Offshore Wind

I spent most of this week at the big conference organised every two years by EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) on offshore wind, which took place in Berlin over this week.

all photos by author

(And yes, in case there is any doubt, I work in the industry, finance it and spoke at the conference)

It was a huge event, with close to 2,000 participants and a palpable energy and a sense of - finally - progress. The conference was attended by the ministers for energy or senior political representatives  from several countries (the UK, Germany, several Nordic countries - see the link above) and happened at the same time as an important German government meeting that decided to increase offshore tariffs to 14c/kWh, a strongly supportive measure which is likely to be the starting point of a massive wave of investment in the sector in that country. Interestingly, despite that decision, and the excitement it generated, the UK market is still seen as likely to be bigger than the German one over the next 10-15 years, with all other markets being somewhat smaller.

in black: existing wind farms; in blue: those scheduled for construction by 2009. Click to enlarge.

Just over 900MW of offshore wind had been built by end 2006 (compared to 74,000 MW onshore), as shown below, but the plan is to get to 40,000 MW of offshore wind in Europe by 2020, with approximately half in the UK, a quarter in Germany and the rest spread across Europe, mostly in the North Sea (which has good winds and shallow waters).

Click to enlarge

The industry, like others, has suffered from rapidly increasing costs in recent times, from increased commodity prices, overstretched suppliers and, it must be said, still unresolved technical difficulties with some turbine models that have been withdrawn from the market after encountering technical difficulties. There is a lot of focus on reaching a scale sufficient to rationalise and standardise both manufacturing and offshore installation, after the early years of projects designed on a case-by-case basis.

The  graph below reflects costs prior to commodity increases - but these apply equally to other sectors, so all technologies are more expensive today. The great advantage of wind in that respect, of course, is that once it is built, the cost is fixed: you only have to repay the initial investment, a fixed amount, and not to buy fuel, whether coal, natural gas or oil, whose prices can also increase - and indeed have. And an other overlooked advantage is that wind's marginal cost (the cost of production of an additional kWh) is close to zero, so whenever wind blows, this takes out more expensive producers and reduces prices for everybody. In fact, a Danish study has demonstrated that the resulting savings for that country are now larger than the subsidies provided to wind...

Even if it is unreliable due to its intermittency, wind still has a real effect on both electricity prices as well as on carbon emissions, as each kWh of wind will usually displace a marginal kWh generated by a gas or oil-fired plant.

Click to enlarge.

Offshore wind is still more expensive than onshore (thus the need for additional support in the early years of this new industry), but it responds to the fact that Europe is quite small and densely packed, and some areas will not be able to take more wind turbines, especially the huge models now available, which tower more than a hundred meters above ground. With winds at sea being stronger and more regular, it is the obvious place to put industrial size wind farms, and the hope is that economies of scale will eventually make it cost effective (it is already competitive compared to gas-fired power, given natural gas prices) - and of course, that production that can be scaled to levels that allow the sector to represent a significant fraction of total energy production. The European goal for 2020, 20% of all energy from renewable sources is quite ambitious, as it means that more than 20% of all electricity should come from wind by then.

Click to enlarge

Another obvious trend was how the industry is now dominated by the large players, in particular on the investor side - the business is essentially run by the big utilities, with a few independent developers remaining (and those that have good prospects are usually take-over targets for the bigger players right now). On the manufacturing side, the presence in the business of GE (currently absent from offshore as they have no appropriate turbine, their 3.6MW model having shown unsufficiently reliable performance), French nuclear energy giant Areva (via Multibrid, still in the early stages of integration), German engineering group Siemens (the dominant player offshore) shows that concentration is well under way, and the fate of Vestas (still the largest wind turbine manufacturer overall, but a small company compared to the big indistrial groups) and Repower (focused on offshore, but whose main shareholder, Indian-based Suzlon, is itself a pure wind player and thus quite small as well) will certainly become a hot issue in the future.

Offshore wind is heavy industry: a nacelle weights 100-300 tons, a blade is 50 meters long, a tower is 80 meter high, etc... Managing 20-30% p.a. growth rates in heavy industry is extremely hard to do - logistics, supply chains and financial commitments are complex, and a wrong bet on where demand will be (on the high or on the low side) can have devastating consequences.

Thus we need to ensure at least a level-playing field, with stable regulation over many years (the opposite of what has happened in the US over the past ten years, with the PTC, the main support mechanism for the industry being renewed haphazardly and for short periods only, leading to collapsing production in some years. The current version of the Energy Bill, as approved by the House, extends the PTC for 4 years, which is the best that has been done this decade, so it's progress.

Click to enlarge

Offshore wind is less urgent in the US than it is in Europe, as there is still plenty of room onshore to grow (and with a much better wind resource than in Europe) and thus less need to pay the higher cost of offshore, but there could be some projects in areas like the Great Lakes or in the densely populated North-East.

In any case, there is no silver bullet, and wind (and a fortiori offshore wind) is not by any means the only solution. But today, it is the technology with the best prospects to have a real impact on our carbon emissions, at a low economic cost, and with very real positive effects on overall employment, redevelopment of isolated areas, and security of supply.

Wind is free, clean, indigenous, and available today.

:: ::

Earlier wind power diaries:
Don Quixote meets Wall Street - financing wind farms
Energy - some good news (for once) (Wind)
The future of power generation
Wind power: birds, landscapes and availability (I)
My detailed dissection of Robert F. Kennedy Jr 's misguided Op-Ed on Nantucket Wind in the NYT
(original title: Robert F. Kennedy Jr is a lying, deceitful, pathetic NIMBY SELL OUT)
Something to take your mind off indictments: Windfarm blogging
Wind power now CHEAPER for US retail consumers
USA to become world leader in wind power in 2005
2005 was a great year for wind power worldwide
Alternative energies: wind power
wind power: debunking the critics
Wind farm kills eagles in 'large numbers'
My job
No technical limitation to wind power penetration
Wind power: some lessons from 2006
5MW with location picture (by PeWi)
Solar Photovoltaic vs Wind (by Laurent Guerby)

Thanks for this Jerome! Very timely given the recent announcement from John Hutton, the UK Energy Secretary.

A few media clippings highlighted on PowerSwitch:

Times Online 09/12/07

Britain is to launch a huge expansion of offshore wind-power with plans for thousands of turbines in the North Sea, Irish Sea and around the coast of Scotland.

John Hutton, the energy secretary, will this week announce plans to build enough turbines to generate nearly half Britain’s current electricity consumption. He will open the whole of Britain’s continental shelf to development, apart from areas vital for shipping and fishing.

Hutton will announce at an energy conference in Berlin tomorrow that he wants to see this target raised to 33GW-worth of wind turbines installed in the seas around Britain by 2020.

The Independent - 09/12/07

Britain is to embark on a wind power revolution that will produce enough electricity to power every home in the country, ministers will reveal tomorrow.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that, in an astonishing U-turn, the Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton, will announce that he is opening up the seas around Britain to wind farms in the biggest ever renewable energy initiative. Only weeks ago he was resisting a major expansion of renewable sources, on the grounds that it would interfere with plans to build new nuclear power stations.

BBC News 09/12/07

The Independent on Sunday says Britain is about to undergo a wind-power revolution after what it calls an 'astonishing' u-turn by the government.

It says the Business Secretary, John Hutton, will announce on Monday, 10 December, the biggest-ever renewable energy initiative: off-shore wind farms, reports the paper, could provide all UK homes with electricity within 13 years.

This sounds like fantastic news. 33GW though, that’s a big number. Can the industry deliver? What needs to be in place to enable the industry to deliver? There are some 4400 days until 2020. 33GW from 5MW turbines means 6600 or well over one a day.

It certainly seems possible in the same vein as the US mobilisation after Pearl Harbour.

The automobile industry went from producing nearly 4 million cars in 1941 to producing 24,000 tanks and 17,000 armored cars in 1942 — but only 223,000 cars, most of which were produced early in the year, before the conversion began. Essentially, the auto industry was closed down from early 1942 through the end of 1944. In 1940, the United States produced some 4,000 aircraft. In 1942, it produced 48,000. Source: Lester Brown

Compared to those numbers, ~7000 off shore turbines in 13 years, seems eminently achievable. What do you think Jerome?

WWII showed what we can do, but we won't do it because we would probably actually have to make trade offs

. But yes, let us shutdown most of the automobile industry and use that capital to produce things like wind turbines. Restrict auto output to those autos getting at least 45 mpg.

WWII was an obvious crisis that required extraordinary efforts and, in essence, a dictatorial approach to industry that forced them to produce weapons for the war effort. In my view , peak oil and global warming are problems that will dwarf the threats encountered in WWII.

But we will blunder, unprepared, into the coming decades.

Chris / Jerome - do you think this U Turn by Hutton is driven by climate concern or a more acute concern that the UK is fast running out of indigenous energy?

I’d like to think both arguments are worthy. Why the u-turn? I guess someone has convinced Hutton that offshore wind is technically feasible, economically viable and politically acceptable within the 2020 timescale. Well done whoever that was.

I'm not sure I understand the numbers

When calculating the number of 5MW turbines is it really 6600 i.e. 33000/5.

Why is it you do not have to include the capacity factor and technical availability i.e. 33000/(5*.4*.95). That would mean over 17000 turbines ?

Also is it realistic to assume these are all 5MW turbines - are 5MW off-shore turbines proven yet and would all off-shore sites be suitable for these big turbines ?

The 33GW Hutton is talking about refers to name plate capacity. Sure - that needs to be multiplied by the load factor (27% for UK offshore wind in 2006) to get the actual amount of energy generated. This is no different to other ways of generating electricity. The UK nuclear fleet had an load factor of 69% in 2006, coal 66%, gas 54%... it should be noted that gas at least wasn't trying to maintain 100%, whereas the wind and nuclear would have been targeting maximum production.

But the headlines talk about wind providing "half Britain’s current electricity consumption" or 100% of household consumption.

Is this reasonable ?

Indeed not.

The confusion between name plate capacity and actual output is an issue that dogs the wind industry, becuase such inaccurate claims are made, and then used to point out that wind is not as good as it looks.

What matters is the MWh rather than the MW. On that basis, wind is expected to provide 30% or so of total electricity generation in 2020.

Is it fair to say that 50% (or more) of wind's MWh are produced at night when demand is lowest ?

I can see that some of this night-time wind power can replace gas/coal baseload generation but surely not all of it due to the technical demands on maintaining a stable 50Hz grid.

Without the pump storage capacity available in Scandanavia won't much of the night-time wind MWh simply be thrown away ?

No, actually wind production patterns quite closely follow consumption mattern, being lowest at night and highest in the afternoon. Offshore is the same, with smaller intra day variations (on average). I have a graph showing this, but not on this computer, I'll try to post it later.

Wind turbine are actually helpful to maintain voltage stability and reactive power.

No, actually wind production patterns quite closely follow consumption mattern, being lowest at night and highest in the afternoon. Offshore is the same, with smaller intra day variations (on average). I have a graph showing this, but not on this computer, I'll try to post it later.

Wind turbine are actually helpful to maintain voltage stability and reactive power.

In your story entitled: No Technical Limitation to Wind Power Penetration published on line in the European Tribune,

I found a link which led me to a report by the Tyndall Center for Climate Change entitled: Security assessment of future UK electricity scenarios.

