Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Amazing Normality of Offshore Wind Turbines

In general, you need a very seaworthy boat to get a good look at commercial scale modern wind turbines that are installed at sea or in a lake. Sea conditions tend to be rough and rougher - and the turbines ARE located in windy areas, and wind and water makes for waves - sometimes huge, life-threatening ones. But in this case (near the former almost U-Boat port of Wilhelmshaven in Northern Germany), there is a chance to see one of these big boys up close and personal (well, you have to go to Germany, in this case). This bit of land is flat and the winds blowing off of the North Sea have not been too degraded. So this 6 MW turbine on a 118 meter tall tower will no longer be a mystery, accessible only from air and ship; instead, it’s located in farmland, a sort of “sea of green” (NO, not THAT “Sea of (herbal) Green” !). And if you wonder why a lot of Europe ”gets” Global Warming via melting glaciers and rising sea levels,  the land where this new big boy is located is really flat and barely above sea level - for now. If you were doing tourism type stuff in that part of the world, you could drive on up close to it, and check out what is possible if people put their minds to it

Of course, it’s not the only big onshore wind turbine in Germany and Northern Europe. There are other versions of fast wind turbines - notably the RE Power 5 MW and 6 MW as well as the Bard and  the Areva 5 MW (previously called the Multibrid) turbines that were installed nearby to test these out. And there are numerous Enercon E126 of 6 and 7.5 MW variety turbines. In the Netherlands, 26 of the Enercon E-126 units on 135 meter tall concrete towers are being installed on the shore of their big inland lake (Agrowind project). The RE Power (geared) and Enercon (gearless) ones have 126 meter rotor diameters, and power ratios of 2.06 and 1.67 m^2/kwc (kwc = kilowatt of capacity). And Vestas recently put a demo unit of their 8 MW x 164 meter rotor diameter turbines (PR = 2.64 m^2/kwc) in operation in Denmark - it recently operated at 100% capacity for a full month, continuous, which is a really windy location where wind speeds never got below 10 m/s for 744 continuous hours. To keep these spinning at optimal rates, these need really fast hub height winds - often averaging 9 to 11 m/s, and those tend to be rare unless offshore or nearshore is only considered. In addition, installing those on land is not easy, as so many of the parts to them, and the cranes needed to install them, are mammoth, to say the least. You really can’t install things this big on hilly terrain without encountering tremendous logistical problems, for starts.

from, a Senvion 6.2 MW with 152 meter rotor diameter demonstration unit installed onshore near the German coastline, also happening this month

The installation of 35 (210 MW) of the big Siemens units started in July of thous year, and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2015. Wind Speeds in the Westermost Rough (a sandbank off the northern coast of England) average wind speed = 9.19 m/s which is only # 609 on the hit parade of likely offshore wind farms: (608 other identified locations/projects have faster winds). The new Siemens 6 MW turbines will have a Power Ratio of 3.1 m^2/kw, and it should be able to have an output averaging close to 50% of its rating. And since Siemens is not the kind of company that does risky things and these ARE being installed, well, it follows that there is just not that much risk to installing such humongous wind machines anymore…

By now this is just so routine…. in Northern Europe, anyway. And they generate A LOT of electricity - enough to put several old nukes into mothball status. As of July of this year, 7343 MW of capacity from 2304 turbines were operating, and another 310 turbines rated at 1200 were awaiting to get wired up, bringing the total capacity to around  8543 MW . This represents an investment of roughly $US 45 billion. And there is another 4900 MW presently under construction, probably worth another $US 25 billion which will be online in a couple of years. Those now or soon to be connected will average 3 GW of pollution free electricity, and it is a rare day in the winter when this average is not met or exceeded. Last winter, the newly installed London Array pushed out its rated capacity for an entire month, continuously. There was not even any variation in output…. These offshore wind farms produce lower cost electricity than new nukes, are easier to install, and they have to catastrophic ”oops” downside to them. Even Japan is getting the message, albeit grudgingly, as the defacto rulers of Japan really like their nukes, while the bulk of Japan’s population despises nukes and the nominal political rulers who kowtow to the defacto rulers…

