
posted by duffell at 4:10 AM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Have you ever lived with an industrial wind turbine in your backyard?

The Portsmouth Abbey, one of the most prestigious and exclusive private scools in the nation, has a gigantic one on-campus, and its campus is pretty small. It's quiet enough where it doesn't bug the students when they're studying or sleeping or listening in class.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:15 AM on August 19, 2012


We've been working with wind power in earnest for over 30 years now and we're really no better off than when we started. Until the cost of traditional power sources rises dramatically there just isn't an economic case for it.

I'm sorry what? You have to be living under a rock. Even in the Wikipedia entry on cost of electricity by source, wind power (in the US, even!) is cheaper than coal and nuclear, and only beaten by natural gas and hydro. Want better proof? Just google LCOE wind energy. You can find study after study. I recommend NREL and IEA for sources.

Nothing has changed in 30 years? Give me a break.

And when it comes to solar (which has progressed in leaps and bounds in the last 30 years - both in terms of efficiency and production costs), the higher LCOE is acceptable when you consider (a) the daily peaks provided by solar can substitute for high-cost "peaking" gas turbine equipment, and (b) that they provide you with energy independence. A 50% premium on electricity isn't much compared to never-ending oil wars or nuclear accident cleanup.
posted by molecicco at 4:23 AM on August 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Solar will probably play a bigger role then wind in the future. No one is saying that it will be wind power alone. Over a huge continent, it's probably always windy somewhere, so if you have a grid with low enough losses then it might be practical, but I don't really know how well that would work. Solar on the other hand is probably more reliable and workable in more places - you don't need massive installations, just panels on roofs and in fields and so on. But wind power may play a role, especially for nighttime energy production (since we tend to use less power at night, and if power shifts to the day, then industry that currently use a lot of power and operate at night to save money will shift to daytime)

As far as nuclear power goes, it's simply less cost effective then solar (and probably wind) at this point.
calls for the continued use of fossil fuels. Of course they don't say that
I didn't read it, but how can you call for something without actually calling for it? The paper was written in 2008, and since then solar power costs have actually come down quite a bit. Solar power will probably overtake nuclear in terms of total energy generated in a few years.

But for whatever reason, no one who ever claims wind and solar can't work ever have any numbers or actual evidence to back up what they say. Which isn't surprising, because if you actually do the math, it's quite straightforward. Not only is nuclear not necessary, it's actually more expensive then solar

Let's look at two examples, the Gujarat Solar Park put out 85 GWh of electricity in June, 93 GWh in June. That averages to slightly more then 1TWh per year. The peak capacity is 605MW, but it's the equivalent of a 115MW plant running 24/7. (or the equivalent of 5.3 hours of peak sunlight per day, spread out over the day - a number called isolation)

(All of this has come online since January 2010, when only 0.65 GWh was produced.)

I'm not sure what the total construction costs were for the whole thing, but the Charanka solar park (a sub project) puts out 214 Megawatts (peak) and cost $280 million. Adjusting for the 5.3 hours of sunlight, that comes out to being the equivalent of 40MW running 24h/day. That comes out to $7 a Watt (averaged out over a day, including nighttime)

On the other hand, the costs of nuclear power plants has been going up rather then down, faster then inflation. Right now the costs for new nuclear plants is about $5 - $8 /Watt. But that's peak capacity. In theory they could run 24/7 but in practice they actually do have a lot of downtime (taking reactors offline to change rods and so on) so you actually do have to figure in some downtime.

And unlike solar which requires almost no maintenance or operations, nuclear power plants do require money to run, and one of the biggest costs is decommissioning them. The costs of that are huge and difficult to predict.

So, kWh per year for kWh per year, existing solar plants are already within the cost range of nuke plants to build, much cheaper to operate, and don't require expensive decommissioning and key point: The costs are continuing to drop, whereas with nuclear, it's actually getting more expensive.

Since the FPP is actually about wind, I should point out that the cost per watt for wind is about $8/Watt, but I don't know if that's peak watts or averaged over a year (probably peak)

So what exactly is it about nuclear power that makes it necessary for getting rid of fossil fuel use? For the short term we might still have to use natural gas at night, but unlike nuclear power you should be able to turn it off during the day, so that would vastly reduce our CO2 emissions. The question of what to do at night is tricky, and nuclear power might play some minor role, along with lots of other possibilities. Our existing nuclear power plants might be more then enough.

anyway, I feel like I've written this comment a million times. It's getting ridiculous. Yet, there is always someone else claiming that getting rid of CO2 emissions is impossible without nuclear, with zero facts or evidence or numbers to back up their argument.
posted by delmoi at 4:32 AM on August 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


So-called wind turbine syndrome has a lot of profile in Australia, with a parliamentary inquiry and a rang of policies to protect people.

Did see the 4 corners ep on it? I think they can be a bit hit and miss lately (too tabloidly, that piece on Gladstone harbour was appalling, terrible direction, terrible "science"), but it was excellent, and basically illustrates how the syndrome is a total crock of shit, and that much of the "grass roots" campaigning against it is actually classic astroturfing, stoked and funded by coal interests.
posted by smoke at 4:32 AM on August 19, 2012


An extra little bit of data for this discussion: wind power was (and this astonished me) 32% of added US electricity generation capacity additions in 2011.

...and for even greater perspective, the 50GW provided by wind power accounts for 0.01% of the 3,741,000GW consumed by the US annually.
posted by fairmettle at 4:40 AM on August 19, 2012


Have you ever lived with an industrial wind turbine in your backyard?

No. At least for Cape Wind in Nantucket Sounds, it's a good thing they're 3 miles off shore then. Doesn't stop people from complaining about them.

As for closer ones, it looks like the level of complaints with modern turbines are fairly low. Looks like woo and hypochondriacs. "The first [factor] is being able to see wind turbines, which increases annoyance particularly in those who dislike or fear them. The second factor is whether people derive income from hosting turbines, which miraculously appears to be a highly effective antidote to feelings of annoyance and symptoms".
posted by dragoon at 4:57 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flabdablet, I know perfectly well who Lovins is. The article calls for co-generation (which is fossil fuelled) and magic efficiency and wind. The simple fact is that for extended periods of time, wind simply doesn't blow on continental scales. All over eastern Australia, virtually no wind power generated at all. So the power plants would be working full bore. As to the costs, Lovins statements are highly contestible. He's chosen the worst example, he could have chosen several others far cheaper. Try this for a counter. But the basic fact is, low carbon isn't good enough.
posted by wilful at 5:02 AM on August 19, 2012


The US really has been building windpower like crazy, which is great. But even so they're still playing catch up. The EU has about 100GW of installed capacity for wind, and there's still some big ones to come offshore. So keep going!
posted by Jehan at 5:08 AM on August 19, 2012


...and for even greater perspective, the 50GW provided by wind power accounts for 0.01% of the 3,741,000GW consumed by the US annually.

You might want to check your units there. The US consumes 3,741,000 GWh of electricity a year (that's energy). 50 GW of generating capacity (that's power) with an assumed capacity factor of 0.2 (low for wind energy), will produce 87,600 GWh of electricity in a year. That's 2.34%. Small, but far from insignificant.
posted by molecicco at 5:10 AM on August 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


An extra little bit of data for this discussion: wind power was (and this astonished me) 32% of added US electricity generation capacity additions in 2011.