In this report they modeled the effects of wind penetration into the U.K. electricity mix up to 37% of total electric energy supplies. At this level of penetration they claim that only 9.4% of conventional capacity can be retired. This claim alone would appear to imply that this model is in strong disagreement with your claim that “wind turbines are actually helpful to maintain voltage stability”. However, here is specific verbiage from the report about the need to compensate for wind variability with conventional generation:

Due to this disproportion between conventional capacity and energy substitution by the wind source, a considerable number of thermal plants will be running at low output levels over a significant proportion of their operational time in order to accommodate wind energy. Consequently these plants will have to compromise on their efficiency, resulting in increased levels of fuel consumption as well as emissions per unit of electricity produced. This will cause higher electricity production costs.

The average load factors for conventional plants, with 25GW installed wind capacity at 35% average output, will reduce to about 40% (utilization factor for UK plants in the year 2002 was 54%)[DTI04]. Nevertheless the cost recovery of those plants that might be forced to run at lower load factors will be a major challenge for future electricity systems.

Would you care to comment on the contradiction between the conclusions of this paper and your statement above?

See my comments that the UK needs a half dozen pumped storage schemes in Wales & Scotland. These could absorb the fluctuations nicely. Interconnections to hydroproducers Iceland & Norway would also be useful.


I agree that storage is needed for effective integration of wind energy into the grid. Including it will naturally increase the costs. Also if they end up pumping fresh water rather than sea water then seasonality issues and long term fluctuations in rainfall may also affect the economics. Iceland seems like it's a long way away from the U.K. Norway is already providing effective storage for Danish wind power producers. They may have excess capacity, but I doubt that they can provide storage services to all of Europe.


Pumped storage water (other than - evaporation & + rainfall) is recycled. One time allotment basically.

Pumped Storage is also requied with a high % nuke grid (France uses Swiss Hydro + German coal, Italian, Spanish, Belgium FF + Luxembourg pumped storage to balance their nukes at night). Uk does not have the interconnections to do that. A high % nuke UK would also require pumped storage. As would massive tidal powerplants.

Landsvirkjun made a study on supplying 2 GW of peak hydropower to UK a dozen + years ago. UK uninterested, plant was built instead for steady 540 MW for aluminum smelter.

UK has best wind resources in EU, so "getting your share" should mean a fair % of Norwegian (and even Swedish) hydro. Biggest threat is large Norse wind development IMO.

Best Hopes,


There is no contradiction whatsoever. You need a lot of wind MW to replace a conventional MW (roughly 4 for 1). But each MWh of wind replaces a MWh of conventional electricity.

All we care about are MWh, not MW.

I wrote:

In this report they modeled the effects of wind penetration into the U.K. electricity mix up to 37% of total electric energy supplies.

I said 'energy' and I meant 'energy'. I know the difference between MW and MWh. In this report 37% displacement of energy (MWh) supply resulted in 9.4% displacement capacity (MW). Have you actually read the report? I got the link to it from your article. You have not answered my question. You also conveniently ignored the statement by the report authors talking about the need to turn conventional generation plants up and down to compensate for wind variability which is in clear contradiction to your statement that wind capacity adds to the voltage stability of the grid.

In this report 37% displacement of energy (MWh) supply resulted in 9.4% displacement capacity (MW).

I have written it three times: wind power replaces few conventional MWs. Yes, that's true. It does not matter. What causes global warming is conventional MWh, not conventional MW. So yes, wind power development requires that conventional capacity be kept in place - but used much less than now. I fail to see how this is a problem. It's not like you need to build new gas-fired plants, they are already there.

As to stability, I'm not sure what you mean. How are starts and stops of gas-fired plants detrimental to voltage stability?

I do not dispute that wind generation displaces some amount of CO2 emissions. I am not arguing that wind power is a useless technology, but we need to be realistic about its economic potential. The fact that with 37% energy displacement over 90% of conventional generation remains in place means that the capital cost of a wind/conventional generation system is much higher than conventional generation alone. And as the authors of the study quoted above point out the displacement of emissions is far less than 37% since spinning reserve and peaking reserve emit much more CO2 per kHw produced, and in addition this excess fuel use means excess costs.

Also natural gas, and after it coal, are going to decline in supply. If we have only displaced 9.4% of conventional capacity at 37% energy penetration then how are we going to produce a stable grid voltage in a post-fossil fuel world? My feeling is that in the long term effective integration of wind capacity will require energy storage which will add substantially to the costs.

I am convinced that wind energy will play an important role in humanity's future, but the claim that wind is already cheaper than natural gas and that there are no economic limits to obtaining arbitrarily large amounts of grid electricity from this source is incorrect.

The fundamental realization that the developed world needs to come to is that our levels of economic production are already too high and that reduction of consumption should be a primary goal. Encouraging people to believe that wind can easily substitute for fossil fuel and thus maintain our high consumption lifestyles without guilt about CO2 emission is dangerous.

Not if there are enough PHEV's and EV's. And with the V2G discussion, it's frequently mentioned that people don't want to see the Grid's unimaginable Demands leaning on their expensive batteries and their morning available-commute-miles, but this is a good reminder that if there are intermittent sources more heavily in the mix, that there will be times that there is 'Surplus to sell' too, and if V2G happens, isn't it reasonable to expect that people with such a 'Portable Smart-Grid Intertie' will pretty much set up their buy pricing scheme, their SELL price-scheme, and their 'Lowest Discharge Before Cutoff' or some such thing, so that on a Dark and Stormy Night when it's howling out there, you might get yourself a fine deal purchasing, and if the next calm morning, demand is high and your car is selling at a profit, you opt to jump on the bus or the bike. (I think it would actually be your car AND house that would be in automated Buy/Sell negotiations with the grid, not just the car.. ?)

By the way, who knows whether there is a functioning Flywheel System in standard use out there? I never hear any updates at TOD for the current state of that storage medium.


"I'm going off the rails on a crazy train!.."
- Ozzy

V2G is surely the way to go.
Or any other storage in that sense.

The danish wind industry has made an ambitious plan named "windforce 50" that outlines a plan to make wind contribute to 50% of our electricity use.

This envisions a major change in how we use electricity and which windturbines to build. Today we (danes) get 20% from 5.200 WT but with modern larger WT we could get 50% from 1.700 WT

The biggest issues are to get people to change when they use electricity and to what.
We need to get EV's or PHEV and use electricity to heating as well as transport.

The industry is already cooling freezers below -18 at times of cheap electricity to enable idling of cooling when electricity is expensive. The same idea applies to heating where the use of district heating is widespread and using electricity to heat water is a great way to store energy.

Cooling ice or heating water is just one way to even out consumption. In some areas they have installed meters that charge users by the hour on spotprice to encourage people to start there driers at night etc. We have 2 hours with very high electricity use, and it is easy to imagine that these hours could be covered by reduced use or V2G.

Soon the EV's will have >200 miles capacity and with most people traveling less than 30 miles a day, there is good storagecapacity available here.

Being close to Norway makes it a lot easier as their hydroplants give us the flexibility needed, but as soon as V2G is widespread the need for external storage is reduced.


Confident that most of our energy use can be replaced by efficiency and alternate generation.

use the electricity to make NH3, you can sell it at $500/t if you don't need it.

The numbers are understandably very rough at the moment, especially after the newspaper journalists have been at them. The basic numbers are these: The UK uses approximately 400TWh of electricity per year currently. 33GW of offshore wind with a load factor of 35% will generate 33GW x 8760 hours x 35% = 101TWh or around a quarter of current electricity production.

Here's the breakdown from 2004 (sorry no time to draw a new a new chart):

Click to enlarge

According to George Monbiot in his book Heat on p. 101, the UK uses about 400 TWh/year, an average power supply then of about 46 GW. Half of that is 23 GW so the required capacity factor on 33 GW nameplate is 70%. It is quite windy off shore of the UK, but I kind of think that there must be some anticipation of reduced consumption. California has shown that a 20% per capita reduction in consumption is good for the economy. Doing that gives a 55% capacity factor which sounds about right for offshore wind. Interestingly, Monbiot points out that the material requirements for offshore wind are lower than for onshore wind because the wind blows harder offshore. He cites the Performance and Innovation Unit, 10 Downing Street, as finding on shore wind reducing in price by factor of 1.4 between now and 2020 and offshore wind reducing in price by a factor of 2.75 by 2020 to the current onshore price. Both are expected to be less expensive than nuclear power in 2020 by factors of 2.5 and 1.75 respectively. See tables on pp. 111 and 95.


27% load factr sounds strangely low. The projects I have financed are close to 40% (and that's with pretty conservative estimates for the banking case).

Maybe this is the overall rate for all of wind in the UK?

The load factors for UK wind (offshore and onshore) as published by the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (stupid, stupid name) are here (Excel):

33GW-worth of wind turbines installed in the seas around Britain by 2020.

~7000 off shore turbines in 13 years, seems eminently achievable.

There are some 4400 days until 2020. 33GW from 5MW turbines means 6600 or well over one a day.

Hutton will announce at an energy conference in Berlin tomorrow that he wants to see this target raised to 33GW-worth of wind turbines installed in the seas around Britain by 2020.

To get anywhere close to the 80% reduction in C02 compared to 1990 levels by 2050 (required to avoid a 2 degree C temperature rise say the IPCC) the world will have to do much more than 20% reduction in primary energy by 2020.

This is definitely a step in the right direction, but only for the UK - the whole world needs to do the same or we fail in the task.

by 2020 ? We are just three weeks from 2008 so BY 2020 means 12 years not 13!

4400 days is correct though. :-) But in reality they won't start installing them for a couple of years or so - so 10 years or 3650 days.

Eminently achievable? The numbers proposed could be a serious uphill task.

Britain’s current range of coal, gas, nuclear and other power stations are capable of generating 75 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. By 2020 most of the nuclear will be gone -close to half the windmills will be replacing that, so no C02savings there.

The 33 GW needs to be actual - if it isn't we don't get the 20% to 40% reduction in C02 required - the 5 MW windmills only produce full power 38% of the time (3300 hours per year).

So, that means we actually need ~90 GW of windmills

that's 18,000 5GW windmills - around 5 of these monsters every day.

That is certainly a 'war footing' porduction rate.

In WW2 all effort was directed to making tanks and aeroplanes etc.

Which parts of what remains of UK manufacturing will be shut down by the government do you suppose?

Or we could build Nukes in the same time frame if we had a government with the bottle for it. And the Nukes and Coalfired units that are slated for switch off produce base load will have to be compensated for.

The 7000 turbines will have to be covered by something like nukes, coal or gas, so we will have to spend money on back up systems as well.

So, thats 7000 turbines + back up generation capacity + additional new builds to take over from the Nukes and Coal fired stations coming offline.

In other words, we will be running to stand still.

As for 'reducing Carbon'...

We are about to give the go ahead for a 3rd , full sized runway at Heathrow, even though most of Heathrow traffic is for holiday flights and not 'essential to business and commerce' as spuriously described by this government.

Also, I dont know how much concrete will be used in the base pedastals for these 7000 wind turbines, but I should imagine quite a lot... Possibly more than you would need for 10 Nukes.

Wind no doubt will have its place as will tidal, PV etc.

But we will still need a lot more Nukes in my opinion.

IMO it is immoral to build any more nuclear until we can adequately deal with the waste. If we can deal with it safely then fine, otherwise use something else or plan to use less electricity.

