Wind power: some lessons from 2006

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The Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) center has published its Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends: 2006 (pdf - the graphs below come from the accompanying powerpoint presentation - also pdf).

I've cherry-picked a few tidbits of information that underline what are in my view interesting lessons from last year for the wind power sector.

Disclaimer: I finance wind farms. While that means in practice that I make sure that the projects I work on have as few vulnerabilities (technical, economic, legal, or political) as possible, I am naturally interested in the growth of the industry that underpins my job. So take this diary with the grain of salt you think it accordingly deserves.

2006 was another good year for wind power, with a (via GWEC) 32% growth in capacity installed over the year:

For the second year running, the USA was the first country by MW installed in that year, although not the first by cumulative capacity, with Germany still far ahead, and Spain still ahead of it.

The strong position of China, and even more of India (home of manufacturer Suzlon, which has just won the battle to buy German manufacturer Repower, and purchased Belgian gearbox subcontractor Hansen last year) should be noted.

However, in terms of capacity relative to domestic electricity markets, the European pioneers (Denmark, then Germany and Spain) are still far ahead:

We're beginning to see countries where wind penetration is large enough to provide a visible portion of total electricity (and note - this is the fraction of actual kWh consumed, after taking into account the lower availability of wind power generation capacity) - and these numbers are set to keep on growing significantly in the coming years, as more capacity comes online. Even though most of market growth now comes from newcomers, like France or Canada, countries like Spain and Germany are still adding 10-15% new capacity to their existing stock each year. As I wrote in an earlier diary (No technical limitation to wind power penetration), there's still a lot to go before integration of wind into the grid becomes an issue. The EERE has a table which confirms this, with the additional cost of dealing with wind power between 0.2 and 0.5 c/kWh:

(Just for clarity: 1c/kWh is the same thing as $10/MWh)

To get back to the previous graph, using the word "pioneer" to describe today's wind leaders is not really adequate, as the undisputed pionner in the 80s was the USA, as the graph below shows: essentially ALL the wind power capacity built in the 80s was in the USA. That lead was abandoned, and in the 90s, Denmark (with manufacturers Vestas, Neg-Micon (now part of Vestas) and Bonus (now Siemens)) created the modern, large-scale version of the industry and never looked back.

In fact, what's been striking about the US wind industry has been the stop-and-go nature of its development in recent years, with boom years alternating with dead years.

That unhealthy trend, caused exclusively by the instability of the federal regulatory framework, has caused havoc in munfacturing processes (how do you run a big factory where demand is 100 one year, 0 the next, 150 the next - without knowing at the beginning of the yeat what it will be?!) and almost bankrupted several of the leading companies in the sector (Vestas had losses, Repower had to be bailed out, others were gobbled up by big outsiders like GE and Siemens). It's difficult enough for smallish companies in a heavy manufacturing sector to deal with rapid growth rates: 20-30% growth per year sound great, until you realize that betting on it being more or less each creates problems (immobilized capital from overoptimistic investment, or loss of markets from falling behind the competition); but if you have to additionally deal with uncertainty until the last minute on whether 20% of the market will exist or not...

That phenomenon was caused by the fact the the main regulatory support for wind in the US, the PTC, expired in 2001 and was only renewed very late, and only for 2 years at a time. For 2004 and 2005, the PTC was only renewed in spring 2004, which means that projects meant to be built that year had been suspended until that renewal, which led to no construction whatsoever for most of 2004, and a rush after that.

The lesson here is that a regulatory framework has to be stable - or at least to evolve in predictable ways. The PTC saga was the exact opposite, and has had one simple consequence: the reluctance of turbine manufacturers to set up factories in the US, in the face of uncertainty on the demand side.

This is all the more depressing that the PTC works fine - my bank and others finance lots of projects on its basis, and it is one of the cheapest support mechanisms around: it costs the federal budget 2c/kWh, when European support mechanisms are often in the 3-5c/kWh range).

As we are now speaking of prices, one of the most interesting graphs in the EERE report is this one, which shows that wind power is extremely competitive for power purchasers: the actual sale price of wind power has been in the lower half, or even below the range in which wholesale prices for electricity moved for the past 4 years:

In particular, wind power prices went down in 2005 when electricity prices, pushed up by record natural gas prices, were going sharply up: those utilities that had the foresight to enter into purchase agreements with wind producers saved a lot of money then, and still do now.

Note - the prices above for wind power are those for the sale of electricity only; wind power producers also earn the PTC discussed above, equal to $19/MWh last year. But that means that wind power is fully competitive without subsidies with power prices in the $50-60/MWh range - and that's, of course, without taking into account the fact that wind causes no pollution and no carbon emissions.

Two trends are driving wind power prices: lower O&M costs and slightly increasing construction costs.

As noted in the EERE report, O&M costs have gone down from $30/MWh for turebines built in the 80s to $8/MWh for turbines built in the last few years. As the report notes, it is still hard to tell how much of that is simply a reflection that older turbines require more maintenance, and how much is a genuine lowering of costs, but the trend is down (and I have in house studies which I cannot post here which make the same point on Danish turbines).

On the initial investment side, costs have been going up somewhat lately. This reflects two things - one is the scarcity of turbines, as manufacturers, made wary by earlier years, have not anticipated demand growth and need to catch up with production capacities - and sell their available models for more today; the other is that, like in all industrial sectors, the cost of raw materials that are used have gone up, which impacts prices.

The report by EERE suggests that the economies of scale from building large windfarms are not that big, which should be an encouragement for people to team up, as they have in Denmark and Germany, to invest in one or two windfarms in their community if they have the space to do so - and most rural areas could do that.

Anyway, the conclusions I draw from all if this are as follows:

  • windpower is booming, and is reaching a stage where it becomes a noticeable source of electricity in a number of countries. This is not the time to stop supporting it - it's time to make the essential part of electricity production: any kWh from wind lessens the need for coal-fired plants - or for nuclear. As such, the US is still really far behind and needs a sustained effort to catch up. Germany has twice the capacity with one twentieth of the land;

  • windpower still depends on having a stable and clear regulatory framework. It is close to being competitive in absolute terms, but given the powers of incumbency of other power sources (gas, coal, nuclear), and the more or less hidden subsidies that go with it, it still requires a lot of support - including grassroots support. That matters to get the manufacturing capacity and the local jobs that come with wind power;

  • windpower is a good bet for utilities: its cost will not increase with the price of gas and oil, and is already lower than other sources. It is a perfect business hedge against oil & gas dependence.

And it looks, and is, peaceful energy:

My local municipal utility (Estes Park,Colorado) gets less than 1% of its electricity from wind. This is fully a function of a program whereby customers voluntary pay a 1.3 cents surcharge per kwh to increase the wind contribution. This program has been in effect since 1999, has only 108 participants out of 9300 customers and is obviously almost a complete failure. Our base charge per kwh is 8.63 cents.

What suggestions might you have to get my utility to acquire more of its electricity from wind (btw, the farms are in southern Wyoming, a great area for wind). The utility gets 67% of its power from coal, with the rest covered by hydro and gas.

Does this surcharge seem reasonable? Would it make more sense to set a goal for wind (ideas?) and then charge the appropriate additional amount per customer to get there? What is the likely cost impact per customer or per kwh?

I know you would need a lot more information as the specific utility's cost structure to precisely answer these questions, but I thought you might be able to give some sort of ball park answer or helpful suggestions to turn my utility around.

We have a formed a citizen's group which will meet with the local utility in a couple of weeks to discuss this as well as other issues including why the hell they won't allow net metering and why they provide no incentives for solar PV.

Given the data you provided on wind power prices above, should I conclude that the wholesale price of coal electricity is still cheaper. I still need to find out what they pay for coal electricity but my guess is that the only thing they care about is the bottom line, forgetting all negative externalities.

Best hopes for a lot more wind and solar. Geothermal,too!

Tom in Colorado

There are two ways to get people to buy "green" electricity: one is, like in your case, by way of a surcharge on the normal price. The other is by way of a fixed price linked to the actual cost of generation (if the utility does it itself) or its purchase price (if it buys from a third party). Until two years ago, both implied similar prices for consumers; however, after the rise in gas prices last year, the second option suddenly became cheaper than the normal price (and some utilities had to close the programme to new clients!).

Today, it would make sense to offer "green" electricity at a fixed price, linked to actual generation costs (of wind), and selling it, beyond the fact that it's green, as more stable into the future (protection against energy price increases).

The problem, as I see it, with the current program is that the vast majority of people have no economic interest in paying more for a good than is necessary. Why should they pay extra and give the rest of their fellow customers a free ride. In any event, the surcharge approach has clearly been shown to be a failure which I think back up my theory.

Under the "fixed price" approach, I assume that existing customers would face prices that go up and probably mostly down based on the future costs of wind. But once the fixed price of wind dips below that for all other sources, wouldn't most people rush in to change their payment plan. In that event, wouldn't you have to shut most people out of the program because of capacity constraints?

If wind becomes cheaper than the cost coming from the rest of the produced power, including coal, then the it would be in the utility's interest to switch to wind as much as possible without regard to any program that might be in effect. Under this scenario, all customers would benefit from lower overall prices.

Regardless, I think my particular utility needs to come up with a realistic goal for percentage of electricity generated by wind, figure out the cost to get them there, and then spread whatever additional costs are involved over all customers. I think that the vast majority of customers would not be sophisticated enough to choose wind with a fixed price, while projecting possible future benefits.

The goal, I think, should be to move to as much renewable energy as we can as fast as we can. We are running out of time.

We have the same free rider problem in NC. One can pay increments of $4/mo on top on one's normal bill for 1KW/mo of "green" energy (a basket of wind, solar, hydro, etc.) Unfortunately, this is just structured as a "contribution". The big problem, as I see it, is that if (or rather, when) there are price increases or service curtailments down the line due to FF supply shortages, those will be distributed equally to all residential customers, regardless of participation or non-participation in the NC GreenPower program.

This program would be a lot more attractive if participation could secure one a preferential claim upon power generated by renewable sources in the future. If one is making an investment, it only seems right that one should expect some return on that investment.

I really like your idea of invest/return on power. It would be the best way to deal with a lack of leadership/foresight on the part of our gov./population

However, I would question if the returns of power might be taken away from you in an energy constrained future. Given that the purchasers would be a small minority of the population they would hardly have a strong political voice.

The same could be said for personal power generation investments but that is where I will be investing. I think it will be too easily justified to keep essential goods and services running that any grid tied power will be used there first.

Thanks for the article! The questions your article provoked in my mind are:

1. Why the unstable regulatory environment in the USA?

2. If windpower is such a good deal for utilities, why are they not jumping on the bandwagon to build more windpower and to demand that stable regulatory environment to help the windpower industry predict demand for its products?

By the way -- what a fine photo. Where is it taken?

Thanks again for the fine article!


I have been asking myself the same question. As far as my local utility, my guess is inertia and a traditional perspective that keeping prices as low as possible is the mark of a good utility. Throw in an almost complete lack of environmental consciousness and you have a winner. While wind may be "competitive", that doesn't mean it is the cheapest or most convenient source. The people at my local utility don't want to get out of their comfort zone and just follow the rule, "go with what you know".