...and for even greater perspective, the 50GW provided by wind power accounts for 0.01% of the 3,741,000GW consumed by the US annually.


You're confusing capacity and generation. Wind generated about 120 million MWh in the US in 2011, three percent of the about four billion MWh consumed in total in the US last year. Capacity is probably now close to five percent but the intermittent nature of wind is an important consideration as others have pointed out. See here for the data: http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/wind/wind.html
http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/
posted by otio at 5:19 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


> That's why quite a lot of experts think that wind shouldn't ever be more than about 20% of total power supply.

The 20% number is thrown about a lot. That's the estimate that conservatively, without changing transmission systems or usage patterns, we could integrate now. Changing how we move or use electricity isn't a bad thing; after all, my grandmother's generation remembered the days before electricity ...
posted by scruss at 5:26 AM on August 19, 2012


> industrial wind turbine

That's a bit of messaging that we in the industry lost completely. Even the CBC started to use it. It's a shibboleth of the "wind concerns" group; if you use the i-word, you're against us.

On the other hand, if farms aren't industrial food production, I don't know what is.
posted by scruss at 5:31 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Correct, transmission systems and usage patterns are going to have to change. And they already are changing. It's not really such a barrier. HVDC lines for transporting huge amounts of electricity are already in place throughout europe, smart home systems with demand response are already being installed in Texas, and small- and large-scale energy storage are new industries poised for huge growth.

You know, you'd be surprised how much energy consumption is schedulable. Lots of industrial electricity consumption can wait until there is a surplus before being turned on. Domestic hot water tanks can be over- and under-heated according to supply. Air conditioning can be automatically reduced when demand outstrips supply (or automatically increased in the opposite case). And in the end, implementing and distributing these sorts of technologies is cheaper than just over-building the capacity of generation and transmission equipment.
posted by molecicco at 5:37 AM on August 19, 2012


The PTC has not been good to the development of a sustainable wind energy industry in the US. It fosters a boom-bust approach of short term tax subsidy when what you really need is a form of carbon pricing to remove coal/gas's implicit lifetime subsidies.

I'm trying to build a wind farm in Canada in the next few months. Can I get cranes? Can I hell! They're all in the US, frantically finishing off PTC projects for the year-end deadline. I've lived through several PTC cycles as a developer outside the US, and can remember the times that that I was the vendors' best friend (when PTC was uncertain), and when they wouldn't even know my name (when PTC was in full flow).

The industry is looking a bit thin at the moment; North American Windpower is down to pamphlet thickness, while just three years back it was a great thick wodge of ads and articles. I fell sorry for my friends at Vestas in Pueblo, who are facing huge layoffs. It's a state of the art plant and was meant to service the whole of North America. Order books are thin to empty, all due to PTC uncertainty.

In its earlier form, PTC was responsible for some of the most awful crap wind turbines I've ever laid eyes on. Because it favoured cheap-to-buy units that, as long as they survived the first three years of operation before being flipped into their tax-sheltering entity, these machines stripped gearboxes, blew generators and popped transformers. Good wind power requires machines that will outlast their contracts, and generate power and revenue for their owners and neighbours for decades to come.
posted by scruss at 6:03 AM on August 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


How many billions does the the United States Fifth Fleet cost us each year to keep oil flowing?

How the Navy’s Incompetence Sank the ‘Green Fleet’
Major change never comes easy, of course — especially when it comes to energy. And Mabus’ crew was a victim of bad timing, starting its biofuel push just as the green bubble was on the edge of bursting. But in the armed services, there is broad agreement that this dependence on foreign has to be tamed. This is the moment for military clean energy. It’s looking less and less likely that the Navy will be able to seize it.
Navy: We'll Never, Ever Over-pay for Biofuels
Danger Room incorrectly reported that the Navy could spend as much as an extra $1.8 billion per year on biofuel; a completely incorrect projection lifted from a 2011 Congressionally-mandated report (.pdf) that did not use realistic data or take into account the Navy’s commitment regarding biofuel purchases for operations. The figure is based on a crude extrapolation of analysis and is wrong for several reasons
Senate Panel Keeps Nav'y Biofuel Plan Afloat
On the line is one of the top priorites for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who has developed an ambitious program to use biofuels and other renewables for half of the Navy’s energy needs by 2020. The biofueled Great Green Fleet, as its called, sailed out on its first demonstration voyage in June.


But Republicans have used the biofuel program as a way to hit the White House. Critics have charged the Navy is moving forward on an ambitious and costly — potentially $1.76 billion per year — alternative energy program when a looming budget freeze threatened to cut funding to new ships and planes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:24 AM on August 19, 2012


The Portsmouth Abbey, one of the most prestigious and exclusive private scools in the nation, has a gigantic one on-campus, and its campus is pretty small. It's quiet enough where it doesn't bug the students when they're studying or sleeping or listening in class.

"Gigantic" is a relative term.

The Portsmouth Abbey wind turbine is 164 feet tall with blades 77 feet in length, while the Enercon E-126 is 443 feet tall with blades 206 feet in diameter.

___________________________________________

It looks like the level of complaints with modern turbines are fairly low. Looks like woo and hypochondriacs.

For a bit more nuanced perspective on the complaints regarding wind turbines, one might consider watching the British documentary Blown Apart: Windfarm Wars.
posted by fairmettle at 6:29 AM on August 19, 2012


77 feet in length will result in a blade diameter of 154 feet. Smaller, but not the huge discrepancy the reference change would imply. And the E-126 is the largest turbine ever constructed. IE: the existence of the International CXT doesn't mean the H1 suddenly isn't gigantic.
posted by Mitheral at 7:14 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


fairmettle: "...and for even greater perspective, the 50GW provided by wind power accounts for 0.01% of the 3,741,000GW consumed by the US annually."

Gigawatts, gigawatt-hours, schlemiel, schlemazel.
posted by notsnot at 7:29 AM on August 19, 2012


fairmettle: "Have you ever lived with an industrial wind turbine in your backyard?"

I'd rather have a windmill in the neighborhood than a gas well.
posted by octothorpe at 7:42 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blown Apart, like all TV shows, maximizes the tears and hyperventilation in search of a good story. I did like the way that the program made sure you could hear all the tractor, loader and other equipment noise you get in the country, though.

(I used to work with Rachel, the person featured in that show.)
posted by scruss at 8:06 AM on August 19, 2012


Huh huh, gigglewatts.
posted by Evilspork at 8:15 AM on August 19, 2012


Until the cost of traditional power sources rises dramatically there just isn't an economic case for it.

Yes, let's wait until we're even closer to being completely, permanently fucked before we begin trying to fix the problem, rather thank taking advantage of our currently abundant energy resources. Let's wait until the cost of producing a wind turbine skyrockets due to "the cost of traditional power sources rising dramatically," which will of course make manufacturing and transporting materials insanely expensive, before we begin work on this issue. The market, as always, will save us.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:18 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Howdy. Soon-to-be former wind and solar developer here.

In the U.S., new wind costs around $1800/kw to build right now. So a 100 MW wind farm costs about $180 million. There is a significant building boom right now as developers prepare for the PTC to expire (which means projects must begin commercial operations by 12/31/12 to qualify for the PTC). Neither my employer (huge European company) nor any of our competitors are planning to build next year. The LCOE for a wind farm depends on its installed cost and the wind resource. In the windiest parts of Oklahoma, for example, new wind costs about $28-$30/MWh or roughly $50-$52/MWh without the PTC. The low LCOE is caused by a number of factors including: significantly lower installed costs vs. five years ago as reduced demand for wind turbines has lowered turbine prices; cheaper aluminum, steel, and copper prices; higher capacity factors due to higher capacity wind turbines and longer blades (in our OK example, the net capacity factor of the project would be around 48% to 50% using the new/bigger turbines).