Despite our best efforts we appear unable to engineer anything that will stay functional without maintenance for more than 100 years - a 100,000 year engineering job is required, this is a serious engineering problem.

Give me one good reason why it is ok to leave it for future generations to clear up our mess.

Dont need to give you one good reason:

We can bury it quite safely in hard rock and deep enough to survive the next couple of ice ages.

It is just a matter of political courage.

Sounds good - except that nobody anywhere in the world has done it, there is still waste and associated bombs around from my grandparents generation not dealt with! - and how do you know any of it is safe? - so, unless you can prove the engineering is safe(which it seems nobody can at present, even after sixty years of thinking about it), it isn't a good reason after all - so, no wonder the politicians don't have the courage - not all of them are immoral.

Detailed technical plans for burial have been in place for 30 years. Test Drilling has supported this at Windscale.

If they told me they were going to test drill for burial on the Buchan Shield, I would not be worried at all: We live with high levels of natural background radiation from the granite in the buildings and the land :-(

Jerome proveded two photos at the start of this essay.

They are very telling:

The sea is flat calm.

The turbines point in different directions.

What is wrong with these pictures?

Maybe bankers only go to sea on calm days? ;)

It occurs to me that the windmills can only be installed on calm days ... as the towers, blades and installation cranes etc are so tall. My experience is that the North Sea isn't a very calm place for much of the time - how long does it take to install one of these things?

I guess what I am asking is how many windmills can an individual barge install in a year? ... just so I know how many barges, cranes, crew, immigrants etc are going to be required.


you say that the 33 GW is nameplate - are you sure? where did you get that from?

The 33GW was mentioned in The Times:
Planning consents have been granted for a further 3GW and the government had already made clear it wanted this raised to 8GW.

Hutton will announce at an energy conference in Berlin tomorrow that he wants to see this target raised to 33GW-worth of wind turbines installed in the seas around Britain by 2020.

Ok, I saw that, you think that implies nameplate and not actual - even though windmills never produce anywhere near full nameplate? Maybe 33GW 'peak' would be more accurate?

If so, 39% (maximum, in a very windy spot?) of 33GW is 12GW, barely any more than the nuclear that will be gone by 2020.

Oh yeah - all these numbers are nameplate.

See this comment:


But if this is the UK's answer to the 'generation gap', dont put yer granny in a flat with more than two floors up and an elevator.

Unless you dont like her very much.

Wind has its part to play, but to my mind it is 'opportunistic': Base load from nukes and tidal - and coal with sequestration and gas for peaks.

Wind? use the electricity for something like pumped storage, bio fuels etc.

Of course serious conservation is still the lowest hanging fruit.

Oh, I agree with what you are saying ... although it is a massive step in the right direction, if this is the UK's contribution to combat climate change and fossil fuel depletion then the world is definitely going to overheat or we have a massive recession (or both!) Working full scale seqestration does not exist anywhere yet - and even if it did, I doubt there are enough places to safely hide the CO2.

I think if we do the sums (sorry, math) for the whole world, let alone the UK, then this is much to little, but most importantly, much to late, as the CO2 reduction target is so large.

Just as one example of the colossal UK task envisioned here (even though it's way too little, and should it actually come to pass!), the diameter of the blades on a 5MW unit is 126m, so each must be just over 60 metres long - that's not far short of the total wingspan of a Boing 747 (~68M).

So, even on the (lowside?) estimate of installing just one of these things every day for 12 years, that's 3 huge aircraft style wings to be manufactured every day!

It looks like the people at Airbus needn't worry about finding a job if the airline business fades!

There might just be one 'small' fly in the ointment ... where does all that finance come from to ramp up such a huge undertaking so rapidly?

Well, we have ideal strata for Carbon Sequestration in the form of depleted Sandstone reservoirs capped by salt in the southern north sea.

As for 'who pays?' - regrettably we are very good at squandering the moolah:

The Dome (a one-night pissoir for the great, the good and the glitterati)
The Olympic Games (double the original price tag before even one sod is cut , for what? drug pumped athletes and corrupt foreign dictators) - We are even going to get Zil Lanes , not for the hoi-polloi of course...
ID Cards (watch the costs snowball)
The Iraq war (45 minutes , yeah , right... anyone with a vague knowledge of Janes book of Warmongers would know that was complete BS)
Any government contract involving software (A milch cow for any passing con-man in a £500 suite pretending to be a consultant).

So, assuming we get a sane government, we could fund all 7000 turbines and back up from a new generation of Nukes.

But we will probably go to a Private Finance Initiative (God, how I hate that word 'initiative').

Of course, it could all be smoke and mirrors. The UKGov is in a bit of a hole right now, what with corrupt donations and missing data discs containing 25 million names and addresses. (ID data will be safe? - yeah , right.)

I will believe it when I see it. This Gov dont do science, it does PR and spin.

some good news:

Hunterston Has had its life extended by 5 years.

Of course Jim Mather , the 'tourism and enterprise' minister is against it.

I wonder if we will need a 'tourism' minister in the coming years...

WT blades are far less complex (and far less QC/QA required) than aircraft wings. But they are big !

LK (memory of Danish WT blade maker) is setting up a new factory in Little Rock, AR, USA to make blades of the US market.

Best Hopes,


Why do we need to bury it at all? Sealing it in dry storage casks is good for at least several centuries. We revisit the issue then.

What a good idea - /sarcasm - leave the current mess for somebody else to clean up and add a load more to it for good measure!!!!!!

Where do you live, if this stuff is so safe then I presume you and several generations of your descendents won't mind storing a few casks of the stuff at your place?

Name just one civilisation, of the more than 20 that have come and gone since the last ice age, that has lasted several centuries - especially a high tech one - that would have been capable of doing the job. You should not assume the past is any guide to the future.

If we can't solve a technical problem now, even after 60 years of thinking about it, why assume that in the future they will be able to?

I've been wondering recently just how bad could it be? What would happen if we took all the of several hundred thousand tones of nuclear waste created to date and simply piled it up on the South Pole. Yeah, it sounds crazy but what would be the actual, quantifiable, impacts to the biosphere over the next millennium of such an approach? I guess it would melt its way down to the rock, and be covered over with ice within a few years – then what?

The future wheat & rye farmers of Antarctica would find the scattered piles of broken up debris quite a problem.


While I agree that the waste issue is the most irresponsible risk in the nuclear industry, I have always guessed [ironically] that the best solution environmentally is to just disperse it. Find a fast flowing current across the centre of a huge ocean and just mix it in..

Repeat post from upthread

The more viable method is fuel recycling (MANY billions wasted so far with marginal results, but as uranium prices climb and wastes mount, we will FINALLY get the bugs out).

Take the uranium and neutron absorbed products (plutonium, neptunium, etc.) and recycle them for fuel. Take the fission byproducts (literally every element) that resulted from U atoms splitting, and wait 300 years. Then refine out the good stuff (platinum group metals !) and anything else useful (Cu, Fe, Ni, Ag, Hg, Pb, Cd, Te ...) and find an industrial use for it. Throw the rest into a low level radiation dump (abandoned mine, etc.).

300 years should allow ten half lives of just about everything in fission byproducts to decay out.

Refining 300 year old fission byproducts will not require major safety measures. The key may be to keep people's hands off of it after just 150 years when it is "safe enough".

Best Hopes for Fuel recycling,


France and I think Japan are doing this today, The UK recently had an OOPS moment with theirs.

The problem is its not the least bit economic with light water reactors because of our technology choices. MOX fuel requires using expensive, archaic aqueous reprocessing regimes or speculative pyroprocessing regimes, and yields fuel that is more expensive to handle, transport and use because of higher activity. Uranium can be easily extracted with fluoride volitility, but because its been through a reactor theres a higher concentration of U234 and U236, so higher enrichment is required and reprocessed uranium can only be used in a reactor once with diffusion or centrifuge enrichment. Laser enrichment may change the game so that fluoride volitility reprocessing from LWR fuel can be pursued.

Before any of this, DUPIC would make sense, but we're not even doing that.

I expect all spent fuel will eventually be reprocessed, if nothing more than for the xenon and rhodium, but that we wont bother for several centuries.

Untill then sitting in big concrete casks in a secure parking lot is a fine option.

I am curious why recycled uranium cannot be diffused again, and the isotope mixture adjusted (from memory U234 is good fuel, unsure about U236). And why not mix more highly enriched virgin fuel with recycled U if recycled U cannot be diffused again ?

The higher costs of using MOX fuel are largely labor costs and will be overcome when uranium shortages arise (do NOT expect new uranium mines to come on-line smoothly and faultlessly, see Cigar Lake, etc.)

And thorium/uranium fuel mixes are possible today I understand (thorium as hamburger helper to U).

I am sure that AECL will be glad to see the use of DUPIC, and dozens more CANDU reactors to reburn used fuel. I have earlier speculated about building one CANDU reactor at 2+ LWR reactor sites, designed to reuse rods "as is". Swelling of used fuel rods may be a problem though.
One day fusion will work. So U supplies only have to last us that long plus a half century or so after that.

Best Hopes for Nuke Expansion,


I am curious why recycled uranium cannot be diffused again, and the isotope mixture adjusted (from memory U234 is good fuel, unsure about U236). And why not mix more highly enriched virgin fuel with recycled U if recycled U cannot be diffused again ?

Neither U234 nor U236 are fissile. They're both fertile but thus becoming neutron poisons in the same way U238 does. The isotope mixture can't be 'adjusted' with diffusion or centrifuge enrichment because in these somewhat crude methods these isotopes end up in the enriched stream with the desired U235.

Sure you could enrich virgin fuel and mix it with these neutron poisons but its logically similar to enriching fuel and then mixing it with depleted uranium. It doesn't actually buy you anything. Laser enrichment lets you select only the desired U235 isotopes however, so someday reprocessed uranium may be desirable.

The higher costs of using MOX fuel are largely labor costs and will be overcome when uranium shortages arise (do NOT expect new uranium mines to come on-line smoothly and faultlessly, see Cigar Lake, etc.)

That isn't the path of least resistance. More likely we'll dip into our ample supply of depleted uranium and run them through more enrichment cycles, since depleted uranium isn't really that depleted. It still has over half the U235 that natural uranium does.

Ancient Egyptian civilization.


Which one?

They had continuity in religious practices for several millennium, even as the pharoahs came & went.


The more viable method is fuel recycling (MANY billions wasted so far with marginal results, but as uranium prices climb and wastes mount, we will FINALLY get the bugs out).

Take the uranium and neutron absorbed products (plutonium, neptunium, etc.) and recycle them for fuel. Take the fission byproducts (literally every element) that resulted from U atoms splitting, and wait 300 years. Then refine out the good stuff (platinum group metals !) and anything else useful (Cu, Fe, Ni, Ag, Hg, Pb, Cd, Te ...) and find an industrial use for it. Throw the rest into a low level radiation dump (abandoned mine, etc.).

300 years should allow ten half lives of just about everything in fission byproducts to decay out.

Refining 300 year old fission byproducts will not require major safety measures. The key may be to keep people's hands off of it after just 150 years when it is "safe enough".

Best Hopes for Fuel recycling,


Where do you live, if this stuff is so safe then I presume you and several generations of your descendents won't mind storing a few casks of the stuff at your place?

Of course I don't mind! I'm familiar with dry cask storage so if you want you can store it right under my house and the houses of all my friends and family if you like.