Just a few countries have most of the offshore wind turbines - notably the UK, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. But soon France will join in big time, and Germany will be the country with the most installed capacity by 2020. The industry is quite the job creation force - all the parts and work on these systems is done in Europe and they are now the undisputed ruler of offshore wind technology. Different countries are specializing in certain areas - fast winds, moderate wind, floating units for deep waters close to shore (France, Spain, Portugal, Norway) and nearshore shallow water units (Denmark, Sweden). The nearshore projects may be the most interesting development (1.2 GW are now planned for Denmark) as this involves social buy-in and societal cooperation, as well as abandonment of the ”it mars the view” mentality which is present in regions less prone to sanity, such as Long Island, NY. The benefit will be considerably lower cost electricity than would be possible from wind farms located far offshore (they already have plenty of that variety) - so far the main cost relation seems to be greater cost comes from farther offshore. And besides, the several hundred million dollar offshore substation gets to be avoided for near shore projects, and multiple substations onshore can be used. But if you think that anyone in NY State is getting that pearl of wisdom, think again. Sometimes facts just have to be ignored in order to maintain a fiction that they will mar the view (for  whom?), especially over waters people can’t swim in and which are generally too rainy or foggy to see much of anything, anyway. But, like the proposed NY offshore project, that may just be a diversion….

The main problem appears to be “what next?” Obviously, more wind farms located in the really windy waters of Europe - the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Baltic Sea - lots of fairly shallow waters, cold, rainy, and with ugly tides and waves, at least as far as any human riding in a boat on these waters is concerned. Thanks to offshore wind turbine projects to a big extent, Denmark will produce 50% of the electricity it uses from wind turbines by or before 2020 (it’s already at 35%) - roughly half of their electricity form wind turbines will come from offshore turbines, almost all of which were made in Denmark. Talk about monuments to economic value creation…

And maybe boredom with the routine of offshore wind may also be a bit of a problem - it’s kind of hard to root for that which most can never see. But this is how Europe will phase out its nukes, its coal based electricity and even its gas fired electricity plants. Just in time, as the giant gas fields in Norway, UK and the Netherlands are running out and those with the methane and oil supplies only take money for their product. Most European leaders know that exporting money to import fossil fuels is an economic death spiral. However, few seem to be willing to do much about it - especially the present conservative leadership in Spain, which has allowed its formerly robust wind turbine manufacturing sector to wither away something fierce, to the point where one of Spain’s major exports these days is college educated young people…

In our country, we still have no offshore wind turbines operational, though 6 x 5 MW Alstom units made in France may soon be installed in Rhode Island (Block Island). And 130 made in Denmark Siemens turbines using made in Germany monopole foundations  are slated for installation off of Massachusetts in plain view of many of the billionaires with mansions on the tick infested coastline of Cape Cod (Cape Wind). However, recognition of just what an economic stimulus these projects could be if only the parts were manufactured in this country is apparently not currently possible. And for all the developers know, these might just be on-off projects, not to be repeated for another decade, despite the need for them (at least 75 million Americans live in areas that are ideal as offshore wind powered regions). 

Offshore wind as a generic industry requires huge investments in installation boats as well as factories to make the turbines, foundations and numerous components, and once it gets up and running and employs tens to hundreds of thousands of people with tens of billions in business on the line, it’s got to have sustained business prospects. It appears that a small portion of Europe’s offshore industry will stay occupied by supplying a couple of American projects with parts and expertise - this will help companies like Alstom and Siemens get over the ”rough patch” caused by the temporary dearth in orders for new projects. But despite the hype, new nukes in Europe have proven to be economic disasters for both suppliers and customers. There is no more significant new methane to be found in western Europe. Even the lousy coal reserves in Germany, Poland and England are proving to be of little use, and there is the rising sea level issue which just cannot be hidden any more. And when the conservative politicians in Europe get tossed from office (and maybe get some jail time for some copious and conspicuous corruption), the offshore wind business will be back with a vengeance. And it will also be a major export earner for them, since countries like the US and Canada are apparently too lame to use their amazing wind resources to power up and also employ a lot of people in an effort that also makes the world a better place. That could change, but so far empirical evidence to that effect is as scarce as hens teeth….