In general, the wind development industry in the U.S. is entering a period of consolidation; smaller developers are aggressively shopping themselves and/or their project portfolios to larger developers and/or outside investors (like private equity). Some developers are closing up shop, others are switching to other technologies like solar or biomass. The larger developers are buying projects on the cheap and, by virtue of having big balance sheets, able to wait for clarity on the PTC extension; the general belief among the big players is that the wind industry will survive in a no-PTC world, albeit at a reduced size. And when you start analyzing the market's need for new generation in the next five years given planned coal retirements, shrinking reserve margins, etc., enough MWs will be needed that there will be some additional wind built.

Utility-scale solar prices continue to plummet. Arizona Public Service, a pox be upon them, recently had an RFP for ~20MW solar project and the winning price was below $1.99/Wp (or W(DC)). For comparison, two years ago the installed cost was above $3.50/Wp. In $/Mwh or LCOE terms, this implies a 20-year fixed price in the $70s. While this price doesn't seem that great compared to OK wind, it does seem great in a place like California, where the wind resource isn't as good; there wind is in the $80s, so solar PV is a cheaper, better (e.g. higher capacity factor) alternative. And, unlike most wind projects, solar projects use the Investment Tax Credit which doesn't expire for a few years.

Finally, the trend in solar PV is towards distributed-scale and away from utility-scale. This is driven by decreasing installed costs, the creation of innovative ways to utilize the tax benefits, and fewer development issues (permitting and interconnection). We should see an impressive increased in installed solar, driven mostly by the residential and commercial sectors.
posted by jchilib at 8:36 AM on August 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Those tax subsidies were never consistent or regular, the industry never had a chance

Never had a chance aside from the fact that it's, like, booming?


When did most of that boom happen? When tax subsidies were consistent and regular during the past 5 years or so, exactly what I said. I don't see why you believe wind power is booming without tax subsidies, they really are needed. It's not a slight against wind power, it's a reality of the economics of competing with fossil fuels (which are themselves subsidized and given a free lunch in many ways).
posted by stbalbach at 9:20 AM on August 19, 2012


Forgive my ignorance, but shouldn't significantly increasing battery storage capacity make solar / photovoltaic costs decrease over time in addition to the decrease in cost associated with economy of scale, making the question of solar power at night essentially moot, provided sufficient area of collection? I am no scientist, so I'm sure there are all sorts of factors that should be taken into account that don't occur to me, but in my ignorance, it seems to me that the US (and other industrialized nations) have a tremendous amount of exposed surface in the form of rooftops and roadways that could be used for solar collection without having to set aside any additional acreage to the purpose of energy collection, as wind farms require. Aside from the fragility of current solar panels and current distribution of finances, is there a practical reason why this couldn't become the primary source of electricity?
posted by notashroom at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Breaking news! Coal is great says coal.
posted by emhutchinson at 10:08 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if Iowa is number one or two in the nation for wind, but we have a lot of it. When I drive to work in the morning at least once a week I pass a semi with one of the turbine blades on it or a section of the "tower" it sits on.

It's hard to imagine how massive these things are if you've never been up close to one.

The first time I saw one I thought they were hauling missile parts.

People get up in arms about them being ugly. I look at one and see a marvel of engineering. There's a 30 miles section on I80 on your way to Nebraska where it's windmills as far as the eye can see. It's amazing.

These things also look lazy. The props spin at a visible rate. They are just plain cool. I wanted one of these things in my back yard until I heard they are also loud.

There's concern they kill a lot of birds, but the studies I've read say less than cars or building windows. And one of the ISU extension guys said they have no real impact on bird populations. Sure, they put the occasional damper on a specific bird's day, but there's been no sudden drops in populations.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:19 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"The first [factor] is being able to see wind turbines, which increases annoyance particularly in those who dislike or fear them. The second factor is whether people derive income from hosting turbines, which miraculously appears to be a highly effective antidote to feelings of annoyance and symptoms".

Scientific papers with snark like that make me feel proud to be British.
posted by jaduncan at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't this an argument for decentralized or nearer-to-user power generation,which renewables like wind and solar more easily facilitate?

It is. Unfortunately the business model -- sell a bunch of rooftop solar kits and etc -- doesn't do much for the rentiers who run things.
posted by notyou at 10:45 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's an enormous wind farm just over into Indiana, heading south from Chicago. It feels like it's about ten miles long, and driving through it at night feels like the future.

There are some nice ridges in IL and IN that make wind power attractive in those areas. (The orange areas. Wind speeds lower than that aren't good enough to be economically viable yet, if memory serves.) So IL and IN basically have a corner on the wind market for everywhere east of the Mississippi. Practically all of Lasalle county is covered in turbines- they've got 392MW in production and another 200 on the way.

...tremendous amount of exposed surface in the form of rooftops and roadways that could be used for solar collection without having to set aside any additional acreage to the purpose of energy collection, as wind farms require.

The land usage of the turbines isn't very big. Just some dirt roads to connect them together and maybe 10 square meters of land around each one? Just from my casual observations, they can be site-planned in such a way that there is basically no loss to arable land. The scale is very much like light posts in a parking lot. If the lot is planned right, there are no lost spaces. If they are planned poorly, you lose maybe 3% of the parking spaces.

I'm not sure if Iowa is number one or two in the nation for wind, but we have a lot of it. When I drive to work in the morning at least once a week I pass a semi with one of the turbine blades on it or a section of the "tower" it sits on.

It's hard to imagine how massive these things are if you've never been up close to one.


I've seen tons of them on I-80 in IL too. You're right; the scale is tremendous. Just one blade of the turbine is like 3 semi truck lengths long. This photo is shot with a bit of a wide angle lens to amplify the look, but as you can see the trailer it is on is something like 3x as long as a standard intermodal trailer.

And yet, you can get right up near them, and the wind rustling through the corn is louder than the distant-sounding whirr of the generators. The noise objections are the most ridiculous, IMHO. All they would have to do is go stand next to one, but they are too intellectually disinterested to even consider that.
posted by gjc at 10:46 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The land usage of the turbines isn't very big. Just some dirt roads to connect them together and maybe 10 square meters of land around each one? Just from my casual observations, they can be site-planned in such a way that there is basically no loss to arable land. The scale is very much like light posts in a parking lot. If the lot is planned right, there are no lost spaces. If they are planned poorly, you lose maybe 3% of the parking spaces.

Thanks for this clarification. Being in Georgia, I have had minimal direct exposure to wind farms (I've seen exactly one in person, in 1991 along I-5 in California) and was under the impression that they had a larger footprint than that, although that is still larger than what is required for solar, and apparently with fewer locations where the output justifies the installation.

