Windmill output of up to one MegaTrumpton
November 26, 2007 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Could giant magnetically levitated windmills be the solution to the worlds energy problems? Chinese scientist have reported 20 percent increase in capacity over traditional wind turbines using maglev turbines, and now Arizona-based based Maglev Wind Turbine Technologies claims their turbines will have 1000 times the capacity of a traditional turbine. Not everybody is convinced.
posted by Artw (84 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like levitating trains, the point is not whether they work better but that they levitate. And on that point, I am convinced.
posted by GuyZero at 2:10 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Irrespective of the details of the design, the fundamental problem with wind power was neatly summarized one time by one of my readers this way: "The wind doesn't start blowing in response to you switching on a light."

The problem is that the wind blows when weather conditions are right, not when you need power from it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:11 PM on November 26, 2007


How long do the magnets last till they give out?
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:12 PM on November 26, 2007


The best part is that if they levitate sufficiently out of reach, they'll be totally Quixote-proof.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:13 PM on November 26, 2007 [12 favorites]


The problem is that the wind blows when weather conditions are right, not when you need power from it.

Which would be where having good distribution systems and power storage solutions would come in.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on November 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Storing wind-generated power and the Iowa Stored Energy Park. Here is your chance to get your readers up-to-date.
posted by carmina at 2:23 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Humm, the "Worldwatch Institute" reprinting what reads suspiciously like a press release, versus New Scientist. Who to believe?

That said, vertical-axis wind turbines are pretty cool anyway, though. Magnetic bearings or not, they're worthy of research and attention, especially for micropower applications.

One thing I don't get: if these researchers did find some way of using magnetic bearings on a 20-ton piece of equipment, there are a lot more obvious applications for it than experimental wind turbines. (Say, marine engines, or conventional power plants.) An increase in efficiency in either of those would probably have an immediate and significant positive environmental impact.

Just as a general note: I really cringe every time I hear some exaggerated claim regarding some form of alternative energy; it's painful because it leads to real breakthroughs (which tend to be evolutionary and generally unsexy) being ignored or getting less attention than they deserve.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:23 PM on November 26, 2007


Could giant magnetically levitated
Yes.

Now give me one.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:24 PM on November 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


Whatever happened to those giant windmill-kite-things that were supposed to float like helicopters over the Australian outback tethered to giant electric cables?
did i dream this?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:27 PM on November 26, 2007


The debate on whether or not the technology will work in a large-scale effort is not really expanded upon in any meaningful way by either side in these links. The proponents say, "China has done a proof of concept. We're going to do that, only bigger." The skeptics say, "That's a lot of weight to support in a magnetic field. I'm not convinced."

Those are nice headlines to more in-depth stories. Unfortunately, these "headline" sound bites represent the entirety of the content of the given links. I suppose I'll wait until something of substance comes along before having an opinion.

Other than, you know, meh.
posted by Brak at 2:27 PM on November 26, 2007


I didn't dream it!
[not crazy]
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:28 PM on November 26, 2007


it's painful because it leads to real breakthroughs ... being ignored...

Like which 'real breakthroughs' Kadin2048? Can you name a few?
(I am not being snarky, I just cannot think of any...)
posted by carmina at 2:28 PM on November 26, 2007


"The wind doesn't start blowing in response to you switching on a light."

That's like saying rain doesn't fall in response to you needing wheat, so let's not eat bread.
posted by JWright at 2:29 PM on November 26, 2007 [11 favorites]


Not a dream.
posted by Artw at 2:31 PM on November 26, 2007


The wind doesn't start blowing in response to you switching on a light As if this invalidates the benefit it can provide when it is blowing. Sheesh, bacon isn't going to solve world hunger, but it's still good.
posted by adamrice at 2:32 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bah, you found it first.
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on November 26, 2007


From what I understand the enormous bearings used in contemporary windmill construction (Siemens, etc) are the same as used for the M1A1 turret, apparently this is problematic.
posted by prostyle at 2:33 PM on November 26, 2007


The problem is that the wind blows when weather conditions are right, not when you need power from it.

Necessity is the mother of invention and the implementation details - storage of compressed air, production of and storage of hydrogen by electrolysis of water, whatever - will be dealt with by entrepreneurs who want to make money selling the energy.