In my case, we are also exploring ways to take them over. They do, after all, have a utility board who, in theory, could be replaced with some more progressive voices.

tstreet, I think that your comment are on target.

Oddly, we have plenty of potential for windpower here in Minnesota, but the utility company is painfully slow in developing this resource.

I would think they'd want to get out in front and be on the cutting edge.

hi beggar -
Can this sort of chart add some input to the reasons why Minnesota is not jumping high for WTs?

note) the vertical axis zero level, is actually a windspeed of 5 m/s ...

Im not against windturbines - BUT they have their issues (!)

before you do anything this is only west denmark data.

take east, south, and north data, sum them all together to see what the TRUE capacity factor is.

You see, Denmark is pretty big, wind may be blowing somewhere and not elsewhere.

You could even make a model, determining the distance to the load and calculated the transmission losses for each windfarm, then we would be getting very accurate results.

Gilgamesh - you claim : " Denmark is pretty big, wind may be blowing somewhere and not elsewhere", is wrong !

Well for one,Denmark is a PRETTY small place - expect the same weather "all over the place" if you ever go there.

West Denmark, Jutland, is actually the big-chunk making up most of Denmark.

whatever - and as I say WTs have their issues , dont you agree ?

Denmark is pretty big, wind may be blowing somewhere and not elsewhere.

Sorry to say: No. Denmark is pretty small. About the size of a coffee-cup. Only if you take greenland into consideration, it becomes much bigger.

The current design WTs have an undersized generator (weight on top of a tall tower) that "maxes out" well before cutout speed. So much of their production is at constant output, hour to hour.

Also Denmark is NOT very large and hence, not very geographically diverse. Larger areas will show less variation.

MN is approaching the 1 GW of installed wind power from memory. Equal to 1 nuke on a windy day.

Best Hopes for more wind power,


I was watching a documentary oabout factory that makes Wind Turbines in Germany and was wondering why the Turbine had to be at the top of the tower? Particularly the land based ones. Now I am no engineer but it looked like the turbine is geared anyway so why not have a shaft leading to the bottom of the tower? I accept that there may be some loss of energy but they would be so much easier (cheaper) to maintain!

Terb bulls eye
- and exactly what I have been trying to figure for years now...!

The problem with the WTs are the enormous torques they must endure, particularly the start momentum ... the forces involved chew gears like kids chew gum.

So adding a 90dg angular/beveled gear would probably add to these issues - and a loss of maybe 20% ...

The larger 5MW WTs are really heavy up there, the Nacelle with components plus the 3-blades weigh 310 tons - OR the same as 310 nos of 1ton automobiles - IT all put on top of the tower

These 5MW WTs need to be started up by a separate motor, in order to start their mission. An average tower is at some 5 million Pound Sterling - only the tower.

... and it all done on purpose at free will – peak-energy is around and we scramble for solutions – the power table submitted tells me all (!)

see the below image for the innards of a typical turbine.

This is the fellah I described above - M5000 Multibrid - How do they do this ...? I mean it is impressive stuff, but is it smart anymore - for such intermittant power. I read somewhere ( iI think Edmonton/Calgary ?- Canada) the local grid had too many WTs in their mix, rendering disruptions at low winds ... too many eggs in the same basket ... the WT basket(!)
The airbus A380 is maximum large as per overall size, had they made it larger, AND they had to alter the airports as well.... there is a limit for "stuff" -

Is the Estes Park utility a co-op or a municipaly owned utility? The only municipal utility I know of in Texas with a progressive attitude towards wind is Austin Electric Power, AEP. They offer a wind-only option, but the rate is higher than standard power.
In Texas Green Mountain offers rates at the local private utility's "price to beat". Galveston, my home is at 14.8 cents per kilowatt hour. But, you can't get Green Mountain in areas with a municipal power company or a co-op; those area's remain as controled areas when the rest of the state was decontrolled . A couple of the main electric providers, TXU and Reliant offer a clean option, but its at a couple of cents premium to their regular price. They both are also building windfarms as well as coal plants.

Estes Park is a municipal utility that is not subject to the state's renewable portfolio standard, a major oversight or possibly a response to political pressure (although my local legislator claims not).

Excel, which covers 82% of the state is required by law to meet an RPS of 20% and provides credits of $4.50 per watt for solar energy, including net metering. They also have wind turbines to fill out their portfolio. They don't engage in any of this voluntary nonsense; they just fold any additional costs into the rate structure.

I think buying green power voluntarily and paying extra is mainly a feel good exercise which, I admit, I do. But the more I think about it the less good I feel when no one else is doing squat.

The regulatory environment got caught up in two different things; the PTC came up for renewal in 2001 (it had been put in place for 10 years, IIRC) and was only renewed for 2 years each time - I think that was because it was part of the infamous energy bill that never went anywhere, and temporary measures had to be taken when it would become clear that the energy bill would not be passed in time.

As to utilities, the fact is that gas used to be ultra cheap. It's only been in the past 2-3 years that natural gas prices have started pushing power prices up significantly. Until then, wind was still more expensive, and green considerations were not as prevalent as today (after Katrina and 'an inconvenient truth').

Even today, investors are not willing to bet on gas prices remaining where they are (a level where wind power is cheaper). It will take a few more years of high prices.

The Alberta bitumen mines should really suck up the natural gas in the Canadian market, and possibly the northern Rocky Mountain province of the US. I think a gas shortage may really be fixing to start.
Also, if the companies in the Green River Oil Shale play actually build some plants, they'll use a gang of electricity and natural gas for processing, particularly for in situ syncrude production.
Jerome, have you read Dave Cohen's Key Post "Running with the Red Queen" in theoildrum archives? It shows the depletion status of North America and shows that new NG well deplete an average of 32% in their first year.

1. Why the unstable regulatory environment in the USA?

2. If windpower is such a good deal for utilities, why are they not jumping on the bandwagon to build more windpower and to demand that stable regulatory environment to help the windpower industry predict demand for its products?

1. Poor political leadership

2. Poor corporate leadership

Speaking of stop n’ go regulatory environments…

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today sharply criticized a provision in a new bill introduced by Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) in the House Natural Resources Committee that the group said would “essentially outlaw the generation of electricity from new wind power plants in the United States and even phase out power production from existing wind turbines.”

Supposedly bill provisions are to prevent bird kill. That is not a real issue, to quote the AWEA: “The legislative proposal follows on the heels of a May 3 report from the National Academy of Sciences that states, among other things, that “Clearly, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a minute fraction of . . . total anthropogenic bird deaths – less than 0.003% [three of every 100,000] in 2003.””
The bill has had its committee hearing, but don’t know more than that.

Yeh, he cares about birds dying. But I guess he doesn't care about people dying from emphysema, cardiac arrest, and other respiratory problems like asthma. Coal is king and money talks. What else is new? I don't think this is going anywhere but just shows that just because the Dems took over doesn't mean we got rid of the neanderthals. My apologies to neanderthals.

Stop n' go is an apt description of a lot of energy policy matters. We call them "punctuated equilibria" in policy studies...and I quote:

Punctuated Equilibrium has also played a role in social and political theory, particularly in policy studies, as one of many cross-overs of evolutionary theory into social theory. The punctuated equilibrium model of policy change was first presented by Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones in 1993, and has subsequently been examined in many policy contexts and has increasingly received attention in the field. The model states that policy generally changes only incrementally due to several restraints, namely lack of institutional change and bounded rationality of individual decision-making. Policy change will thus be punctuated by changes in these conditions, especially change in party control of government or changes in public opinion. Thus, policy is characterized by long periods of stability, punctuated by large, but rare, changes due to large shifts in society or government. This has been shown to be particularly useful in environmental policy and energy policy. Recently, in conjunction with historical findings of sharp and punctuated policy change, newer findings in gun control and U.S. state tobacco policy have found largely symbolic punctuated changes. For instance, a recent study by Michael Givel found that despite a significant mobilization to change state tobacco policy, U.S. state tobacco policymaking from 1990 to 2003 was characterized by limited and symbolic punctuation that favored the pro-tobacco advocacy coalition’s policy agenda.

yes, we social scientists are good at stealing things from Stephen Jay Gould...aren't we? :)

We call them "punctuated equilibria" in policy studies...

Don'tcha just hate bumping into those big punctuation marks!

Only one word can describe Rahall's bill: DISGRACEFUL!

The AWEA did have (still has?) a letter to your congressperson campaign going at their website. Don't know if it's still going on, as it was a week or so ago that I participated.
If you're interested you can check the website.

It really does seem to be a stupid bill. Anyone who currently has, or wants to install windpower - as an individual or company, will have to get certified by the Fish and Wildlife Service or they'll be shut down from what I understand.


As tstreet said: "Coal is King..."
Rep. Rahall represents West Virginia. WV has coal too.

Thanks, Jerome!
I've been a great fan of wind for a number of years. I used to work for Green Mountain selling residential contracts, and since I've gotten back in oil and gas exploration I've seen a number of wind farms being developed.
Its a great deal for the State, for the country and for the world. Here in Texas wind is mostly located in the Trans-Pecos and the Panhandle regions, because of wind availability. The electricity is sold into the regional electric grid, called the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, who delivers it to the various local electric providers. Many of the windfarms are located on State owned land, and they receive a royalty averaging $4,000 per wind turbine per year. The money is dedicated to the Permanent University Fund by the state constitution, so its a big win for everyone in the state-it lowers carbon dioxide pollution, it keeps us from building more coal plants. And the great news is we could increase our turbines numbers a thousand percent or more without running out of mountaintops and ridgelines.
We haven't yet put any turbines offshore, but they'd make a great addition to decommissioned oil and gas production platforms! And Texas owns our waters up to 7 miles offshore!
My great hope is that they will replace our decining revenues from oil and gas production for the schools, plus provide energy for our people at an affordable price.
Theres some good info available on the Texas General Land Office website.
Texas is a great place for wind power. We have a minimum of NIMBYism, and since the Feds own very little land, a minimum of red tape. But even in states with only Federal and private ownership of land, its a great boon. All the money for the electricity is locally spent. Windmills create excellent, wellpaying jobs for the areas-none of the Walmart $6 per hour peonage. Local schools and counties have a large addition to their ad valorem taxes.

So bring 'em on!
And we haven't put any turbines offshore yet.

Folks, let's not forget about digg, reddit, stumbleupon, slashdot, or your favorite link farm. Help us spread the word about TOD if you are so inclined! :)

Thanks for the post Jerome. I have some questions for you:

1. I own stock in a Florida-based utility that is heavy into wind power. What happens to turbines in a hurricane?

2. There are a bunch of companies that have been making small turbines for decades here in the US. How come this is never quantified in the statistics I read about wind power. Do you have any stats about how much power this provides?

3. Do you know any good, publically-traded companies that specialize in wind power? Are there any IPOs planned? What about support companies like powerline manufacturers?

Thanks for the answers.