I'm definitely not anti-wind-power. My question wasn't intended to denigrate its contribution or potential, but to ask is there a practical, scientifically-based (not policy-based) reason why we shouldn't be able to provide the bulk of our power needs, day and night, through solar power in combination with battery storage, supplementing as appropriate with wind or other renewables?
posted by notashroom at 11:16 AM on August 19, 2012


In response to some of the wind NIMBY-ism, one should ask which would you rather have in your back yard? A wind turbine or a reactor containment vessel? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:29 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The basic obstacle to wind (and solar) isn't just cost per megawatt, which is still high but may be competitive at some point, but the fact that they're intermittent and unpredictable, which means you can never shut down the backup fossil fuel plants, so the overall cost is huge.

in combination with battery storage

Whatever the cost obstacles to wind and solar, they pale in comparison to the vast gulf between where the cost of batteries is now and where it would need to be to power a city economically.

The noise objections are the most ridiculous, IMHO

There's significant evidence that low-frequency noise from wind turbines can cause health problems. Your humble opinion, I'm sorry to say, counts for very little in that regard.
posted by Dasein at 11:45 AM on August 19, 2012


And yet, you can get right up near them, and the wind rustling through the corn is louder than the distant-sounding whirr of the generators. The noise objections are the most ridiculous, IMHO. All they would have to do is go stand next to one, but they are too intellectually disinterested to even consider that.
Some years ago, after wondering over these moans about the loudness of wind turbines, my father and I tracked down some of the nearest to where we live. We stood in a field about 1.5km away from them (less than a mile, and about the distance from them to the nearest village), and listened. He couldn't hear a thing except wind, and I could only hear, upon listening hard, the softest "swoosh". I've been wary of all such complaints ever since.
In response to some of the wind NIMBY-ism, one should ask which would you rather have in your back yard? A wind turbine or a reactor containment vessel? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
From my childhood bedroom window I could look out upon a gas turbine power station less than a kilometer away. I guess that most of the folks who lived in villages around were happy to use the electricity it generated. I wonder why they're now against hosting a power station for me to use?
posted by Jehan at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2012


one should ask which would you rather have in your back yard? A wind turbine or a reactor containment vessel?

I would take a containment vessel any day. It's quiet, it doesn't cover vast tracts of landscape, and it's safe. Also, one nuclear reactor will do the job of thousands of turbines and the backup gas plant they need for when they're down. In terms of environmental footprint, it does seem like a no-brainer to me.
posted by Dasein at 11:49 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jehan, were you there at night, when sound travels differently? That's when most people report having problems.
posted by Dasein at 11:50 AM on August 19, 2012


> There's significant evidence that low-frequency noise from wind turbines can cause health problems.

Except that wind turbines don't produce low frequency noise in any great amount. Certainly no more than road noise or other urban hum. As background LFN increases with wind speeds, there are a lot of false correlations that have been made with wind turbine output.

The night time thing is generally due to thermally-induced wind shear in a stable atmosphere. That's when you get those stifling summer nights where there's no wind at ground level to make masking noise, and yet the turbines are turning, making one of the few sources of noise in the area. We deal with that in modelling.
posted by scruss at 12:11 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's significant evidence that low-frequency noise from wind turbines can cause health problems.

Yes, significant evidence in the same way there's significant evidence about the health problems caused by electromagnetic hypersensitivity and Morgellons syndrome.

Scientific evidence about non-hypochondriac health problems from wind turbines? I look forward to seeing some.

I would take a containment vessel any day.

Frankly, it would depend who ran the nuke plant. TEPCO? No thanks. The French nuclear industry or the US Navy? I'd be okay with that.
posted by dragoon at 12:11 PM on August 19, 2012


Whatever the cost obstacles to wind and solar, they pale in comparison to the vast gulf between where the cost of batteries is now and where it would need to be to power a city economically.

Seems maybe that's not such a huge barrier in the near future:
The biggest drawback to many real or proposed sources of clean, renewable energy is their intermittency: The wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine, and so the power they produce may not be available at the times it’s needed. A major goal of energy research has been to find ways to help smooth out these erratic supplies.

New results from an ongoing research program at MIT, reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, show a promising technology that could provide that long-sought way of leveling the load — at far lower cost and with greater longevity than previous methods. The system uses high-temperature batteries whose liquid components, like some novelty cocktails, naturally settle into distinct layers because of their different densities.

The three molten materials form the positive and negative poles of the battery, as well as a layer of electrolyte — a material that charged particles cross through as the battery is being charged or discharged — in between. All three layers are composed of materials that are abundant and inexpensive, explains Donald Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT and the senior author of the new paper.
posted by notashroom at 12:40 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's significant evidence that low-frequency noise from wind turbines can cause health problems. Your humble opinion, I'm sorry to say, counts for very little in that regard.

As opposed to your completely unsupported assertion. As far as I am aware all the evidence indicates there are no direct health effects. There may be indirect effects where annoyance at the wind turbines causes anxiety and associated problems, but that is not something that can be blamed on the turbines.

The only evidence I've seen which claims to show direct health effects has been obviously either quackery or dubious "reports" by people which display all the hallmarks of NIMBYism.
posted by Justinian at 1:42 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


notashrrom, GE are already at commercialization of their Durathon technology. Any form of energy storage is not cheap, and to consider smoothing on a 100MW wind farm for even a couple of hour would be more than the total cost of the entire wind project.
posted by scruss at 2:59 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's significant evidence that low-frequency noise from wind turbines can cause health problems.

I teach a module on social and environmental impcts of renewable energy. It would be great if you could link to some of this evidence because I have never been able to find anything reputable and I would like to cover this. Thanks.
posted by biffa at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


The biggest drawback to many real or proposed sources of clean, renewable energy is their intermittency: The wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine, and so the power they produce may not be available at the times it’s needed. A major goal of energy research has been to find ways to help smooth out these erratic supplies
Compressed Air Energy Storage is a promising development in dealing with this problem.
posted by Lost at 4:01 PM on August 19, 2012


notashrrom, GE are already at commercialization of their Durathon technology. Any form of energy storage is not cheap, and to consider smoothing on a 100MW wind farm for even a couple of hour would be more than the total cost of the entire wind project.

Interesting, scruss. If I'm reading this correctly, the Durathon looks like a similar approach to Sadoway's, if a bit more expensive, though (again, assuming I'm reading this correctly) I don't think I see either of them on the linked cost comparison.

Did you watch the video I linked to Sadoway's name above? In it, he goes into a lot of specifics regarding how his battery works efficiently and cheaply and scales well for exactly this purpose. I don't have enough information to compare costs of scale for either his battery or the Durathon, but between those and Lost's CAES, it is looking more to me like impracticality of large-scale storage of energy generated by solar and wind (and hydro, as well, I'm guessing) was a good reason we couldn't get all of our power from such sources, but that is diminishingly so, as long as politicians either assist or stay out of the way.
posted by notashroom at 4:29 PM on August 19, 2012



Hmm, looks like a lot of the best wind in Canada is off the east coast and in Hudson Bay. Still difficult places to build but not nearly as bad as the arctic ocean. And at least the lower part of Hudson Bay is well serviced by transmission infrastructure.
posted by Mitheral at 4:46 PM on August 19, 2012


And the link.
posted by Mitheral at 4:46 PM on August 19, 2012


Mr W
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:25 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live close enough to an airport that I hear an airplane at about the noise level of distant thunder every hour or so. Unless it's a cloudy day, in which case the airplanes are louder. Or a rainy day, in which case the airplanes shake my house. Oh, and then there are the days a bunch of hot dogging Air Force pilots decide to fly low enough over my roof to rattle the glasses in my cupboards.