Monday, November 24, 2014

NY Wind Energy Gets a Stay of Execution

But it still is to be kept as an irrelevancy in the NY State electricity supply. There seemingly always has to be a catch….. Anyway, in the very recent past, NYSERDA announced the results of its 9th REC auction in the NY State RPS arrangement. A pair of ~ 78 MW (estimated as around 39 to 44 turbines each) are to be installed - one in Chautauqua and one in Franklin (north of the Adirondacks) counties. And there is a novel and good change in this auction versus the previous 8 - the RPS is now set for a 20 year deal. The award was for $22.96/MW-hr - almost 2.3 c/kw-hr See

So almost 1/3 of the probable cost of electricity production is covered by the RPS award for a 20 year term. Cool. And then there is the two small ones going into central NY (Marsh Hill - 16.2 MW - and Black Oak - 12 MW) - see and

The Arkwright Summit wind farm will be installed by EDP Renewables (a division of Portugal’s electricity monopoly - as they bought Horizon Wind) The town is located around 7 miles southeast of Dunkirk, on a ridge that should get nicely exposed to the winds coming across Lake Erie.

The Jericho Rise wind farm is also rated for 78 MW and will be located near several others now operating along the Quebec border. This farm also will be owned and installed by EDPR. An old version of the acoustic analysis can be seen here:

A nifty map of their locations can be seen here:

News articles about both projects say they are slated for operation in 2017, but given that the Federal tax avoidance subsidies will expire at the end of 2015, odds are the the wind arrays could be installed next year. EDPR has signed some really huge “bulk buy” contracts with a few major wind turbine companies (Vestas, for example) - see here - so this probably satisfies the “5%” rule needed to allow the company to take advantage of the ITC and/or the PTC incentive which should be worth, along with the MACRS, about 2.8 c/kw-hr over a 20 year period. The turbines quoted for them are also “old” (1.5 MW GE ale or Vestas V82 x 1.65 MW) in news articles and the preliminary permits EDPR has submitted for these projects. Given the amazing improvement in performance that comes from “Low Wind Speed Turbines” and how dominant this style of turbine is in the USA nowadays (it has been in Europe for some time) and the fact that NY winds can be decent, but nothing out of the ordinary, it would be surprising if any other option was chosen…

In fact, consider their newest model, the V110 x 2 MW unit that just got ordered for a wind farm in Minnesota (200 MW Odell) and another 200 MW one in Texas (South Plains - These would be some of the largest rotor diameter units installed to date in this country (there are a couple of 120 meter ones and several 112 meter x 3 MW units now operating), and they used to be reserved for modest wind locations - which Texas and Minnesota are NOT - those places are fast wind places. Using a unit like the V110 means that they are going for close to 50% net outputs. And that should drive the production cost downwards. Which is a good thing, right?

Maybe, but there is an exception - the low priced electricity will really get the natural gas boys frothing at the mouth. Those dudes need higher prices for their methane nowadays to finally pay down the massive indebtedness caused by the tracking for gas bubble, and having new turbines that are able to be able to economically survive at low electricity prices is NOT what they are looking for. Just how low will the prices go…? And the V110 is to be made in this country, no less ( 

If the V110 can get to an installed cost of around $3 million per MW of capacity and have a delivered output of near 50% (requires an average wind speed near 7.5 m/s at 95 meters above the ground), this gives a delivered capital cost near $6 million for around 8800 MW-hr/yr. With a low cost of capital (say 6%/yr for a Fixed Charge Factor) and a O&M cost of around 1 c/kw-hr, the cost of electricity production would hover in the 5 c/kw-hr range. Take out the 2.8 c/kw-hr worth of Federal subsidies, and the turbine could break even at an electricity price near 2.2 c/kw-hr. Of course, the wind farm owners (and anybody else selling electricity in that market) would want a higher average price than that, as they are really in it for the money, and it’s not a charity….. But this is not good news to owners of old nukes, coal burners and especially methane based electricity production units, especially stand alone (no co-gen) ones. For them, it’s pass the bottle of headache pills, or bourbon….

