2008 was a banner year for wind turbine business, but thanks to the Bush Administration's economic prowess (actually, the lack thereof), there are clouds on the horizon of what should be great growth potential.
The numbers still have not come in for 2008, but the worldwide totals should amount to near 120 GW, of which roughly 26 GW would be turbines placed into service in 2008. The leading countries in this effort would be the U.S., China, India, and Western Europe (especially Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Great Britain). For Europe, huge plans for offshore (Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, France) have been been announced, and even the U.S. and Canada are getting serious about such projects (Delaware Bay, Rhode Island, Lake Erie, British Columbia). Lately, a 960 MW German offshore wind farm (costing 2.3 Billion Euro, or $US 3.2 Billion) was announced by the utility giant RWE . A new entrant to the offshore turbines is the 5 MW rated Bard unit - the first was recently installed near the German coastline (all in German...even the pictures....) - now also in English language. At present, there is close to 1.5 GW offshore windfarms operating, and another 1.35 GW under construction. How the future fares as a result of the credit cruch is a big unknown. Note that the size of these are rivaling large coal based facilities, and about half to one quarter of a new nuclear plant (which are about $US 10 billion per GW). See http://home.wxs.nl/~windsh/offshore.html. The oldest operating offshore facility in Vindeby, Denmark has been going for over 17 years, and is going on 18. There will also be significant activity in the northern boreal forests of Sweden (a 3 GW project with Enercon units using tall concrete towers with 2 MW turbines).
According to the AWEA, 9600 manufacturing jobs were added for new wind turbine facilities. Unfortunately, none were located in New York and especially in Erie County. Bummer.
Locally, the High Sheldon Wind farm is nearing completion on Rte 20A, in Wyoming County, but near the Erie County border. This one consists of 75 x 1.5 MW GE turbines. This farm was also subject to the ruminations of Sue Sliwinski in 2006, but to little effect, evidently. If you get a chance, check them out, and take some pictures and when they get operating, some videos with sound.
And now for something completely different:
Here is an article on a potential combination of wind turbine installations and renewable powered transportation. A related one on a South Buffalo Green Energy Corridor can be seen here - http://buffalowatch.blogspot.com/2008/12/buffalos-renewable-energy-corridor.html
The current Amtrak train connection from Albany to Buffalo, and also from Albany to Boston, is, to say the least, in need of improvement, and severe improvement at that. Part of this stems from the severe neglect imposed on passenger rail that Republicans (Ronnie Raygun, most Republican "Neocons" and several actual Republican "cons" or soon-to-be cons, like Tom Delay, the Bu$hies) - and the many Republicans in that last 30 years in the House and Senate that have starved Amtrak for funds while lavishing funds to airports, airplanes and roads. Then there were the absurdly low prices for gasoline that got so much of our country completely hooked on devices that use gasoline and diesel like its going out of style (which it is, care of Peak Oil). On this Amtrack route, the rail lines have to be shared with freight trains, and freight trains apparently get preference......oh well.
Here's a link for a picture to a modern train that goes between Boston and Washington DC, the "Acela":
So, Amtrak needs its own line, or pair of them. That way, even using existing technology, speeds of 120 mph to 150 mph should be no problem. At 120 mph average speed, this is a 2 hour trip between Albany and Buffalo, with 5 minute stops at Rochester, Syracuse and Utica. These trains also could be electrically powered. And by using renewable energy (hydroelectric, wind, biomass, for example), that means a modern high speed mass transit system that uses home grown energy made without CO2 pollution and nuclear trash pollution to transport upstate NY customers to midstate NY, and vice versa. Once at Albany, there are trains going to Montreal, NYC and Boston.
Of course, electrically powered passenger rail lines are really common in Europe and Japan for trips of 250 miles (alias 400 km) - in fact, these are standard operating procedure for millions of people each day. This is the wave of the future, and the flashing of the NY Bird and hydrocarbon supporters like Osama Been Forgotten, to name but one infamous example.
But, where would these lines go? Buying up the right of way for 250 miles would be a pain and expensive, and then there is all the work that has to be done to carve out a path for the rail lines - as fast rail needs straight lines, and not steep slopes up or downhill. One option is I-90 - I think that option looks real attractive.
Most of I-90 from Buffalo to Albany is over very flat land, and there is a lot of extra fenced in land to keep people out. So, here we have right of way and its already been engineered to be pretty flat and has gently curves so a truck speeding along at 70 to 80 mph (maybe a bit more than the speed limit, but stuff happens...) won't generally drive off the road.
There are some slightly hilly zones just west of Rochester, and between Utica and Albany, but not many. In general, there seems to be at least 150 feet between the edge of the road and the fence line, and often a lot more. For most of the section between Buffalo and Albany, there is also a lot of space between the 2 or 3 lane divided roadway - enough for a set of rail lines, at least.
