Top image: http://wpcore.wpe.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Vestas-deicing-image.jpg from http://www.windpowerengineering.com/maintenance/vestas-de-icing-system-makes-case-operating-wind-turbines-cold-climates/
Ice buildup on turbine blades can be a show stopper, a pain, a problem to be solved, or just another problem solved. Lots of companies have ways to deal with ice buildup in winter weather. This picture is of a project where a de-icing system was tested out in 2012-2013 in Quebec, where winter is not a wimpy affair, By now its commercially available, and just one of many evolutionary improvements with a revolutionary potential. Such as North America and Europe mostly powered for their electricity supply via the breezes. After all, Denmark got 39% of their electricity from wind last year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Denmark), while Iowa did over 27%, and that should be bumped up to near 40% by the 2015. In the case of Iowa, that’s less than than 4% of their rated wind energy capacity - way less.
While the average American would never know it, there are still about 73,000 people employed in the wind sourced electricity business. The industry has survived several attempts to snuff it out in recent years - both direct attacks as well as via the consequence of perverse and all pervasive fraud in the North American methane business - in some ways the wind industry is the proverbial luckiest cat that ever was, perhaps with more than 9 lives. Last year almost 5 GW (4.854 GW to be exact) was installed - worth around $10 billion - and at the end of 2014, another $10 billion of new business was signed up with only 2 weeks of a window at the very end of the year via the PTC incentive ”extension". Right now, about $26 billion worth of wind farms are slated to be installed and spinning out renewable electricity by the end of 2016, a year which may prove ominous for renewable energy advocates…. (http://www.awea.org/MediaCenter/pressrelease.aspx?ItemNumber=7181).
Some trivia: in 2012, over $25 billion in business was done mostly installing new wind farms and manufacturing wind turbines. Since most of the major turbine companies in the US are foreign owned (and is GE really even definable as an American corporation anymore - multinational fits them better), the 12.8 GW worth of installs that year mostly could have been imported as was the case a few years before that. But instead over 70% of all components and final products were made in the USA, and the plague of Chinese/Vietnamese/Korean towers (made possible by dumping) was finally stopped. China’s vaunted prowess in manufacturing was made meaningless not through tariffs but by quality (made in China turbines are notorious for crap grade quality via psuedo-slave labor (though those turbines are low priced), though that may eventually change. Meanwhile, European and North American turbines are proving to generally be quality investments - after all, a cheap turbine that does not work is pretty much a waste of money. But in China, the purpose of making and installing turbines is to employ people and consume steel, concrete and other manufactured goods (China’s massive wind turbine demand is essentially closed to non-Chinese companies and especially imports) and not necessarily to produce electricity. But in most of the rest of the world, the installed turbines are supposed to produce electricity and thus money to pay back the investment, and that may be the defining difference between China and the rest of the world in the renewable energy business. For example, even though China now has around 118 GW of installed capacity, the US with its 65 GW of installed capacity actually produces more electricity from its wind turbines than does Chia with its wind turbines.
But with the demise of the PTC incentive, which is the lesser important tax avoidance subsidy but which helps to provide about 2.8 c/kw-hr worth of incentive over 20 years, installs in 2013 dropped to about $3 billion worth of stuff. Aren’t the Republican’s supposed to be all about business, and if you can stand listening to their relentless propaganda, all about jobs (as in Keystone XL tar sands sludge pipeline)? Yeah, right… What other industry is allowed to drop OVER $22 billion/yr in business with awesome growth potentials, especially one which increases our economic and energy independence (wind displaces imports of methane from our petrocracy neighbor to the north, Canada - see http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9102cn2A.htm - which are still amounting to around $6 billion a year? If you can think of one, please tell the world. Of course, when the GOP acronym could also stand for “Grand Oil Party” and methane (”natural” gas, not that nitrogen, argon and neon also don’t qualify for that term, and that oxygen is just as ”natural” as is methane (both of biological origin on this planet) is now more and more a part of the future of what remains of the “oil biz” in North America, well, priorities do get set. The GOP is totally in bed with the oil clique (to be honest, so are a lot of Democrats and “Independents”), and they don’t like it when rip-off profits that the oil biz thought were their right from methane don’t materialize because wind sourced electricity is keeping methane prices lower than would be the case if there was no wind sourced electricity. For every $1 per thousand standard cubic feet of methane price change, well, that’s around $25 billion a year that would otherwise be extracted from American consumers (residential, businesses, governments) or avoided money extraction from those same consumers. The 65 GW installed of wind capacity should average around 20.8 GW of electricity, which translates into 1.54 trillion standard cubic feet/yr of avoided methane consumption (based on 2013 electricity production of 19.18 GW average from US wind turbines), which is around 6% of ALL methane consumed in the US for 2014. By avoiding that need to consume that much methane, prices are likely half of what they otherwise would be (though the exact “what if?” calculation is always a bit speculative). Given present prices for methane (which by and large are now UNRELATED to the cost to produce that methane) are $3/kcf, that’s a cool $78 billion is avoided money extraction to the “oil and gas biz”. Source = http://www.eia.gov/renewable/data.cfm#wind
You’re welcome, America. Then multiply that by about 2 for it’s true economic immediate effect and this is around $150 billion a year that is not siphoned out of people/company/government expenditures, and is instead spent on something else. And for that trivial subsidy that amounts to 2.8 c/kw-hr for 20 years, well, it’s around $5 billion a year that goes mostly to really, really rich people via the taxes they would otherwise pay.
