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September 11, 2007 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Navarre now generates more than 50% of its energy needs by wind power: a profile of the small autonomous region in northern Spain that is leading the way in renewable energy. This is one of many free access articles in this special supplement on energy issues to the journal Nature.
posted by sergeant sandwich (24 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
and France gets most of its energy via nuclear energy and is also able to recycle waste...we are talking about an entire nation, and no nuke accidents
posted by Postroad at 5:47 PM on September 11, 2007

How do they recycle nuclear waste? Camembert?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:51 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I mean this is the sort of situation where wind power can work, but really wind power just doesn't have a high enough yield to ever be a viable alternative energy source, no matter how much it's hyped. And the noise of the turbines is an issue too. I mean it is good supplement and a good effort, but I really wish that people would get past their fears of nuclear. To me at least, it is the only real viable alternative to fossil fuels.
posted by whoaali at 6:04 PM on September 11, 2007

I didn't read the first word in the post correctly, and thought it said, "Navarro now generates mroe than 50% of his energy needs by wind power."

My fault.
posted by Kibbutz at 7:21 PM on September 11, 2007

Browsing through I'm amazed at the quality of articles in the second link, and they are all free - I'll probably seek out the paper edition for easier reading. This one on the nuclear power industry is very good (and addresses the France nuclear paradox mentioned by Postroad). I always thought we have some really great new nuclear designs like pebble bed but apparently we are 20 to 30 years out from a production generation IV reactor.
posted by stbalbach at 7:43 PM on September 11, 2007

"Navarre shall be the wonder of the world."
- Love's Labour's Lost, Act I, Scene 1
posted by grabbingsand at 7:46 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

So the noise from a wind turbine - which has dissipated in under 1km from the machine - is more of a problem than nuclear waste, which is basically forever. Riiiiiiight.

No accidents in France? What about Paluel, Gravelines, Bruyere le Chatel, Fessenheim, Belleville, Dampierre, Cattenom, Superphenix, La Hague, St Laurent des Eaux, Grenoble, Blayais, ... ?
posted by scruss at 7:59 PM on September 11, 2007

The problem with the Navarro setup is that the neighbouring province of Courtney, whilst producing very little worthwhile, demands a huge part of the output.
posted by sien at 8:12 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fortunately, the efforts of Navarro are boosted by the hot air coming from nearby Farrell.
posted by Jimbob at 11:25 PM on September 11, 2007

But yeah, the aesthetic opposition to wind farms is something I could never get.

People complain about them being visual pollution, a blight on the landscape. Compared to a coal powerstation, and the coal mine fuelling it? Come on! I think they look pretty cool, but that's my opinion, I guess.

People complain about them being noisy. I've been near windfarms, hiked within a few hundred meters of them and found they made little more noise than, well, the wind.

People claim they kill birds. Apparently some of the very oldest designs did. Modern ones done. Certainly no more than, say, cars, or cats, or, shit, global warming.

I mean sure, they aren't going to deliver baseload power, but if there's a resource there, use it.
posted by Jimbob at 11:32 PM on September 11, 2007

When the wind runs out, who can we invade to secure our access their wind supply?
posted by stammer at 11:37 PM on September 11, 2007

stammer: building on your point, I have always wondered what the inevitable over-consumption of wind resources will produce. If there's wind farms everywhere, there's presumably less energy in the atmosphere. There's still a limit on 'free energy' going into the system (basically, 24 hours of sunlight, spread across the globe, each day). What will the effect of this be (if any?) Slower-moving rain? I also wonder this about wave power, and what impact it may have on, for example, the gulf stream, or other systems our world is built on.

In the future, owning a kite will be a show of conspicuous consumption.
posted by davemee at 12:06 AM on September 12, 2007

I have always wondered what the inevitable over-consumption of wind resources will produce.

Well, to do some very rough, probably useless calculations...wind is essentially another manifestation of solar energy. The solar energy reaching the earth is each year is about 10,000 times the total energy consumption of humanity. If we max out, and suck up all the energy we need from solar-derived sources, we'll be using 0.01% of the solar energy. One would assume, therefore, we would have a minimal impact on the climate. Of course, it's probably impossible - I don't imagine we would have enough space in suitably windy areas to make a real dent in global energy consumption.
posted by Jimbob at 12:13 AM on September 12, 2007

They'll build 'em higher as consumption expands to exceed supply. Trust me. It will end in disaster.
posted by davemee at 12:25 AM on September 12, 2007

Every watt is not created equal - wind energy will never be the entire solution. Here is a livejournal entry that explains a bit of this.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:12 AM on September 12, 2007

I really wish that people would get past their fears of nuclear. To me at least, it is the only real viable alternative to fossil fuels.

All forms of generation have their part to play, including nuclear. But going too heavily nuclear creates a dependence that is gambling your economy and infrastructure against peak uranium if other countries also go heavily nuclear.

Looking at the big picture, the only viable alternative to fossil fuels are energy sources that do not involve a finite fuel supply being dug out of the ground (eventually to be fought over). Nuclear is not a solution, it is something to buy more time to find a solution.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:48 AM on September 12, 2007

stbalbach: there are pebble bed reactors, helium cooled reactors, and liquid metal cooled reactors all now. The thing that they're going for is to up the core temp to 500-900C without melting everything. Electrical efficiency would go way up, and you could generate hydrogen (kind of) efficiently. They're trying to make reactors that compete without operational subsidy, since we won't get the developing world to levy carbon taxes.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:04 AM on September 12, 2007

Most of the infrastructure-based problems with alternative power generation (see DreamerFI's link) only come into effect when considering the integrated power grid.

If we look at point-of-use generation, these problems don't occur. So solar collectors on light poles, self-contained; wind/solar/biofuel systems for an off-the-grid home; etc.
posted by yesster at 5:22 AM on September 12, 2007

There are not infrastructure-based problems with alternative power in DreamerFI's link. It has always been the case that you need rapidly scaling generation to manage grid load, just like it has always been the case that this infrastructure has been in place. I think pointing to stuff in the link as a big "problem" with things like wind is primarily just talking point crap for layman contrarians. Not quite as outright false as garbage like "electric cars are just as polluting, you just don't see it because the tail pipe is at the power station", but still noise/heat instead of light, and just not especially relevant, since no-one is seriously suggesting throwing out all forms of generation except wind.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:40 AM on September 12, 2007

self-contained; wind/solar/biofuel systems for an off-the-grid home

Just wanted to note out that this throws the baby out with the bathwater. What you want is not self-sufficient houses off the grid, it's self-sufficient houses ON the grid. This is because the grid is the most efficient way to store power - when you're generating more power than you're using, the grid "stores" that power by sending it to someone who is currently in the opposite situation, and vice versa.

Whereas if micro-generation is off-grid, you need massive batteries, which are an expensive inefficient polluting way to smooth out and match generation to usage.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:50 AM on September 12, 2007

Looks like at least one utility is trying to reduce the variability of wind power by adding batteries.

Thanks for these links, sergeant sandwich! I ordered my free print copy.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:56 AM on September 12, 2007

Looks like at least one utility is trying to reduce the variability of wind power store low-value night generation to sell it during peak price hours when it is worth the most by adding batteries.

posted by -harlequin- at 8:56 AM on September 12, 2007

From the same link:
A range of options is available for the remainder of the storage, including the use of plug-in hybrid cars, Mr. English said. The idea behind plug-in hybrids is that the owner of a car would charge the batteries every night when demand and cost of electricity were low. The next day, under a contract between the utility company and the driver, the car would be left plugged when not in use, and the power company could reverse the flow of electricity and draw power out of its batteries during times of peak demand.

Since the battery is one of the most expensive parts of the hybrid... is anyone in their right mind going to sign up to a scheme that saves them a few bucks off their power bill, in exchange for charge-cycling their hybrid's thousand-dollar battery hundreds of times more per year than normal use?!

Hopefully they'd offer more than a few bucks off the power bill, but I suspect there is a fair chance that this scheme will be a stupidity tax - right now I doubt either Ni-MH or Li-ion chemisty are even close to being able to store and discharge power for less net cost than the savings difference between peak and off-peak grid power prices. Perhaps that will change given enough time.

Perhaps just ignore me. I seem to be in a cynical mood tonight :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 9:10 AM on September 12, 2007

Spain is also a leader in the use of cutting edge water desalinization technology. Being French, I also thing the US has a lot to learn from Europe. Much of the problem facing the US is cultural. 'Bigger is Better' is turning into 'Bigger is Worse', only most of the American folks refuse to recognize it, starting at the top.

posted by lamarguerite at 9:03 AM on October 1, 2007

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