The tough part will be the existing overpasses. In some cases, they may need to be raised slightly so that the rails can go underneath. Well, actually a pretty simple set engineering problems, for which there are numerous clever solutions. Then there are the rest stops and "feed and watering/de-watering" locations, which also have turn-offs and re-entry ramps. Maybe they could move the rest stops to the middle of the thruway, or up in the air, or both. In some cases, the rial line might need to go underground for a stretch.
And how would this rail line get powered? How about by wind turbines situated along the I-90 right of way - say, located every half mile apart (that's about 9 x 90 meter or 8 x 100 meter rotor diameters (rotor diameter varies by the model, and in the U.S., these tend to have 80 meter tall towers for decent sized commercial scale units, though some can have 100 meter tall towers). These would make about 500 kw average output, but the instantaneous generation would depend on the wind speed at any given moment. We could even replace those ugly cellphone towers by placing cell phone antennae on the lower parts of the turbine towers, where the blades would not interfere with the cell radio wave packets. And given the large number of moderate to high voltage (for example, 115,000 volts) that already cross I-90, not to mention the 345,000 volt lines that go from Niagara Falls towards Utica....well, grid interconnection is readily accomplished.
For those of you not metrically inclined, placing turbines at ~ 800 meter intervals is the same as placing them a half mile apart. Since I-90 generally runs east-west, which is about the same as the average prevailing wind direction, these large inter-turbine distances would be needed to avoid a condition known as "wind shadowing", where one turbine steals the wind from the downwind neighboring unit. Most of I-90 could be "populated" by turbines, though putting them on the eastern side of a hill is not recommended (like the drop form the Niagara escarpment near Genesee Community College). So let's say that 80% of the 250 miles could be "turbinated". Using readily available "moderate wind speed units" like the Nordex N-100 x 2.5 MW units (although there are several varieties to choose from), average outputs of about 750 kw could be obtained. With a string of up to 400 of these units...well, that's way more power than would be needed to power up the trains....in fact, that string would be enough to generate an average of 300 MW, and enough to close down a couple of the smaller coal burning facilities in the Finger Lakes. Who knows, maybe NYPA could own these units, and finally do something to redeem themselves of all the nasty things they have done (buying up nukes and oil and gas burners, but never any wind turbines....). This way, low cost NYPA bonds (costing about $2 billion for 400 x 2.5 MW turbines), which could even be made in NY State as part of the deal...maybe in places like the former American Axle Buffalo and Tonawanda facilities..., and for which NYPA could get a $65 million dollar per year rebate from the Federal government via a program known as the Renewable Energy Production Incentive (REPI). However, there are also a number of other possibilities for this $2 billion dollar wind project, and the $500 million in Federal monies or so for the new train lines.
You can scope out the wind potential of the I-190 corridor on the NY State Wind Map. The best parts of I-90 are along the Lake Erie coastline and the Buffalo to Rochester portion (set the wind map for a 100 meter height). Purple and dark green are acceptable colors/areas of wind speeds greater than 6.5 m/s at 100 meters). See http://www.windexplorer.com/NewYork/NewYork.htm
So that's one idea for bringing NY into the 21st century. This one might even qualify for the Economic Revitalization bills that are rumored to be passed in late January/early February of 2009. What's yours?
On a less uplifting note Sue Sliwinski (who seems to score pretty high on the Inhofe Scale) was once again granted access to the Buffalo News:
http://www.buffalonews.com/149/story/538137.html. Since this link is only temporary, here is a relevant passage:
This irrational, misguided concept fails to acknowledge the extraordinary costs of wind power development and the fact that it cannot generate vital capacity and simply isn’t “viable.”
Research shows there are far superior alternative energies, and none that is so intrusive or degrading. Wind power cannot produce dependably or independently, and consistently fails to live up to even its own low expectations. It misleads us into believing that its development “here” will prevent an oil rig “there” or save our mountaintops from the ravages of coal mining. It won’t. Wind energy’s proliferation simply adds to the rape of the countryside in the relentless pursuit for power, but contributes nothing tangible toward that end.
And the wrap-up:
Wise choices will ensure sustainability and environmental stewardship, not degradation. Industrial wind power won’t stabilize soaring energy costs, stimulate the economy or cool a warming planet. It will only distract us from our goal of finding legitimate solutions that will truly make a meaningful and lasting difference.
Of course, no "wise options" are ever described, just meaningless accusations that are her opinions. Well, she is entitled to her opinions, but maybe she needs to be challenged when she asserts these opinions to be facts. Or maybe just ignored.....