In NY, our winds could definitely support a 40% to 45% net outputs (6.5 to 7 m/s average wind speeds) from LWST such as the V110 or equivalents made by competitors. And these turbines are not going to raise our electricity prices that have been averaging 4 c/kw-hr or less this year. But they will make those lame excuses and bogus claims that we need more methane burning electricity generators appear to be that much more pathetic. Besides, with wind turbines you can actually predict what the cost of generation will be over a 25 year period - something not possible with natural gas. Methane from those ever depleting North American fields seems so much more like an exercise in religion - a faith based decision. After all, what will the production cost from such a unit be in 15 years? There is just no way to tell. And when you take a leap of faith with Other Peoples Money but you tell them that you know it makes sense because it always has made sense and money - for somebody, anyway (well, mostly - there are times in the recent past when that kind of thinking was a lie), there’s a word for that.

Fraud. Or sometimes two words - Control Fraud…..

In order to base future electricity generation (and perhaps as a source of heat) on methane but to tell customers that price WILL (as it not just likely to be, but WILL) be reasonable, affordable and similar to what it is now (hey, and maybe forever more) you have to commit fraud to some degree. Of course, if you read what is said really carefully, claims that methane will make cheap electricity generally and/or probably do have weasel wording and a sufficient amount of equivocation that could make prosecution for fraud unlikely. And besides, our Federal Government generally never prosecutes against corporate fraud, anyway…. prosecuting war collar crime lords for  that - it’s just so quaint and yesteryear a concept…….

So the electricity via natural gas based generation business and associated businesses have now sunk to the level of US Investment Bankers, alias Banksters, and adopted their “Rip Their Face Off” business model. Well, isn’t that just precious…. 

Got any other excuse to ONLY add in 184 MW of wind capacity for the foreseeable future, oh Government of NY State? Don’t ya need to add a few zeros onto the right side of that number, such as 18,400 MW, for starts?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Recent Trends Worth Noting

Well, gee whiz there has been a lot of things happening of late, and not much of it good. But the fact that some non-bad stuff is taking place tampers the rate at which we seem to be tumbling into the Abyss, and some of the stuff (like the Russia-China deal that puts a big wooden stake in the heart of exporting Marcellusfracked methane out of the country as LNG) actually have a silver lining. But lets get the bad stuff out of the way.

a) The Republican Election Sweep of 2014. What if an election was help and hardly anyone voted? And what if the proverbial bad guys mostly voted and most everyone else kinda did nothing, making the mistake that Ralph Nader’s fanboys did back in 2000 - “Oh there’s really no difference between the really bad and the less bad side”. Well, how’s that working out for us these days….? In NY State, less than a third of those who could have voted bothered to vote...

So how to visualize this? How about what our Star Wars heroes said when they dropped out of hyper pace and took a gander at this - yes, that really famous saying: 

“I have a very bad feeling about this.” 

said Luke Skywalker in Star Wars 4 as the Millennium Falcon came upon this Death Star - what an understatement…..and very relevant to the 2014 election results....

                                                                                "That's no moon!"

And how prophetic for the next couple of years. Anyway, when hardly anyone votes and one side is activated and guided by the “50% plus one vote wins, and it’s winner take all”, well, that’s the easy summary of the 2014. And yet, an increase in the minimum wage, something opposed by the new party in power passed with a big majority in Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska, while Prohibition was repealed in Alaska and Oregon. Well, many can go on and on about what’s wrong with this picture and how come cognitive dissonance rules the day in 2014 America. Many it's just more inspiration to hit the bottle.

And speaking of that, in a recent SNL skit (11-14-2014), President Obama and Mitch McConnell were getting stinking drunk on Bourbon, and after going several sheets to the windward (9 BIG drinks each, 2 bottles down and perhaps more to go), and our President came upon this divine truth “So, I guess there’s nuttin’ getting done in the next couple of year” - “You damn right!” chimed in the Turtle... Sometimes you can only tell a truth through some pretty dark humor….