No one has ever asked me whether I dislike the noise from the airport. Or, for that matter, the sirens from the firehouse several blocks away, or the whistle from the freight train that sounds twice at midnight every Tuesday.

These people who whine about having a noisy wind turbine in their backyard can give one to me to put in my backyard instead. I'll gladly take one, though I have little hope its noise would drown out everything else.
posted by BlueJae at 7:14 PM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Compressed Air Energy Storage is a promising development in dealing with this problem.

That's an interesting idea. I was thinking about this in terms of hydro-electric the other day -- use excess off-peak daytime solar capacity to pump water uphill behind a dam or into a large tank, then run it over turbines downhill at night. The water could even be mostly closed-loop, except for evaporation.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:20 PM on August 19, 2012


Yes, I've seen the Sadoway video. His design isn't even at market yet, but you can get Durathon now. This isn't due to any magic on GE's part - they bought the old British Rail "British Sulphur Cell" technology that was developed with a crapload of British public money in the 1970s which was sold by our lovely government to private interests in the 80s.
posted by scruss at 7:26 PM on August 19, 2012


I was thinking about this in terms of hydro-electric the other day -- use excess off-peak daytime solar capacity to pump water uphill behind a dam or into a large tank, then run it over turbines downhill at night.

I thought of similar, with seawater at natural cliffs, using the power of the waves over the turbines.

Scruss, I'm just glad to see solutions available in the near term which significantly improve our energy storage capcity and enable us to move away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner renewables.
posted by notashroom at 7:51 PM on August 19, 2012


...and for even greater perspective, the 50GW provided by wind power accounts for 0.01% of the 3,741,000GW consumed by the US annually.
That isn't how watts works, you can't consume them 'annually', it's the number of joules of energy used each second. Your number is the number of gigawatt hours used each year. 50 GW of wind power would produce 50 GWh in one hour.

So, since you didn't have any idea what you were talking about, you ended up being off by a factor of 8765.81, which is the number of hours in a year (of course wind power won't actually generate that much, since they don't operate at peak capacity all the time, but they run for a lot more then one hour per year.)
posted by delmoi at 8:56 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's significant evidence that low-frequency noise from wind turbines can cause health problems. Your humble opinion, I'm sorry to say, counts for very little in that regard.


I would take a containment vessel any day. It's quiet, it doesn't cover vast tracts of landscape, and it's safe.
Lol. There are crackpots who think all chemicals and electromagnetic waves make them sick.
Jehan, were you there at night, when sound travels differently?
Yeah, this is crazytalk. Obviously temperature and pressure have a very slight effect on sound propogation, and those variables are slightly different depending on the time of day, but a cold day would have a higher air density then a hot night, for example. The idea that sound is fundamentally different at night then at day is absurd, it's complete crazytalk.
posted by delmoi at 9:15 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that wind or solar is useless because we cannot, CANNOT!, pay a few cents more for electricity is nonsense. Nuclear is a disaster waiting to happen in almost all real world implementations, with obscene decommisioning costs. Coal is a disaster happening with C02 emissions, oil is running out (and the wired piece linked up thread is intellectually dishonest in presenting a slight uptick on America's downward oil production spiral as a renaissance).
Gas is cheap because of artifacts of the shale fraccing economics, and may not last.
Time to accept solar and wind as the future, supported by gas turbines when needed to smooth peaks and troughs. Back it with a national (and in the EU, supra-national) high capacity grid and distributed PV where it makes sense and accept that is the price for a long term solution to fixed energy needs.
And an engineer at the Oil Drum looked into power storage numbers a while ago. Link is to battery storage, but they looked at other alternative energy sources and storage mechanisms.
posted by bystander at 12:24 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


octothorpe: " I'd rather have a windmill in the neighborhood than a gas well."

There's one (I think, or else some other kind of NIPSCO outbuilding) about half a mile from my house. I hate driving by it because it almost always smells like mercaptan. I wonder if it bothers the people who live around it or if they just get used to it. But then I also worry about the fact that if they're used to it, what if they get a leak inside their home and don't smell it?

I've been through the Illinois-Indiana wind farm many times and it's always a little freaky. Not really scary, just futuristic. Especially at night when it's just a sea of blinking red lights. I would love to switch to wind or solar power, but can't afford the up-front costs.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:58 AM on August 20, 2012


Vanadium redox flow batteries are another interesting storage technology, as is Isentropic's thermomechanical approach. Distributed storage in the form of traction batteries in electric cars will grow, as well; it would be nice to be able to make a few bucks by charging at off-peak rates overnight, and selling a portion of that back to the grid at a premium while your car is parked at work in the middle of the day.

However, all forms of energy storage come at an energy cost; as a rough rule of thumb, once a given parcel of energy has been put into storage and taken out again, the best you can expect is that roughly a quarter of it will have been lost as heat. In some cases it might be possible to put that heat to useful work (for example, preheating water for industrial steam generation) but it's usually just plain lost. So storage technologies really are best seen as something that will knock off the worst of the rough edges from demand vs supply imbalances, not a panacea that will make the whole load balancing task just go away.

The main thing that needs to be done in the short term, while wind and solar PV are the "sexy" renewable tech getting the lion's share of the new investment, is engineering a move away from the "baseload" assumptions inherited from an era where it was cheaper and more efficient overall to keep large coal-fired power plants chugging along at constant output than to ramp them up and down to suit demand.

If we can get better at adapting demand to supply via price controls, and better at matching local generation capacity to local demand patterns (by doing things like putting large amounts of solar PV on buildings that need a lot of summer cooling, in order to take the worst of peak demand off the grid on the sunniest days) then the total cost of our electricity infrastructure should come down. At present, we're all paying for a hell of a lot of capacity that lies idle except on those extremely sunny summer days.

If we got really good at this, then there would be no such thing as an automatic "off-peak" price cut overnight; instead, the price of electricity would move with the weather forecast.

The main issues standing in the way of getting better at price-driven demand management, it seems to me, are more political than technical or economic. We need public policy that removes perverse incentives and stops things like the Enron fiasco in California being something a single unscrupulous organization can actually make money at.
posted by flabdablet at 1:46 AM on August 20, 2012


When I was in Port Angeles, WA, I saw a really interesting exhibit on grid-storage. The local energy utility had installed remote-controlled devices to special water heaters and space heaters, which would store the increased thermal energy to be released at a later time. Part os this was spurred because of a large storm that greatly increased but wind and hydro power sources, almost overwhelming the grid.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:24 AM on August 20, 2012


That's actually a very neat approach, because heat is generally pretty cheap and easy to store (all you need is thermal mass and thermal insulation) and if heat generation was the desired end use for the energy being stored anyway then there's no round-trip loss involved.

Heating and cooling consume huge amounts of electrical energy compared to most other end uses, even when done at high efficiencies with heat pumps. Being able to decouple grid demand from end-use heating/cooling output by designing thermal storage and instantaneous supply price sensitivity into the appliances could substantially improve the grid's resilience, both to intermittent generation and failures in conventional plant.
posted by flabdablet at 2:55 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about this in terms of hydro-electric the other day -- use excess off-peak daytime solar capacity to pump water uphill behind a dam or into a large tank, then run it over turbines downhill at night.

