Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 2008 Engineering Rpt

Buffalo Wind Action Group
June 2005 – Engineering & Science

June of 2008 marks the end of one of the Wind industry’s biggest show and tell – AND SALES – events – with the Windpower 2008 conference in Houston. In Buffalo, we had the kick-off of the Great lakes Wind Collaborative, now “hosted” by the Great Lakes Commission. At this meeting representatives of all the surrounding entities (Quebec, Ontario, Minnesota*, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) sounded very upbeat with regards to onshore wind prospects. So far, the consensus is that offshore is a concept for the future, except for Ontario, Ohio and Wisconsin….

The somewhat conservative estimates of future wind turbine installation growth were overshadowed by the “Peak Oil Day of May 21, 2008, when, among others the Wall Street Journal acknowledged in a story about oil futures pricing. It seemed that oil futures prices are now consistently HIGHER than present prices, a concept called contango, as opposed to the usual mode when oil futures prices are less than present prices, which is called backwardation. This means that futures traders are more concerned with the availability of ANY oil at future times rather than the future price of the oil (which they are also very concerned about). In effect, the financial markets spoke, and THEY said that peak oil was here. Prices around $130/bbl also said the same thing, as does $4/gallon gasoline in the U.S.

So, where to get future energy? While oil is mostly transportation energy, electricity can also be used to lessen oil demand, especially for mass transit and plug-in hybrid vehicles (Post Office, where are you?). One answer to high prices is to lower the demand for oil, and related fossil fuels like natural gas (soon to follow oil) and coal.

The U.S. is still experiencing a “wind rush”, despite the lack of the renewal of the PTC for next year (it expires as f January 1, 2009). Perhaps there is a large degree of confidence that it will be renewed once the Bush administration goes away as of November of this year. So far in the first quarter of 2008 over 1400 MW of capacity was commissioned, and the first quarter is usually very slow, due to weather (cold temperatures, faster winds. According to the AWEA, over 5.7 GW (5700 MW) is currently under construction. The tentative total for 2008 appears to be for over 7 GW, versus 5.2 GW in 2007. Part of this is due to the lack of wind turbine manufacturing capacity, although that is being remedied. At or near the time of the AWEA conference in the first week in June (Houston), several large projects were announced – such as the 500 MW Vestas order, the 200 MW REPower order, and another 300 MW GE order. And in may, T. Boone Pickens ordered 1 GW of GE turbines for his 4 GW set of Texas windfarms.

On the offshore wind topic, the recent commissioning of the QP7 wind farm (offshore of The Netherlands – see has raised the offshore working total to 1.25 GW (see, and 1.5 GW (mostly in Great Britain) is now under construction. It appears that the long awaited boom in offshore installations has also arrived, though a shortage of manufacturing capacity and equipment needed for these facilities is still a problem. For a very ingenious approach to a new offshore turbine foundation, based on successful applications in the offshore oil and gas platform experience, go to and then click on search, number and enter 7163355 (or go to

In NY State, the three Noble Wind projects, including the one in Bliss, are now online – this is an addition of about 280 MW of capacity. The First Wind (ex-UPC) project in Cohocton – of over 50 x 2.5 MW Clipper turbines – is also nearing completion. The southern edge of the string of these impressive units can be seen from I-390/I-87, near the town of Bath.

2008 should see several large scale NY projects completed. Unfortunately, all these projects have yet to initiate any significant NY wind turbine assembly plants, or plants manufacturing major components (such as a bearing plant in Ohio). For example, Nordex is the latest company to announce plans for a U.S. manufacturing operation (a $100 million investment) – see
. Vestas recently announce that their R&D headquarters (plus 100 jobs) for North America would be put in Houston, and the tower manufacturing operation would be installed in Colorado, near their already announce/soon to be commissioned blade assembly facility.

Finally, here are a couple of interesting articles – one on Feed-In Tariffs -
and one of “deep thoughts”

Below is a reminder of why Peak Oil has arrived (officially recognized by the Wall Street Journal on May 21, 2008). The natural gas graph is also a hint at the future, and also why wind turbines are such as growing industry – they replace the need to use natural gas to make electricity, and hence reduce natural gas demand.


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