So what’s at stake? Well, for starts there is a ginormous package of tax credits and deductions (euphemistically called “incentives” and less diplomatically called “subsidies”) due for renewal in the next couple of months - It’s the “Chinese take-out” mix - where everybody gets their “share” of "help" - subsidies for oil and gas, subsidies for wind turbines and biodiesel. Already there is a call by some right wingers to pull out the wind industry’s (for now) lifeblood incentive - the PTC and ITC. But that would more or less unravel the carefully knitted arrangement, and really anger some now very powerful senators - such as Chuck Grassley from Iowa, a big proponent (and one of the originators) of the PTC.

In 2016, it will be the make or break even for the solar electric industry - PV’s and Solar Thermal - as the Investment Tax Credit comes up for renewal. This allows 30% of the installed cost (presently averaging $4.5 million per MW of capacity across the country, and $6 million/MW of capacity in NY State) to be taken as a tax credit in the first year of the project. When added to the MACRS rapid depreciation, up to 75% of the cost of a PV or solar thermal system can be recouped via tax credits or avoided taxes within the initial 6 years of a project. Such a deal…. But since PV is a big and splashy technology, and in some places is starting to impact natural gas sales (a really big no for many Republicans), well, that ITC incentive could be held hostage by the Repubs (ITC for the Keystone, my pretties…… in that Wicked Witch of the West voice..). After all, the wind biz has seriously messed with prices and profiteering possibilities in the Ngas biz - and as a result US wind investment dropped from $25 billion/yr in 2012 to $3 billion in 2013. Get the message?

b) On the less bad side, it seems that the hostilities induced upon Russia and its popular (at least, over there, as he at least has thrown actual gangster banker oligarchs (banksters) in jail for making off with billions of dollars and meddling in politics at the same time) leader Putin has just dealt a major blow to the US Natural Gas production, exploration and delivery business. Unfortunately for most Americans, jailing evil Banksters and nefarious Vulture Capitalists who do blackmail and fraud on a routine basis is just so yesterday, and no longer done, with predictable results (More fraud! More fraud!) too - see It seems that Putin has just negotiated a mega deal with China to deliver Siberian methane to China (and Korea and Japan). This just trashes the potential market for tracking based methane exports from the US something fierce as it lowers the prices these Asian countries will need to pay for methane. And since fracking sourced methane tends to be expensive anyway, and adding the cost of liquifying methane (capital and energy) will pump up the needed prices to near $13/MBtu and the methane being sold to China by Russia will be just a little bit less .. oh well. And the Russians have set up a sort of barter deal with China, so the US dollar will not be the medium of value exchange. And THAT may be the greatest sin of all. But, Putin has done this quite deliberately. And the methane biz head honchos in the US and Canada (British Columbian tracked gas was supposed to be marketed in Japan in ever larger amounts). The LAST thing this industry needs is either stagnant demand or shrinking demand - they are still attempting to regain some level of profitability by shrinking the supply-demand mismatch (temporary over-supply and what the biz considers as “under-demand. See

c) On a still better basis, we have business troubles in the nuke biz - see So far - no more meltdowns, though the associated still unfolding disaster that is Fukushima still keeps emanating, and it is by no means safe and secure. Nor is the owner, Tokyo Electric, oner of the biggest companies in the world. Still, with only 7 years  to go until really crude average statistics (once every 10 years for the 400 plus operating nukes in the world) predict another really bad day at the office, well, hope springs eternal for a new lease on life for the nuke industry. Hey, no “oopsies” in the last 3 years - we’re on a roll. Locally, the 48 year old Ginna  nuke (a GE Mark 1 model), which should be in the prime of its profitability (debts paid off, and still no real cost to catastrophic insurance and radwaste disposal) is actually being considered for closure by its owners. The reason - it is NOT PROFITABLE ENOUGH to compensate for the danger that its continued operation present - see Part of the reason for this is the still continued collapse in electricity prices that is caused by selling methane below the marginal cost of production of that methane. That economic debacle has been going on for 5 years, and it won’t go away until the existing tracking based gas wells deplete in combination with less drilling in depleted fields. For example, the Barnett field production has dropped by 20% in the last year, though the decline has been matched by the recent commercialization of the Utica wells in eastern Ohio. But, stuff happens, and so does depletion. A lot of gas production companies are also depleting their cash reserves and ability to borrow money, as the costs of well drilling and land leasing are quite often not matching the revenues from the wells - profitability only happens for a small percentage of these wells, ones located in the so-called “sweet spots” that are only small percentages of the land area in the gas shale fields.