Most turbines have a cut-out that disconnects the blades from the generator at a certain maximum speed. The blades are made out of composits that are extremely strong.
But the actual answer is nobody knows yet, because the turbines haven't been placed in hurricane prone areas. However, the ones offshore in the north sea have a much stronger foundation than the wind turbines onshore, the North Sea has fairly common 50 ft. waves.
Does anybody know if the turbines at Guantanamo Bay have been hit yet? If so, what was the damage?

1) Hurricanes: turbines stop working at 25m/s and 'protect themselves' at speeds above that. Various models are rated depending on the worst gusts of winds expected - so for hurrican prone areas, there are specific models available.

During the big storms in Europe in 1999-2000 (which are not as strong as hurricanes can be, I know), 40% of the trees in one of the Danish provinces were brought down, but only 6 turbines out of several thousand. So turbines seem to be able to withstand quite a lot.

btw - FPL has a very diverse portfolio, it's not all in hurricane areas...

2) I know very little about small turbines. I don't expect them to represent a materail fraction of power production, though.

3) there are a number of manufacturers that are quoted, as are developers and portfolio owners. I don't deal with that side of the financial world, so have nothing to say, nor any names to recommend.

I've wondered whether it might not make sense to find Turbines that are even specifically designed to handle hurricane-force winds, in order to have some relatively guaranteed power available during storms. I mean, if we are going to find ourselves with some more extreme weather coming, then at least we should be ready to pull some lemonade from them lemons, right?

This MFR claims their Vertical mills have been hardened for heavy-storm applications, and make better use of turbulent winds, not just steady, directional sources..

Bob Fiske

The Danish Model (3 blade, up wind, horizontal axis, nacelle generator, usually asynchronist) is the only commercially competitive model for grid power (one NZ firm has installed a half dozen 2 blade units designed for high winds).

The costs just do not work out for the vertical axis WTs and they are good only for specialty applications.

Wind speed drops as one gets closer to the ground due to friction and power is a cube of wind speed, This works against vertical axis units.

Best Hopes for more development of vertical axis WTs,


But cost-effectiveness has to be recalculated if you have to consider replacing the turbine after a category(?) storm.

I guess the other way of responding to it is to say Hurricane-prone regions would count as 'specialty applications'.

The Cost-per-watt calculations are certainly applicable, but often get presented as the only factor worth gauging a renewable technology on, as is the overused requirements for Payback with Solar PV.. as if anybody asks that when they buy a 6kw backup gas generator.

As with many of the Renewable Energy offerings, I usually look at the 'Turtle and Hare' equations, first.. where I'm not as concerned with (in this case) just charging my batteries as cheaply and quickly as possible, but in finding methods of gathering energy that are the most durable, portable, reliable through extremes, and if possible, ones that I can fabricate with locally available materials. I'd love to make a Hugh Piggott wind turbine, but I'll probably finish a couple types of vertical before I do any horizontal 'mills. Seems like the potential failure modes would be much more managable. The fact that I can't actually fabricate PV is why I'm more eager to own some while the prices are still pretty cheap (WAG). I can build windmills, micro hydro, solar heat and ovens, solar fridges.. but I haven't got any option available as far as growing my own silicon crystals and doping them P and N..

Anyway.. not trying to be argumentative. I do get why the verticals aren't really as 'marketable', except perhaps to those who make purchases based on the Mormon 'built to last 1000 yrs' ideal, instead of fastest, cheapest, biggest..

.. For well-balanced priorities!

Bob Fiske

FWIW I am glad to pay an additional $15 a month fee to buy wind power from my public utility. The utility director said they still have to have standby power. Wind has energy storage issues which could get better if/when compressed air, pumped water or ultra capacitors are put in place. Also in some cases transmission lines are bottlenecks. There could be more wind power but there is not enough transmission capacity to take the power.

There could be more wind power but there is not enough transmission capacity to take the power

Yes. In Southern California they are building a 4.5 GW transmission line to a windy pass that was fully developed in the 1980s (with 60 kW WTs). This new capacity will allow the pass to be redeveloped with 1+ MW WTs and enough capacity to fill that line.

Best Hopes for Wind Power,


I have serious reservations about paying a premium for wind or solar power.

First, it is the responsibility of the utilities to aggressively develop sustainable energy resources. This is just part of responsible corporate citizenship.

We all can pay for this project of developing sustainable generation of electricity, and we ought to all do so because we all benefit.

Penalizing those who want Green power by telling them to pay more actually subsidizes the status quo by telling folks that they can get by paying less for more destructive ways of getting electric power.

This method also makes it appear as though much is being done to develop sustainable power when in fact if we all paid an extra 10 or 15 bucks a month we could really make changes much faster and much more effectively, in my view.

As usual, though, the plan is to penalize those who want positive change and to reward those who don't really give a damn.

These premium-for-windpower plans give an appearance of progressive change, but seem to me to divert attention form the donkey-like resistance of the corporate/government/managed-environmentalist complex to change. Everybody is scratching the backs of the other while we pretend to make real progress.

Finally, I really think that these Green power surcharges enhance the corporate bottom line with an extra influx of cash, no matter how they rationalize the notion that this money truly flows in an efficient manner to Green power projects.

Like I said: charge everyone the same -- an extra 10 bucks per month from everyone will allow for bigger projects to be carried out faster, and share the costs more equitably.

Precisely my point. These volunteer programs are largely worthless and have almost zero impact on actually increasing wind power. I pay more anyway, but I am becoming increasingly disenchanged.

In any way, I will be engaging in intense political action over the next several months or longer in an attempt to change this.

I agree fees for wind are more about looking good. The fee structure is better than nothing as it still fosters more wind turbines, no? I am spending my money in the only way offered to further my goals and as I have no other options to go green power, other than off grid with a badly suited site, I takes what I can gets. The utility initially offered little signs I could festoon my front door with proclaiming my “greenness”, ugh.

Here is something good

Just popped it together with data from BP, wiki, and some wind society information.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Note the difference in slopes in 1980 and now and how the y axis is a log scale, makes for nicer lines.

Also note that the USA is pretty much driving the world curve, as evidenced by the near identical slopes.

72 TW is the easily capturable power, currently we use 15TW.

When you run out the current slopes, we will hit the 72TW 'easy' ceiling in ~2055ish. (with the unnamed assumption that growth can occur like that...)

If one only cares about changing world energy usage from FF to wind, 15TW at 2% growth will yield an intersection point with wind energy near ~2045. giving us 10 years to solve the problem!

However if the adoption curve from the 1980s can be replicated we hit the 72 TW ceiling much much sooner. ill post that in 3 hours, gotta go run and exercise.

fyi the current growth trend is ~23% year over year for installed capacity. doubling time is therefore ~3 years. in the 80's growth was more than 30% year over year.

I disagree with your analysis. The USA is not driving the world curve. Keep in mind that it is a log scale. It just shows that installed wind power in the USA has the same growth rate as the installed power in the rest of the world.

I updated the graph with my brains, (and some cool info)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Look at those intercepts with the red line!

if we continued the 80's build up we would already have the wind pwoer to supply the world and then some!

Current trends put us at 2030 intercept for world electricity needs, and wind power installed capacity.

How the hell such a graph appears in a site dedicated to proving the world that limitless exponential growth is impossible?

If you just do the same exercise with oil production from 1950 to 1970 you will prove the world that we should have had 1 billion barrels per day by now.

Your conclusion that wind "lessens the need for coal-fired plants - of for nuclear" is incorrect. Given the uncertain nature of wind and the expectation of reliable electrical supply that technological societies demand, capacity under the full control of the grid operators must still be built and maintained in hot standby.

Two recent events - the German becalming after Christmas, 2004 and the California heat wave of summer, 2006 - made clear that wind can and will fail over wide regions. For the German case, one would need 4 to 6 full size coal or nuclear on hot standby to replace the drop off in wind production within 24 hours. In the California case, this failure was at a time of peak demand.

The need for "stable and clear regulatory framework" is just an euphonism for "need for permanent subsidy." When the US federal government removed the subsidy, the construction of new units collapsed.

I won't deny that there will some wind power in a free and competitive market but it remains oversold on a public policy basis. Jerome's data just supports that contention.

The need for "stable and clear regulatory framework" is just an euphonism for "need for permanent subsidy."

A permanent (and growing) carbon tax would remove the need for any wind subsidy, and provide another source of funding for schools, police and the Dept. of Defense.

Adding carbon to the air has a permanent, long term cost that is not reflected in it's "market price".

Best Hopes for Full Costing,


If you do not believe in "Full Costing", can I dump my garbage on your front lawn (back if you prefer) and save myself the tipping fee at the dump ?

The California Power Crisis, although exploited by Enron et al, was CAUSED by nuclear power.

And this was not a problem for a couple of days, but for several months.

One unit of Diablo Canyon was down for refueling and the other was tripped out for an extended outage. That was the start of the power crisis, which continued until both units came back on-line.

A good reason to not be overly reliant on nukes.

EVERY B&W nuke in the US was forced off-line for months/years after TMI for retrofits. If these had been Westinghouse nukes (many more of them), the USA would have had severe electrical shortages for a year or more.

Nukes are NOT reliable power as many assume. Good for supplemental role, yes, but be overly relied upon.



Are we talking about the same thing? The California heat wave I mentioned was during the summer of 2006 and Enron was long history.

One never refuels a nuke during the summer - only during low demand periods like spring and fall. Nukes do sometimes trip off-line but only rarely - a plant that trips twice a year has very suspect management.

As a whole, US nukes produce 90% of the yearly megawatt-hours they can produce. US windmills make 26% according to the last EIA statistics although wind industry organizations will claim 30%.

As a rule of thumb, no single plant on a grid should exceed 10% of the system demand. In general, the old rule was to make sure one had 20% capacity margin but recently regulators have pushed that down to closer to 10% with greater risk of shortages. Again, wind can NOT be counted in that reserve margin.

What effect will the NERC FRR (Frequency Responce Reserve)
requirement have on the "cost" of wind energy?

Again, wind can NOT be counted in that reserve margin

Simply wrong.

ERCOT has one of the more conservative reserve margins for wind turbines, and they are 10% of nameplate (too low IMO).

Nukes are also not on all the time, and do have unscheduled outages as well (see May 2001 in California, when only half the nukes were up and running in a severe electrical crisis).

Nuke cannot load follow, wind plus pumped storage can.

France can only run such high nuke % because of the non-nuke generation it is interconnected with (for example they sell the Swiss very cheap power @ 3 AM, the Swiss sell it back to France at 3x to 5x the price at 6 PM). A predominantly nuke grid can be problematic.

The US grid should be about a quarter to a third nuke and little more. Since new wind is likely to be cheaper than new nuke, and wind does not have the multitude of problems associated with nuke, the backbone of a non-GHG grid should be wind plus pumped storage plus HV DC and not nuke.

One unmentioned concern that I have with a rush to nuke is common design faults. All of France's N4 reactors went down at once, all US B&W reactors at once after TMI, every one of the UKs reactors was downrated (they ALL should have been shut down, but it would have blacked out the nation, so Her Majesties Gov't played roulette).

