Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lake Vanern - Freshwater Offshore Wind Turbines

One of the more curious arguments "pooted forth" against offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes concerns the fact that the Great lakes are freshwater bodies. To date, most offshore wind farms have been located in salt water (Baltic Sea, North Sea, and the waters around northern Europe), so people could say that only salt water bodies have had wind turbines placed in them (some of the inland water bodies in The Netherlands may also be brackish/saline). But since most of those claiming that there is a big difference in the impacts of offshore wind turbines between freshwater and saline water situations have been opposed to offshore wind turbines (or to all wind turbines, for that matter), well, some skepticism is warranted.

Last year, a wind farm composed of 10 x 3 MW wind turbines was installed in Lake Vanern, which is the biggest lake in Sweden. The water body has a surface area of 5650 km^2, or about 2207 mi^2. It is somewhat elliptical in shape, but if it was perfectly circular, it would be 53 miles in diameter. It has 22% of the surface area of Lake Erie, or 29% of the area of Lake Ontario. In terms of water volume, Lake Vanern has 32% of the water that is in Lake Eire, but only 9% of the water volume of Lake Ontario. In terms of average depth (27 meters) and maximum depth (106 meters), it is similar to Lake Erie (19 meters and 64 meters maximum depth). A brief summary of the lake can be found atänern.

It does have a couple of other similarities to Lake Erie - it freezes up in the winter, and it is one of the few places in the southern part of Sweden that is not covered with trees and buildings, or other obstacles to wind flow. But, the average latitude of Lake Erie is near 42 north; Vanern is 59 North. Sweden's big pond (Baltic Sea, and 3 wt% salt) routinely freezes up in the winter even near the southernmost part of Sweden, and Lake Vanern's surface is a solid pack for a considerable part of the year. There have even been epic battles conducted on the ice of the lake - seeänern. However, because there are no significant obstacles to the wind on the lake (frozen or liquid), the wind speeds tend to be faster than over land. And since most of the trees tend to be conifers in Sweden, they don't lose their wind resistance in the fall/winter/spring.

The wind farm commenced commercial operations in May of 2010. The opening was a big deal, and even royalty got in on the act. The details of the project can be seen at and In many ways, this 30 MW facility is a pilot project, mostly done to investigate how freshwater and salt-water wind turbine arrays might differ or be the same. And odds are, there are many more turbines planned for the lake. And because it is located in that bastion of Socialism and eco-consciousness (they decided to phase out all their nukes - how's that for eco-friendly!), permitting was extensive. The turbines are located in about 10 meters of water (from 1 to 22 meters), on average 7 km from shore (3.5 to 10). The turbines use a gravity foundation (large mass of concrete built onshore/then sunk at the location) similar to what was used at the Middlegrunden wind farm that is located in Copenhagen harbor. Odds are, the foundation was especially designed to deal with pack ice.

The wind turbines employed are somewhat unique, as they use what is called "multi-brid" technology. They are made by WinWinD (Finland -, and these use a 90 meter steel tower and ~ 50 meter long blades, with the estimated net yield will be 34%. The multi-brid" approach uses a medium speed 2 step gear arrangement to increase the rotor speed from ~ 10 (5 to 16, depends on wind speed) rpm to a generator speed of near 200 rpm. The multipole generators also use a permanent magnet rotor, so these tend to be more energy efficient and reliable than ones that have an electromagnet core that requires rotor electrical connections. The lower speed transmission/gear box also results in less wear and tear, and is also more energy effiicient than the traditional 3 step gear speed increaser. Details are found at

Sweden also has many Baltic Sea wind farms in operation, and a lot more are being built or being designed. In addition, one of the world's biggest onshore wind farms (using concrete towers at more than 113 meter heights and Enercon gearless turbines) is being built in the northern forests - it will be rated at about 3000 MW capacity, and have an average output similar to a 1 GW nuke (see, but of course, none of the actual (such as grotesquely high capital cost/actual operating costs) or potential downsides of a nuke, like Chernobyl. Fun factoid - the Chernobyl meltdown was actually detected first in Sweden when a worker at one of Sweden's nukes walked INTO the facility. He was radioactively contaminated with the fallout from Chernobyl (about 2000 miles to the southeast), but that set off all kinds of alarms, so to speak. And it is one of the reasons why Sweden has decided to use wind, hydropower and biomass as their sole sources for electricity, with hydropower also being the preferred way to temporarily store any excess electricity (from windy times) for those not so windy times.