Name just one civilisation, of the more than 20 that have come and gone since the last ice age, that has lasted several centuries - especially a high tech one - that would have been capable of doing the job. You should not assume the past is any guide to the future.

I wouldn't presume a history nearly entirely populated by dirt farmers who's largest accomplishments were formations of men that got really good at poking each other with sticks would be very predictive of the future of industrial civilization. It doesn't have to. If civilization crashes, we'll have far bigger problems than the spent fuel storage casks to deal with.

If we can't solve a technical problem now, even after 60 years of thinking about it, why assume that in the future they will be able to?

We can 'solve' it but theres no point! There are far bigger demands being made of us than a couple of refrigerator size casks per reactor year that we should devote resources to. Letting it just sit there isn't unsafe or imprudent, its just common sense. Where is it going to go?


the boss of Nukem USA, a manufacturer of nuclear fuel rods, recently gave a presentation (unfortunalety no longer available on the web due to a merger) in which he stated:

"Forget the nuclear renaissance, there's just not enough fuel."

If you look at the official uranium mining industry's numbers, you will find that the world will soon be very hard pressed to provide the fuel even for the existing fleet of reactors, let alone for any expansion of capacity.

Nuclear is a dead end, a cul-de-sac.



Awww no! Peak Uranium? We have only just started to get our heads around Peak Oil.

Some say Nay

Some say Yea:

Re: The Sustainability of Uranium Resources

The question has been raised by the ATCA Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) briefing, "Energy Crunch: The Overlay of Peak Oil and Peak Uranium on the Credit Crunch," whether there is enough uranium to sustain the kind of nuclear renaissance being discussed enthusiastically all round the world at present. It has been pointed out that for a number of years production of raw uranium has fallen far short of the amount needed to fuel existing reactors, that the shortfall has been met by the dilution of weapons material from super-power nuclear disarmament or by the run down of inventories, and that these alternative sources of supply must inevitably run out quite soon. Any increase in the number of operating reactors, it is claimed, will increase the pressure on the resource as can be seen from the current surge in the uranium price, and will hasten the day that it runs out.

Others sound strangely familiar (look at last sentence below…)
VIENNA, Austria, June 6, 2006 (ENS) – Over the next 20 years, world nuclear energy capacity is expected to increase between 22 percent and 43 percent, according to a new estimate issued by the UN nuclear watchdog agency. At that rate of increase and using current technology, there is enough uranium to last for the next 85 years, although the study says that fast reactor technology would lengthen this period to over 2,500 years.
Released Thursday in Vienna, the new edition of the world reference guide "Red Book": Uranium 2005: Resources, Production and Demand," was jointly prepared by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 30 industrial democracies.
Head of the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy Yuri Sokolov told reporters, "There is plenty of uranium assuming the industry keeps moving ahead with exploration and new mines. The message in the Red Book is that, for the immediate future at least, they are doing precisely that."

Ah well, so its back to the caves then.

I'm not against nuclear if it can be made safe, but I really think that dealing with the toxic waste must be solved by our generation, in some way or another, before we move on - even if there is enough uranium left.

Governments have procrastinated long enough - there is no good excuse for not dealing with it. At least with nuclear waste we may have some chance of making it safe - unlike CO2 it seems.

But, in my view, the most important aspect of nuclear is this :

If nuclear electricity is an option for any country who can't get enough energy from fossil fuels to meet their needs, then it must also be an option for all the world's countries.

The trouble with nuclear is, once any country has it, it can be used for good or very evil.

Many countries with civilian nuclear reactors have gone to the next level and produced weapons systems. Nuclear proliferation is real.

As the USA has shown with Japan, if the enemy doesn't have a nuclear weapon then 'mutually assured destruction' doesn't apply and use of nuclear weapons will rapidly cause an enemy to capitulate - if you know who the enemy is!

IMO the safest place for a nuclear reactor is 93 million miles away!

Well, with uranium as with fossil fuels, it doesn't really matter exactly when production peaks. It's a finite resource, so it'll peak. Whether that's today or 10 years or 100 doesn't matter much.

At some point, it'll peak, and we'll have to start learning to do without the stuff.

Now, either it turns out to be impossible to do without the stuff, or it turns out to be possible.

If it's impossible to do without the stuff, we should begin trying now so that we know for sure it's impossible, and we can do things like reduce energy consumption to put off the end of modern industrial civilisation and at least have a soft landing into dark barbarism.

Or if, as I believe, it's possible to have a modern industrial civilisation while not burning fossil fuels, trees or uranium, then we should get right onto it, because it'll be a lot easier to change now than when the burnable stuff peaks.

So really I am not keen on any solution that involves burning stuff, even if burning that stuff actually gives us vitamin C, let alone if it has other dangers, like warming the planet or giving people cancer or bombs. I prefer solutions that can go on forever.

One of my country's political parties has a good way of looking at policies. "Will our children and grandchildren thank us for this?" It's pretty plain our children and grandchildren are not going to thank us for a sooty coal station or a pile of radioactive waste. Nor will they thank us for miles of concrete, but they might thank us for wind turbines and parks and forests. Still less will they thank us for a world in which the zone of tropical cyclones widens, or where the arctic wilderness becomes a cool swamp.

Will our children and grandchildren thank us for burning more stuff, leaving less for them to burn and the world more polluted?

No? Then we shouldn't do it.

Well, with uranium as with fossil fuels, it doesn't really matter exactly when production peaks. It's a finite resource, so it'll peak. Whether that's today or 10 years or 100 doesn't matter much.

Given there's about 160 trillion tons of fissionables in the earths crust and all of it can be reached and burned in breeder reactors, it would take at least a million years to burn all. Burning this faster would literally melt the crust from the waste heat.

A million years or more of nuclear fuel means its essentially limitless for the purpose of any conversation we're going to reasonably have.

there's about 160 trillion tons of fissionables in the earths crust and all of it can be reached and burned iburned in breeder reactors

A dozen or more failures (at many billions of $ wasted), no real successes. We may very well run out of our current & planned uranium mines before we can get some design to work properly. If the future of nukes require breeder reeactors, the future is dim.

Fuel reprocessing has also seen a string of hyper expensive failures (UK just apparently blew a few billion on a fuel reprocessing facility that is likely to be scrapped) but France seems to have one that kind of works (Japan as well ?)

New mines and fuel reprocessing will expand the fuel supply, but it will NOT be a smooth ramp-up and we have certainly not seen the maximum price. And we may see some reactors short of fuel here and there.

Best Hopes for Realism,


A dozen or more failures (at many billions of $ wasted), no real successes. We may very well run out of our current & planned uranium mines before we can get some design to work properly. If the future of nukes require breeder reeactors, the future is dim.

Alan, thats just not true. While there's no real hope for liquid metal breeder reactors, the ORNL prototype of the molten salt breeder reactor was a success on every front. In addition to being roughly 200 times as fuel efficient as a LWR, it showed many passive safety features and potential advantages over LWRs, from lack of requirements of fuel fabrication, true negative void and temperature coefficients, and the lack of a requirement for the massive pressure vessels that make LWR's so hard to put together.

It was a massive failure on the front that mattered most for getting funding at the time: Producing weapons grade plutonium on short order.

Other successful breeder reactor regimes were the light and heavy water breeder reactors.

These just fail on plutonium production and actinide incineration because they rely on thorium-U233 breeding because of the fact U233 produces more neutrons per thermal interaction than Pu239, and so can sustain a breeding regime... but U233 is a terrible weapons material because of U232 contamination and the resultant hard gammas.

They fail on economics simply because theres no incentive to engineer new breeder regimes with uranium being so plentiful and so cheap. Molten salt reactors may be an exception to this because they offer more cost advantages than just fuel efficiency, and don't require expensive reprocessing plants relying instead on simple online fluoride volitility, sacrificial anodes, and vacuum distilation instead of more expensive pyrometallurgical or aqueous processes.

Fuel reprocessing has also seen a string of hyper expensive failures (UK just apparently blew a few billion on a fuel reprocessing facility that is likely to be scrapped) but France seems to have one that kind of works (Japan as well ?)

They exist because of strategic policy decisions, not because they make any economic sense. Perhaps pyroprocessing plants will be cheaper, but maybe not.

New mines and fuel reprocessing will expand the fuel supply, but it will NOT be a smooth ramp-up and we have certainly not seen the maximum price. And we may see some reactors short of fuel here and there.

I highly doubt we'll see any reactors short of fuel. Enriched uranium is as simple to get as tapping the DU stores for more enrichment at the cost of slightly more SWU's. Higher prices mean existing mines can just go a little further down the ore grade to increase they're marginal return.

As for high uranium prices, they don't affect the power price in the least. Uranium price is less than 1% of the price of nuclear power.

Nuclear proliferation is real.

... and your glib answer to that is?

Its unrelated to civilian nuclear power production. If a foreign state wants to make weapons, they dont need to build reactors, and power reactors wont help them because the isotopic makeup of actinides out of the reactor is unsuitable for weaponization.

The genie is out of the bottle.

From your previous postings that's just what I thought you would say.

Do you work in the nuclear industry by chance?


Dezakin, I thank you for your contribution in this thread. From my limited knowledge about the nuclear industry, I have basically come to the same conclusion you seem to have.

Here in Norway the environmental anti-nukes always talk about the dangerous actinide heavy metals. The way I see it, we have already created these dangerous materials, and it doesn't make much difference whether we have to handle 10000 tons or only 10 tons.

As you say; the genie is out of the bottle

Actually, it prrobably does matter whether it is 10 tons or 10,000 - if the nuclear industry is as competent and safe as it says it is, and since they have had 60 years to think about it, then they should be able to give the world proof of their skills and quickly make the current waste safe and 'put the genie back in the bottle'.

I know from UK experience that accidents do indeed happen in the UK nuclear industry, time and time again - it is completely false to say otherwise, humans do make mistakes and do not think of every possibility - you would not want to be downwind of a serious UK nuclear leak!

The reason I asked Dezakin if he makes his living from the nuclear industry is that his responses look to me like living proof of 'it's difficult to get somebody to understand something when their future depends on them not understanding it.'

Before one announces a project, doesn't it make sense to actually plan how that project would occur before announcing it? When I worked for the government, the higher ups wanted the promise first; it was up to me to plan how to meet that goal later. More often than not, of course, the goal was not accomplished.

The best goal, of course, is one that will fail after one leaves office or moves to another job. We don't just need goals for 2020, we need goals and plans for 2008, and every year after. But that might actually result in someone's feet being held to the fire.

Let us begin by shutting down the automobile industry, at leas that part that produces anything over 120 gm/km.

I have informally proposed that Iceland (Landsvirkjun) install a few WTs to gain operational experience with them.

With a predominantly hydroelectric grid (some geothermal) there seems to be a place for a lot of wind power if it can generate cheaply in high icy winds.

I am also informally pushing a HV DC link to the Faeroe Islands (small, but oil + wind), Scotland & Ireland. Build, say, 1 GW of wind in Iceland and sell at peak demand (hydro will allow shifting) to the highest bidder of the 3. Iceland also has tremendous potential for many small "summer hydro" projects that would generate only during the summer. Sell base load during the summer.

Any thoughts ?

Best Hopes for More Renewable Energy,


Is there some way to calculate all of the embodied energy in one of these windmills?