It appears that all new US reactors will be either Mitsubishi or Toshiba (maybe a couple of French Arevas). A common design fault found in 30 GW of US nuclear plants would have a devastating impact on the US economy. I perceive (I hope this is not a straw man) that you would like to see as much as 100 GW built to a single design (more efficient, faster to build, operating experience and parts can be interchanged).

Now consider a common design flaw in EVERY one of those reactors. And the implications on the US economy (would we operate reactors unsafely to avoid months long rolling blackouts ? ABSOLUTELY !)

A risk that a geographically distributed wind based grid would never have.

BTW, I am glad for Texas's sake that TXU is going Mitsubishi and South Texas apparently Toshiba.

Best Hopes for More Wind,


The 2001 Californian energy crisis had very little to do with Nuclear power. It was caused by several main problems, the most important of which was probably strategic withholding of supply by companies such as Enron. This was facilitated by an unusually dry season in surrounding states which resulted in a reduction in available hydropower imports. This was further compounded by the fact that the Californian market is dominated by Natural Gas fired plants, the fuel costs for which rose dramatically in the period under consideration.

The market structure also played its part. Prices for Californian residential customers were frozen at 1990 levels, originally to allow companies to recover stranded costs etc. When wholesale prices unexpectedly rose, companies could not raise prices to customers accordingly. In addition long-term supply contract (such as CFDs) were not allowed, all power was traded in a spot market. This created a climate of uncertainty within the industry which discouraged investment as wholesale prces became extremely volitile.

No peer-reviewed paper I've seen has attributed (or even mentioned!) nuclear power as being a major or even minor factor in the crisis.

Decreased Nuclear Generation.

Outages at nuclear plants also contributed to the electricity supply shortage and high prices in the West. Nuclear generation in California was depressed during the first half of 2001 at the same time that hydro generation fell well below historical levels. The two solid lines in Figure 5 show that nuclear output fell from 3,104 GWh in December 2000 to 1,668 GWh in May 2001.

The cumulative impact of this decline was substantial. The total output of nuclear units in California over the period from January through May was lower in 2001 than in any year except 1997. Nuclear output from January to May 2001 was nearly 4,500 GWh lower than during the same period in 2000 and more than 2,000 GWh lower than during the same period in the drought year of 1994. The substantial decline in nuclear output during the first half of 2001 reflects the large impact of the shutdown of Unit 3 of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) from January 3, 2001 to June 1, 2001. The extended outage of Unit 3, which has a nameplate capacity of 1,080 MW, was one cause of the rolling blackouts that occurred in California during February 2001.9 Unit 3 was originally shut down for a refueling outage at the beginning of 2001. When engineers attempted to re-start the unit on February 3, 2001, a circuit breaker fault caused a fire and related damage to plant equipment.

The supply shortage caused by the Unit 3 outage was compounded by the refueling outage of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Unit 2 from the end of April 2001 to June 1-2, 2001. This refueling outage was originally intended to be non-coincident with the outage of SONGS Unit 3. The figure above clearly shows the increase in electricity supply that occurred when both nuclear units came back on-line at the same point at the beginning of June 2001.
pdf warning

Getting all nukes back on-line was the end of the California electricity crisis.


Your conclusion that wind "lessens the need for coal-fired plants - of for nuclear" is incorrect. Given the uncertain nature of wind and the expectation of reliable electrical supply that technological societies demand, capacity under the full control of the grid operators must still be built and maintained in hot standby.

See this discussion:
No technical limitation to wind power penetration

A MW of wind does not displace a MW of conventional generation capacity - quite far from that. But a kWh of wind pretty much displaces a kWh of conventional capacity.

Thus wind farms do not eliminate the need for coal plants, but do reduce the need to use them - which is what matters from a global warming perspective.

And the fact of the matter is- we have more than enough conventional power. Let's stop building any more - that would already be a huge progress, and let's slowly start using the existing capacity less (starting first and foremost by reducing the coal-fired generation).

As to subsidies, all studies show that conventional sources of energy are subsidized a lot more than wind - it's just done in less explicit ways.

[Deleted as redundantly posted]

Not on "hot standby", but cold (worst case).

Wind does not suddenly and without warning becalm over large geographic areas in an hour or so.

A decent size pumped storage unit or hydroelectric power reserve can offset wind power quite nicely.

Many dams can be retrofitted with larger/more turbines to increase their short term peaking ability (and reduce spill during periods of heavy rain). This was a topic at the last HydroVision conference.

Failing enough waterpower, natural gss is the best quick response back-up.

Best Hopes for MUCH more wind power,


Let's not forget the very promising distributed storage solutions of PHEVs with a smart grid. They work with wind exceedingly well.

Right on, Alan and YS.

Full costing on carbon is necessary and coming. PHEV's will offer storage; but we'll need scale. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

I have heard that something like 10% of the fleet, and I believe this in the Pacific Northwest, would provide "valley filling". With govt subsidies in various forms, this is very doable. I imagine the number would be higher in other areas of the country without as much hydroelectric power. You would just need more batteries to store the off-peak power.

I was saddened to read the NY Times article on the fight to subsidize CTL.

Yosemite-- Now you are talking. Within a few years (I am old, so "few" to me might mean "many" to the next guy) we will see radical reductions in fossil oil demand, if oil stays above $60 a barrel. Solar and wind can feed into existing utility networks, to help PHEVs recharge. I live in L.A. and I think 1 percent of rooftops have solar (or maybe it was 1 in 1000, I forget). Anyway, huge room for growth. Peopl ein LA actually want to buy PHEVs (or Hummers, but take credit where you can).
Already, world fossil crude demand slowed to 0.9 percemt in 2006, according to EIA. It was 3.1 percent in 2004.
This year I sense it is going flat. We have crude back-ups at Cushing etc. Some tankers slow in transit, have to wait to unload.
Go wind farms! I love you guys. You are not sniveling. You are doing. Pile it on, and never stop. I wish for windy weather.

To bring a cold 1500 MWe nuke or coal plant from cold shutdown to full power takes 24 to 48 hours. Too fast and you get thermal fatigue and big maintenance bills. Wind can stop faster than big, cold coal or nuclear units can startup but that is really neither here nor there. Hot standby, cold shutdown, or spinning reserve, it doesn't make much difference economically.

You missed the economic point - otherwise unused generation capacity MUST be available to backup wind capacity. Grid operators can NOT count on wind as capacity - only as energy. Reliable units get paid for just being there and on-call ("capacity payments") but not so wind.

For systems with a prepondance of expensive natural gas or oil fired generation, wind is at its best advantage. Fuel bills will decrease but at the expense of the additional investment in the wind mills. One saves nothing in the gas-fired capital costs. A large, simple cycle gas turbine can startup and load within 10 minutes - a fuel-efficent CCGT takes much longer but less than a nuke.

Many would like to credit energy storage facilities ONLY to their favorite "renewables" but seem to miss the point that these are GRID resources and work to the advantage of nuclear equally well. A new large-scale pumped storage facility might facilitiate more nuclear even more than it does renewables.

Someone mentioned "Green Mountain Power" - I'm fine with individuals paying the premium for wind power out of their own pockets. What we are arguing about is FORCING people to pay for wind power when the advantages seem so vaporous. Worst, investments in wind have preempted really useful investments in new nuclear power.

Worst, investments in wind have preempted really useful investments in new nuclear power

Ahh, Bad wind is stealing money from good ole nuke !

First, new nuke is going to be the late arriver and it's date is VERY unpredictable !

I am sure you noted the order a few months ago for two new nukes from TXU. Commercial dates were a VERY vague 2015 to 2020. Quite frankly, NO ONE knows when they will be finished (just guesses).

OTOH, new WTs can be added to existing wind farms in 18 months and new windfarms have a 30 to 36 month lead time typically.

I do not think that the USA can ramp up to even four new nukes going commercial/year much before 2030. Experienced personnel alone will slow down any rapid ramp-up (nuke grade materials will too). And by 2030, retirements of nukes will absorb some of the new reactor generation. And 5 or 7 GW of new nuke in 2030 will not have much of an impact on our problems.

Nuke can ONLY play a small, Johnny come late role in supplanting natural gas and coal fired generation. We just CANNOT build them as fast as we can install WTs.

Now, I do support a small role for nuke. But that is ALL nukes are capable of before my life expectancy ends (I am 53). Nuke has it's chance in the 1970s and just blew it.

Best Hopes for MORE wind power ASAP,


BTW, you are wrong about coal powered power plants. With affordable adjustments (remachining turbine blade roots to make them thinner, etc.) they can get to half power in a couple of hours from a cold start. And it costs little to keep them on standby. Labor and little else.


Alan, make the simple math: wind power addition last year in US was 2300MW; at 30% availability this corresponds to 767MW nuclear at 90% (typical nuke load). Even allowing for a sustained 10% growth rate (very unlikely IMO - backup and infrastructure bottlenecks will kick in much sooner), by 2020 wind would have added 18GW nuke equvelent in total. All of this assuming that there will be enough backup capacity to support such expansion.

Cost to complete (at $1400/kwt per Jerome's post) ~ $76 billion (subsidies not counting)

At the same time there are 30 new nuclear units on the planning boards; if those get build by 2020 we are going to have ~40GW by 2020

Cost to complete (at $2000/kwt) ~ $80 billion

More than twice the results for the same money.

Yes, nuclear may be the late starter but it can very well be the first to reach the finish. Just watch and see when the lights start flickering.

[edited for incorrect numbers quoted by memory]

You get VERY different results with 30% annual compounded growth in wind and those 30 nukes finished by by 2027 (optimistic). And I expect lower costs/MWh curve to return.

A Peak Oil recession will drop material prices significantly.

The first two new nukes are scheduled for 2015 to 2020. How the heck are you going to build 28 more in that same time frame ? Personnel issues alone will block that timetable (unless you build a series of Zimmers, where those without nuke experience ran the construction and zero nuke watts ever).

The US peaked at 4 new nukes/year and it will take a couple of decades to rebuild that capacity. By the time we built Palo Verde, we finally figured out how to do it.

I do expect the lights to flicker as NG runs short.

And 40 GW is NOT enough to keep them from flickering,



You have a point about man-power constraining our ramp rate for new nukes.

I'm working 60-70 hour weeks on my project - for the last year and it looks like no break in sight. The first unit will come on line by 2015 or I'll die trying.

I'm almost to the point of wishing for H1-B visas for all those nuclear engineers in UK, Germany, Sweden, etc.

A Peak Oil recession will drop material prices significantly.

Do others agree with this? I tend to go back and forth between thinking PO will make materials cheaper, then thinking it will make them more expensive.

Probably more likely to make them briefly cheaper, THEN more expensive permanently. Or is it?

This is a very good question. The race will be between general demand destruction, material inputs cost increases, and energy investment increases.

I did some back of the envelope calcs on the Hirsch Report for alternates to conventional oil. The annual capital investments just for the oil industry would probably double to maintain liquid hydrocarbon output with a 3% depletion rate for conventional oil.

I think energy capital investment needs post-peak is a topic worthy of an in-depth look by heavyweights.

The US freight railroads are investing $10 billion this year and it is not enough.