Anyway, next time some yahooey tells you that wind turbines cannot be placed on freshwater, well, you can try to talk sensible with them. Or you can walk away, since this person is brim full of ignorance, and they might be one of those ferocious "low-information type" teabaggers looking to pick a fight with you. Your choice... but don't say you weren't warned....


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Reading

Last week another report came out on the offshore wind energy potential of the U.S. A 16 page summary of it can be found at, while the main 100 page report (lots of maps) can be found at There is one large "missing" section - the coastlines of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, which contain 1447 miles of coastline (see, and a large amount of which is shallow water. In addition, the coastline of Alaska (much of which is THE windiest in the U.S.) is also ignored - it is 6640 miles is length. Note: these lengths do note include the actual length that takes into account the "nooks and crannies" of the often irregular coastline.

The estimated maximum capacity of waters less than 50 nautical miles (nm) from the coast was 4.15 GW of capacity. In the report, the gross capacity assumed was 5 MW of wind turbines installed per square kilometer (km^2), and at a 40% net energy output, this would be 1660 GW of average electrical power production, or roughly 4 times what is the current average output/consumption of the U.S.

The ocean coastline (less Florida, Alabama and Mississippi) is 4392 miles, and that of the Great Lakes is about 1246 miles(U.S. portion). If the missing GOMEX states were added in, the average delivered output would be increased by about 25%, or to about 2100 GW (5 times the present U.S. electricity production). That's a lot of electricity.... Perhaps one of the more important aspects is that the Southern coastline/Southest U.S.A. is now shown to have a very significant wind energy resource. Louisiana could actually make more money from it's offshore electricity than it could from its steadily declining fossil fuel (depletion) production. And it would be great for the fishing, too.

In this report the Great Lakes Coastline of about 1300 miles is included. The offshore potential of NY State is listed as 147,200 MW (capacity), or 58,880 MW (delivered basis, at 40% net of the gross capacity = 58.8 GW), from 29,439 km^2 of water surface. Most of the wind energy would come from offshore of Long Island (112 miles long x 50 nautical miles wide) on the Atlantic Ocean side. This is important, because the two biggest load centers in NY are New York City (NYC) and Long Island. Since NY State's present consumption is a bit less than 16 GW (16,000 MW), offshore has the potential to supply ALL of NY State's electricity, with plenty left to spare, assuming sufficient pumped hydro storage for electricity is installed. However, spreading out wind turbines over a large area has many benefits, especially with regards to buffering wind spikes, and providing an energy output that more closely resembles a baseload profile.

Of course, only electricity that is consumed can also be produced; no use making more than is needed. Since NY State has about 3 GW of hydro, and about 350 MW of wind (delivered basis) and about 150 MW of other biomass/trash based electricity energy production, to replace our pollution based electricity (nukes, coal, oil, natural gas), "only" 12.5 GW (delivered basis) needs to be obtained, which is about 42 GW of onshore wind energy capacity or 31 GW of offshore wind capacity, or some combination of the two.

These reports precede the September 2010 report titled "Large Scale Offshore Wind Power in the United States - Assessment of Opportunities and Barriers" which can be found at (240 pages).

