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A recently built wind farm in West Virginia churns out power on a windy day. The U.S. took the lead in 2008 for highest wind production of any country, and is closing on the lead for solar.  (Source: Baltimore Sun)

The gains in wind and solar raise the need for efficient storage technologies as they are variable power sources. More efficient production and installation techniques must be developed, and much more research must be done to make the technologies cost competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear power, as well.  (Source: Inhabitat)
"The answer my friends, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind..."

In 2007, Germany was the leader of the world for total wind production.  However, in 2008, the U.S. was perched in the top spot thanks to strong growth.  The data also indicated that sometime this year, the U.S. will seize the lead in installed solar power.  The newly released figures represent the U.S.'s growing thirst for alternative power.

The U.S. increased its wind capacity by 50 percent last year to a total of 25 GW, enough to power nearly 5 million homes.  Germany took a close second with 24 GW of installed wind, while Spain took the third spot.  China took fourth place, but posted even larger growth than the U.S., more than doubling its capacity for the fourth year running.  If China continues this pace of growth, it will soon overtake the U.S. in capacity.

Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council, who released the figures, cheered the findings.  He states, "Governments must send a strong and unequivocal signal that the age of fossil fuels is over."

Globally wind power grew by 29 percent, to reach 121 GW total capacity.  As one of the most affordable sources of alternative energy -- being only slightly more expensive than coal and nuclear -- wind accounted for 42 percent of the new energy installations in the U.S.  Mr. Sawyer says this figure emphasizes wind power's competitive nature.

Currently, the wind power industry is slumping due to falling oil prices and a weakened economy.  The industry does have some protection thanks to subsidies and energy taxes, such as the guaranteed price premium in Germany and Spain.  Such initiatives have softened the blow dealt by the economy to the industry.

The new stimulus package that's being debated in the House and Senate would increase the amount of alternative energy tax breaks in the U.S. by $31B USD.  The tax breaks would help President Obama's administration achieve its target of double U.S. alternative energy production in three years.  The EU wants to increase its amount of alternative energy from 10 percent of the total energy production to 25 percent by 2020.

A separate analysis, conducted by Jefferies analyst Michael McNamara showed that the U.S., boosted by its sunnier climate, will overtake Germany this year in solar power production.  Solar power is still very costly, but increased mass production and new technologies have helped to slow drop the costs.

The continued growth of wind and solar, variable power sources, worldwide raises the necessity of efficient storage technologies.  Most storage technologies are still in their infancy, with many being prohibitively expensive.



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Dubious honor
By Bateluer on 2/5/2009 8:53:04 AM , Rating: 3
I'm all about seeing more alternative forms of energy, wind, solar, etc, but lets be realistic here. Wind power doesn't provide enough power to meet even the most modest needs. It doesn't generate consistent power. It takes up an obscene amount of space compared to traditional or nuclear plants.

How many wind turbines would it take to make a single nuclear generating station?




RE: Dubious honor
By KDOG on 2/5/2009 8:55:56 AM , Rating: 2
<obligatory> Wind turbines chop up birds, blah, blah, blah... <obligatory>


RE: Dubious honor
By Murloc on 2/5/2009 9:00:19 AM , Rating: 3
is space a problem?

and anyway, this isn't a great classify anyway, as US is far bigger than germany.


RE: Dubious honor
By mdogs444 on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: Dubious honor
By afkrotch on 2/5/2009 9:12:56 AM , Rating: 3
Ya, about as unsightly as looking out the window and seeing nothing but open farm land. At least the wind mills would add something new to the drudge of nothing being out there.


RE: Dubious honor
By mdogs444 on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: Dubious honor
By TheSpaniard on 2/5/2009 10:01:18 AM , Rating: 5
uh... actually they mix them in.

out here in Iowa (the land of corn and.... corn) wind turbines are sprinkled throughout corn fields, spaced far enough apart to not interfere with crop growth or harvesting


RE: Dubious honor
By randomposter on 2/5/2009 10:04:42 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Um, that's one of the dumbest things I've heard. If its valuable farm land, they are not going to take away crop land to put in large, unworthy wind turbines.

Actually your response is the dumbest thing. What (aside from your obvious bias) makes you think wind towers prevent land from being used for farming?


RE: Dubious honor
By Moishe on 2/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: Dubious honor
By Suntan on 2/5/2009 1:15:07 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Your problem is that you're trying to use logic against the "green" religion.


No, the problem is that he has no clue what he is talking about.