Anyway, nukes are not a good money making option in this country, or in Europe, and the people of Japan simply will not allow the resumption of nuke sourced electricity, despite the economic mayhem it is causing in their country. You would think political leaders would get the memo, since it is addressed from the big finance community. But some religions (and nukes ARE a religion, as they are based on the disproven faith that full core meltdowns will just NOT happen). There have been 4 full core meltdowns, 2 partial core meltdowns (both in the US) with commercial scale nukes in the last 40 odd years, not zero. Odds are, we have been lucky there have only been four major FUBARS to date. But that faith is no longer shared to the degree it once was. And besides, new nukes are are just too darned expensive. And the electricity made by onshore commercial scale wind turbines is a lot cheaper, easier to build out, and it never has a meltdown, nor can The Bomb be made from a wind turbine, unlike the fuel rods going in or out of a nuke.

d) And finally, just to negate any of the sorta good news about poor motivation (profitability) in the Ngas and nuke industries, along comes the killjoys at the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change) - - and they just have not been sources of good news and unjustifiable mirth and optimism of late. And that’s because these things called facts just keep getting in the way of “happy button pushing”. The more that they find out the grimmer things look with respect to about half of the species of living things on the planet, as well as the vast majority of people now living and likely to be born in this century. As humans, we keep dumping more and more CO2 into the air that is easily identifiable as fossil fuel derived (this is observed by the C14 to C12 ratio of air - the “Carbon 14” based CO2 is the recent stuff, resulting from high energy photons (cosmic rays) beating on nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere and in the process flipping a proton in the nitrogen nucleus into a neutron ( Due to the modest lifetime (~ 5730 yrs) of C14, it’s possible to get a very decent read on what percentage of the CO2 in the air is fossil and what percentage is “recently recycled.

Anyway, these IPCC people are verbose, even when trying to be brief (the summary is 40 pages long, but this summarizes a humongous amount of work and data). And they really sweat the details. So here is the summary of the summary in four parts:

1) Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.

2) Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.

3) Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

4) Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.

5) Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.

6) Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence). Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side-effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts.

In other words or you and most all other living creatures are screwed royally unless humans clean up their act. And to compound it, (and confound it, too), a relatively small percentage of humans hold almost all of the decision making capability, and most seemed inclined to use their power for quick riches and could care less (or will do little to nothing, same deal) about changing their evil ways which are also our evil ways. It really is a morality issue, as well as political, economic, greed and power based, plus short term versus long term. And as Keynes said, “In the long run we’re all dead, anyway”.

So how does this shake out for the wind industry in the US, a country that could EASILY be powered up with respect to its electricity almost entirely on wind turbines and pumped hydro energy storage, given our huge wind resource compared to present and likely future demand for electricity? Try this on for size:

A) Nukes will fade away to insignificance with respect to electricity generation. Most are over 30 years old, and quite a few are creeping up to 50, which is 10 years past their maximum intended useful lifespan.. In general, they will not get replaced with new nukes. And the industrial supply-chain and infrastructure needed to keep them going and to design and build new ones is fading away fast. Without new orders, there is now business of new installations. The nuke biz can be categorized as “Stick a fork in it - it’s done”. New plants are so horribly expensive that they are best classified as massive money pits, where giga-dollars go to die an unseemly death.