How come wingers only believe in the free market solving technological problems when it comes to fossil fuels?
posted by fleetmouse at 2:34 PM on November 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


it's painful because it leads to real breakthroughs ... being ignored...

Like which 'real breakthroughs' Kadin2048? Can you name a few?
(I am not being snarky, I just cannot think of any...)


Can't name any--they were ignored!

I keed because I love</small
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2007


Power Generating Wind Dam
posted by homunculus at 2:37 PM on November 26, 2007


I just want to keep saying it: "Maglev turbine! Maglev TURBINE!"
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:37 PM on November 26, 2007


JWright writes "That's like saying rain doesn't fall in response to you needing wheat, so let's not eat bread."

I guess Steve did try , but so far failed, to emphatize the unreliability of a on-demand system in which the demand is for a good that cannot be conveniently stored (electricity), as opposed to wheat which can be store in a form or another for some time.

Maybe hydrogen could be considered as a form of storage of electricity, but I guess the primary problems is finding ways to have an offer ready to use electricity that exceeds demand, and it must be a reliable one (fusion?).

Still, if the wind isn't blowing in point X it maybe is in point Y with a certain likelyhood.
posted by elpapacito at 2:39 PM on November 26, 2007


This is the first of ten steps that lead directly to Howl's Moving Castle.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:41 PM on November 26, 2007


How long do the magnets last till they give out?

Actually, they probably use electormagnets, which raises the question as to whether it would generate more power than the bearings require? In that sense, it sounds a bit like a fusion reactor where the issues are startup energy cost and whether you're really hitting energy breakeven.
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on November 26, 2007


Actually, they specifically state they are not using electromagnets:

"The turbine uses “full-permanent” magnets, not electromagnets — therefore, it does not require electricty to run. The full-permanent magnet system employs neodymium (”rare earth”) magnets and there is no energy loss through friction. This also helps reduce maintenance costs and increases the lifespan of the generator."
posted by greenmagnet at 2:48 PM on November 26, 2007


The Maglev Wind Turbine Technologies turbine would use permanent magnets, according to tfa.
posted by Artw at 2:48 PM on November 26, 2007


The problem is that the wind blows when weather conditions are right, not when you need power from it.

The perennial objection from people who are really, really looking hard for some basis on which to oppose renewable energy. "What happens when the sun isn't shining hurf durf"

Worse case: We use oil then. Better yet, we use hydro then. Or solar. Or ethanol. Or whatever. If each source contributes 10% and we have 6 alternative sources...you do the math.
posted by DU at 2:52 PM on November 26, 2007


I guess Steve did try

He did not try. He appears to have a shortcut key he uses to insert his know-nothing aphorisms into green-power discussions. This "whaddaya do when the wind isn't blowing" turd is his wind-power version. He's got a different one for solar-power discussions, about how they don't work when it's cloudy, which is also flat-out wrong. Every time I read them, I imagine, you know, the entirety of the German energy ministry slapping its collective foreheads in unison and screaming, "Mein Gott, ve hadn't thought of zat!" in comical Col. Klink accents. For this, indeed, is Den Beste's depth of understanding of the issues at hand: he is to climate change as Hogan's Heroes is to Yalta.

He knows nothing about renewable energy and makes no attempt whatsoever to familiarize himself with the topic in question. If he did, he might quickly realize that nobody anywhere is proposing a large-scale grid powered exclusively by wind power or any other single renewable source. As National Geographic put it in their "Future Power" cover story in August 2005, the heir to fossil fuel's throne will be "a congress, not a king."
posted by gompa at 2:56 PM on November 26, 2007 [24 favorites]


The problem is that the wind blows when weather conditions are right, not when you need power from it.

Sounds like why I say "Fuck you solar power". Because until we destroy all the clouds and nighttime, it is worthless.
posted by Mr_Zero at 3:03 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sounds like why I say "Fuck you solar power". Because until we destroy all the clouds and nighttime, it is worthless.

Mr_Zero, on the other hand, apparently likes to come in a little later with the Uli-Kunkol-in-The-Big-Lebowski argument - Cut off your Johnson, Solar Power! I fucks you up! - and so would probably do best to stick to moving Billy Crystal's ex-wife's furniture in 1980s romantic comedies.
posted by gompa at 3:08 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


A solar panel about the size of Arizona would be enough power for the whole world. So, double that size and store the extra energy in some temporary form. Or have 2 plants on opposite sides of the world. etc..