Much of this investment is going for very long lived infrastructure - 40, 50, 80 and 100+ year life expectancies. So there will be a cumulative effect post-peak Oil.

Best Hopes for expanding railroads,


Alan - we agree!

Here in California, we've voted bonds for a high speed SF/LA rail line but it's going nowhere.

Why? Opposition from the Sierra Club and other environmentalist groups.

Your facts are wrong.

The bond vote is coming up (delayed by the Governater). I am not aware of any Sierra Club et all opposition although SOMEONE always opposes everything.

You wrongly blame the environmentalists for delay.

I am NOT a fan of CA HSR for the following reasons.

1) It uses too much electricity

2) It does not carry freight, the greater need in CA.

3) It is not the best use of $60 billion

4) It will have sound impacts that will limit speed in some areas.

I would prefer something copied from the best railroad in the world, SBB. Semi-High speed pax service (say @ 110 mph) combined with medium density freight at 90 to 100 mph in speciality cars and 70 mph in normal rail freigth cars.

It could be built for less and do more.

Would I vote yea for an imperfect solution ?

I do not know.

Best Hopes for the Better Solutions,


Ok,I take it back - thanks for pointing out my mistake in thinking we agreed on anything.

The environmentalist opposition is in the routing. To connect SF and Silicon Valley directly to LA, the route would go through Henry Coe State Park, an old ranch in the hills SW of San Jose. It is a pretty mundane park - a rail line through it would not be that upsetting IMHO.

The alternate is a route over the Altamont Pass leaving the largest population (South Bay and Silicon Valley) in a cul de sac and making the project a loser.

One goal is to relieve air congestion between the Bay Area and the LA Basin which is close to saturation.

Having ridden Amtrak I would think that segregrating freight and passenger traffic would be a great thing helping both.

Having ridden Amtrak I would think that segregrating freight and passenger traffic would be a great thing helping both

Amtrak is very near the bottom of the heap in worldwide management & operations. SBB (Swiss Rail) is at the top, and they do management consulting. (Would you rather live next to a Swiss nuke, or an ex-Soviet nuke ?)

The Swiss voted in 1998 for a twenty year rail upgrade (their rail was already very good) costing 31 billion Swiss francs.

Adjust for population and currency, this is like the US voting $1 trillion for improved rail. The most important goal (and the one that pays for all the rest) is shifting freight from heavy trucks to (hydro) electric rail.

Centerpiece is a series of tunnels (57 km, 20 km, 15 km) that provide a flat straight rail route between Zurich & Milan. Almost half of total costs on this one route.

Just two tracks, they plan to operate a couple of hundred trains/day. Pax at 240 kph, express freight in specialty cars @ 160 kph and regular freight at 90 to 115 kph. All mixed and controlled.

This solution would be FAR better than the planned HSR. Veggies from the Central Valley to market, parcels, imported goods in containers (exports too).

California is desperately short of rail capacity and this be a major plus, taking freight off trucks and faster than driving (but slower than flying).

Environmental impact is reduced as one slows down (as the square of speed from memory).

I strongly suspect that the rail line would cut the park in two. A couple of bridges or underpasses to get to the other side. It would be fenced off and grade sepearated.

Best Hopes for Better Solutions,


40% of the rail freight capacity in the United States (and other countries like China) can be freed up by switching from coal energy.

We move 1.2 billion tons of coal mostly on rail, but some on trucks and some on barges.

If we swapped out the coal plant with a nuclear plant, then the land and energy infrastructure of the coal plants could be re-used but without the carbon and other emissions. The nuclear waste should be reprocessed (as is done in France, UK and Japan) and eventually high burn reactors can be made.

200-300 reactors in the US could be used to supplant coal.
China has a study where 300 nuclear reactors are proposed


Were it not for coal, Wyoming would not need 3 (and now 4 in places) track rail lines built to the heaviest standards. One track with passing sidings on "medium duty" rail and ties would do for Wyoming.

The coal cars can also carry gravel and few other commodities, but how much gravel do we need ?

The coal locos ar extra big, and designed for their heavy duty role. Using them on container trains would be like hitching up a plow horse to a buggy. It "works" but it is not ideal.

In other words, the freed up coal capacity cannot be redeployed like aircraft can be.

Perhaps some can be torn up and reused, but this is labor intensive.

Best Hopes for less coal burning,


I am all for more wind power. We should build more of it and all other power except coal. However, let me correct your statements.

If you look at the list of nuclear plants in the USA and when they were completed

12 nuclear plants were completed in 1974, 10 in 1973, 8 in 1972. There were years in the eighties with 8 completed.
Before 1968 only small reactors were built. Only two had over 400MW, but most were less than 100MW. 1969, 1970, 1971 had 3-4 each year, then in 1972 the 8 reactors. So from a relative standing start the scale up was rapid to the peak of 12/year. We are in a better position now because US rebuilt a new nuclear plant and is switching on Browns Ferry 1 this year.

The nuclear industry is a global industry. So the experience developed from the 30 nuclear plants that are being completed now globally by Westinghouse, Areva, GE and other global firms will mostly be transferrable to the US build up. Fly in some of the project managers and lead foreman etc...


Besides building more nuclear reactors, it has been possible to increase operational performance.

The rate of increase in units of energy, delivered as electrical power per year in the period between 1993 and 2005 (12 years). The units of this calculation will be thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

Nnadir at dailykos compared the increased power per year from 1993 to 2005 of non-fossil fuel sources in the United States

Wood (biomass): 96 thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

Waste: - 259 thousand megawatt-hours/per year. Negative number.

Geothermal: - 190 thousand megawatt-hours/per year. Negative number.

Solar: (Usually everybody's favorite): +8

Wind (Another favorite): 1345 thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

Overall, renewable energy in the United States has increased at a rate of 1000 thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

The nuclear energy figure is 16,203 thousand megawatt-hours per year for nuclear even without building a new plant. Where did all this energy come from if no new plants were built? Improved operations mostly.


Recent work from MIT indicates that existing nuclear plants could be modified to safely generate 50% more energy.

This can be done by changing the shape of the fuel from rods to cylinders and by adding nanoparticles to the water. A power uprating application takes about a 18-24 month to be processed.

So applying the MIT work over the next 10 years would add 390 billion kWh in the USA, even without new plants.


Joseph Somsel,

Gosh, thank you for allowing me the privilege of purchasing electricity from Green Mountain (Irony alert) That's very white of you to allow me to be green. Their prices are exactly the same as Reliant's "price to beat". I don't pay a premium.

When Houston Lighting and Power, Reliant's predecessor before the break up in deregulation, built the South Texas Nuclear Project at Bay City I wasn't given a vote. When they built the giant coal plant at Thompsons that is the biggest point source for particulate matter pollution and mercury pollution in the metropolitan area I wasn't given a vote. And when Texas Genco, the successor to HL&P in generating went private I wasn't given a vote.

But, I can take my money out of their pockets! And by keeping my useage low, they won't need to build more coal capacity for me, or more subsidised nuclear either.

In most states prior to deregulation, a government body like the PUC would issue a "certificate of public convenience and necessity" prior to construction. They are accountable to the legislature and hence to you, the voter. Of course, you are correct that there was no referendum.

With most states having a mandated "green" buy, what is Green Mountain selling anymore? We've just raised our rates to match the green marketers.

I remember interviewing with HP&L back in the early 80's to work on STP 1 and 2. I wasn't impressed with the crew nor the area and didn't get an offer either. Today, I'm working with the STPNOC on 3 and 4. They are a top-notch organization, one of the best I've seen.

As to your case against a local coal plant, "biggest point source" doesn't mean a threat to your health. I'm no fan of coal but I recognize it will remain necessary for a long time to come.

I would love the opportunity to purchase just nuclear power here in California. It is by far the cheapest year-round source of non-government power available. However that is not a choice. Without it, the overall power rates would increase.

As to your own electric consumption, conservation is a virtue I recognize and applaud.

Joseph, I apologise. I have a strong streak of a**hole in my personality sometimes. I think nuclear is a great option for replacing much of our fossil fuel use, just as wind and solar should replace much of it. Thanks for being an engineer and working towards practical solutions!


I get a bit sharp and testy at times too.

Apology accepted.


Yes but neither wind nor hydro can provide adequate fast-frequency response in my opinion which is essential for grid security. This is the first response to a loss of power in the grid, and is provided by conventional generators simply supplying more fuel to the prime mover (the engine that's turning the generator). Hydro cannot provide this type of response for technical reasons (they draw power from the grid for the first few fractions of a second of operation), and wind cannot be "turned up" at will.

That is easily solved through a common technique used today.

Run a multi-pole generator (most hydro generators are ten to 18 pole) with a multi-ton turbine in the air. Mechanical inertia can support power for a few seconds till water is added.

Much the same as a FF plant operating at an inefficient half output, except the FF plant has substantially less mechanical inertia for those first few seconds.


BTW, multi-pole generators are neat and have a variety of good impacts on the grid.


Thanks for your disclaimer. It is honest from your side and clarifies your position in front of the readers, beyond any doubt. The article is quite comprehensive and quite neutral, even it is clear that you defend the wind power and its related industry.

Now, some questions and comments for you to ask for your opinion:

1. Certainly, the USA is one of the countries with bigger potential worldwide in wind power, due to the extension, nature and technological and financial capabilities. Having said that, the present 0.7 percent of the total electricity consumed, is not very encouraging.

2. The capacity factor in Spain is about 25% at the end of the real day, and is one of the best worldwide, due to the mountainous nature and the long sea shores and straits. And, of course, having installed first, where the best wind conditions were given (i.e. class 6 wind fields). Therefore, being generous and optimist and extrapolating a similar percentage of capacity factor for the rest of the world, today we must be generating some 74.2 GW times 8,760 by a 25 percent factor = 162 TWh/year. Considering that in 2005 the total electricity generated was 18,184 TWh, this represents today some 0.9 percent, as correctly shown in your table 1.

3. But this took and effort of several years, for several powerful countries (in economy and technology, with very well developed state infrastructures to legislate and promote wind farms), to reach to the present level. Now, to put within the global context, please realize that just from 2004 to 2005 the global electricity consumption grew from 17,532 to 18,184 TWh. This is 652 TWh more than in 2004. And it is 4 times more than all the global wind power electricity of the global park installed up to date. In just one year of global electricity growth and with one third of the world without electricity. It is obvious that the kart is pulling from the Pegasus, the flying horse, and not the vice versa.

4. Even in Spain, second country in wind power, only after Germany, with the 11,614 MW installed base, the global wind power electricity generated in 2006 was 20 TWh, but the electricity production grew in 12TWh, just from 2004 to 2005. Just in one year. That is more than half of all the decade effort in installing wind power in the second most enviable country in the world. And it is about 3.5 times less energy than the one increased, in installed power, just between 2004 and 2005; that is supposed to grow to stay in this level forever (or to increase). Again the kart pulling the Pegasus.

5. You wrote

Even though most of market growth now comes from newcomers, like France or Canada, countries like Spain and Germany are still adding 10-15% new capacity to their existing stock each ye “As I wrote in an earlier diary (No technical limitation to wind power penetration), there's still a lot to go before integration of wind into the grid becomes an issue.