B) The same applies to coal. Last year only two new coal burning electrical generation facilities were built, and new orders have shriveled up. Without new orders, the business of new builds and eventually maintaining old ones will shrivel up, along with the supply chain/infrastructure to build new ones. It too, is toast relying on continued use of old generation. New plants are generally too expensive, and there is the CO2 pollution issue to deal with. It’s whistling past the graveyard time for coal based electricity.

C) Natural gas based electricity and residential/commercial heat are also obsolete, but because it satisfies the short term mindset of corporations and politicians rented by the oil and gas business, that fact is still a bit of a mystery to most. New gas to electricity plants are half the cost of coal burners and less than 20% of the cost of a new nuke, but there is no valid way of making long term predictions about the cost to generate electricity from gas. This is because no one can predict the price of methane 10 to 20 years out, let alone 5 years out. There is really only decently probable estimates for methane prices on a short term basis - less than 5 years into the future. Anyone basing near term gas use on long term gas price estimates is living a fraud. Present gas prices do not reflect the cost of production from most new wells, and in general, a lot of methane is now made as a by-product from very expensive “tight shale, tight sandstone or tight limestone based oil. Consider this from

“In 2012 the 80 largest north American energy companies spent $50 billion more than they took in from operations, a deficit that was twice as high as in 2001 and four times larger than in 2010.”

Take that way (and tight oil depletes really fast and - see gas prices will zoom past double present levels. At that point it will be cheaper to make electricity with wind turbines, even without the PTC subsidy. To keep market share, methane from mostly methane wells needs to be sold for below the cost to produce it, or at cost. If either case, massive profits do not arise out of that arrangement for the drillers - maybe for those that supply the “tools of the trade”, those who finance the deals, and those who gamble on the futures markets. Methane as a by-product of oil wells is a nice income supplement, but only if the oil is sold for more than the cost to extract it. And it takes $100/bbl to cover the costs of new tight oil production. Thanks to a Saudi power play and “market discipline” effort, oil prices are now only $75/bbl. If you do the math, you know that cannot be maintained for long...

D) The wind biz is currently THE major future competitor for Ngas on the electricity from, and via Ground Sourced Heat pumps, on the residential heating front. By the end of 2015, the US average electricity production from 75 GW of wind capacity will be 25 GW. This displaces over 2 trillion cubic feet/yr of methane consumption in the US. If that demand were still present, methane prices would likely be double their present levels, most Americans would be economically worse off, but the methane biz would at least be profitable, and coal usage would probably be higher than it presently is. Nukes would likely be much more profitable, as electricity process would be higher. Looks like the IPCC is not the only buzzkill - wind turbines are spelling doom to Ngas profitability and also to rising prices/rising production and an even more rapid depletion of methane, and more rapid global warming.

So this cute little wind turbine IS the future, assuming we have one. Costs of electricity production from such a turbine are perfectly predictable over a 25 year period. And at worst, the cost of electricity production from newer, larger, more efficient turbines is stable, if not declining in a gradual manner. Meanwhile Ngas prices have to rise in North America. And fossil fuel usage has to drop, and drastically too, from both the depletion and climate sanity perspectives. It’s just math. As for the falter stall and delay crowd now running the House and Senate, they are already obsolete, and their best efforts at enriching those who rented or purchased their services can at best last but a couple of years. But they can certainly pound quite a few nails in humanities coffin via ruining the planet on behalf of their paymasters (and that is not the country, in general), All their favorite ways of making electricity are obsolete. The best that can do is to try and hand over as much of the wind biz to China - which to date has not been possible due to quality issues - while buying a few more years for those extracting the dregs of North Americas remaining fossil fuel methane supplies. And you know they will do their best in that regard.

As for doing their best to make for a sane climate and a more sensible world, where war over oil and methane is not such a dominant theme - well, that one can wait. Maybe we can blame Canada. After all, that is where this particular turbine is located… 

And look, reasonably scenic, too for a 3 MW generator located where quite often, the sun rarely shines, or is even observable ...

Disclaimer: Opinions in this article are the author's, and not those of any organized group


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