This is working tech, the barrier remains the cost, you have to pay the additional capital costs for the dam, pump, connection, etc. You lose about 20% of the energy (as with compressed air and various other storge tech) and so the value of delivering 'firm' power to the system has to be substantial. Given that coal and gas generation is firm the cost of wind would have to drop hugely compared to them for storage like this to become commercial. Someone upthread mentioned how Denmark manages to run 25% with imports, these actually come from Norway (not Germany as mentioned, IIRC they tend to dump excess wind there instead) and are largely from hydropower which can be turned on very quickly to respond to drops in produciton/increases in demand. In many ways Denmark is lucky to be in a position to do this and replication of these circumstances elsewhere might be pretty costly.

I thought of similar, with seawater at natural cliffs, using the power of the waves over the turbines.

Again, this is technically possible, its just pretty expensive. There is a new harbour wall integrated system at Mutriku in Northern Spain that has turbines integrated into it (like in the animation here at 3.20). Unfortunately the cost worked out to around €10mn/MW installed capacity which is about 10x the cost of wind (and that takes into account the cost of the harbour wall also). So its interesting technology but has a long way to go before it is mature.
posted by biffa at 3:51 AM on August 20, 2012


Now here's a crowd that knows their onions.
posted by flabdablet at 5:30 AM on August 20, 2012


The Portsmouth Abbey wind turbine is 164 feet tall with blades 77 feet in length, while the Enercon E-126 is 443 feet tall with blades 206 feet in diameter.

The one at the Portsmouth High School has blades 123' in length, and is 336' tall. The students and faculty don't report any kind of nuisance or health affects from (snerk) "subsonic noise."

I've worked in and around factories and office buildings with real issues with subsonics, usually due to HVAC - you can feel everything rattling around. Wind turbines don't do that. They just kind of whirr quietly and softly swoosh... road noise will drown it out if it's within earshot of a busy street or highway (speaking of noise pollution!)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:49 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would take a [nuclear] containment vessel any day.

You do realize that when you make that decision for yourself, you are also making it for everyone in general proximity for thousands of generations?
posted by No Robots at 8:04 AM on August 20, 2012


thousands of generations

The laws of physics disagree.
posted by Talez at 8:19 AM on August 20, 2012


Erm, 250,000 years is indeed thousands of generations.
posted by No Robots at 8:30 AM on August 20, 2012


> The idea that sound is fundamentally different at night than at day is absurd, it's complete crazytalk

Whoa there. While the laws of physics apply 24/7, the atmosphere, local soundscape and societal behaviour can be very different at night. So while Dasein did phrase it incorrectly, acoustic propagation can behave somewhat differently from simple linear models at night. Here's my understanding, as neither an atmospheric scientist nor an acoustician:
  • under certain conditions, thermal stratification can cause acoustic refraction, so noise propagates differently from how a model like ISO 9613 would predict.
  • thermal effects can cause very high wind shears, so wind is effectively absent at ground level, which prevents masking noise from foliage. Under these conditions, the turbines might have reached cut-in, so the noise could appear more noticeable.
  • there's very little human activity at night, so the background ambient level is lower, making wind turbine noise more noticeable.
posted by scruss at 9:31 AM on August 20, 2012


Also, invisible elves with amplifiers. They like to rock out to the subsonics. (The woo is pretty thick on the ground, here. Extraordinary claims and all that.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:13 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Erm, 250,000 years is indeed thousands of generations.

I don't dispute that. But radioactivity is a function of half-life. There are a finite amount of atoms which produce a finite amount of radioactive events. They either produce them at a fast rate over a short period of time or a slow rate over a long period of time.

The only long lived radioactive product that decays into something reasonably dangerous is Sn-126 which is approximately 0.1% of the yield. After your short half-life isotopes are gone most of your decay is going to come from Tc-99 which is so benign (soft beta rays which are stopped with 30cm of air) your risk of dying from it would probably be heavy metal toxicity before cancer.

Requiring that every little bit of radioactivity to be removed from the environment before calling it habitable is grossly inaccurate. Chernobyl for instance will have radioactivity noticeably above background probably for the next 50,000 years but should be inhabitable within a millennium using today's technology and medicine as a rough guide if not 500 years depending on the advancements of humanity in cleaning up sites or dealing with radiation damage of DNA.

Keep in mind within a millennium most of the short lived isotopes will be gone. Your longest lasting isotope before going to the hundreds of thousands of years half-life is Samarium-151 with a half-life of 90 years and your biggest problems are going to be Caesium-137 and Strontium-90 anyway.

So please stop with the overly dramatic hyperbole. It only discredits the anti-nuclear movement as a bunch of [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE] kooks. Plus it squanders the movement's public goodwill for something down the line that might actually be important.
posted by Talez at 12:48 PM on August 20, 2012


inhabitable within a millennium

I stand corrected.
posted by No Robots at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2012


> I stand corrected.

It's still not an inconsiderable amount of time, in the human scale.
posted by scruss at 7:32 PM on August 20, 2012


Hey, a millennium is no big deal. Didn't we just celebrate one recently?
posted by JackFlash at 7:48 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You guys can be flippant all you want. But it's always amusing to watch people decry the risks involved in nuclear power at protests then go jump in their cars, on their bikes or even walk home from it.

We wouldn't be humans if we didn't have shitty risk perception.
posted by Talez at 10:59 PM on August 20, 2012


Given that coal and gas generation is firm the cost of wind would have to drop hugely compared to them for storage like this to become commercial
or you could have CO2 pricing that would drive up the cost of coal and other fossil fuels, and let the market figure it out.

As storage goes, it's not a solved problem but with the correct (as in, actually reflecting the true external costs) pricing, there would be a ton of innovation in people trying to figure out a good solution. As more solar gets installed, the price of power during the day would go down and the price at night would go up - so there would be a straightforward economic incentive to develop storage technologies.

And look at what happened with PV. The prices had been high, but once some (feeble) economic incentives were put in place, the costs dropped quickly. So the question is whether or not there's some storage tech out there that if it were mass produced could see economies of scale that made it very low cost.

The other thing to remember is that unlike the batteries that you need to power an electric car, whatever tech you use doesn't need to be as weight or volume efficient. So you can have something big and heavy to power a house for a night (like the size of a water heater).
You guys can be flippant all you want.
Your first comment was "The laws of physics disagree" because he said "thousands" of generations instead of 30-50. From a practical perspective there's little difference. It's like the difference between being crushed under a 1-ton car or a 500 ton boat.
posted by delmoi at 3:35 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually a better analogy would be if someone said if you tried to enter the Jovian atmosphere without protection, it would be like being crushed under a 500 ton boat, and then you said "The laws of physics disagree" and then after a back and forth you meant it would only be like being crushed under a pickup truck. Either way, pretty much dead.
posted by delmoi at 3:40 AM on August 21, 2012


it's always amusing to watch people decry the risks involved in nuclear power

The very real risks of fossil fuels are, unfortunately, grandfathered in. The option is nuclear, with real world non-nil implementation risks, or wind/solar with none(?).
That people routinely accept higher risks in where they live or drive is no argument that the additional risk from nukes is irrelevant.
Personally, I figure the nuke risk is minimal, and would rather that than the real risk of increased wild fires that will likely destroy my town if climate change continues, but I do buy the argument that solar is a risk free alternative, so why not use it?
Solar (either distributed PV or large scale thermal) is viable in most of the world and can be supplemented by cheap and easy gas turbines to deliver massive carbon savings. Price the gas produced power a few cents dearer per kWh and within a year or two demand will mirror solar supply.
Yes, this will mean electricity is slightly more expensive than now. Accept it.
posted by bystander at 4:59 AM on August 21, 2012


The CEO of GE recently spoke out against the economics of nuclear power:
Nuclear power is so expensive compared with other forms of energy that it has become “really hard” to justify, according to the chief executive of General Electric, one of the world’s largest suppliers of atomic equipment.--"Nuclear ‘hard to justify’, says GE chief" (summary without firewall here)
posted by No Robots at 8:03 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, I figure the nuke risk is minimal, and would rather that than the real risk of increased wild fires that will likely destroy my town if climate change continues, but I do buy the argument that solar is a risk free alternative, so why not use it?