Anyway, a response of sorts:
Wind Derived Electricity Is Viable
On Jan 2, we were treated to another anti-wind turbine diatribe from Ms. Sue Sliwinski. Once again, the usual half-truths, opinions packaged as factoids in an article that is the very definition of what Al Franken referred to as a "weasel" (which is defined as "a statement that is technically true, but intended to mislead"). As for irrational...perhaps she had best read her own words. There was also a common theme of "viability" and "non-viability" to her refrain, but no facts to back up her opinions. And her statement "Research shows there are far superior alternative energies" was never paired to defining what those are "alternatives" might be.
Besides, we want renewable energy, not alternative energy; some alternatives are either very expensive or not very appealing. After all, coal could be construed to be an alternative to wind....as could a gasoline powered portable generator.
So, in the interests of truth, justice and the American Way, and also in a way that will not make happy campers out of Osama Bin Laden & Friends, (alias the fossil derived carbon and hydrocarbon producers and this world), here are some facts with regards to commercial scale wind energy.
1. Electricity is the product of wind turbines There are other forms of energy made or needed, but wind turbines just make that particular form of energy. A modern wind turbine will produce between 15 to 30 times more electricity over its lifetime than all of the energy used to manufacture and assemble it.
2. Wind derived electricity is one of the least risky ways to make electricity, where risk is defined as the "probability of an incident multiplied by the severity of that incident". Nuclear power, on the other hand is very risky, even if the probability of a Chernobyl style accident is small, because the consequences of such an event were and are both widespread as well as horrific.
3. The most common unit of electrical energy (and the ones that you get billed for) is the kilowatt-hour (note: a kilowatt is a unit of power, or energy per unit time, and is equal to 1000 joules per second). A kilowatt-hour injected into the grid is either used, stored (for example, via pumped hydroelectric systems such as the pair of them in Niagara Falls), or gets wasted as resistance through wires (as heat, but only a small portion, too).
4. The U.S. presently has about 20% of the worldwide wind generating capacity in the world (about 23 Gigawatt (GW) of capacity in the U.S., 120 GW in the world). This produces about 61 Terawatt-hours (TW-hr) of delivered electricity in our country, or an average of about 7 GW (7,000 megawatts or 7,000,000 kilowatts) of power. Wind derived electricity currently is the fastest growing significant form of electrical generation in this country.
5. In Western New York, commercial scale wind turbines produce some power about 80% of the year, produce at their rated capacity about 10% of the time and produce, on average, about 30 to 35% of their rated capacity (depends on the rating and model of the wind turbine). On a yearly basis, their yearly energy output is quite predictable.
5. When the wind is not blowing at one specific location, there are plenty of other locations where the air will be moving sufficiently to make energy via wind turbines.
6. When large groups of geographically dispersed wind turbines are connected via electric grids, wind turbines become BASELOAD electrical generators. As such, they become replacements for nuclear, coal, natural gas and oil derived electricity. They are not what is referred to as "peak power producers", which is only a small part of our nation's energy demand; for that, some stored energy needs to be utilized (pumped and deferred hydro, chemical (fuels, usually) energy and/or kinetic energy).
7. Electrical energy in NY State is readily stored via pumped hydroelectric and deferred hydroelectric means. We are also interconnected to several other electrical grids, notably Quebec's and Labrador's (via Quebec), which are largely hydroelectric based. Electricity can also be converted into hydrogen via water electrolysis, and this hydrogen can be reacted to make compounds such as ammonia, methanol, ethanol and hydrocarbons by reaction with either nitrogen or carbon dioxide, which are readily made back into energy on demand. Ammonia and Methanol can be readily stored for long periods of time with no degradation and storage losses, though there are energy losses associated with the manufacture of these materials from renewable energy.
8. Almost energy made in the U.S. is subsidized to some extent. CO2 pollution at essentially no cost from fossil fuel burners, spent nuclear fuel rod storage at essentially no cost, essentially free catastrophic insurance for nuclear "events", the U.S. military involvement in Iraq as well as other "oily regions", and the oil and natural gas depletion allowances are some classic subsidy examples.
9. Wind energy can make electricity at completely predictable prices. No nuclear or fossil fuel producer can say that, because their fuel prices and/or continued permission to operate (a Chernobyl in the U.S. would end the "nuclear option" rapidly) are not definable in the future. And if a concept known as Feed-In Laws are employed, no subsidies would be required for renewable energy. These Feed-In Laws are quite popular in much of Europe.
10. If you are serious about wanting to make electricity with minimal CO2 pollution, wind turbines are one of the best large scale ways of making electricity at minimal cost and minimal risk, especially in the U.S. and Canada.
11. The U.S. wind derived electricity generation potential is several times larger than our current 450 GW average demand. In fact, at 12 c/kw-hr generation cost (no subsidy either), it is about 6 times our current demand.
12. More jobs are created manufacturing and installing wind turbines than is the case for coal or nuclear generation systems for the same delivered amount of electricity. If you want the combination of non-polluting home-grown electricity production and job creation, wind turbine manufacturing and installations are one of the better ways to do this.