Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September 2008 Rpt

The U.S. recently passed another wind turbine milestone, as there are now 20,000 MW (or 20 GW) of installed wind capacity. The announcement is here: While the average output/total annual energy output of these turbines won't be known for a while, for the U.S, a good average is 30% of rated capacity. Some older values can be found here: and here: . For example, as of 2007, there was 15.616 GW of capacity installed, and 32,143.244 GW-hr/yr was produced. Since there was 8760 hours in 2007, the average output was 3.67 GW, and the average output as a percentage of capacity would be 23.5 %. However, this is somewhat deceiving , since 5244 MW was installed in 2007, and most of it in the latter part of the year, but that is still used for the capacity factor. Taking a yearly average of 12 GW installed for the year, average output would have been 30.6%.

So, this 20 GW will, on average, make about 6 GW of electricity, which is equivalent to about 16 Huntley coal burners. Based on current estimates, over 23 GW of wind turbines will be operating by the end of 2008. The installation growth rate for 2008 is about 50% more than for 2007. Of course, the industry will soon grind to a halt until the PTC incentive is reauthorized, or else replaced with a Feed-In Law, or both.

The U.S. Dept of Energy (DOE) recently published a report on the modest proposal to get 20% of the electricity in this country from wind turbines (we are already at ~ 1.5 %, and at a 50% growth rate, this would be achieved in 5 years... so a growth rate of only 21% would be needed to achieve the 2020 target of 20% wind), and its a big one (12.5 MB). It can be obtained via this website:, but there is also a very concise and readable summary on this report. Part of it deals with that ever-present straw man argument concerning "spinning reserve", which opponents of wind power have used for over a decade, with varying degrees of success. These are also readily replaced by "non-spinning reserves" - such as deferred hydroelectric or pumped hydroelectric storage - which have zero CO2 pollutant emissions, if these are "charged up/supplemented" by renewable electricity, notably wind. Spinning reserves are usually fossil fuel plants which are mostly idled, but not completely, and thus able to rapidly increase their power production should conditions (change in supply and/or demand).

Here is the conclusion of this report synopsis:
"Because wind energy output adds almost no variability on the minute-to-minute time scale, very large amounts of wind energy can be added to the grid with virtually no impact on the use of spinning reserves. While modest amounts of wind energy have very little impact on the system’s hour-to-hour variability, as the amount of wind grows increases in may be necessary to add non-spinning reserves to accommodate the more gradual changes in electricity supply caused by wind energy. Fortunately, as explained above, non-spinning reserves produce far fewer emissions than spinning reserves."

The paper also states that adding 3 MW of wind turbine capacity to the grid would increase the need for non-spinning reserve by between 0 to 0.07 MW, or 2.33%. This would be an ideal situation for NY state, where we have over 1.24 GW of pumped hydro, and about 3 GW of hydro that could be "deferred", notably the Massena FDR dam at the end of Lake Ontario. In theory, 10 GW of capacity (about 3 GW average output) would require 70 MW of pumped hydro storage, and we have over 17 times that already.

Anyway, the report is only 270 pages long, and it sure beats watching the 2008 Republican Convention TV spectacle. So, when you get some time, kick back, pull up a laptop or a chair to your computer, and happy reading.

Also of note: Anyone interested in a friendly guessing wager? The guess is how much new wind capacity will be installed in the U.S. by December 31, midnight, 2008. Something to consider.....and a way to practice your predictive skills.

Also of note: At this link (and accessible through here: ) a news article describing the $300 BILLION per year of subsidies to fossil fuels. Two key sentences:

"The world is spending $300 billion every year to subsidize fossil fuels that pollute the air, wreck the climate ... and run the world's economy.

So what if we, as taxpayers, stopped spending $300 billion on coal, oil and natural gas, and started spending it instead on wind, sun and water?"

And the biggest subsidizer - Russia, at $40 billion/yr...and we thought the U.S. would be #1.... For an example of some of these subsidies, and the amazing lengths some are going to in order to make coal to be "competitive", see this very well written article: The bottom line is that "cleaner" (= less dirty) coal is not cheap, and cheap coal is not clean (= unclean). And wind would become much more viable, economically, if these facts were allowed into the public conversation......But so far that has not happened to any great extent, as both the Democrats and Republicans are pushing "clean coal". Also of note - during his nomination acceptance speech, one of the few lines that received virtually no applause was Mr. Obama's advocacy for "nukes" and "clean coal" as alternatives to imported oil and CO2 polluting electricity generation. So maybe there is some hope still hiding under a rock, but afraid to come out for fear of being crushed by the political and economic weight of advocates of Oxymoronic propaganda terms like "clean coal" and "clean, safe nuclear" power.... When will the reign of such forces summarized by these moronic advertising and sales job expressions end...? Inquiring minds would like to know.....



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