Could one figure out how much energy went into the making of the mining vehicles, the roads, the crushers, the belt movers, the mining itself, the building of railroads, the building of the rail stock, building the smelters, the buildings that house all of this equipment, the roads that transport the parts, the building of the jigs, the tools, the factory, the hand tools which shape the metals and the fiber composites, the cost of the vehicles that transport the parts to the sea, the ships that transport the parts to their assembly points, the cranes, the cement and anchoring bolts, the energy cost of the electrical grid, the cost of the metals in the wires, the cost of mining the metals used in the grid, the cost of the maintenance ships, the cost of their berths, the cost of feeding and housing and transporting and clothing the many, many people who are responsible for the creation of these windmills.

Not to mention all the externalized costs such as pollution, habitat destruction, health care for poisoned workers, and all that wonderful baggage that comes with technology.

As you know, when agriculture came on line, that created a surplus of grain and, rather than assuring that a small stable population would live in comfortable sustainability, the population grew to use all the surplus. More grain had to be grown and it was. Population grew. Grain production increased etc. etc. This cycle of runaway growth seems to be never ending.

Is that what will happen with wind power? Is this just a method to ensure further population growth? Or, will you let the loss of fresh water and arable land through erosion and salination do the dirty work of stabilizing population?

When do we focus on real sustainability? When do we start de-technologizing? When do we start researching permaculture with the same intensity and money as we do the techno-fantasies?

When do we work as hard at zero waste?

On cradle-to-cradle manufacturing?

When will the health of the planet take precedence over the accumulation of little pieces of paper that only mark the level of destruction each person has accomplished?

At this point, my opponents will put forth the argument, that we must work with the infrastructure we have, that we must compromise, that we must allow some destruction in order to produce a technological future that makes money for the elites.

Thus, with tiny steps we sneak up on the destruction of the planet while feeling good about it.

I have a suggestion. Why not use all of this energy, intelligence, and money to create sustainable starter communities around the world? Why not boycott all goods that are shipped more than a certain mileage? We could start with a large number and whittle that down year by year. Why not begin by building the end result extremely well? We will either be living sustainably or not. Life or death. Pretty simple. Yes, we could string out this technological nightmare for a few more decades, but to what end? Why not start at the goal, right at sustainability, right at a society that uses no metals, houses itself sustainably, feeds itself in a way that grows the soil rather than mining it, that people feel good about living in?

Why do we owe anything to the cancer of technology? Let it die. Let us live. Please.

Life or death, homo sapiens.

Live or die.

Hi Cerenkov,

Not for me. I want my electricity through metal wires, and wind turbines and solar generators are fine ways to get it.


Here's an idea cherkanov, while the rest of us in civilization try to keep a resemblance of the civilization we endure. You and your survivalist bunch, can all create your little sustainable village in the woods or whatever, while the rest of us live our lives the way we want to. We both win. :)

Anyway, great article Jerome, keep up the good work. Best hopes for great alt energy solutions.

Fair point Cherenkov...I will stay with your words, except at the very finish of the paragraph....let's make it a fair game....

"Could one figure out how much energy went into the making of the mining vehicles, the roads, the crushers, the belt movers, the mining itself, the building of railroads, the building of the rail stock, building the smelters, the buildings that house all of this equipment, the roads that transport the parts, the building of the jigs, the tools, the factory, the hand tools which shape the metals and the fiber composites, the cost of the vehicles that transport the parts to the sea, the ships that transport the parts to their assembly points, the cranes, the cement and anchoring bolts, the energy cost of the electrical grid, the cost of the metals in the wires, the cost of mining the metals used in the grid, the cost of the maintenance ships, the cost of their berths, the cost of feeding and housing and transporting and clothing the many, many people who are responsible for the creation of these......coal mines....oil wells.....water oil separation plants, natural gas drills....gas treatment facilities.....pipelines....."

Don't hold renewables to a standard that the petroleum/coal industry have never been held to.

Roger, aren't you curious about why nobody never wondered how much energy went into the making of the fossil fuel economy?

I would say that we did not need to do that, and for obvious reasons: being concentrated fossil solar energy, it gave us way more energy than the cost of extracting, transforming and transporting it. No need for EROEI calculations here, more than 100 years of fossil fuel civilization is proof enough (although I concede that if we put all the hidden costs of fossil fuels the picture would have been different, but we didn't value true sustainability, we did value their capacity of feeding the growth machine).

And I think this is a valid concern, will it deliver (nuclear and renewables) for a social and economic system based on continuum growth?

Yes, we need energy, but, for what purpose? If we don't ask ourselves "why we need this energy", there won't be enough energy sources in the universe for our appetites.

Peaknik, Yes, you nail the nail, ! … and credit to Cherenkov for his take on all those involved ramifications ..

To assess modern renewable methods (solar, wt, and more..) , we should try to remove fossil fuels from the picture – completely impossible IMO, still one should try.

Lets see, eeehhh , have the WT- and PV manufacturers produce their solutions based ON THEIR OWN PRODUCED POWER. By now there are enough wind farms / and solar –arrays installed to see where this takes us … Why is there no PV-plant of say in the” middle Sahara?” … The energy is there 365, …. Or a WT plant “at Cape Horn”. … There exist electric lorries and other heavy equipments to start this exercises..hmmm

The implication here is that all this stuff is constructed for the wind industry. I suspect that the economic justification was primarily for the automotive industry. Grain, iron, coal and cars are probably the biggest users of the railway, for example, not the occasional turbine tower.

I don't dispute that the world might be a better place if we wore hemp clothes and lived in straw bale houses, I just can't see a) convincing many Wall Street investment brokers of this or b) what to do with the infrastructure we now have.

Lots of good thoughts Cherenkov. I think we are working on the maintenance of the existing electrical grid through industrially supplied renewable (big money for huge projects) which come from FF supplied factories. So no it is not a cradle to grave renewable process and never will be. If we manage to build enough of this in time and to block all other factories, such as for autos, we could possible maintain a suitable lifestyle for some time with what we build before all the FF is gone. However when it is gone then we will be limited to what we get fom the renewables and have to repair them and replace them with the resources they give.

Given the trends over time I suspect the existing population, in say 50-60 years will let it go too long, depending on this massively built out renewable infrastructure (built by the current generations for them and us due to our great fears). We have similarly let our roads, bridges, schools, water and sewage lines, gas pipelines, in short everything decay. The finances currently to renew this infrastructure hardly exist and the population is graying fast and everyone is in debt. So to get a massive new infrasturcture based on renewables all debts will be forgiven and pension plans scratched and everyone will have to go on basic welfare and help in the factories building windmills and tear up roads to get at sewage pipes instead of chatting on mobile phones while flying or driving or playing nintendo DS and fix bridges and schools. Day one of the new economy. Everyone will learn to do permaculture garden. After the massive switchover is accomplished and rationing is discoontinued (mid 1950s in Britain by the way) ca. 2030s due to self sufficiency then people will get lazy and greedy and neglect maintaence of the wind mills and sewage pipes and start wasting again as the old conservative geysers die off who were obseessed with renewables and permaculture and the young liberals come promising free everything to everyone (New society LBJ types). If we are successful population will stabilize however in the rich north of the globe although India and China and Africa could definitely suffer rapid catastrophic reductions through lack of basic resources such as water and soil and fertilizer. The immediate problem in this round is to avoid massive and immediate Dieoff in our lifetimes through drastic measures. I suspect the next time around the population will hopefully be rather smaller, having gotten used to the ZPG (Zero poulation growth) and ZEG(zero economic growth) paradigm drummed incessantly into them by their fathers, and the adjustment next time(ca. in 2080s) will be towards a non-grid system(sewage and pipelines and electrical grids, etc.) as without FFs to buildout or repair the huge renewables(like pyramids or colosseum) they will go back to earlier more primitive forms of energy production or just to a totally decentralized natural energy sytem plus some smaller local industrial renewable systems. Your solution, Chrerenkov is probably 150-200 years out after we just don't have much left at all to get by on and the populationis back to the level of 1700-1800.

This sceanrio is of course barring massive catastrophic change due to climate change or similar (e.g. nuclear war) or just plain stupidity on the part of politicians to truly ignore everything and not at least attempt to make renewables work.

I think a transtion with a massive drawdown of FFs is the only way we will go because that is what is in the people's heads in terms of current ideology. They do not nor can they at current population levels and standards of living be expected to choose effective middle ages or stone age living standards just so that theycan preserve existing FF reserves for thousands of years for all posterity, just in case something is needed sometime. This would be too forward looking and prescient.

Is there some way to calculate all of the embodied energy in one of these windmills?

Vestas provided calculations that it took less than a year for a wind turbine to cover the energy required to build it. Obviously, they are not partial in this, but their calculation still gives a good idea of the excellent EROEI of wind power.

See their various studies from this page.

Hello all.
The Vestas studies mentioned were made by independent LCA specialists and are 3rd party verified ISO 14040 series LCA and are first class.

That wind turbines have a very fine environmental payback is no secret in Denmark. Early LCA investigations more than 10 years ago- on much smaller wind generators also showed a fine- although smaller payback rate.

This is part of the reason that the Danish governments in the 1990's supported wind power heavily resulting in the Danish Vestas, the Micon and the Bonus wind generator companies. Without this support there would possibly be no wind power industry in the world today, as it cost a lot of money to get into the industrial learning curve. Some estimates claim subsidies in the order of 5-10 billion US$ , which is a lot taxing for a country with a population of 5.3 million.
The energy and emission payback is in the order of 6-9 months for 2-3 MW turbines- on- or offshore- including the infrastructure!
So in a 25 year lifetime paybackrates of >25-35 are common.

In my part of the world wind power is part of the everyday energy supply and the discussion here is limited to NIMBY.

kind regards/ And1

Thanks an interesting post Jerome.

Here are a few questions:

I imagine that the NIMBY'ism around offshore would be less than onshore but are there objections from the shipping industry to offshore wind?

Also how is that 14 c/KWHr applied to the generator? I could imagine that EDF which supplies electricity at around 0.045 Euros/KWHr might raise anti-competitive noises since it exports electricity to Germany.

I don't know much about the energy market and how subsidies work in Europe.

- there are quite a few stakeholders. Fishermen, shipping lanes, navy areas, and a bewildering number of underground pipelines, telecom cables, natural reserves and more... All have to be consulted and tamed. It's not always easier, but the projects are bigger, so the effort is less costly on a per-MW basis

- feed-in tariffs are set by law and are an obligation for the local utility/network which offtakes the power (and which can pass this on to consumers, naturally). This has no direct impact on market prices as these volumes do not go into the traded market (other than, as mentioned above, if lots of wind power is supplied, then net demand for other sources will be lower and prices correspondingly lower)

Would there be any opportunity for power replacement at existing facilities? Anything with a large driver (compressors, etc) up to around 3000hp could be retrofitted with a direct-drive wind turbine. No switchgear required, already on an industrial site so less NIMBY, etc.

I've been claiming that wind is becoming cheaper, by 5% per annum. Your article seems to imply that this may no longer be the case? I'm of the opinion that the technology is still not very close to being optimized. I can't believe that straight blades are optimal for example. We have also presumably been gaining economies of scale from larger unit sizes. How much further in terms of price performance do you think it can go?

I've also been reading up on kite generated power. I would think this is a bit of a longshot. But at least on paper it has the potential to be severalfold cheaper. Does the industry have any informed opinions on the prospects? Any other potentially disruptive technologies that don't sound totally impractical?