And that too seems to be so totally Republican - helping rich people and the corporations they own/control NOT pay taxes and thus divert money that would otherwise likely have some portion of that money spent on - GAK! - poor people. But it’s only around $5 billion/yr, chump change in the big scheme of things, and besides, there is that gaping hole in the balance sheets of methane extraction companies (and now the banks and rich investors in those methane extraction schemes that were pushing what are now very fraudulent investments). Of the $500 billion in oil and gas junk bonds that are now in danger of going belly up, a big portion were partly or mostly methane based. But since the price needed to make those investments pay off is not happening for either methane OR crude oil, there is much anger in the oil patch, and the Republicans do feel that pain. That $78 billion/yr (or more) which could have been made and sent to (mostly) Republican owned franchise like Texas but will not be made because wind turbines have sand-bagged methane spot prices will mean that someone has to pay….. At this point, it seems like mostly vengeance. And the lesson - don’t put all your chips on something with such an ephemeral price as methane spot prices…. well, this is a crew that does like to teach lessons but does not like to learn them..
And every year that 1.54 trillion cubic feet/yr of methane consumption is avoided also means that around 34 megatons of CO2 pollution is avoided for that year. Oh, and with a 5% or so leakage rate, that’s around 1 megaton of methane pollution avoided, which has a similar greenhouse gas effect as all that CO2 pollution made when the methane was burned. And yes, you are welcome, oceanic coastal dwellers of America. And while that is a drop in the proverbial bucket (US CO2 pollution is around 6,000 megatons/yr (6 gigatons), so wind turbines in the US have dropped that value by 1% simply due to avoided methane consumption….. Not bad some a technology that so many though would never amount to much… And at $42/ton of CO2 equivalent avoided (a US Government value for “social cost of carbon”), that’s another $2.8 billion per year every year, or roughly $71 billion over a 25 year turbine lifespan. That is about half the installed cost of the present US wind turbine fleet (~ 126 billion - somebody (at the AWEA) had to count it up…). See http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/inforeg/social_cost_of_carbon_for_ria_2013_update.pdf
In 2014, China installed 23.351 GW worth new wind turbine capacity, which was over 45% of the new turbines installed in the entire plane (Earth = 51.477 GW), a very impressive feat (http://www.gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/5_global_installed_wind_power_capacity_MW-regional_distribution.jpg). Could Europe and especially the US and Canada replicate that, only with higher quality turbines installed for the purpose of generating electricity and not just to consume labor and manufactured goods? Yes, and create a seriously large number of jobs, too. Is there a shortage of available places to locate new wind turbines, especially the Low Wind Speed variety? No way. Is there a technology to “buffer” the electricity? Yes - it’s called Pumped Hydroelectric Energy Storage - needed when high rates of “renewables penetration”
But would creating more jobs and a lot more affordable electricity for 16% of the cost per kilowatt in tax avoidance subsidies as the nearest renewable competitor (solar PV) be disruptive? Yes indeed. Which is why the meager subsidy that benefits (via avoided methane price spikes/long term price rises) had to be exterminated by the Republicans. The oil and methane business is now having a ”Sad”, along with the financial pirates that were extracting their share from the Exploration and Production side of things - see http://wolfstreet.com/2015/02/09/oil-price-bounce-a-head-fake-could-drop-to-20-citi/. And they will be calling in all the favors they can in the next few months, trying to stave off the ”Repo Man” and then cash in big time as falling production of oil and gas smacks into a steady demand and results in tons of potential speculator profits.
Meanwhile, the answer to what would make actual middle class jobs, a better economy, lower use of fossil fuels, less CO2 pollution and less exports of money (for Canadian methane) is spinning away in front of our eyes. How embarrassing for the methane pushers of America. And for the government of New York state, as we only have some trivial wind energy developments planned before they too end by the end of 2016. Meanwhile, Ontario now has close to twice the installed capacity (3489 MW - http://canwea.ca/wind-energy/installed-capacity/) of NY State (in 2013 the numbers were roughly equivalent - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_New_York). And that ratio will double again in a year or so, all because Ontario had a sanity event with regards to electricity pricing (the Green Energy Act of 2009), something which NY State has scrupulously avoided. Oh well, sometimes we reap what we sow, and how much we reap can be a function of the fact that we are really not even trying much at all….