There is so much available solar generation capacity available that finding ways to solve the night/cloud problem is one of design.
posted by stbalbach at 3:12 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Nah, this will never work. Nothing ever works. It’s all crap. We should just give up on everything. It was a stupid idea to open up a housewares store on this island. I might as well go back to devouring wild boar and sleeping on the beach all day.
...sorry, lost my mind there for a minute.

Metafilter: in comical Col. Klink accents
posted by Smedleyman at 3:15 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Worse case: We use oil then. Better yet, we use hydro then. Or solar. Or ethanol. Or whatever. If each source contributes 10% and we have 6 alternative sources...you do the math.

Worst case: We use coal. That's the scary thing about the oil running out - it might not so much force a change to renewable & nuclear. It might (as in those in power will decide to) force a change to coal.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:15 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Steven C. Den Beste, you act as if wind power is some theoretical energy dream that isn't actually isn't being done - and for a while now. (That article is 3 years old.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:21 PM on November 26, 2007


Denmark gets 20% of it's power from wind now, it's no pipedream.
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've built a very small version of this (more as a model of a vertical turbine than an windmill prototype), and I can say, yeah, the magnets reduce friction a great deal (the one I built still required bearings due to balance concerns), but you are still dealing with a moment of inertia to get any useful work out of the thing.

This has the advantage of being able to easily use wind from any direction, but there are probably still improvements to be made in blade design (changing the pitch and attack to make the system more efficient and balanced) and materials use. It seems more useful than the standard windmill, however, a thousand fold increase seems a bit much.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 3:32 PM on November 26, 2007


A kite the size of a football field will provide most of the power for a German heavy freight ship set to launch in December. the ship will be hauling windmills from Esbjerg, Denmark to Houston, Texas.
posted by Artw at 3:46 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The problem is that the wind blows when weather conditions are right, not when you need power from it.

There are places where the wind seems to be as unceasing as an infants runny diapers. The Columbia Gorge comes to mind. And not surprisingly places like that seem to be quite appropriate for these 'wind-driven mill engines' as they are called. I suppose this whole solar thing is a pointless masturbatory exercise as well, since I rarely see sunshine from October to March. Though I am told there exist far off lands where sunshine is not only plentiful, but used to generate electron flow through metallic wire.
posted by docpops at 3:46 PM on November 26, 2007


Re: Running the toaster in a lull:

Uh, guys, as carmina pointed out, the storage problem isn't one that's been begging for a solution until the great minds of MetaFilter got to it. In fact, storing generated electricity for later use is a solved problem1. The Niagara doesn't respond to you switching on a light, either.

And nothing's keeping the electric company from making deals with customers who can tolerate intermittent power (water companies filling municipal towers, for example) to limit their usage to periods of high wind power availability, the way they make deals with homeowners now to remotely cut off their A/C in high demand periods.

Now, can we agree this is a dead issue and get back to talking about how KEWL a maglev turbine would be? Thanks.

------------------
1Yes, maybe new technology can improve the 70-85% efficiency of SWHP, and let us do it at the windfarm site. The point is we already have a way to save the power for later (and have had it for going on 50 years now.) I guess "neatly summarized" is synonomous with "ignorantly (perhaps embarrassingly-so) bloviated."

I really want a maglev turbine.

posted by Opposite George at 3:47 PM on November 26, 2007


"The Maglev Wind Turbine Technologies turbine would use permanent magnets, according to tfa."

I am totally not going near this thing with my iPod or VHS collection.

Also - the wind dam thing looks amazing.
posted by phyrewerx at 3:48 PM on November 26, 2007


The full-permanent magnet system employs neodymium (”rare earth”) magnets and there is no energy loss through friction.

The US uses power at an overall average rate of about 3.3 terawatts, counting all uses and all sources. If you try to shoot for producing about 1% of that using wind power (my threshold for taking any "alternate energy" source seriously) then you'd need to produce 33 gigawatts. If a big wind turbine was 5 megawatts (and they're usually much less than that) then you'd need 6600 windmills.

Is there enough neodymium available to produce that many magnets? Or if you wanted to try to offset the majority of our energy use (i.e. 50%) is there enough neodymium available to produce magnets for 330,000 wind mills? And even if there was, how much would the price of the stuff rise when subject to that kind of demand? Enough to make the windmills uneconomic? And where would you site them all?