The Finnish Academy of sciences just released a study on integrating intermittent wind into the power grid. The bottom line was that they claimed a higher percentage could be used for baseload than generally assumed.

Costs used to be going down nicely, but have trended up again in the past two years - just like in all industrial sectors. Cost of metals, other commodities, cranes and vessels, and the fact that this is a suppliers' market, have pushed prices up significantly - although probably less than in other power-generation sectors.

Until this summer's crisis, this was to a large extent balanced by increasingly aggressive financing costs. Now financing costs are no longer improving, and may recede a bit (I hope!)

more importantly than cost increase, is the MAGNITUDE of cost increase RELATIVE to other industries! Has the cost of installing a wind turbine tracked increased costs in oil/gas/mining/construction?

or is it lower?

if the increase is LESS for wind (relatively speaking), then IT becomes MORE competitive with higher commodity prices! (a better return on investment/equity/capital/etc)

I think vertical axis windmills have showed some promise on the efficiency side:

However it remains to be seen how these scale up to larger sizes / installations / higher winds. AFAIK, so far they've been discarded as a solution due to aforementioned reasons.

The VTT study referred above is at:

Design and operation of power systems with large amounts of wind power - State-of-the-art report

How urgent it is to develop wind power (as opposed to coal) is demonstrated by plans of both UK and Germany to build new coal fired power plants. NASA climatologist James Hansen writes in a draft letter to Prime Minister Brown and Chancellor Merkel:

I recognize that you strongly support policies aimed at reducing the danger of global warming. Also Great Britain [Germany] has been a leader in pressing for appropriate international actions.Yet there are plans for construction of new coal-fired power plants in Great Britain [Germany]. Consummation of those plans would contribute to foreseeable adverse consequences of global warming. Conversely, a choice not to build could be a tipping point that seeds a transition that is needed to solve the global warming problem....
Responsibility for global warming is proportional to cumulative CO2 emissions, not to current emission rates.
This is a consequence of the long lifetime of atmospheric CO2. Responsibility of the United States is more than three times larger than that of any other nation. Despite rapid growth of emissions from China, the United States will continue to be the nation most responsible for climate change for at least the next few decades....
Per capita responsibility for climate change, however, must be based on cumulative national emissions. The United Kingdom has the highest per capita responsibility.
The United States is second most responsible and Germany is third. Increased responsibility of the United Kingdom and Germany is a consequence of their early entries into the industrial era. Recognition of these facts is not an attempt to cast blame. Early emissions of CO2 occurred before the climate problem was recognized and well before it was proven. Yet these facts are worth bearing in mind.

Draft letters to Prime Minister Brown and Chancellor Merkel are at

The statement wind's marginal cost is...close
to zero
is contradicted by others who admittedly may be biased. However I note the article seems to mainly stick with the 20% penetration rule.

I presume the cables are on or just below the seafloor mud. They would need to cut out quickly if a fishing boat dragged a net or an anchor across one of them. Being on the shallow coast the land connector could be a long way from mountains with pumped hydro. I guess it looks expensive mainly because 3c/kwh coal power is artificially cheap.

Wind's marginal cost is effectively zero: what gives you another kWh is more wind, no other input is needed.

If you take a more medium term approach, then wind's marginal cost is that of recurrent operations and maintenance, something in the order of 0.2-0.4c/kWh. For actual cost, you then need to add unscheduled maintenance (another couple tenth of cents/kWh) and debt service (3-5c/kWh) - then you can add the profit requirement for an all-in cost.

(All these are onshore. You can double (or more) the operating costs, and multiply financing costs by 1.5-2 to get rough numbers for offshore.

I think the marginal cost is low if extra output can be integrated. However the marginal cost of the combined system (wind + dispatchable backup) must be high when it needs to be expanded. If the 20% wind share has been reached adding new turbines therefore requires more 4X backup to maintain the ratio. Otherwise wind's share would keep increasing. Hutton in the UK has not explained this satisfactorily.

Funny - somehow people criticising wind power due to the necessary backup power never look at the backup requirements of, say, nuclear.

When a 1GW nuclear plant has to be stopped (particularly in an unscheduled way, something that happens now and then...), the grid needs 1GW backup power.

On the other hand, it is very unlikely that 1 GW installed "real" wind capacity all goes down at the same time. So it is actually likely that a fully implemented wind power infrastructure would require *less* backup power than a nuclear-plant-based one.


Or a common design flaw is discovered and the ENTIRE fleet of a certain type of nuke has to be taken off-line for months or years till the flaw is repaired.

If Three Mile Island had been the more common Westinghouse design instead of the less common B & W design, the USA would have had widespread blackouts.


I'm curious how dependent wind (on- or off-shore) is dependent on helicopters for maintenance. What percentage?

Free Image Hosting at

Will we be counting on a ready fleet of helicopters and their attendant fuel supply? How serious an issue is this?

Boats will be used for off-shore maintenance, not helicopters.

Some wind farms are equipped to be serviced by helicopters, and this may be useful for wind farms that are very far from the shore, but this will alwyas be a very limited solution, for two reasons:

- helicopter drops on wind turbines require pretty much the same kind of weather as boat landings, so they do not really increase the windomw for interventions (excet, as noted above, for faraway farms where the time to come from shore may matter);

- loads that can be carried by helicopters to wind turbines are quire limited (300kg IIRC), which also limits the scope of intervnetions that can be made.

I wonder if a strong arguement couldn't be made for using blimps to do this kind of maintenance? Would be more energy efficient than helicopters.

Jerome a Paris, thank you for a fascinating post and the links you provided.

As you know, there is a large scale renewable project being considered for Europe/North Africa/Middle East as linked below:

I did not get to read your links yet, so you may have already covered the above at link to the European Wind Energy Association, but the Wind installations you mention look very much like those planned by the Trans-Med Renewable Enegy plan as we see in the Trecers link.

My interest is in the financing of CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) aspect of the plan. Are you involved in any financial aspects of Concentrating Solar, and will you intend to be?

The financial structures involved in CSP seem as though they should be even more straightforward and reliable than wind. The potential is vast. What financial structure would you think most workable for Concentrating Solar Plants in North Africa, Asia/China, Australia, the United States, all of which have excellent siting possibilities for CSP?

It is important to realize that TREC does not see wind as in competition with large scale solar but see the two types of power as complimenting each other, along with PV solar, biomass, and methane recapture, as all working complimentary of one another, a correct view of the situation in my view.

Thank you for your excellent work and dedication to the renewable cause, Roger Conner Jr.


This is a subject I have been following for a while as well. Part of me doesn't want to try and divert attention to the excellent progress in terms of wind, but it is also worthy of discussion.

I guess my own gut reaction is that solar (esp CSP solar) is further behind the technological curve, and thus they aren't quite ready for a massive build-out yet.

I did note something in the news recently about Algeria planning an undersea cable to bring solar power to Germany:

which seems relevant in a way.

A shame no one in NotGreat Britain can put a generator on top of a stick. Germans, Indians and French as usual. Hopefully people still make armatures in Stafford [for a German company]??

Don't be silly.. The clear aim of the UK Govt is to encourage everyone else to develop these technologies so we can buy what we want from them when we want it. Their chums in the City have told them they're not going to invest in new technologies whilst they're having so much fun playing with private equity and hedge funds.

They are of course also making a bundle out of carbon trading. Something around 1bn Euros in commission so far. The banks and other financial institutions aren't going to give up that easy money.

Dear Jerome,

Just wonder what your take is on alpine locations for windmills. For example the 13 turbines near my place generated 6.191.907 kwh in november.
Unfortunately the locals are very "contra" to windmills

Give them the choice:

a) No electricity;

b) Windmills.

There's no choice when the wind doesn't blow. Recently a blade fell from one of the 40 story turbines near where I live.None were working yesterday as the winds were too light. When the wind is too strong they shut down. Engineers are complaining that they are a maintenance nightmare and wear out rapidly. Wind has its place but how will you replace these these machines as " everything " depletes ?
How about we actually stop wasting energy. The British solution looks like a cornucopian fantasy.

Yep totally agree with all you say Turitea.
Those great monoliths will be a testament to a last gasp at maintaining business as usual.
If business big and small cannot rely on a steady supply of power they simply cannot function.

Seemingly bizarre proposals are those which advocate shutting down the auto industry. Wouldn't that mean instant economic collapse and a social revolt as never before witnessed. (Gonna happen eventually anyway though, economic collapse I mean).

If we construct and erect these great towers with the assistance of oil then we will need to maintain them with the assistance of oil.
As they wear out or break down, they will be just left to rot, along with the communities which expected them to deliver salvation.

How do we maintain anything? How did we have complex societies a thousand years ago, or even five thousand? How does our own current society manage to continue?

The answer is not oil. If you start from the flawed assumption that everything we've accomplished is due to oil and other fossil fuels then you result in the fatalistic conclusion that it's all going to fall apart.

This statement is a perfect example of all your assumptions, resulting in a conclusion that actually has no basis in fact:

"If we construct and erect these great towers with the assistance of oil then we will need to maintain them with the assistance of oil."

Humanity has had prophets of doom and gloom from time immemorial. Always preaching the end of times, but never offering any sort of help in solving any of the problems they envision.

You know what, you're right about one thing: it's going to require hard work. It's going to require people going out and fixing the turbines when they break down, just like anything else.

Nagorak, it's about resources and the way to use them. When South American civilizations overexploited their soils and water supplies they were not able to feed themselves and they left their massive stone monuments to be reclaimed by the jungle. The huge turbines I'm talking about here in New Zealand cannot be manufactured here and are imported from Denmark. What has been done is to create a dependance on imports which this small isolated country ultimately can't afford. We import around 90% of our fossil fuels as it is and the government has at last woken up to how critically dependant we are. Smaller locally made turbines are a better idea, but of course private ownership on a large scale of recyclable domestic turbines which could be used to for example heat water is going to mean that the state forgoes a considerable amount of tax revenue currently earnt by state owned enterprises.
Our current society is totally dependant on oil , so I certainly take issue with you on that but at the same time agree that the human spirit is inventive in times of trouble as we are going to have to change the way we live. For me used as I am to regular international travel it will be a significant change. How my wife's family will fare in Hong Kong is anyone's guess, it just doesn't look good from where I am right now. It would be nice to be wrong of course.

This is an interesting read, with some photos too.,1518,500902,00.html

New Zealand has a domestic design (2 blade) designed for high NZ winds. At least 5 deployed.

Why not use established technology, etc. from Denmark for maximum economic returns ? And if, in 25 years, you cannot get replacements for the WTs from Japan, China, USA, etc. (in exchange for apples, mutton, etc.), THEN build your own as first generation WTs at a given site age out and some are dismantled for spares for others. The towers should last 60 to 100+ years.

For now, why throttle domestic electrical production with uneconomic, unproven domestic designs ? Build a NZ grid that consists of hydro, wind and geothermal (with perhaps a touch of solar PV) first !

Best Hopes for NZ,


Best Hopes for comparative advantage,


Hi Alan,
yes we have the two bladed turbines but they are not working at all well. I would not be surprised to see the company go bankrupt. The five they are testing ( Te Rere Hau ) are constantly being dismantled - I can see them from where I work. They have all had their nacelles and blades removed as the 5 installed make collectively more noise than the 92 which are yet to be installed are allowed under our resource management act. They are trying to redesign the gearbox and have tried lead and rubber in the nacelles and towers to no avail to reduce the noise. This information I got from company representatives a couple of weeks ago at a public meeting.

The Te Apiti wind farm which is part of a wind farm zone not far away has already had major problems with at least one tower after just two years ( they were made in Vietnam )where a stress fracture develped almost right around the top beneath the nacelle. This part of NZ has severe and often unpredictable fluctuating wind speeds which stress all parts of the machines. The other thing that is noticable is that in such a short time despite the best efforts rust is noticable on the towers. Standing underneath a turbine the stesses placed on the blades is very noticable.

I completely agree with what you say here.
"For now, why throttle domestic electrical production with uneconomic, unproven domestic designs ? Build a NZ grid that consists of hydro, wind and geothermal (with perhaps a touch of solar PV) first !"
However someone in govt said wind turbines are the way to go and its causing real grief in a number of communities, especially where I live where the current 200 or so turbines will multiply into up to 500, many VERY close to residences. The Mayor campaigned recently in support of wind farms and was booted out of office.
This is interesting.

Humanity has had prophets of doom and gloom from time immemorial. Always preaching the end of times, but never offering any sort of help in solving any of the problems they envision.

read Laozi - if you can understand it. but it is only 5000-word long for the longest version, almost guaranteed of no waste of time.

Bandits, you are right, and they will use up an enormous amount of fossil fuels in constructing these wind powered tombstones. They are not sustainable. They distort the term renewable like the leaders who gave us the Peak Oil crisis. The proponents of these disastrous wind/solar plans must first determine how much energy is required to build these tombstones (from mining ore, all energy used by personnel in transport, energy used by everyone who earns salaries that they use to consume more oil, heating of all the buildings, etc.). Then they must have a plan on what this wind/electric power will be used for (how exactly will it produce and transport food and heat homes), and finally they must how it will be maintained without oil and natural gas. I ask the wind/solar people on this site to give me some studies, and all I get is "trust us." Really! Besides, when the depression hits this year, we will have lots of spare power. The capital is not there to construct a "solar economy." Everybody knows that.

Engineers are complaining that they are a maintenance nightmare and wear out rapidly

That is a sign of an immature industry. Experience feeding back into improved detailed design will solve this problem (not yet completely solved but history shows that reliability & durability will steadily improve).

The newest 1 MW machines are not as efficient as the 2+ MW class, but they are reported to be more reliable & durable as a rule.

Best Hopes for the Learning Curve,


Wind energy vs. scenery is the tough nut to crack. My North Carolina has the potential to be the Saudi Arabia of the SE US when it comes to wind energy, in between our mountains and offshore. Unfortunately, both locations are also big tourism destinations. We all know that there is going to be a lot less tourism in the future, but we're all way ahead of the pack in realizing that right now. Unfortunately, right now is when we need to be starting to put these in.

From my perspective, a smarter strategy for areas like our WNC mountains would be to negotiate for some sort of long-term compensation for the presumed losses to the tourism industry caused by the spoiling of viewsheds in exchange for permitting the WTs. As this compensation would likely be computed on an assumption that tourism traffic would otherwise remain unchanged or increase, that would end up being a pretty good deal for our local economy if tourism actually did decrease. Note that doing this (internalizing ALL the externalities -- something that should be done but rarely is in the energy business) would raise the cost of wind energy. Of course, if all the externalities were internalized for all other forms of energy as well, then wind would be very competitive.

One thought that comes to mind as far as the mountains are concerned: We do have an occasional cell, broadcast, or microwave tower up on the ridgelines (best location for wind), so is there any possibility of using wind generator towers to also mount communications or broadcast antennas, or would the wind turbine generate too much interference? I am thinking that if the two could co-exist, then it might be possible to put in WTs at those existing tower location as a first step -- the "camel's nose under the tent" tactic.

Perhaps it would be better to figure out a way to make the wind turbines a tourist attraction. Should we paint them with aesthetically pleasing colors? You see this as a negative externality; others see it as an asset.

I love natural scenery and am surrounded by with it with beautiful ridge lines and mountains surrounding my property. It is not like I am going to go out and insist that someone put a wind farm in my view shed but I would not object if they would.

I think clean energy is beautiful, so in my case, keep your externality payment and use it to make another turbine.

Actually, many of the places that do have big wind farms have found that they are touristic attractions in their own right, and tend to attract visitors rather than repeal them.

It's just a question of providing tourists with the proper information (a small visitor center in view of the wind farm can be enough).

I'm a big enough energy geek to have visited wind turbines for fun. Here are some photos. Click to enlarge

Maybe it is the phallic resemblance, or the blue sky, or the green pasture, or possible the Elsie-like cows that could convince some fool that this crap is sustainable.

Also, there's always "wishful thinking."

Nothing lasts forever, and nothing has zero impact. But we can aim to have things that last as long as possible, and have as little impact as possible.

These things are longer-lasting and have less impact than burning fossil fuels.

Of course, you may feel that it is all equally hopeless. But I prefer not to live a life of quiet desperation and resigned despair.

Wait a minute, now, it doesn't mean those of us who don't think we are capable of extending technological civilization during petro-energy descent are in "hopelessness" and "despair."

I view whatever comes if we AREN'T living as we do now as probably something potentially better. Maybe not for us, but the universe really doesn't give much of a hoot about us.

If you're right and we can continue on in some semblance of what we've "accomplished" using cheap, abundant energy, that's great. If you're wrong, you're screwed, eh?

I think it's wise, in this particular case, to hedge one's isms.

These things are longer-lasting and have less impact than burning fossil fuels.

Quite. We shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Exactly what is it that your are referring to as “crap”? I certainly think that a massive buildup of wind farms in an effort the preserve the growth economy for many decades into the future is waste of production resources. But then, from the point of view of long term sustainability, almost all of our current economic activity is a waste of resources. Until we have given up our commitment to unending growth and the competitive accumulation of private wealth as the driving forces of economic activity, intelligent policy decisions with respect to the use of energy and other production resources cannot be made. This claim is quite different than saying that wind energy technology will have no role in a sustainable future. People used to build wind mills to grind grain that were grossly inefficient compared to modern wind turbines. I have trouble believing that the economic return on wind power is so low that humanity will completely abandon this resource in a long term sustainable future (assuming that we have one).

The current wind and solar boom is at least advancing the technology, and I believe that the technology will be useful in the future. Truly intelligent policy (which would include massive efforts at conservation, increased efficiency, and a generally decreased level of manufacturing) will have to await the time period when a majority of the population realizes that middle class security as it is currently conceived is disappearing from the face of the earth to return no more. If you can help to convince people that this disappearance is approaching fast, then more power to you. I know that it is a lonely task.

The power grid won't last 10 years. Read pages 29 to 41:
And how much oil, natural gas, and coal will be used for these wind/electric tombstones? And how is this going to help produce and move food, considering that the time and capital don't exist to construct more solar dreams to fossil fuel bankruptcy? Rube Goldberg stuff is funny, until you are starving because of it.

I certainly think that a massive buildup of wind farms in an effort the preserve the growth economy for many decades into the future is waste of production resources.

I don't think "preserving the growth economy for many decades" is on the table. Wind turbines or no. The game is all about the rate of decent, do we crash and burn or do we glide back down to something ultimately sustainable. To me it looks like massive wind turbine deployment is good as it moves us incrementally from the crash trajectory towards the glide trajectory.

there is adifference between an economic crash and a population crash to distinguish between. If hitech alterantive ellectrical supply in big financed projects continue the mass production/consumption lifestyle but do not rpomote say insulaiton or cheap water heaters or bicycles, what good is tiall? We should pick the low hanging fruit first.

€10,000-€20,000/household programm in Eruope for total weatherization/insulation/neew windows x 180,000,000 households = 1,8 Trillion-3,6 Trillion EUROS investment programme and would save a lot in military costs and gas heating. Take all the cars and trash them for parts to make solar water heaters, bicycles, insulation, etc. this would save the oil for driving and create new value all at once. Autos are detrimetnal to earth. We have to get new value out of them.

If we have taken all the low hanging fruit first then we can play with hi tech. Otherwise we are not serious like a fat dieter who drives 10 minutes to the gym to get on a stationary bike for 15 minutes.

Preserving the growth economy is on the table for a lot of people. I am glad that you are not one of them. Maybe you are right and we will be glad to have all of these wind turbines. The problem is that incrementally growing an economy in a resource rich environment is a much easier strategic proposition than incrementally shrinking an economy in a resource poor environment. Intelligent planning for the future is virtually non-existent. No one in the current power structure is planning for even a mild economic descent. My guess is that a truly effective infrastructure for a post fossil fuel future will not be created until grim necessity forces its creation. That is we will have to collapse and then rebuild according the the new constraints of a fossil fuel poor world. I will be happy to be proven wrong.

Up until now the main obstacle to offshore UK wind farms has been the UK Ministry of Defence, which has opposed most, if not all, planning applications on the grounds that the turbines would obscure radar monitoring for low level attack aircraft. It will be an interesting test of 'joined up government' to see if this planned expansion is not scuppered by one department stabbing another in the back at the first opportunity. It will also need huge injections of tax payers money to get it off the ground in time.
I am not optimistic.

My gut feeling is that the technical challenge of spotting low level attack aircraft despite the presence of wind turbines is less than technical challenge of providing a few tens of GW of indigenous, low-CO2 energy. Once-upon-a-time the UK had the best radar scientists/engineers in the world, surely a few wind turbines don’t represent such a problem?

the UK Ministry of Defence, which has opposed most, if not all, planning applications on the grounds that the turbines would obscure radar monitoring for low level attack aircraft.


Whilst true - this really is an enormous joke by the MOD. Who exactly is it that is wanting to launch a surprise attack on the UK using low flying jets - the Americans? - they already have air bases all over the UK. What about the Germans? I'm sure we would get some sense of warning.

Its time for the MOD to take a broader view of UK national security and to balance the risks of civil unrest stemming from energy decline and energy poverty against the mythical boggie man hurtling across the N Sea 50 ft above the waves.

Why not just put some radar arrays offshore as well, just beyond the WTs? That would actually extend their range, which would be a good thing.

Grid balancing and stability

Jerome - would you care to discuss grid stability. I've heard that both Danes and Germans have had problems with grid stability and know that the Danes use Norwegian and Swedish hydro to balance their wind.

This rather excellent post by Cry Wolf: Why wind power works in Denmark

The other week you mentioned a market mechanism that incentivised companies to buy and balance wind power - would you care to elaborate.

Is there any quantitative evidence that wind has actually displaced FF? I'm a great fan of wind - but still have some doubts.

I'd also like to know more about the eroei. Cutler Cleveland did a good guest post on this on TOD about a year ago - Energy from wind: A discussion of the EROI Research - but that was summarising the work of others. I've been surprised at the mass of concrete and steel that goes into off shore turbines. How many Joules to make a tonne of steel and a tonne of concrete?

In answer to one of my own questions, I suspect there is a success story buried in this chart in that the decline in FF consumption in Denmark since the 1996 peak may be attributed to wind power and other conservation policies. Population trends and per capita comparisons with other countries needs to be done to complete the picture.

That is an interesting graph!