But in my humble opinion, it is still to be seen if the slow down shown in Germany, Denmark and Spain (with the three desperately seeking for offshore, much more costly fields in per installed MW basis or even in per GWh generated basis, despite of the claim of “more stable and sustained winds”) it is due to problems in the grid, that is the techniocal network limits for feed-in this impredictable energy....

Or, much more important, if it is more because these countries are running out of class 6 wind onshore fields.
And going to class 5 or 4 represents an additional effort for either the promoters and/or the States supporting these developments.

Frankly speaking, it smells much more the second. And if this case is confirmed, then the reference model countries will end up with some 10 to 20% of their respective national electricity demand within less than a decade and the feasible wind fields saturated. Any additional field will be an economic and energetic ruinous business (generation increases and decreases, as you very well know, in cubic form with the wind speed). And if the economic model is not questioned, a 20% of any type of consumption, including an increase in generated electricity, the impressive effort of wind power deployment of these pioneering cuntries will be swallowed within 6 years of economic and energetic growth at a moderate 3% annual growth. Pathetic, isn’t it?

6. In your conclusions, you wrote:

windpower is a good bet for utilities: its cost will not increase with the price of gas and oil, and is already lower than other sources. It is a perfect business hedge against oil & gas dependence.

Let me just doubt it. Wind power is extremely sensitive to price of labor, huge machines and cranes needed, steel, copper, concrete and glass and carbon fibers, and all of them are very much related and linked to the price of the fossil fuels, from which they heavily depend for its mining, transportation, preforming, manufacturing, installation and maintenance. In fact, the technological breakthroughs claimed by many as the key driver to lower costs are, again in my humble opinion horses being hastily pulled by the kart of the row materials continuously increased costs.

6. Please observe that I have not talked on birds, visual pollution, disco or zoom effects on certain populations. Or problems with the fishermen and the international and coastal navigation. Nor I have talked on my suspect that many EROEI studies are quite biased in favor of the industry. Nor I have talked on the crazy idea that this could one day, not only supply a great deal of the world electricity, but additionally be used to replace liquid fuels, by serving as source to carrier means like hydrogen

I will finish my comments remembering my favorite phrase: they are non renewable systems able to capture renewable energy.

Sorry if I dropped an icy jug of water on the wind power business. Just trying to put in perspective what we have at the moment and a small reflection on where do we want to go.

Good luck with the developments in the United States.

Pedro from Madrid

Pedro, Anyone can throw cold water on anything. But we have to start somewhere. Nuclear, coal, gas, indeed everything, has pluses and minuses. When wind power reaches 10% penetration in the world we can then worry about the problems too much wind power may bring. By then we will have lots of other problems to occupy us.

People worry about bird kills made by wind power. They conveniently forget the slaughter that occurs daily on our roads of thousands of birds and lots of humans, too. Thousands of birds are killed daily when they run into our buildings. People don't think about that. How about the birds that are fried on our electric wires?

We will need to push every energy option we have if we are to get rid of fossil fuels. Some options will work out better than others. Some will fail. In the end we simply will not have the convenience of FFs.

solar1, the bird kills are overexagerated. Coal strip mining causes habitat distruction, and also the pollution harms bird lungs as badly as human lungs. What is the effect on migratory fowl from global warming? Has anybody studied the effects of the mercury from coal on the wildlife?

Nothing is without cost. But some costs are greater than others.

I sold Green Mountain accounts at Featherfest in Galveston a couple of years ago, a local convention of birdwatchers that comes every year for the spring migration. Did pretty well too. There I learned that wind turbine blades turn more slowly due to redesign and are killing an average of 1 bird a month per wind turbine. This was from an ornitholgist who had a consulting contract to monitor a site that was expanding to make sure it was out of migratory flyways. The feral cats living under the house next door kill more birds than that weekly!

Greetings to TOD
Not being in the energy industry I read TOD as it has insights which I can use elsewhere.

The remarks noted above are interesting and when compared with the discussion on the article below
"No technical limitation to wind power penetration"
which was highlighted earlier on in the discussion, which seems in some respects to take an opposite view - to the outsider it seems a really complex subject that is very difficult to fully understand as the variables are so many.

But the ongoing discussion is very interesting and for the numerous "Lurkers" we do appreicate it.

I am more optomistic about wind in the midwest than any other technology.

Midamerica energy and IES utilities in the midwest have and are investing heavily in wind. Warren Buffet (via Bershire Hathaway) has a major stake in Midamerica and sits on their board. I have learned to watch very carefully where Mr. Buffet invests his money.

not about wind, but anytime someones claims a break through in computing its worth a read.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

the actual sale price of wind power has been in the lower half, or even below the range in which wholesale prices for electricity moved for the past 4 years

Actually in a competitive market this speaks quite badly for wind power - what it means is that wind power producers are unable to sell their product at the prevailing market rates. The obvious reason should be wind power variability and the discounts power producers must offer to sell it when wind is not needed. The idea that this means wind power is "competitive" looks a bit like a marketing twist to me - lower selling price does no mean lower production costs per se.

To asses the competitivness of wind power you must provide the current investment costs per MWth produced (as opposed to kW installed) - this would give a better insight of the economics of wind and how much it depends on subsidies.

1. In terms of cost, how does wind with pumped storage compare to plain wind, on a kWh basis?

2. What percentage of US (or world) wind capacity has pumped storage?

3. How important do you feel pumped storage is to the future of wind electric energy?

4. Are there any subsidies available for pumped storage?


I would add an additional question.

What is the cost of wind power with storage compared to wind with the requisite conventional backup?

The decision for the utility or the power provider, it seems to me, is what is the point where storage makes sense compared to conventional backup.

Even though, apparently, one can only reduce conventional capacity by 25% of the wind capacity added, that doesn't mean that all or even most of the retained will be cranking out power. The question is, what percentage of this residual capacity will be called on when one reaches extremely high (50% or greater) renewable energy.

Who is modeling these kinds of issues?

Good article, thanks for posting.

Are you aware of any large scale wind power installations that have gone up along mountain ridges, other than the well-known wind farm on Altamont Pass, California? I've seen lots of examples along coasts and in the prairies, but I'm not seeing much mention of ridgelines.

We've got some difficult decisions looming here in North Carolina. According to the 2003 NC State Energy Plan, the areas in our state with the best potential for wind energy development are along the mountain ridges and off the Outer Banks (coastal barrier islands). Unfortunately, both are highly valued and legally protected viewsheds; they are really considered NC's "crown jewels". Also unfortunately, most of our hydro potential has already been developed, and our solar potential is only so-so. Unless we go the French route with massive investments in nukes, NC has no other good alternative but to bite the bullet and put in the wind farms. This is going to be very contentious and painful.

Wind farms, etc. is not going to solve the major problem that is roaring down the road and about to smack the US straight in the nose.


If you had to add in the amount of electricity needed to take the place of NG for heating how many wind farms will you need. How many extra nuke plants. How many yada yada.

Natural Gas is used for a great deal of electricity in the NE and in CA.

The cost of replacing a system that uses NG and change over to WHAT.

Where are all the supposed plug in vehicles going to get their charge.

NG is the main method of heating in a huge amount of the country.

I checked the close of NG at Bloomberg. It shows its over 8 bucks. Its going up at a time when demand is low. A hot summer in the NE and the need for juice for electricity in the NE from the NG power plants could wipe out the build up for the winter.

Denver had rolling blackouts this past winter, which didn't get any press except from stories on the net.

Electricity is only a portion of the problem of energy in this country. Natural Gas prices and Gasoline prices will bring the consumer to their knees, and it doesn't look far off.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

I have thought long about placing this here. I went back and reread this, and when I read the last sentence I knew I should post it. Most will disregard or shake their heads. This I cannot help. Though, I can't say I didn't at least try. This is only a small piece and I know most of you don't have a clue to the native american culture, on any continent, much less here.

These words are small piece of what has been handed down for many generations. They are not new, but very old. To you it may seem like a long read, but its short compared to the history behind his words. Some may have heard of some of this, bits and pieces. The Hopi's remain in place, waiting, and praying. Many have left, but still many remain. There are many that have bastardized the teachings, so many websites are false with additional "new age" teachings.

Walk in Peace

Creator is Chief

yellow turtle (PX)

Lee Brown, Cherokee

(Excerpts from a talk at the 1986 Continental Indigenous Council, Fairbanks, Alaska)

There was the cycle of the mineral, the rock. There was the cycle of the plant. And now we are in the cycle of the animal coming to the end of that and beginning the cycle of the human being. When we get into the cycle of the human being, the highest and greatest powers that we have will be released to us.

At the beginning of this cycle of time, long ago, the Great Spirit made an appearance and gathered the peoples of this earth together, and said to the human beings, "I'm going to send you to four directions, and over time I'm going to change you to four colors, but I'm going to give you some teachings, and you will call these the Original Teachings; when you come back together with each other, you will share these so that you can live and have peace on earth, and a great civilization will come about. During the cycle of time, I'm going to give each of you two stone tablets. When I give you those stone tablets, don't cast them upon the ground. If any of the sisters and brothers cast their tablets on the ground, not only will human beings have a hard time, but almost the earth itself will die."

And so He gave each of us a responsibility, and we call that the Guardianship. To the Indian people, the red people, He gave the Guardianship of the Earth. We were to learn during this cycle of time the teachings of the earth, the plants that grow from the earth, the foods that you can eat, and the herbs that heal so that, when we came back together with the other sisters and brothers, we could share this knowledge with them. Something good was to happen on the earth.

To the South He gave the yellow race of people the Guardianship of the Wind. They were to learn about the sky and breathing and how to take that within ourselves for spiritual advancement. They were to share that with us at this time.

To the West He gave the black race of people the Guardianship of the Water. They were to learn the teachings of the water, which is the chief of the elements, being the most humble and the most powerful. The elders have told me that the black people would bring the teachings of the water.

To the North He gave the white race of people the Guardianship of the Fire. If you look at the center of many of the things they do, you will find the fire. They say a light bulb is the white man's fire. If you look at the center of a car you will find a spark. If you look at the center of the airplane and the train you will find the fire. The fire consumes, and also moves. This is why it was the white sisters and brothers who began to move upon the face of the earth and reunite us as a human family.

And so a long time passed, and the Great Spirit gave each of the four races two stone tablets. Ours are kept at the Hopi Reservation in Arizona at Four Corners Area on Third Mesa. I talked to people from the black race, and their stone tablets are at the foot of Mount Kenya. They are kept by the Kukuyu Tribe. I was at an Indian spiritual gathering about 15 years ago. A medicine man from South Dakota put a beaded medicine wheel in the middle of the gathering. It had the four colors from the four directions; he asked the people, "Where is this from?" They said, "Probably Montana, or South Dakota, maybe Saskatchewan." He said, "This is from Kenya." It was beaded just like ours, with the same colors.

The stone tablets of the yellow race of people are kept by the Tibetans. If you went straight through the Hopi Reservation to the other side of the world, you would come out in Tibet. The Tibetan word for sun is the Hopi word for moon, and the Hopi word for sun is the Tibetan word for moon.