The real problem with all "alternate energy" ideas is scaling. It's not that they can't be made to work. It's that they can't be scaled up enough to make a significant difference. That's why I use 33 gigawatts, 1% of current American power usage, as my threshold of interest. If an "alternate energy" source cannot easily and obviously be scaled up enough to produce energy at that average rate (I emphasize average, not peak) then it is interesting but unimportant.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:52 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


How wind power scales is a far more interesting question than "what happend if it isn't windy?", but I don't see any reason to assume the answer is "it doesn't".
posted by Artw at 3:58 PM on November 26, 2007


Oh, and they put neodymium magnets in toys these days, so I guess it's possible that obtaining them isn't that much of a problem.
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on November 26, 2007


Steven C. Den Beste, you're in the US? Ahh well, wind energy - totally unscalable to your needs, then, and obviously unimportant. Too bad there's no way that can possibly be addressed.

But hey, good luck with that whole "7th highest per capita energy consumption rate in the world" thing. Let me know how that works out for you.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:09 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Nah, this will never work. Nothing ever works. It’s all crap. We should just give up on everything. It was a stupid idea to open up a housewares store on this island. I might as well go back to devouring wild boar and sleeping on the beach all day.

Poetry. I'm putting it on a t-shirt.
posted by eclectist at 4:19 PM on November 26, 2007


Artw: "Oh, and they put neodymium magnets in toys [wp] these days, so I guess it's possible that obtaining them isn't that much of a problem."

But Wikipedia says it's a "rare-earth metal." That means it's rare. Or something. Doesn't it?

Doesn't it?
posted by Opposite George at 4:20 PM on November 26, 2007


> If you try to shoot for producing about 1% of that using wind power (my threshold for taking any "alternate energy" source seriously)

What a strange yet expert-sounding phrase.

The resource is viable if it produces energy profitably near conventional market rates, at which point its share of the market isn't particularly relevant. If there was only one location on earth where wind power can be profitable there's no reason to not set up there and there's no reason to call it a failure.

Coal and oil have over a century of startup amortization and nuclear energy has about half that. If solar/wind/tidal are still expensive, the better question is how those expenses can drop in future iterations.
posted by ardgedee at 4:29 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ardgedee, the OP said "solution to the world's energy problems" etc. If a new energy source can't plausibly provide 1% of America's energy usage, it isn't going to be solving that problem.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:37 PM on November 26, 2007


Steven C. Den Beste writes "If an 'alternate energy' source cannot easily and obviously be scaled up"

Wind is an alternate energy source , and I guess the max amount of energy that can be extracted from it without affecting the planet significantly is a given amount, +- natural variance.

What could increase is the efficiency of the methods we use to exploit the source. So while I concur that some extraction method (neodymium windmills) may not be important now , because they arguably don't scale well, that doesn't imply wind is an unimportant source.

Also, while you approach seems sensible in considering integer% as an "importance" / "interest" measure , it starts from the implicit assumption (likely enough) that the demand will rise or remain stable, but one needn't take the WHOLE demand of a country as a reference (even if it does make sense for national projects)..it just doesn't scale well now for a project of national relevance.

I tought fusion was the only national and international big energy project ?
posted by elpapacito at 4:40 PM on November 26, 2007


The US uses power at an overall average rate of about 3.3 terawatts

Curious, given that California, 1/8th the population and more than that WRT industrial output of this nation, peaked at around 30GW today, at least according to CalISO. Looks like your number is off by an order of magnitude for the purposes of this discussion.
posted by panamax at 4:45 PM on November 26, 2007


I just want to compliment Artw on his splendid post title. Splendid post title, Artw.
posted by Hogshead at 4:47 PM on November 26, 2007


Steve, did you read the press release? They claim that a single windmill of the scale they're envisioning will produce 1GW. So your entire country could be powered by 3300 of these things...heck, make it 10,000 just to be sure.

$500 billion at their projected cost. Half the cost of getting to Mars. For complete energy independence.*

* Assuming this isn't just hot air.
posted by maxwelton at 4:48 PM on November 26, 2007


For complete energy independence.*

LOL. That's socialism, and we ~certainly~ can't have that.

Energy must be generated by hazardous, polluting -- ie. manly -- means with existing ties to the present power structure, not this artsy-fartsy solar/wind/wave BS.
posted by panamax at 4:57 PM on November 26, 2007


Panamax, energy use in the US varies dramatically by region. CA has the lowest per capita energy use in the country.