Finally, in April of 2010, NYSERDA published a lengthy (170 pages) report called "New York's Offshore Wind Energy Development Potential in the Great lakes: Feasibility Study" which can be found at This report has great maps, a good description of the economics and many other fine features, but it used what are probably overly conservative wind resource values, and outmoded assumptions as to what a suitable wind turbine model would be for the Great Lakes. Using their modeling system, most of the available winds in Lake Erie are estimated to be in the 7.75 m/s to 8 m/s range. However, at the Steelwinds site, average wind speeds are 7.6 m/s at 80 meters and this is not even in the windier portions of the lake....

Regardless, there are some very recent developments in the wind energy field that make the NYSERDA numbers overly conservative. The NYSERDA report assumed that wind turbines designed for the North Sea in Europe (where average wind speeds in the 9 to 10.5 m/s range) would be appropriate. These turbines use a very low ratio of blade length to generator capacity, a situation appropriate to regions where gale force winds are quite common, and atrocious weather is normal. The Great Lakes (and lake Erie and Ontario) have milder winds because the fetch (distance the wind travels over water) is much less (less than 250 miles, and often less than 25 miles) than in the North Sea (quite often over 2000 miles). The power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, so winds averaging "only" 8 m/s would only have 51% of the power that winds at 10 m/s contain. In other words, a turbine with a 40% longer blade than one tapping 10 m/s winds could get the same power output with 8 m/s winds. Actually, due to a variety of factors, the output of a turbine is not quite proportional to the cube of the average wind speed, but a bit less.

For example, a Vestas V90 x 3 MW wind turbine (90 meter rotor diameter, 45 meter rotor radius) is a common fast wind speed turbine - about 1000 MW of these have been or are in the process of being installed in fast wind regions. The Thanet wind farm (300 MW) - for the time being, the world's largest offshore complex - uses 100 of these. Vestas recently introduced the V112 x 3 MW turbine (112 meter rotor diameter, 56 meter rotor radius) which is targeted at more "average" wind regimes. At an 8 m/s average wind speed in Lake Erie, the V112 would have an expected output (less wake effects, other shutdowns) of 1385 kw (46% of nameplate capacity), which is considered very good. At this same speed, a V90 x 3 MW would be expected to produce an average of 908 kw (30% of nameplate). But, at 10 m/s winds, the V112 could produce 1767 kw, or 59% of nameplate, though with incredible wear and tear on the blades (it would be shut down more than 4% of the time due to the wind being too fast). The V90 x 3 MW would make 1306 kw on average (43.5% output); this unit is designed for such fast winds, and is much less expensive (lower cost blades, lower cost foundation required) to build and install than a V112.

A number of companies have recently introduced or soon will introduce turbines more designed for Great Lakes winds, and less for North Sea gales. Many of the 4 to 6 MW units (Bard, REPower, Areva, Gamesa, GE) in the fast wind category will be very expensive to operate in the Great Lakes, while units such as the Vestas V112, or the Siemens 120 meter rotor for their 3.6 MW turbines will be ideally suited to Great Lakes winds. In the wind business, there seems to be no "one size fits all" approach, due to the cubic relationship of wind speed and power in that wind.

The NYSERDA report values (pg 128, 129), which exclude some areas (shipping lanes, shipwrecks, water > 45 meters in depth) for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are also interesting:

Lake ......... Area (km^2) ........... wind speed range (m/s) ......... Capacity (MW)

Erie ......... 86 ........................... 7.5 to 7.75 ............................... 431
Erie ......... 595 ........................... 7.75 to 8.0 ............................. 2977
Erie ......... 272 ........................... > 8 .......................................... 1361 subtotal = 4769

Ontario .. 390 ........................... 7.5 to 7.75 ............................ 1950
Ontario .. 774 ............................ 7.75 to 8.0 ............................ 3870
Ontario .. 596 ........................... > 8 ........................................ 2980 subtotal = 8800

The total available could be almost 12,500 MW of capacity, or about 4170 x 3 MW turbines. Depending on the variety of turbine chosen, this could provide up to 34% of NY's present electricity consumption, at an investment (= job creation) of $50 billion. Obviously, not all of that would be used, but even 20% of that kind of investment would make up to 155,000 job-years of direct employment (15,500 job-years per billion dollars of investment), and lead to the creation of about 75,000 jobs over a 10 year period.