The problem is that this philosophical debate needed to happen 30-40 years ago. And it did. And solar lost by a long shot because the EROEI was still a few orders of magnitude from reaching 1. And instead of saying "wow this isn't practical" the environmental order of the day, instead of accepting the lesser of two evils, went with the devil they knew and crystallized themselves around the spectacle that was TMI and vindicated themselves with Chernobyl.

Now we get to pay the price of 40 years of the fossil fuel status quo during the biggest period of energy usage in history. We hurridly attempt to perform the deathbed conversion to try and save ourselves in vain but it's not looking good.

The CEO of GE recently spoke out against the economics of nuclear power:

Again. Misleading because the American political machine, driven by populist outrage over nuclear power, has made starting a new plant next to impossible to accomplish. Existing nuclear plants deliver power at 1.71c/kWh compared to coal at 1.85c/kWh.

But it goes deeper than that (and this is the whole heart of the point of why we're so fucked now). People in favour of renewables seem to be so desperate to undermine the nuclear boogeyman that they point out fossil fuels are so cheap we shouldn't bother with nuclear and its massive start-up capital. Why stop pumping out greenhouse gases when we can have more of the status quo?

It doesn't really matter though. The battle was already lost 40 years ago. Turns out the enemy of your enemy wasn't really your friend.
posted by Talez at 9:33 AM on August 21, 2012


The point is that the granola heads, the CEOs and the policy makers are all on board for the solar economy. Who does that leave, exactly?
posted by No Robots at 10:06 AM on August 21, 2012


policy makers

What? Have you even been paying attention to what the House Energy and Commerce Committee believe lately? Hell, last month they voted in favour to kill off the federal loan guarantee for non-fossil fuel energy calling it the "No More Solyndras Act".
posted by Talez at 10:20 AM on August 21, 2012


I was looking at Germany in particular, but there are many other examples.
posted by No Robots at 10:30 AM on August 21, 2012


But a country of 81 million people is small beans compared to the 311 million people still churning out CO2, NOx and SO2.

Not to mention China has rapidly expanded its coal fired power plants as it becomes more developed and industrialized. Its per capita emissions have more than doubled since 1990. Even if the US was to stop all emissions tomorrow (and we're now into complete fantasy land), China alone will pick up the slack quickly.

Also, when Germany decided to shut down a bunch of their nuclear reactors overnight (17, then 7, then 8) after Fukushima you know what they did? I'll tell you what they didn't do. They didn't have a country-wide 80s style movie montage involving Bavarians in lederhosen on top of roofs installing solar panels to the strains of "Walking on Sunshine". They started importing power from nuclear France and the coal/nuclear Czech Republic.

Overnight the German GHG emissions per capita were bumped up a notch c/o Norbert Rottgen and they didn't do a damn thing for renewable energy besides what they were already doing. Great work there guys. But we can all pat ourselves on the back for defeating the nuclear boogeyman yet again.
posted by Talez at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2012


Germany's progress on solar is impressive by any standard:
Germany’s solar power plants produced a record 22 gigawatts of energy on Friday, equivalent to the output of 20 nuclear plants. The country is already a world-leader in solar power and hopes to be free of nuclear energy by 2022.

The director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, northeast Germany, said the solar power delivered to the national grid on Saturday met 50 per cent of the nation’s energy quota.--"Going nuclear-free: Germany smashes solar power world record"
posted by No Robots at 10:58 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not denying it's not impressive. But they took 2 steps sideways and one step backwards.

The imperative thing was/is to get rid of GHG emissions as quickly as possible to try and stem the damage. If you replace nuclear with solar and coal (as mentioned in that article) you've effectively made the net situation worse.

Nuclear we could have dealt with the waste. We can keep the waste in drums under lock and key if we have to until we figure out what the hell to do with it. We could have been reusing high level waste in RTGs. Fossil fuel based systems instead continued to spew waste into the air day after day.

We could have managed the risk if we had put our collective minds to it. We could have and should still be demanding better from the NRC. But instead we threw the baby out with the bathwater. And the baby landed in a boiler to be turned into more GHG emissions.

Solar and wind are still ramping up. Replacing capacity is happening at a steady rate but it's still going to take a fair while and while it's impressive that solar can deliver 50% of the instantaneous demand of a country's energy on a near-summer day (the figure was actually 20% over the 24 hour period that day) the fact that the record set isn't being smashed repeatedly shows that growing household energy use (people have families, acquire more stuff as they get older and richer) does outstrip the ability of PVs to put power back into the system. We still need to bring/keep more non-GHG base load capacity online while we do scale it up.

The last 40 years we should have been pouring money and resources into energy storage research. But we didn't because we were in our oil covered blanket sitting on a nice sofa of coal. Instead we've had to wait for mobile computing tech money to demand better battery technology and finance its development. Thankfully it's finally happening and it making electric cars and entirely renewable energy grids ever more viable by the day.
posted by Talez at 11:23 AM on August 21, 2012


I'll tell you what they didn't do. They didn't have a country-wide 80s style movie montage involving Bavarians in lederhosen on top of roofs installing solar panels to the strains of "Walking on Sunshine".

Hilarious for being so wrong! Bavaria (where people still do wear Lederhosen on a regular basis) is in fact where the majority of solar is installed in Germany. Go visit, you will see it everywhere. Bavarians love their solar panels. Germany's rooftop solar has grown at such a fantastic pace this year (largely thanks to those moneyed Bavarians), that the government-guaranteed payment price for solar electricity (the EEG-subsidy) was decreased and is now below market rates for "green" electricity"! And people are still installing panels on their roof like mad.

Overnight the German GHG emissions per capita were bumped up a notch c/o Norbert Rottgen and they didn't do a damn thing for renewable energy besides what they were already doing.


Wrong again! Germany is a net exporter of electricity. True, at times they import from their neighbours. And at times they export. In fact, sometimes, Germany has so much wind, and so much solar energy, that industrial customers (and neighbouring utilities such as France) are paid to consume the excess. The nuclear plants that they closed were already overkill and were not needed. Now the focus is on integrating smart grid solutions, selling home battery systems (there are many on the market, you should have seen Intersolar this year), and bringing intelligently charged electric vehicles in to the mix to balance the whole thing out.

Nuclear is not needed, and it is not worth the risk. It is not safer. It is not faster. It is not cheaper than wind, and it is not significantly cheaper than solar. There is no need.
posted by molecicco at 12:39 PM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hilarious for being so wrong! Bavaria (where people still do wear Lederhosen on a regular basis) is in fact where the majority of solar is installed in Germany. Go visit, you will see it everywhere. Bavarians love their solar panels. Germany's rooftop solar has grown at such a fantastic pace this year (largely thanks to those moneyed Bavarians), that the government-guaranteed payment price for solar electricity (the EEG-subsidy) was decreased and is now below market rates for "green" electricity"! And people are still installing panels on their roof like mad.