Wikipedia backs up the 3.3 TW figure plus why you shouldn't extrapolate from CA to the rest of the country.
posted by comadreja at 5:11 PM on November 26, 2007


LOL. That's socialism, and we ~certainly~ can't have that.

LOL if all goes as planned, you will be begging to have socialism!!!1!1

[not revisionist]
posted by carmina at 5:12 PM on November 26, 2007


comadreja, this is very interesting, thanks.
According to the Wikipedia article, most energy consuming areas are the south-central and south-east U.S. Note that both regions would greatly benefit from alternative methods, such solar and wind power.
posted by carmina at 5:18 PM on November 26, 2007


comadreja: indeed, but that TW figure is including our present petroleum burn rate, which is 40% of the picture.

And looking at the per-capita graph from wikipedia, I think that makes SCDB's gimlet eye toward alternative even more bogus, since it is readily apparent that the bulk of electrical consumption is related to running air conditioners, and that demand is generally proportional to current insolation.
posted by panamax at 5:26 PM on November 26, 2007


Wow, SCDB actually tried to defend his off-the-cuff cluelessness?
posted by DU at 5:32 PM on November 26, 2007


you'd need to produce 33 gigawatts. If a big wind turbine was 5 megawatts (and they're usually much less than that) then you'd need 6600 windmills.

Well, not that we should believe them, but for the record this link suggests that a single one of these large turbines could produce a gigawatt of power.
posted by washburn at 5:34 PM on November 26, 2007


Why would you exclude petroleum from the picture? Something has to power our electric cars. Ignoring that part of our energy use because it doesn't currently come from an electric plant doesn't make any sense. If alternative energy is going to do anything about our greenhouse gas emissions that is a huge part of the picture.

What is your point about air conditioning? That we should have better insulation where people use/need air conditioning? I completely agree that reducing demand through better energy conservation is necessary, but its not going to suddenly make us use an order of magnitude less energy. It will just make energy use in hot and cold areas only somewhat higher than in moderate climates instead of a lot higher.
posted by comadreja at 5:39 PM on November 26, 2007


"The problem is that the wind blows when weather conditions are right, not when you need power from it."

Sure. But in my country we have this thing called "the national grid" which comprises many power sources, of which wind is just one source. And in fact, we have more than one wind farm, and surprisingly, often when the wind is not blowing in one place, it IS blowing in another.

On a less facetious note, the US may be special, but the fact is the rest of us don't use so much. Where I am there are limited coal and gas reserves, and nuclear is out because of our isolation and population size. But we have a very long coastline and a strong prevailing westerly wind. This is important for us, even if it's of no use in the US.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:43 PM on November 26, 2007



Steven C. Den Beste writes "The US uses power at an overall average rate of about 3.3 terawatts, counting all uses and all sources."

A bit disingenuous, since the US electrical power consumption in 2006 was only 4,065 Billion KwH1, or 464 GW of utilized capacity. Your 33 GW figure would be over 7% of the total electrical production capacity that the country has right now. But call that a target... it's actually reasonable enough.

We'd just need 6,600 windmills across the entire US. Which really isn't that many. That's just ~14 installations of ~500 turbines each... and oddly enough, we already have wind farms that size running today2. Just need about 12 more.

1: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/figes1.html
2: http://www.fplenergy.com/news/contents/090706.shtml
posted by zeypher at 5:45 PM on November 26, 2007


Looks like your number is off by an order of magnitude for the purposes of this discussion.

His numbers are off, but in the wrong direction. It's actually about 4.1 terawatts.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:51 PM on November 26, 2007


My 3.3 terawatt number is based on DOE figures from 2000. Their number was 98.498*10^15 BTU per year, that year. A BTU is 1055 joules, and a year is 3600*24*365.24 seconds, and if you do the math you get about 3.292 trillion joules per second.

That was energy from all sources, used for all purposes. Electricity was a minority part of that. But I'd like to point out again that the OP said "energy problems", not "electrical energy problems".