And from an environmental aspect, five important consequences would be accomplished. Firstly, the relationship between renewable energy and job creation/regional economic development could be firmly established on the NY side of the Lake Ontario/Lake Eire region (this is already established on the Ontario province side). Secondly, the financial and potentially Chernobyl-like disaster of new nukes could be avoided. Thirdly, the Great Lakes and locally made renewable energy would be firmly connected. Fourthly, the drive to convert much of rural NY State into Swiss Cheese (Marcellus and Utica shale gas drilling/exploitation/associated pollution could be significantly mitigated and/or avoided. And last but not least, electricity made without CO2 pollution, and where money is recycled regionally instead of being exported for fuels that would be consumed, would now be the "norm", and not the exception.

Oh well, lots of reading to do for those inclined at self-education and not perpetual lack of knowledge about what could be done to make the world a better place.


Monday, October 4, 2010

NYISO 2010 Wind Study, and Related Items

There is a new 120 page report out from the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), a NY State government owned entity that regulates and patrols NY's "deregulated" electricity system. NYISO is the successor in many ways to NYPA's "Power Pool", which has as one of its many duties that task of keeping the electricity system operational - all the different or profit utilities plus NYPA plus LIPA plus the municipal entities, and all these interacting in phase with Ontario's, Quebec's, New England's (NEISO), the Midwest (MISO via Ohio) and the PJM (Pa, NJ, Md) systems. NYISO also issues reports, conducts long term studies of the transmission system, keeps records and operates the pricing market for NY.

But NYISO does not generate any electricity - instead, its prime focus is getting electricity delivered in a complicated market, where supplies and demands seem to vary all the time.

The new report is called "Growing Wind - Final Report of the NYISO 2010 Wind Generation Study". The 120 page report (but with very readable summary and introduction sections) can be found at It also compliments the recent CARIS (Comprehensive Assessment and Resource Integration Study) report, which assesses the high voltage (230, 345, 765 kv) transmission lines in NY State with the goal of relieving congestion (NY City region has lots of demand but difficulty getting electricity to NY City from upstate).

The Wind study evaluates an 8000 MW wind turbine capacity by 2018 scenario with respect to electricity prices, environmental aspects and especially grid stability/required improvements. The 2018 estimated wind energy output would average 2.5 GW (2500 MW) of supplied electricity, which is roughly the amount of electricity made by all the present operating coal burners in NY State, with a net efficiency of 31.25%. Most of the wind farms would be located in Western and Northern NY, but about 1400 MW of offshore wind farms are modeled (for Long Island, not the Great Lakes - more on that, later). Proposed projects (those in the NYISO "Queue") were used in this model, which supplies a location AND an estimated electricity production for these sites.

Since NY's average electricity demand is a bit less than 16 GW these days, the 2.5 GW average production rate would mean that wind would be supplying 16% of NY State's electricity. Coupled to 20% supplied by hydroelectricity, this would result in about 1/3 (36%) of NY's electricity being supplied by non-polluting electricity. The bad news is that 2/3 (well, 64%) would be supplied by pollution based electricity (nukes, coal, natural gas (Ngas) and fuel oil), or imports from out of state, and most likely Quebec. The 2018 scenario would require 6650 MW more than the sum of already operational (1273 MW) and under construction (77 MW) wind turbines. This can be broken down to 5250 of new onshore and 1400 MW of new offshore, worth an investment of about $17.5 billion, and equal to 271,000 direct job-years, somewhere (it would be nice if that were NY State....).