I hate enviro-tree huggers as much as the next guy. And I take issue with the flower-people calculating in tax credits as a means of saying that "alternative" energy is cost competitive. However, the idea that wind turbines can not co-exist on farmland is just plain ignorance.

Don't believe me, go to google maps and type in "Clear Lake, IA" or more precisely, " 43.049447,-93.431039 " zoom in and out on the satellite views and tell me that land is not being farmed.

As for the aesthetics of it, I personally enjoy that stretch between the Twin Cities and Des Moines.

-Suntan


RE: Dubious honor
By xenos123 on 2/5/2009 3:51:11 PM , Rating: 4
I didn't realise America was actually made from squares :)

Holy moly


RE: Dubious honor
By MadMan007 on 2/5/2009 2:07:51 PM , Rating: 1
Because NIMBY doesn't get applied to coal, nuclear, solar, or anything else right? Unless there is radically reduced demand there will need to be some type of new power generation.


RE: Dubious honor
By Gage8 on 2/5/2009 10:17:42 AM , Rating: 2
What, do you live in the city?


RE: Dubious honor
By Nfarce on 2/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: Dubious honor
By acase on 2/5/2009 9:39:27 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Can you imagine looking outside...and seeing a landscape full of turbines?


Sure, just paint them lots of pretty colors and it will be like a field of giant pinwheels to gaze at! /end Big Gay Al


RE: Dubious honor
By LRonaldHubbs on 2/5/2009 10:57:19 AM , Rating: 4
Actually, I think the windmills look awesome. Drive along Rt81 in PA some time, and you'll see windmills on the hilltops near Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton. I've also seen the ones along the lake edge in Buffalo, NY. Both of these examples enhance the skyline IMO. I would gladly live near a windfarm.

You're also exaggerating though. Nobody is talking about covering the landscape with turbines. They are only getting installed in places where it makes sense. And as for power lines, yeah they are unappealing to look at, but what would you prefer exactly? Many places that actually have a decent landscape to look at are far enough out of the way that it isn't worthwhile to run the lines underground, because nobody wants to pay to do it. New developments often get wired underground and so do towns, but in between it's strung together above ground for reasons of practicality.

Regardless of what you think of the appearance, these are things you have to live with if you want modern conveniences. We've been looking at power/telephone lines and radio/tv antennas for longer than I've been alive, as well as cell towers in recent years. And how about jet trails in the sky...what other aesthetic matters should we complain about today? Compared to these things that we have already accepted, can you honestly say that windmills are any worse?


RE: Dubious honor
By Moishe on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: Dubious honor
By Spuke on 2/5/2009 4:17:44 PM , Rating: 2
More than 50% think they're ugly. DTers are a fringe element and really aren't representative of the majority view. You would have to ask a few regular (non-computer geek) people what they would think about it. Honestly, there's already proof of how people feel already. Research were any structure is built near residential areas and the public outcry (NIMBY) that usually results.


RE: Dubious honor
By Fanon on 2/5/2009 10:04:47 AM , Rating: 2
"is space a problem?"

Wind farms take up a huge amount of land. Yes, it is a problem.


RE: Dubious honor
By clovell on 2/5/2009 1:04:35 PM , Rating: 3
Depends - there are plenty of sparsely populated areas in the United States where Wind Power can be harnessed without competing for space.


RE: Dubious honor
By Suomynona on 2/5/2009 9:05:08 AM , Rating: 1
I'm all for more nuke plants, but the amount of physical space that wind power requires isn't really an issue when compared to nuclear. Neither wind power plants nor nuclear power plants are likely to be built in the middle of population centers, whether it's size, safety, or NIMBYism that prevents it from happening.


RE: Dubious honor
By Keeir on 2/5/2009 2:00:32 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I'm all for more nuke plants, but the amount of physical space that wind power requires isn't really an issue when compared to nuclear.


Ouch. Simply Ouch.

The World Largest Wind Farm producing energy is the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center. It consists of 421 Turbines with a maximum output rating of 735.5 MegaWatts. (Side Note, it was indeed sued because the rich in the surrounding area found the windmills ugly)

Lets compare with an "Average" Nuclear Plant that uses 30-40 year old technology. Nine-Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station. Comprized of 900 acres and 3 generation sites, most of the land is forest/undeveloped greenland. Total Capacity of all three reactors is 2,600 MegaWatts.

Using the Availibility factor difference of 90% for Nuclear and 30% for Wind, it would take 4,460 or so wind turbines to equal the power generation of the nuclear plant or roughly 10 times as many.

The Horse Hollow Wind Farm is currently located on 47,000 acres of land. Suggesting a Wind Farm would need to cover 470,000 Acres of Land to equal the output of one 900 Acres Nuclear Plant. Yes, the land can be used for farm and other purposes, but most of nuclear plant sites are actually greenspace as well.

Even if we cut this down to just the land required by the turbines and storage means, we would need to limit the windmills to just footprint

http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/power_databook/calc_w...

We still end up with more than twice the amount of land for the same power generation. (1115 acres to 2230 acres with more likely 2230 since they need to be large turbines)


RE: Dubious honor
By Pryde on 2/5/2009 9:15:34 PM , Rating: 3
Comparing 30-40 year old tech to brand new tech is just flawed. Also you should look at total power output generation over a span, say like a Year. Yes windmills may have a 30% up time but during that 30% up time they may only average 50% capacity.

Land area for Nuclear plants also varies greatly, In the US the Watts Bar plant 2 reactors producing 1.1MW or 11,000GW-h a year on a 7.2km2 site while in Japan Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant has 7 reactors producing 8.2MW or 44,000GW-h a year on a 4.2km2 site.

You also need to look at initial building cost, maintenance, grid etc. Once built Windmills require very little maintenance but a Nuke Power Plant will hire around 1000 Employees. 1000 x 60 years+ of service adds a lot to cost of nuclear.


RE: Dubious honor
By Keeir on 2/6/2009 12:04:40 PM , Rating: 3
Well...

#1, I was responding to the specific comment that Wind Power and Nuclear Power have similar land usage requirements... which is laughable (Since an Entire Nuclear Facility and surrounding green space take up less room then the bases of a equivalent Wind Mill Farm). The actual plant takes up so much less space its even worse, but I think its reasonable to assume that a buffer between ANY power generation and people is desireable (for the people)

quote:
Comparing 30-40 year old tech to brand new tech is just flawed.


Yep, and sadly the 30-40 year old tech (Nuclear) is better than cutting edge tech (Wind)

quote:
Yes windmills may have a 30% up time but during that 30% up time they may only average 50% capacity.


But most wind farms in the US have a 30% Availiblity factor. That means they are producing over a yearly time span around 30% of possible rated power. Nuclear Facilities average around 90% of rated power. The US DOE website is the source for both of these approximations.

quote:
You also need to look at initial building cost, maintenance, grid etc. Once built Windmills require very little maintenance but a Nuke Power Plant will hire around 1000 Employees. 1000 x 60 years+ of service adds a lot to cost of nuclear.


This is kind of silly. I could attempt to approximate all the numbers you suggest, but in the end I would be making so many guesses as to render the final number essentially meaningless.

Here is a Nice Chart

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat8...

Nuclear is (significantly) less expensive to operate per generation than either coal or natural gas. A mill is 1/10 of a cent, so the operating costs for Nuclear Power is 2 cents per Kilowatt Hour (2007). Thats pretty small.

Since Nuclear is currently less expensive than Wind power and in your own words provided 1000 employees with good salary jobs. I am confused what your objection to Nuclear based on the reoccuring costs are...

In fact

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/FTPROOT/features/com_reac...

Many Are applying now for licenses... this pretty much shows that despite your concerns over costs, many businesses see them as acceptable (including the very large and real costs from legal challenges and delays)

Why? Well, clearly if your able to sell power at 10 cents per Kilowatt hour that it costs you 2 cents per Kilowatt hour to produce and you have a facility capable of producing 900,000 kilowatt hours each and every hour year round for 40+ years we are taking total revenues into the multi-billions. Since we are focused on being so "green" and using less efficient technologies, I think Nuclear operators see prices of electricity going even -higher-.


RE: Dubious honor
By Kougar on 2/5/2009 9:06:26 AM , Rating: 5
A single Texas nuclear facility with four reactors is expected to generate a bit over 5,200MW when the upgrades come online.

A single wind turbine of the multi-million dollar variety, that is taller than the Statue of Liberty and has a blade span slightly greater than the width of a football field typcially produces 3.5MW. So imagine how many Statues of Liberty with a football field sized footprint it requires to equal that single 5,200MW nuclear facility.


RE: Dubious honor
By afkrotch on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: Dubious honor
By Kougar on 2/5/2009 9:42:46 AM , Rating: 4
That 3.5MW is the rated capacity, wind is not always present or blowing at a sufficient velocity to generate this max rating figure.

In order to make wind farms cost effective they can only be built in highly specific regions where the wind is almost always blowing at a sufficient velocity. This limits where you can build those 1,500 turbines that would span a colossal area. If you built them off the coast beyond the range of visibility 1,500 turbines would create a massive shipping obstruction, assuming there was a convenient offshore shelf large enough to support that many.

I assume your comment was facetious, but just incase it wasn't the turbine blades would be locked and disabled during those kinds of winds. And assuming the hurricane force winds and swells didn't destroy half the turbines anyway...

Each turbine of those 1,500 are rated to last only 20 years, require yearly maintenance, and require a complete teardown/rebuild at the 10 year mark. Add the presence of saltwater and the annual maintenance/parts replacement costs only go up. To maintain such a wind farm they might as well buy a dedicated crane ship that would need to operate continuously to maintain the wind farm and repair the vast grid of miles upon miles of cabling.


RE: Dubious honor
By goz314 on 2/5/2009 1:24:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
In order to make wind farms cost effective they can only be built in highly specific regions where the wind is almost always blowing at a sufficient velocity.


A region not unlike the entire Great Plains. The winds that blow across the Great Plains of the U.S. are capable of generating more energy than our Nation currently uses. Virtually the entire area is rated at class 4 with annual average wind speeds of 5.8m/s at a height of 10m. Many areas within the great plains corridor have an even higher classification.


RE: Dubious honor
By Kougar on 2/5/2009 2:30:48 PM , Rating: 3
Yep, exactly. The only problem is the US would need major grid upgrades, grid expansions, and mostly new trunk lines to connect these areas and deliver the power to the demand.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor for wind energy and especially US grid upgrades (which is interesting to see Obama mentioning now), but sometimes the costs to plug a remote wind farm into the grid can add a third again the total cost. This is a problem because wind farm owners are forced to pay these costs, since neither the state, county, or electric operators will do so.

If Obama gets the Federal government to mitigate some of these grid infrastructure costs, then wind energy from these areas would be much more financially feasible. It's not just connecting these farms, but adding enough line capacity to the existing lines that is currently a serious issue with some very big Texas wind farms. Some farms are running at half capacity just so they do not overload the existing trunk lines/grid until the grids problems are sorted.

Some of the issues also involte right-of-way for laying new trunk lines on land owned by neither the wind farm nor the government; obviously nobody wants massive towers built near them or on their land.


RE: Dubious honor
By goz314 on 2/5/2009 2:44:26 PM , Rating: 2
Well put.


RE: Dubious honor
By MadMan007 on 2/5/2009 2:10:54 PM , Rating: 2
As opposed to all those perfectly maintenance-free forms of power generation that don't need to be manned around the clock? Oh wait...


RE: Dubious honor
By clovell on 2/5/2009 1:06:21 PM , Rating: 2
Costs to develop / maintain each said structure? I agree with your point, but if you're going to get mathematical, do it right.


RE: Dubious honor
By tallcool1 on 2/5/2009 9:14:19 AM , Rating: 2
I believe a typical wind station puts out about 1.5 to 2.5MW of electricity. You could put in a combined cycle plant that produces 800-900MW of power on about 40-50 acres of land, not only would it take up less space, it would provide electricity at a cheaper rate and provide more employment opportunities.

Green power is great in theory, but its not cheap, as the article mentions, it will cost the consumer more on their electricity bill. You could say that the "green" in green power is more of your greenbacks going out of your wallet to pay your bill, plus these green power plants typically have subsidies, which is just more of your money spent.

Food for thought...


RE: Dubious honor
By FaceMaster on 2/5/2009 9:45:48 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Wind power doesn't provide enough power to meet even the most modest needs


Depends what you mean by modest. In America it won't go far, since everybody has 1000 TVs running all the time and a teslacoil in their basement just for fun.


RE: Dubious honor
By corduroygt on 2/5/2009 10:19:11 AM , Rating: 2
Increased energy usage is a sign of wealth and a high standard of living.

It means you're living in a nice spacious place and not a tiny apartment, setting your heat/AC to the exact temperature you want instead of being a few degrees less comfortable, have a big flatscreen TV and powerful speakers, have a computer and one or more HD game consoles, etc. Of course it's stupid to not turn off the lights when you leave a room since that doesn't effect your living standards.


RE: Dubious honor
By Nfarce on 2/5/2009 10:47:00 AM , Rating: 5
Dude where have you been? Don't you know living now means you have to live for communal standards? Why, it is not fair that you can afford to run a thermostat at 76 degrees in winter when someone else can't. It is not fair that you have four PCs and three big screen TVs when someone else doesn't even have one. It is not fair that you have a bigger home than someone else.

You should sacrifice yourself for your fellow human being and give up the "wealth" that you have and transfer it to those who do not have as much, no matter if you worked hard to get where you are. We should all be relegated in the same 900 foot government allocated housing facilities. Therefore, every person and every family will be on equal footing and get the same amount of government money every month - no rich, no poor - just like good little communal Eastern Bloc dwellers.

Get with the program man. Don't you feel just a little guilty about having more than someone else? No? You greedy neocon!

/sarc off


RE: Dubious honor
By Ananke on 2/5/2009 3:10:48 PM , Rating: 2
You should understand that political extremes didn't occur without any reason. What you describe happened because of massive wealth inequality, and it may happen again - in one or another form. So, yes, smart people who don't want their wealth nationalized at one point, usually are contributing to the society through taxes. I guess, that wizdom was forgotten for the last two decades in USA.


RE: Dubious honor
By corduroygt on 2/5/2009 4:24:03 PM , Rating: 2
That's why we have the second amendment in this country.


RE: Dubious honor
By Spuke on 2/5/2009 6:02:22 PM , Rating: 2
He said "/sarc off" at the end of his post. What do you think that means? I personally LOL'd at what he said. That's what some people here are really thinking and he said it out loud. I'd rate him up.


RE: Dubious honor
By Nfarce on 2/5/2009 6:32:27 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
So, yes, smart people who don't want their wealth nationalized at one point, usually are contributing to the society through taxes. I guess, that wizdom was forgotten for the last two decades in USA.


Huh? Of course the "smart" people are contributing to society through taxes - a heavily progressive and mandatory scheduling at that (top 25% of income earners pay 87% of all federal income taxes by private filers).

If they didn't, they'd go to jail. Unless they were Obama Democrat cabinet picks like Tom Daschle of course. Then it's just, OOOPS, they forgot. Silly them!


RE: Dubious honor
By rcr on 2/6/2009 4:56:09 PM , Rating: 2
I would say an always increasing amount of energy consumption is just a sign of stupidness.

Don't you think that's stupid to use energy just for using it?

Why not insulate your building? Why not turning of your 4TVs if you're not using it?


RE: Dubious honor
By rcr on 2/6/2009 4:56:29 PM , Rating: 2
I would say an always increasing amount of energy consumption is just a sign of stupidness.

Don't you think that's stupid to use energy just for using it?

Why not insulate your building? Why not turning of your 4TVs if you're not using it?


RE: Dubious honor
By Iaiken on 2/5/2009 9:52:55 AM , Rating: 2
Let's not forget that this isn't judged on a per capita basis... so really... it's irrelevant. Especially when you concider that the American/Canadian appetite for power is still on the rise despite efficiency initiatives and rising costs on the consumer side because most people are just too stupid or too lazy to bother...


RE: Dubious honor
By jiminmpls on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: Dubious honor
By mdogs444 on 2/5/2009 11:24:18 AM , Rating: 3
First off, you couldn't be more wrong on just about every single think you said.

Nuclear is the cheapest form, the plants are functional now for 50 years (versus 20yrs for windmills), take up less land, and we have enough fuel for thousands of years.

But you're honestly trying to justify your statements by citing a fringe liberal/progressive group who admits they are for socialism, universal health care, believe in global warming, and redistribution of wealth?


RE: Dubious honor
By Spuke on 2/5/2009 6:14:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
redistribution of wealth?
I'm going to of off on a tangent here. But how would redistribution of wealth work when none of the higher incomes would stand for it? Who the hell would work a higher paying job (with higher stress levels) just to give most of their money away to someone making less or no money? That's just crazy talk. The intent of redistribution of wealth is to have everyone on an equal playing field. But if there are no more "rich" and "well off", who's going to pay for all of the social programs (no more high tax brackets)?

Will everyone work equally hard in a system like that? Doubt it, people don't do that now. If knew I could live off of all of you guys and live well, I sure as hell would not work or I'd work very little.


RE: Dubious honor
By clovell on 2/5/2009 1:01:45 PM , Rating: 2
... And, at the same time, there's something to be said for diversity in energy infrastructure.


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