As to a windmill producing 1 gigawatt, I'll believe it when I see it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:08 PM on November 26, 2007


I think possibly what you need is a windmill that produces paxil.
posted by Artw at 6:13 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hogshead - let down only by the fact that Windy Miller was in Camberwick Green, not Trumpton. Ah well... Most likey excess power not immediately consumed in Camberwick enters a grid and is either consumed by the folk of Trumpton proper immediately or is placed into an innovative energy storage system somewhere in it's environs.
posted by Artw at 6:21 PM on November 26, 2007


CD, you've misinerpreted that Wikipedia number. They say 4.1 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. A kw-h is 3.6 million joules. A year is 35.5 million seconds. So 4.1 trillion kilowatt-hours per year is about 400 gigawatts, which is also what DOE said was average US electrical usage.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:31 PM on November 26, 2007


In case anyone wants to play with real numbers, here's the DOE page with all the raw numbers you could need. The only bad thing is that all the numbers are in BTUs, so you need to know that there are 1055 joules per BTU.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:38 PM on November 26, 2007


Why would you exclude petroleum from the picture?

I don't, I just think SCDB including it above is his typical disengenious BS since his 33GW "wake me up" threshhold is THE ENTIRE electrical power usage of the State of California.

Something has to power our electric cars. Ignoring that part of our energy use because it doesn't currently come from an electric plant doesn't make any sense. If alternative energy is going to do anything about our greenhouse gas emissions that is a huge part of the picture.

oh, I agree. Thing is, IC engines are loads less efficient than battery powered, so comparing BTU vs. BTU is apples to oranges.


What is your point about air conditioning?

simply that, in low-humidity climates at least, peak A/C usage corresponds VERY nicely with peak insolation & wind.
posted by panamax at 7:49 PM on November 26, 2007


I'll bet our energy consumption would be greatly reduced if we'd just turn off the lights at night. It is simply asinine how much power we piss away with all those streetlights and signs.

A primary benefit would be that we'd be able to see the stars again. I've been to the top of a mountain hundreds of miles distant from the nearest electric lights; the night sky was mind-blowing*. I live in a smaller town and while there are indeed plenty of stars to be seen from my hottub at night, I am now fully aware that I'm not seeing 1/10th what could be seen if there were no street lights.

I strongly encourage everyone to at least once in their lives find a place where you can truly see the glory of the stars and the universe. It is an immensely humbling experience: the vast is simply beyond comprehension, and our entire sense of world is but an speck of nothing in an infinite expanse of everything.

More of that knowledge of the fragility of this delicate film of life on this tiny planet and how insignificant our loss would be in the expanse of the physical universe would wise us all up.

*and there was a good Perseides shower! omfg, you've never experienced anything so incredible!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:15 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


simply that, in low-humidity climates at least, peak A/C usage corresponds VERY nicely with peak insolation & wind.

which, if there's still misunderstanding, means sun (insolation) and wind generation will be at their peak capacity during the times the electrical demand for A/C is at its peak.

Thus unloading a helluva demand for, say, coal power; thus reducing the mercury emissions; thus saving the USA from becoming a land of defects.

The use of coal power and leaded gasoline is going to cause harm to us for generations. They're bio-accumulative. We're top of the food chain: it's gonna get to us sooner than later.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2007


I've been to the top of a mountain hundreds of miles distant from the nearest electric lights; the night sky was mind-blowing*

I've done one better perhaps . . . Haleakula on Maui. Like you, this city boy was rendered speechless seeing the nebulae and stars where there should have just been gaps.
posted by panamax at 8:37 PM on November 26, 2007


Has anyone figured out at what point the use of wind-turbines would have an effect on weather patterns? It would be an awfully ironic end to the planet if using thousands and thousands of turbines exacerbated global warming in some way.
posted by greatgefilte at 11:00 PM on November 26, 2007


Wow, a terawatt here and a gigawatt-hour there and what do you get. A frightful bunch of innumeracy.

First off, the 3.3 terawatts from wikipedia is for total energy consumption in the U.S., not just electricity. This figure includes all the fuel for automobiles, gas and oil for home heating, etc. Electricity is only a small portion of this.

Next Civil_Disobedient drops the number 4.1 terawatts, but if you go to his link the number is actually 4.1 terawatt-hours per year. Terawatt-hours is an energy measurement, not a power measurement. Divide that by the 8760 hours in a year and you get an average electric power consumption of 468 gigawatts -- call it 500 gigawatts. Summer peak use is about 900 gigawatts.

Now if you want to use the SDB criteria of 1% for useful alternative power sources, that is only 5 gigawatts, much lower than the 33 gigawatts he originally claimed.