The report pays particular attention to matching a variable supply of electricity from all of the existing and prospective wind farms, to the varying demand (2006 was used as the reference model). This was done on a 5 minute lots of data crunching was involved matching the historical demand to the wind speeds (observed/modeled/recorded at wind farms) of 2006.

There is lots of good news in this report. Bottom line - very little needs to be done to the state's transmission grid (115, 230, 345, 765 kv). In many cases, some minor transformer upgrades and rewiring (taking 3/8" wire and replacing it with 3/4" diameter, effectively doubling the power carrying capacity on some rural 115 kv lines). Only one addition was considered worthy - a 230 kv line from Watertown due east to the Messena/Utica line (this takes electricity from the St Lawrence River/FDR Dam to Utica). Using no upgrades other than rewiring, less than 8% of the wind generated electricity would be "bottled" in upstate NY; with the new 230 kv line, less than 2% would be "bottled". This does not mean that the electricity made during high wind speed periods coupled to low demand times would be "wasted", as the NYPA pumped hydro facility in Niagara Falls, the Ontario Niagara Falls pumped hydro unit, as well as the Allegheny River Seneca Pumped Hydro unit located next to the Kinzua Dam (NY-Pa border) could always store this extra electricity. The power storage capacity of those 3 units is 840 MW, with another 400 MW possibility being the deferred hydro capacity of the Kinzua Dam, and 775 MW at the FDR Dam on the St Lawrence River.

Of course, the $300 million transmission line design and construction (230 kv) also would be a lot of job creation, with a lot of the parts (transformers, insulators, concrete, tower fabrication, and maybe even wire) that could be made in NY, and all made in USA. Thus, a demand stimulus, all without taxpayer money, no less.

One of the reasons that big renewable projects make so much sense for the offshore Long Island region is that congestion of trying to squeeze all the electricity needed for the 12 million people living in NY City, near it to the north, and on Long Island through existing wires. And given the high price for real estate, new wiring space in that region is almost impossible to find, or extraordinarily expensive. So a tidal project or offshore wind project can displace the 3 to 10 c/kw-hr of "congestion pricing" and thus become quite a bargain, even at 15 to 20 c/kw-hr average production cost. Throughout the Report, there is a lot of concern with electricity congestion, particularly near NY City. The cures for this congestion can be quite expensive, and take a lot of time to overcome. But one suggestion - less people living in the "probably will flood due to Global Warming/Greenland icesheet collapse" regions is never mentioned. Maybe a lot of the office work now done in the NYC sub-urban regions (like the NYPA office building in White Plains) could be shifted upstate, where there is plenty of not-likely to be flooded land available, and affordable housing, also.

The other good news is that adding more wind would LOWER all NYISO prices, but especially those NYISO zones in which the wind turbines are located. Adding 4650 MW more wind turbine capacity by 2013 DROPS generated prices by 11.1% (about $700 million/yr) and 16% LOWER prices would result when 6650 MW of wind capacity is added by 2018 (about $1.3 billion/yr), relative to not adding any new wind capacity. This is a consequence of the Merit Order Effect (hurray for MOE!), and another example of lower prices happening in deregulated markets when more wind is added. See also

Got that? If you want to lower electricity prices in NY State, add more onshore wind into the mix. As for those "nutso" claims that nukes are a bargain, the very opposite is true - if you want to raise electricity prices in NY State, add more nukes (see here and here)! The reason for this is that wind displaces natural gas based high marginal cost units (oil ones, too, especially for the Long Island offshore units). In this study, essentially no coal based units were shut down due to price considerations, because the coal units are lower cost producers than Ngas based ones, even if the RGGI costs are tweaked upwards to $6/ton of CO2 (the cost trend is now going in the opposite direction, however). Also of note: no additions to NY State's pumped hydroelectric stroage system were contemplated in the NYISO 2010 Wind Study. Pumped hydro can buffer variations in short term suply and demand rates, and it can increase the amount of wind and/or tidal power that can be tolerated by an electrical grid significantly, as well as lower the probabilities of brownouts and blackouts occurring.

The reduction in Ngas usage to make electricity means that less CO2 pollution is made in the process of making NY's electricity. Also good news. The lower Ngas consumption rate will also tend to suppress the rise in Ngas prices as Peak Oil/Peak Ngas keeps on getting more intense. Just for reference, here are the approximate prices as listed in the CARIS report:

Year ..... Bulk Price ($/MBtu)
2009 ... 5.00
2010 .... 7.00
2012 .... 7.50
2014 .... 8.00
2016 .... 8.50
2018 .... 9.25

The net reduction in CO2 pollution would be about 5 megatons/yr in 2018 versus 2006. This is also good.

Of course, until we get something like a Feed-In Law in NY State, this is all just a fantasy. There won't be ANY new electrical generation plants of any kind added, let alone the ones that actually lower NYISO Location Based Marginal Prices (LBMP) with no added CO2/rad-waste pollution or catastrophic event risk, because prices are already too low to justify adding ANY additional facilities. Plus, with electricity demand still either shrinking due to the socially and economically catastrophic destruction of NY State industrial electricity demand (when those businesses shut and/or slow down, they don't use as much electricity), there is insufficient demand to raise prices to sustainable levels. After all, manufacturing and agriculture are the honest sources of our real income/wealth which our service sectors depend on. But, there is that other source - theft, fraud and pillage, especially with regards to real estate - which Wall Street and the Big Banks seems to be engaging a lot in these days, but that too may be soon shrinking, which again means less demand for electricity.

The problem boils down to "Jerome's Conundrum" - wind turbines added to a market system depress the electricity prices, and decent prices for electricity (~ 10 c/kw-hr on an unsubsidized basis for onshore turbines) are required to cover the capital costs, which are around 85% of the operating cost in NY State, given current wind turbine manufacturing/selling prices. So more wind turbines added to the NYISO system actually work to put all the wind turbines out of business, at least until the capital investment for these wind turbine installations are paid off. And if electricity demand stays stagnant or even keeps shrinking (more efficiency = less electricity needed to do the same tasks), then prices will not recover, either, accentuating that dis-economy of ANY new electrical production facility.

So, until wind turbines can be assured of a stable price for their electricity that is a function of the sum of the electricity production cost plus some reasonable return on the investment - for example, as in Ontario - this NYISO report will just be one to gather that proverbial "electronic dust" (printed copies are not available unless you do it yourself). While Feed-In Laws are not the only way this price stability can be achieved, it is the most economically efficient way implemented so far to do this, and over half of all wind turbines installed worldwide to date have been installed via Feed-In Law arrangements.

As for the potential 270,000 job-years of direct jobs (or roughly 35,000 direct jobs), and roughly 165,000 "spin-off jobs"... well that also would be nice. But, for the time being, those are just casualties to the Chicago School of Economics, which mandates that the variable pricing needed for fossil fuel based electricity has to be used for wind turbine sourced electricity, which has non-varying production costs and thus no need for varying costs. It also means that as long as nukes and fossil fuel based systems get subsidies (especially via avoided external costs of generation), renewables will also need subsidies. A sort of "Mutually Assured Subsidy" system, similar to MAD for nuclear weapons. And about as logical, too.

But, on the plus side, when hucksters in town or who come to town claiming that wind turbines won't reduce CO2 pollution, will raise electricity prices and that nukes are a superior way (oh, and by the way, don't listen to any of that funny talk about Global Warming/CO2 induced Climate Change), ask about their funding, or their sources for their mis-information. Maybe they are hard at work competing for the "Miss Information" pageant, to be held by Faux News in the near future. Prizes care of the head Koch (note pronunciation) Brothers, and they will be considerable... With or with the string bikini sessions, which for many old male geezers (= the contestants) could be quite unsightly, depending on your preferences....



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