"When the iron eagle flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered over the earth and the dharma will go to the land of the red man." --Tibetan Prophecy
"When the iron bird flies, the red-robed people of the East who have lost their land will appear, and the two brothers from across the great ocean will be reunited." --Hopi Prophecy]

The guardians of the traditions of the people of Europe are the Swiss. In Switzerland, they still have a day when each family brings out its mask. They still know the colors of the families, and they still know the symbols, some of them. Each of these four peoples happen to live in the mountains.

Each of the four races went to their directions and learned their teachings. It was in Newsweek not long ago that eight out of ten foods that people eat on the earth are developed here in the western hemisphere because that was our Guardianship -- to learn the teachings of the earth and the things that grow from the earth. We were given a sacred handshake to show, when we came back together as sisters and brothers, that we still remembered the teachings.

It was indicated on the stone tablets that the Hopis had that the first sisters and brothers who would come back to them would come as turtles across the land. They would be human beings, but they would come as turtles. So when the time came close, the Hopis were at a special village to welcome the turtles that would come across the land. They got up in the morning and looked out at the sunrise. They looked out across the desert, and they saw the Spanish conquistadores coming, covered in armor, like turtles across the land. So this was them. So they went out to the Spanish man, and they extended their hand, hoping for the handshake. But into the hand the Spanish man dropped a trinket. And so word spread throughout North America that there was going to be a hard time, that maybe some of the brothers and sisters had forgotten the sacredness of all things and all the human beings were going to suffer for this on the earth.

So tribes began to send people to the mountains to have visions to try to figure out how they could survive. At that time there were 100,000 cities in the Mississippi Valley alone, called the mound civilization: cities built on great mounds. Those mounds are still there. They began to try to learn to live off the land because they knew a hard time was going to come. They began to send people to have visions to see how we could survive this time. They were told in the prophecies that we should try to remind all the people that would come here of the sacredness of all things. If we could do that, then there would be peace on earth. But if we did not do that, if we had not come together as a human family, the Great Spirit would grab the earth with His hand and shake it.

The elders on the west coast prophesied that they would then begin to build a black ribbon. And on this black ribbon there would move a bug. And when you begin to see this bug moving on the land, that was the sign for the First Shaking of the Earth. The First Shaking of the Earth would be so violent that this bug would be shaken off the earth into the air and it would begin to move and fly in the air. And by the end of this shaking this bug will be in the air around the world. Behind it would be a trail of dirt and eventually the whole sky of the entire earth would become dirty from these trails of dirt, and this would cause many diseases that would get more and more complicated. So the bug moving on the land, of course it's easy to see now. In 1908 the Model-T Ford was mass produced for the first time. So the elders knew the First Shaking of the Earth was about to come about -- that was the First World War.

In the First World War the airplane came into wide usage for the first time. That was that bug moving into the sky. And so they knew something very important would happen. There would be an attempt to make peace on earth on the west coast of this land, and so the elders began to watch for this. They began to hear that there was going to be a League of Nations in San Francisco, so the elders gathered in Arizona around 1920 or so, and they wrote a letter to Woodrow Wilson. They asked if the Indian people could be included in the League of Nations.

The United States Supreme Court had held that a reservation is a separate and semi-sovereign nation, not a part of the United States but protected by it. This became a concern because people didn't want the reservations to become more and more separate. They didn't want them to be considered nations. So they did not write back, and the Native people were left out of the League of Nations so that circle was incomplete. In the League of Nations circle there was a southern door, the yellow people; there was a western door, the black people; there was a northern door, the white people; but the eastern door was not attended. The elders knew that peace would not come on the earth until the circle of humanity is complete, until all the four colors sat in the circle and shared their teachings, then peace would come on earth.

So they knew things would happen. Things would speed up a little it. There would be a cobweb built around the earth, and people would talk across this cobweb. When this talking cobweb, the telephone, was built around the earth, a sign of life would appear in the east, but it would tilt and bring death (the swastika of the Nazis). It would come with the sun. But the sun itself would rise one day, not in the east but in the west (the rising sun of the Japanese Empire). So the elders said when you see the sun rising in the east, and you see the sign of life reversed and tilted in the east, you know that the Great Death is to come upon the earth, and now the Great Spirit will grab the earth again in His hand and shake it, and this shaking will be worse than the first. So the sign of life reversed and tilted, we call that the Swastika, and the rising sun in the east was the Rising Sun of Japan. These two symbols are carved in stone in Arizona. When the elders saw these two flags, they knew that these were the signs that the earth was to be shaken again.

The worse misuse of the Guardianship of the fire is called the gourd of ashes. They said the gourd of ashes will fall from the air. It will make the people like blades of grass in the prairie fire, and things will not grow for many seasons. The atomic bomb, the gourd of ashes, it was the best-kept secret in the history of the US. The elders wanted to speak about it in 1920.

They would have spoken of it and foretold its coming if they could have entered into the League of Nations. The elders tried to contact President Roosevelt to ask him not to use the gourd of ashes because it would have a great effect on the earth and eventually cause even greater destruction and a the Third Shaking of the Earth, the Third World War.

So they knew after the Second Shaking of the Earth when they saw the gourd of ashes fall from the sky, there would be an attempt to make peace on the other side of this land. And because the peace attempt on the west coast had failed, they would build a special house on the east coast of this Turtle Island, and all the nations and peoples of the earth would come to this house, and it would be called the House of Mica, and it would shine like the mica on the desert shines. So the elders began to see they were building the United Nations made out of glass that reflects like the mica on the desert so they knew this was the House of Mica, and all the peoples of the earth should go to it. So they met and talked about this. They said that in the 1920's they had written and they had not been responded to, so they said this time we'd better go to the front door of the House of Mica because things might get a lot worse.

So elders representing a number of tribes drove to New York City. When the United Nations opened, they went to the front door of the house of Mica and they said these words, 'We represent the indigenous people of North America, and we wish to address the nations of the Earth. We're going to give you four days to consider whether or not we will be allowed to speak.'

They retreated to one of the Six Nations Reserves in New York State. Four days later they came back, and I believe the nations of the earth heard that the Indians had come to the door. And they voted to let the Indians in. They wanted to hear what they had to say. But the United States is one of five nations of the United Nations with a veto power, and still they were concerned because this time the Native sovereignty was even stronger. And I believe they vetoed the entrance of the Native people.

So then they knew other things would happen on the Earth. So they retreated to the Six Nations Reserve, and they talked about this, and they said the time is really getting close now -- 1949. They said, "We're going to divide the United States into four sections, and each year we're going to have a gathering. We're going to call these the White Roots of Peace Gatherings." They began to have these around 1950. And they authorized certain people to speak in English for the first time about these prophecies.

One that I used to listen to many times, over and over, was Thomas Banyaca. He was authorized to speak in English about what was on the stone tablets, and he has dedicated his life to doing this. And they began to tell us at these gatherings, "You're going to see a time in your lifetime when the human beings are going to find the blueprint that makes us." They call that now DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid. They said, "They're going to cut this blueprint." They call that now genetic splicing. And they said, "They're going to make new animals upon the earth, and they're going to think these are going to help us. And it's going to seem like they do help us. But maybe the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to suffer." The elders said long ago, "They will release these things, and they will use them." This is going to be released not too long from now. They are making new animals. The elders talked about this. They said, "You will see new animals, and even the old animals will come back, animals that people thought had disappeared. They will find them here and there. They'll begin to reappear." [Note: Mr. Brown's talk was given about ten years before scientists announced that they had cloned a sheep.]

They said, "You're going to see a time when the eagle will fly its highest in the night, and it will land upon the moon. And at that time, many of the Native people will be sleeping," which symbolically means they have lost their teachings. We're at that time now. The Eagle has landed on the moon, 1969. When that spaceship landed, they sent back the message, "The Eagle has landed." Traditionally, Native people from clear up in the Inuit region have shared with us this prophecy, clear down to the Quechuas in South America.

At this time you're going to see that things will speed up, that people on the earth will move faster and faster. Grandchildren will not have time for grandparents. Parents will not have time for children. It will seem like time is going faster and faster. The elders advised us that, as things speed up, you yourself should slow down. The faster things go, the slower you go. Because there's going to come a time when the earth is going to be shaken a third time. The Great Spirit has shaken the earth two times: the First and Second World Wars to remind us that we are a human family, to remind us that we should have greeted each other as brothers and sisters. We had a chance after each shaking to come together in a circle that would have brought peace on earth, but we missed that.

Tonight they were talking on the news about the sign for the Third Shaking of the Earth. They said they're going to build what the elders called the house in the sky. In the 1950's they talked about this: they will build a house and throw it in the sky. When you see people living in the sky on a permanent basis, you will know the Great Spirit is about to grab the earth, this time not with one hand, but with both hands. When this house is in the sky, the Great Spirit is going to shake the Earth a third time, and whoever dropped that gourd of ashes, upon them it is going to drop. They say at that time there will be villages in this land so great that when you stand in the villages you will not be able to see out, and in the prophecies these are called villages of stone, or prairies of stone. And they said the stone will grow up from the ground, and you will not be able to see beyond the village. At the center of each and every one of these villages will be Native people, and they will walk as hollow shells upon a prairie of stone. They said hollow shells, which means they will have lost any of their traditional understandings; they will be empty within. They said that, after the Eagle lands on the moon, some of these people will begin to leave these prairies of stone and come home and take up some of the old ways and begin to make themselves reborn, because it's a new day. But many will not. And they said there's going to come a time when in the morning the sun is going to rise, and this village of stone will be there, and in the evening there would just be steam coming from the ground. They will be as steam. And in the center of many of those villages of stone, when they turn to steam, the Native people will turn to steam also because they never woke up and left the village.

They say there's going to be the Third Shaking of the Earth. It's not going to be a good thing to see, but we will survive it. We will survive it. And when we survive it, there's going to be another attempt to make a circle of the human beings on the earth. And this time the Native people will not have to petition to join but will be invited to enter the circle because they say the attitude toward us will have changed by then, and people will let us into the circle, and all the four colors of the four directions will share their wisdom, and there will be a peace on earth. This is coming close.

The prophecies are always either/or. We could have come together way back there in 1565, and we could have had a great civilization, but we didn't. Always along the path of these prophecies, we could have come together. We still could. If we could stop the racial and religious disharmony, we would not have to go through this third shaking. The elders say the chance of that is pretty slim. It seems to me like it's pretty slim, too. But they say what we can do is we can cushion it so it won't be quite as bad. How do we do this? We do this by sharing the teaching that will reunite us.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

* "If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster."
* "Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky."
* "A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."

"The movie has no dialogue but does feature the Hopi word koyaanisqatsi, translated as "life of moral corruption and turmoil" or "life out of balance."

Not to sully the sacred with the profane.. (Profane meaning literally: 'Outside or Before the Temple') but this film is where I first heard of Hopi thinking about the world.

Thanks for sharing this with us. Great Perspectives to be aware of.