Total wind energy installations exceeded 10 gigawatts capacity back in 2006 and will be around 15 gigawatts by the end of this year, well beyond SDB's criteria.
posted by JackFlash at 11:22 PM on November 26, 2007


It would be an awfully ironic end to the planet if using thousands and thousands of turbines exacerbated global warming in some way.

Or what if we got them all pointed the wrong way and stopped the Earth spinning like Superman did and time went backwards!!!
posted by XMLicious at 11:32 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jack: to be fair to SCDB his numbers were right, and he was clear about referring to total energy in his original 1% threshhold.

I was trying to make the counterpoints explaining why his numbers and reasoning from them were rather bogus.

(the main reason his reasoning is bogus is that there are massive efficiency gains to be had moving from millions of IC engines burning 87 octane to centralized off-peak battery recharging patterns . . . one BTU of the latter gets you a lot more transport, at a cheaper cost, than the former)
posted by panamax at 12:15 AM on November 27, 2007


panamax: can you back that up? My understanding is that the fossil fuels would be burned more efficiently in the engine rather than with the 65% loss that would come from electrical generation and transmission.
posted by biffa at 3:39 AM on November 27, 2007


I'm not sure about this maglev thing, and designing wind farms is what I do.

If it will end up looking at all like the visualisations, it has way too solid a rotor to have any efficiency at all at higher wind speeds. It's also a vertical axis machine, which even at their largest manufactured scale, had niggling mechanical, materials and operational problems.

Its touted low cut-in speeds are unremarkable with standard machinery available today.

As for the 1GW machine, it would be ever so slightly large. At peak theoretical efficiency (the Betz limit) and assuming a 12m/s wind speed, it would have to be about 1000m wide by 1600m tall. As that's three times the height of the world's tallest buildings - and then you have to be able to get it to spin - it's just a little impractical.

I hate the term alternative energy - it's as if there's an alternative to sustainability.
posted by scruss at 4:26 AM on November 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


OMG, a comment from someone directly involved in the issues discussed by a post! What is the blue coming to if snark, ad-hominem and derailing can be supplemented by actual knowledge? Now, lets all imagine a MetaFilter where people don't pigpile onto any half-baked thought with their own quarter-baked excrescences -- as if we all actually read the note below the post window with more than an ounce of respect.

Hmm, should have read it myself. DAMN. Guess I have to squeeze out one last turd before I go clean.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:46 AM on November 27, 2007


My understanding is that the fossil fuels would be burned more efficiently in the engine

The basic thermal efficiency of the IC engines is 30-50% (50% is the outside research target). There are further mechanical transmission losses and lost regeneration recovery opportunities, not to mention the inefficiencies of extra motor weight.

An interesting, if slightly misleading, way of comparing the two is looking at the energy content of a gallon of gas: 36 kwhr and the equivalent kwhr costs from PG&E.

PG&E has the E-9 rate of 5c / kwhr, so EV customer can theoretically recharge his vehicle overnight at a $1.80/gallon equivalent.

But he will get at least twice (SWAG) the motive power out of that same energy content, reducing his total transport cost to an equivalent of under $1.00 gallon.

This is misleading to some extent since market price imbalances also make natural gas cars similarly economical to operate ATM, but the fact remains that generating power in big-ass plants (hydro, nuclear, solar, wind) is still more energy and cost efficient than having millions of 200HP IC motors puttering about, not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by panamax at 8:57 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


You people are all crazy. We just need more nuclear plants.
posted by tadellin at 12:13 PM on November 27, 2007


yeay, Three Mile Island experiences for everyone!

mid-20th century nuclear technology was something of a false economy, though I am a strong proponent of research and possible deployment of pebble-bed and any other less inherently hazardous nuke plant technologies.

Here's hoping we run our nuke plants more like the French and less like the Japanese, eh tedellin?
posted by panamax at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


mid-20th century nuclear technology was something of a false economy

But you could make such lovely bombs with it.
posted by Artw at 1:17 PM on November 27, 2007


So 4.1 trillion kilowatt-hours per year is about 400 gigawatts, which is also what DOE said was average US electrical usage.

Ah, I see--thanks for the clarification.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:38 PM on November 27, 2007


« Older China's...  |  Alain Robbe-Grillet's La Belle... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments