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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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RE: Dubious honor
By Keeir on 2/5/2009 2:00:32 PM , Rating: 3
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

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

#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)

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)

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.

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

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

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-.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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