Yes but they didn't magically install solar overnight to match the amount that they turned off. Which is the whole point.

True, at times they import from their neighbours. And at times they export. In fact, sometimes, Germany has so much wind, and so much solar energy, that industrial customers (and neighbouring utilities such as France) are paid to consume the excess.

Yes and after the shutdown Germany immediately swung negative. Where did that come from? Nuclear France and coal/nuclear Czech republic. Now they swing between instead of being solid exporters and unless they can seriously ramp up the install rate of renewables they're predicted to become solid importers of base load power (which solar and wind still can't do) over the next decade. Where is that power going to come from? Nukes and coal. Heating in winter? Instead of being able to move more of the country off gas/coal/oil and try and get them onto electric based heating they've lost that buffer too. They'd end up like France, begging for power every winter, if they even tried that after the reactor shutdowns.

Energy is completely fungible and the knock on effects will be felt elsewhere. What you can't get through solar or wind (both in a lack of base load power or insufficient peak load) is going to have to come from somewhere. Unless they seriously up the rate of renewable installations and solve some major energy storage technical issues or magically have some renewable energy source in Eastern Europe which has so far been undiscovered it'll still be generated from fossil fuels or nuclear plants. And since everywhere seems to be going anti-nuke these days I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to deduce where this capacity is going to be coming from.
posted by Talez at 1:22 PM on August 21, 2012


This article by David Suzuki examines the "baseload fallacy."
posted by No Robots at 1:35 PM on August 21, 2012


Alright. Germany shut down those reactors on the 6th of August, 2011. So, first of all, they shut them down because they already had a surplus - a surplus which was due to the solar and wind they have been installing. Second of all, Germany installed 7.5 GWp of solar in all of 2011, and then 4.4 GWp in the first half of 2012, and then another 3GWp in June and July. So no, that's not overnight. But that is pretty fast. Wind power isn't growing as quickly - just over 2GW were installed in 2011.

Alright, so for more clarity on the import/export question for all parties involved (myself included), here is a pretty good article (in German) that only goes up to the first month of 2012. It shows Germany staying a net exporter for 2011, and flatling in 2012. For more current data, try entsoe.net, his source for the graph (I too will take a look. I just signed up). So, you are correct that immediately after the nukes were shut down, Germany began importing... but then later in the summer they were exporting again. And it looks like round trip, in the year since the nukes were shut down, Germany imported around 2500GWh. So I concede the point.

As to where exactly they come from, I would like to spend some time on entsoe looking into it. Germany imports from Hydro nations as well as nuclear and coal nations. I believe that the nuclear/coal import is being overstated.

Funny enough Talez, the German government has actually been trying to reduce the rate of solar installation (Rösler in particular). Many people in the FDP and CDU are anti-solar, and have been working to curb new installations of solar (for example, by drastically cutting the EEG, changing regulations quickly, causing confusion, and sowing doubt in the industry). As far as I can tell, the FDP, and possibly the CDU, have friends in the nuclear industry, and are trying to get those reactors back online.

In any event, I stand by my point that renewables are cheaper or comparable in cost to nuclear, they do in fact cover the peaks (too much so!) and the technology for controlling our consumption (demand response systems) exists, it is not prohibitively expensive, and it is being rolled out as we speak.
posted by molecicco at 2:04 PM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


They didn't have a country-wide 80s style movie montage involving Bavarians in lederhosen on top of roofs installing solar panels to the strains of "Walking on Sunshine".
Well, if you like being factually wrong no one is going to stop you, but aside from the Lederhosen they basically have been. Solar power was up to 3.2% at the end of 2011 and had been accelerating.
posted by delmoi at 2:04 AM on August 22, 2012


Also, it's amazing how Nuke lovers are freaking out and/or in denial about solar energy in Germany. They tend to insist that it's both A) not happening and B) causing all kinds of problems.

Nuke lovers are incredibly upset about how successful and cheap solar power has become in the past few years. Thankfully, the world is moving on whether they like it or not.
posted by delmoi at 2:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]




The thing about solar is that most of it is mass-produced and widely distributed (a bit like sunshine, perhaps?) which makes it kind of hard to see, while nukes and coal-fired plants are these huge imposing industrial cathedrals. I think that's part of what makes it so hard for so many people to take a Dump Coal, No Nukes standpoint seriously. If we dump coal, how will we replace our cathedrals?

The idea that we might not actually need to is of course absurd on its face, and it's easy to come up with numbers to show so; just look at the size of those things! The number of solar panels we'd need to make to replace that much capacity is just ridiculous! Couldn't be done! We clearly need nukes!

...which would be fine reasoning, were it not for the fact that the entire industrial economy is thousands of times as absurd and is already churning out panels in large and increasing volume. And the more of them that get made, the cheaper they will become and the more attractive the value proposition for the average homeowner will get.

I'm fully expecting that by the time we're done arguing about whether we need nukes or not, the energy market will have moved on to selling solutions for the problems inherent in widely distributed, intermittent, non-demand-driven energy supply and the whole "baseload" thing will have become moot.
posted by flabdablet at 9:34 PM on August 22, 2012


I'm also expecting that the nuclear lobby will score a few successes in persuading governments to piss a deplorable quantity of taxpayer funds up against the walls of their radioactive white elephants.
posted by flabdablet at 9:36 PM on August 22, 2012


Like in Ontario; Darlington 2 just got some important permits.
posted by scruss at 5:52 AM on August 25, 2012


I have not yet read it, but NREL believes that 80% of US demand can be met by renewables using todays technologies - including hour-by-hour demand. Study here.
Key Findings

---Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.
---Increased electric system flexibility, needed to enable electricity supply-demand balance with high levels of renewable generation, can come from a portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations.
---The abundance and diversity of U.S. renewable energy resources can support multiple combinations of renewable technologies that result in deep reductions in electric sector greenhouse gas emissions and water use.
---The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios. Improvement in the cost and performance of renewable technologies is the most impactful lever for reducing this incremental cost.
My emphasis added. The study seems to include some pretty bad-ass simulations (which I can only assume are hour-by-hour analyses on regional and national levels).
posted by molecicco at 12:57 AM on August 27, 2012


A 2007 National Research Council study of what kills birds put wind turbine kills at less than 0.003 percent in 2003.

In fact, the study said, far more birds die every year in other ways:
--Collisions with buildings may kill up to 976 million birds annually;
--Collisions with high-tension lines kill at least 130 million birds, perhaps more than 1 billion;
--Cars may kill 80 million birds per year


along with hundreds of millions per year by cats, domestic and feral. The 440,000 number is the estimate of one biologist – Manville.
posted by Twang at 4:37 PM on September 4, 2012


Another renewable source, wave energy, is getting a serious test. In late August Oregon's Ocean Sentinel was deployed. Another startup is New Jersey's Ocean Power Technologies, planning an October launch of a 260-ton turbine.

(Oregon Wave Energy Trust) (More at NYTimes)
posted by Twang at 4:49 PM on September 4, 2012


“We’re still trying to figure out what will happen when some of these devices have to stand up to 50-foot waves,” Moran said. “The ocean environment is very challenging, especially off Oregon where we have such a powerful wave energy resource.”

One cunning way to deal with that issue is to put the actuators underwater and the turbine onshore.
posted by flabdablet at 8:28 PM on September 4, 2012


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