Bob Fiske

WNC Observer, there's a windfarm in Culberson County, Texas just south of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park on a ridge line. Don't know the operator, but you could probably find out from the Texas Public Utilities Commission. There is also a giant windfarm near Iraan along I-10. TXU is the owner. I think they also own the wind farm in Nolan County, near Abilene on a ridge of the Rimrock.
You can get topo maps over the internet, and the company public relations can probably provide you with photos. But the real question is what's more ugly-a strip mined mountain and the brown cloud over the east coast from coal, or wind turbines? I know what I think.

I wonder if it is instructive to compare the situations in Germany (21gw installed, 7% utilisation) with Denmark (3gw, 21%). Other commentators have said that Denmark achieves that by 'laundering' windpower via Norwegian hydro. Germany, which I believe has feed-in tariffs for renewables, is nonetheless apparently considering some 20+ new coal plants.

Perhaps someone knows per head of population who does better? In terms of cost, GHGs, nuke percentage.

wrong thread


It is with great pleasure that fans of renewable grid connected energy should notice that the primary attack on wind and photovoltaic solar is now being aimed at the issue of intermittency of power. This seems to indicate other perceived failings of renewables are no longer considered to be “soft spots”, in other words, areas of performance that fall short of need in the use of wind/solar systems are becoming very hard to find indeed.

Allow me to point readers to an interesting, though little known organization that is hard at work on the issue of electric power storage:

Below is linked a PDF file of their most recent newsletter, and they have archived copies of older ones available, with a wealth of technical and developmental information

On page 5 of the newsletter is an article entitled:
“Appalachian Power Dedicates Mega Battery; Technology Provides Extra Power, Reliability”. Needless to say, this is not the type of story that makes it into the mainstream press, being of interest principally to us energy tech geeks, but it is important to the renewable power industry, in that it develops yet one more possible path in the effort to overcome the issue of power intermittency which is now the primary holdup to very rapid expansion of renewable energy on a grid scale level.

The battery in question is a Sodium Sulfur (NAS) battery of 1.2 megawatt, a large battery in comparison to most ever put into use. It is given as being able to provide 7.2 megawatt-hours, “enough for 500-600 homes for 6 to 7 hours. It will be charged at night, and then provide power in the day.

But less us take a look at this sodium sulfur battery. Below is the Wikipedia overview:

Contrary to what some may think, this is not a complex nor greatly expensive device per kilowatt hour delivered, and all indications are that service life can be long.

The primary disadvantage is that the battery must be run hot (300 to 350 degrees Cent.), and that the sodium (salt) is corrosive. The need for high tempeture is not a problem for a utility, given that they usually have a great deal of process heat on site anyway.

There are other options such as the vanadium redox flow battery, as used at the 2.5 Megawatt Huxley Hill Wind Farm in Tasmania.

What is of great interest is not only the fact that these systems are already being introduced and used, and on megawatt+ scale, but that whole strings can be written about wind power, proving over and over again with great precision that wind (and solar, by the way) can never be used to reduce the need for massive construction of nuclear, coal and natural gas plants, and by people who do seem to be very familiar with the utility and electric power industry, and not one mention of the advances in grid scale electric power storage will be mentioned.
In other words, nuclear, coal, and natural gas are given as the only possible alternatives, no matter how good wind and solar get (!)

Does that not surprise anyone?

Of course, it should not surprise anyone. The confluence of technology originally needed to make the electric power industry what it is today was great.
Breakthroughs had to be made in power turbines, generators, then in alternators, in step up and step down transformers, in switch and control gear, in cabling technology, and a thousand other areas. There were many who were sure, back at the birth of the last century, that it could not be done. Scientists, engineers and technicians worked around the clock to birth a great industry.

At the birth of this new century, many are betting that renewable energies and great efficiencies cannot be introduced into the power grid. But the work is already well underway. If the one hurdle to be overcome is “intermittency” then the road ahead will be easy compared to the first time around. Confluences of pumped storage and compressed air storage will blend with battery and flow battery systems, and blending into an intelligent network of smaller DG (Distributed Generation) systems, and in industrial and certain processing settings, thermal storage and waste heat recovery will mix with methane recapture at small engines and turbines to provide on demand power and peak shaving. The possibility for efficiency gains will be astounding. And yes, there will still be fossil fuel baseline grid plants. The developers of renewables have nothing against the grid, and despite the massive propaganda campaign being launched against them, are not going to do the grid harm.

Wind and Solar must be ready, however, to make their case, and make it STRONG. The onslaught of publicity coming at them will be fierce, they will face an attack unlike any they have known, not only from the fossil fuel industry, but from those who for whatever reason had predicted and hoped for a massive failure in the power generation industry.

We are now approaching the point of full confluence however, when the renewable energy industry, like the original electric power industry a century ago, will be almost impossible to kill in it’s crib. The momentum is gaining very, very fast. Costs are dropping in wind production, and in PV production. The renewable energy industry is beginning to gain some powerful customers.

Soon, the only thing that will grow more and more “intermittent” will be the ludicrous argument that production of one after the other after the other nuclear and coal plants must continue to be built, no matter how advanced, efficient and developed the renewables become. That argument will sound as silly as saying we have to continue to build coal powered steam trains, just in case the modern Diesel or electric ones fail.

Roger Conner Jr.
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Well said, Roger. I have a point or two to add. First, wind power is solar power expressed as the pressure differential between two areas. No solar, no wind. In either case, the collection area is by definition vast and the density low.

Wind is, at present, bottom feeding. The collection area discounts the boundary region yet has the costs of penetrating it, and then erects a paltry pinwheel of pathetically small cross sectional area which results in a rather minor collection ratio of available energy, i.e. the wind isn't appreciably slowed by the devices, that would be a mockery in any other industry. The available enrgy over a given spot on the planet extends upward for perhaps miles yet we are fussing about what we can scavenge pitifully inefficiently from the first hundred feet or so.

So what the hell is going on? I don't know, but I suspect that this is analogous to the staking of claims and doing the minimum annual work to hold the mineral rights. Claim the area and put up a few ceremonial pinwheels. From a point of view of percentage of harvestable energy on a vertical axis they are pathetic.

My second point derives from this in that the plane upon which wind is harvested is by definition vertical because wind blows horizontally. Land being for the most part horizontal places a pretty serious infrastructure cost upon wind power. The inescapable non 'solid state' nature of the enterprise would lead me to anticipate constant and forever ongoing maintenance costs.

Solar has the inbuilt advantage of land being at an advantageous attack angle to the incoming radiation. Solar thermal concentrators will win over any other device in the long run. By this I mean that if you had just dropped in from Mars and had no vested interests in any existing land ownership concepts or money schemes you would just bypass the folly of a concrete tower in the ocean and cut to the chase. By the looks of the FF industry, we may be forced to make that cut as soon as possible.

North Africa will build vast solar thermal powerplants very soon and run the power across the Med to Europe. It's on the drawing boards, and necessity will prevail. Technically it isn't a matter of feasability at all. Having the cutoff switch in the hands of the Algerians, Tunisians, Omar Khaddafy and so on is without doubt the major obstacle, and the vigor with which that would be denied will back me up.

The other huge obstacle to wind power is that solar is intermittent but predictable. You know the sun will shine this much over that much of the US tomorrow regardless. You know the direction and angle. Nuff said.

I lived in New Zealand for a while, and in winter the wind blew WSW 18 to 23 knots for about six months. Wonderful multihull sailing. Then, rather suddenly, it stopped dead, and after a few weeks began again from the opposite direction at half the speed as the trades came in. Predictable? Sort of. Bit of a flat spot though. Meanwhile the sun did its daily routine.

Thus, unless somebody comes up with something vastly superior to what we now have, I consider wind to be fine way to go sailing but a lousy way to generate reliable energy. Our endeavours would be, and will be, better placed elsewhere.

Feel free to continue, add, decry, pontificate or query, rant or denigrate as you wish. Thermodynamics will win anyway.


Thank you for the interesting and thoughtful feedback. And your points are well taken, it is interesting that we can get proposals for quarter mile high skyscrapers of dubious value, and they will recieve funding, but concepts for higher or airborne wind is dismissed as dreaming (by the way, what's the EROEI on a quarter mile tall skyscraper?)

With the gains being made in nano technology design, the PV industry is benefitting faster and by greater magnitude than wind energy, PV now closing the gaps fast. PV also has the advantage of easier regulatory acceptance, being placed on large rooftops, it is all but invisible to the publiic and totally silent (a considerable advantage). Frankly, large windmills do not mix well with neighborhoods.

We are still very much at the front of this revolution.
Thanks again,

Roger Conner Jr.
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Value of a skyscraper.

Tishman Speyer bought the MetLife Building for $604 per square foot, the company sold 666 Fifth for twice that, or $1,200 per square foot.

In 2000, Tishman Speyer led a group that bought Rockefeller Center, a commercial and retail complex, for $1.85 billion.

But the Tishman family’s history is intertwined with 666 Fifth. The 1.5-million-square-foot tower was developed by Tishman Realty and Construction and was originally known as the Tishman Building.
The rent is $71 per square foot per year for office space.

A skyscraper with 2 million sf of class A rentable office space can then make 128 million per year (with 10% vacancy). It could be sold for 1.2 to 2.4 billion. If you know that rents will be going up then the net present value would be higher.
Dubai office rent $89/sf/year
3 million sf Burj Dubai. Costing about $900 million to build. Should earn $250 million per year.

What is the ROI (return on investment) ?
Payback is under 4 years after completion for the Burj Dubai.

What is dubious about the value? There is no mystery why they will receive funding. Thousands of past projects that were the same making money.
Instead of saying, X does not make sense, try to understand why the investments choices are made. Having some understanding of basic economics will help you understand why current airborne wind projects are only pilot studies. With some more work you could make suggestions that will not be dismissed.



Oh, your economic point is well taken! I was being satirical and apparently it missed it's mark, sorry.

But you are exactly right, trust anyone who has attempted to get funding for any alternative energy venture (unless the government assures a return) to be well familiar with it.

On an economic basis, oil and gas are still so cheap as to be essentially non issues, and casinos, office towers, golf resorts, and cruise ships are much, much better investments, leaving any alt energy scheme in the dust if calculated on current energy prices. There is exactly the heart of the problem that TOD spends many hours discussing, isn't it?

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

When PV truly closes in on wind, I will be very happy. In the mean time, wind is considerably cheaper and approaches the cost of electricity from new conventional plants.

Does it have to be either/or? Let's pursue both, just as long as we can increase their oveall contribution as quickly as possible. I think the main advantage of PV is the feeling you are producing your own power, assuming the PV is on your own roof. But it still is a lot more expensive per kwhr on an amortized basis.

Those wind generators in Wyoming that I am currently getting my electricity from have no relevance to my neighborhood or anyone else's neighborhood. They are a thing of beauty.

Energy companies make wind power a top investment

“A price of "$45 a barrel is the threshold at which we're competitive with crude oil," Peter Kruse, a spokesman for Vestas, said on the phone from company headquarters in Randers, Denmark. "With wind, you know what the price of your fuel will be in the future. It will be zero."”