Wind is certainly a low CO2 emission technology. There have been many lifecycle analyses of it. I obtained the following reference by emailing the corresponding (first) author:

Life Cycle Assessment for Emerging Technologies:
Case Studies for Photovoltaic and Wind Power:

Niels Jungbluth, Christian Bauer, Roberto Dones and Rolf Frischknecht.

International Journal LCA 2004 (OnlineFirst): 1 – 11

They find onshore emits 9 grams CO2/KWhr and offshore 13 grams CO2/KWhr. (Coal emits around 1000 grams/KWHr.)

Their offshore study is based on a 2MW turbine close to the coast and in 5 meters of water.

I think part of Denmarks success shown above has been their ability to export excess electricity to Norway and Sweden in times of high wind output since those countries have the ability to rapidly reduce their hydro and conversely import when wind output is low. The wind generators serve to extend the hydro resources in the other Nordic countries.

Although the electricity market in europe was deregulated in 1999 so could they just be buying more nuclear power from France?

The main thing to understand is that wind power does not reduce the number of gas MW (capacity) by much (only 1MW per 4MW of wind, or less), but it does reduce the number of gas MWh (actual output) significantly (almost one for one). So you still need lots of gas-fired plants, but they don't run as much, which is what matters for carbon emissions, as emissions are proportional to output, NOT to capacity.


- integrating wind into the network requires minor tweaking until it reaches 20% of net production, and more substantial, but easily understood, investment to get to 40%. Until we actually reach these levels (which we are NOWHERE NEAR DOING YET), it is profoundly dangerous to scare deciders off with talk of "highly unreliable" wind;

- stabilising the network with large scale wind power will ultimately require a quite sizable fleet of gas-fired plants that are used only part of the time. I fail to see where the problem is. Many gas-fired plants are built only for peak demand, some functioning - profitably - as little as 3-5% of the time. I expect that many of the existing, partly or wholly amortised, fleet of gas fired plants could see their life extended at very little cost for a very long time and be used only as backup for the mainly wind powered network. MW of gas-fired plants do not emit carbon, only actual MWh do.

- if, in the meantime, we work on storage capacity and other balancing mechanisms, I expect that we'll manage to bring in a lot more wind than we think is now possible. As I mentioned earlier, the French network perator has markedly warmed up to wind in the past year or so, as it sees that it causes fewer problems than it feared, and helps grid stability in other respects (voltage and reactive power, for instance.

Jerome. Have you read this recent study conducted at Stanford, the abstract of which as follows. Would this technique go a long way to making wind a significant baseload resource?

Wind is the world’s fastest growing electric energy source. Because it is intermittent, though, wind is not used to supply baseload electric power today. Interconnecting wind farms through the transmission grid is a simple and effective way of reducing deliverable wind power swings caused by wind intermittency. As more farms are interconnected in an array, wind speed correlation among sites decreases and so does the probability that all sites experience the same wind regime at the same time. Consequently, the array behaves more and more similarly to a single farm with steady wind speed and thus steady deliverable wind power.
In this study, benefits of interconnecting wind farms were evaluated for 19 sites, located in the Midwestern United States, with annual average wind speeds at 80 m above ground, the hub height of modern wind turbines, greater than 6.9 m/s (class 3 or greater).
It was found that an average of 33% and a maximum of 47% of yearly-averaged wind power from interconnected farms can be used as reliable, baseload electric power. Equally significant, interconnecting multiple wind farms to a common point, then connecting that point to a far-away city can allow the long-distance portion of transmission capacity to be reduced, for example, by 20% with only a 1.6% loss of energy.

The full study can be found at

UKERC published a report on the impact of intermittency on the grid last year.

Jerome, what is the potential for combining offshore wind and future wave power grid connections? Could there be any cost savings given a lower but more predictable output from the twinned wave farm? Could it also reduce maintenace costs (per kW capacity installed in a farm) by combining the two? I've recently started a PhD whose ultimate aim is the economic optimisation of new linear generators for wave power, although I'm an engineer not an economist, hence the interest.

On a more general note, what are the main factors considered when comissioning an offshore wave farm, could you point me to some good case studies that have been done?

TOD should be renamed (TSP). The large number of solar power posts (includes wind, as the sun drives the climate) indicates a TOD bias for solar. Electric power is not what we need. As the Peak Oil induced recession begins in 2008, we will have a surplus of electric power. Electric power is not going to produce food and move food and everything else, nor will it heat the homes in the U.S. (which are heated with natural gas and oil), nor will it provide fertilizer. Even if it could work out, we don't have time and capital to develop a solar economy. Then, when the power grid fails (it will happen in every country) electric power will be useless). Using valuable oil, natural gas, and coal energy to develop solar power is quicksand. See pages 29 to 41 of this report:
TOD should focus more on risk management and the dire problems we all face as terminal depletion, terminal capital, and terminal depression begin in 2008:
The first priority is conservation, not wasting energy on solar power.

If your blanket opposition to Solar has brought with it a defiance to wind as well, then I might suggest to you that outside of electrical generation, wind, with sails unfurled, will have the growing potential to be moving a lot of goods for us again.. it is also pumping water and doing other work directly.

I still haven't heard your argument against electric-rail freight, electric trolleys, buses as a way for the grid to move much of our food and our butts around.

While it's not the most efficient way to do it, if Mainers get a hiccup in their NG or #2oil supply, do you think that there won't be yet another run on space heaters at the Hardware stores? Already, we have folks leaving their ovens on and open around here, running their hair dryers for a little heat.. My mom has this really cute 'faux woodstove' space heater for her upstairs weaving room, complete with a flickering light show..

What do you mean 'We don't need Electric Power' ? Maine just had an energy watch last weekend due to NG supplies, while a cold snap had the electric baseboards all humming overtime..

Developing Solar power (in its MANY forms, esp incl Solar Heating) IS risk management. It can be broadly distributed, from the utility scale down to the household scale, down to portable radios, flashlights, tool batteries. And people who have added solar will frequently be more conscious of their energy use, not more sanguine about it, and will do extra to buckle down on the watts that they are still paying to 'import' into their homes.

Yes we have to conserve, we have to rethink our power usage in every corner of our lives and see where there is waste, or where we can do something manually that we have been habituated into plugging in.


The argument IS in my post above: we are out of both time and capital (the U.S. is bankrupt), and we don't need to waste good energy to get lower quality energy that is not needed. You tell me where the capital is going to come from. Passive solar is great, but there are few TOD posts on passive solar. The infatuation for active solar stems from ideological beliefs, not from rational thinking or decision-making. The cost of aluminum and stuff to produce solar and energy to manufacture solar are now sky high and increase as the cost of energy goes up. We are out of capital, out of time, and we are running out of natural gas and oil. TOD needs posts on what people are going to do: risk management. We are not going to be heating our homes with active solar, nor producing and transporting food with active solar. So, we need to move in a more productive direction.

There is still room to maneuver financially; the time factor is less clear as it is not yet known what tipping points are already past, and we do have the backlog of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere already. But all we can do there is cut emissions and plan for our best estimate of what is ahead.

But, back to finances, if the USA is out of capital, how is it funding war in Iraq, and the entire military? We are in debt, and that is serious, but one day maybe the world will give US a Marshall Plan equivalent due to our many efforts in the world, some noble, some misguided.

What can make a conservation and renewables development effort successful is a federal administration that DOES use a war-time mentality and communicates that effectively to the people. If that is done, we can then create enough wind and photo-voltaic power to meet our needs, as well as other types of solutions related to efficiency, energy storage, usage patterns, and so on.

You seem to be as blinded AGAINST solar as some 'may' be blinded towards it. It is not a Panacaea, but it works extremely well, and should be in the mix.

YOU don't have to heat your home with active solar, but many do, I'm working on mine, and a GREAT many others should follow. I'm not talking about PV driving Space Heaters, but Solar Thermal, which does get advocated here, as do passive systems and insulation, etc.. but it is a site focused on Energy Generation. We will still need energy generation, even if we're learning to live with a great deal LESS than we have now. It's far too useful to relinquish.

Out of Capital and Time? We're way down, but not out. But as our 'Energy Debt' comes due, we have to BOTH 'reduce our expenses, and boost our income'.. neither one alone will take care of the problem. What could be more Productive than that?


"...lower quality energy that is not needed."

"Lower Quality"

What is it that defines an Energy's 'Quality' in that statement? Simply the density of the storage medium? The Initial Cost of the Infrastructure? Do you think that it's possible that this is one of the mindsets that needs to be challenged if we are to get through this? We know that we can build durable (extremely durable) electric vehicles that will simply outstrip any other transportation option that is out there, IF we are willing to rebuild our tracks, change our definition of 'Freedom' to include not having to look for parking spaces as much, and getting to read, sleep, meditate or meet people on the way to work.

Electricity is flexible, portable, and scalable in the extreme. What makes it 'Low Quality'?

Food Production. The smaller tractor conversions I showed you can be scaled up, either in machine-size or in numbers. Conversion to Electric is hardly rocket-science, while it won't cover every need, it's another step away from the Diesel-distributor.

Out of time and out of Money (??!) That affects any direction we need to invest in. So that doesn't show me how this direction is the wrong one to put our evaporating resources towards.


Electricity seems like pretty high quality energy to me as it can be converted to (useful) heat, motive force, light etc. at close to 100%. Can’t do that with the chemical energy stored in oil – you’re lucky to convert 20% of the energy into useful work.

Passive solar like as in Zero Energy house passive solar design or the millions of chinese water heaters required on all apartment blocks using simple transparent plastic(most solar energy produced on earth I believe) pumping heat into buildings or heating water for cooking, bathing, etc.

High tech is not long term sustainable. It is likely after FFs are used up high tech solar will be unmanageable due to high energy inputs (back to simple local windmills for grain mills, Passive solar, high insulation or correct cooling in southern climes, siestas, etc.).

However given that our current system uses so much lectrical and other energy and an immediate rebuild to passive solar and low energy use is not achevable short term renewables by hi-tech seem the stop gap until passive edesing can be slowly implemented in construction over many decades.

It is true that passive solar has a huge potential, but in some (perhaps many) cases to take advantage of it, you would almost need to rip down the house and start over. There are so many homes that aren't even properly aligned so that they have a good south-facing side, and that's something you can't really fix after the fact.

And then on top of this, there are still many homes out there with inadequate insulation, and poor windows. Passive solar doesn't help much if all of the heat leaks away in an hour or so.

To an extent you can do small-scale passive solar in an existing home. In my old home I had venetian blinds that I would turn one way in the winter and the opposite way in the winter. On a cold winter morning, the bathroom was toasty warm in the morning as the sun was beating in the window and warming things up. Still, that house was poorly situated in the sense that that the windows on that side of the house were pointed more to the north than the south, but they happened to do a really nice job of catching the morning sun. In the summertime the house used to get rather hot, but I had a tree planted near the house which helped a lot to provide some shade and keep the house more comfortable.

Hopefully the McMansion mania is now over with. With higher costs to heat homes, perhaps there will be an increased emphasis on passive solar, but I can't guarantee a thing right now. Even if every home built in coming years is properly built to make use of passive solar, it would take many decades to turn over the entire housing stock in the nation.

Yeah, you are right - the fascination with active solar somehow reflects on how we tend to focus most of our attention on techno-fixes. I suppose that has more to do with the search for quick fixes and love of electronic gadgets than anything else.

I have to agree with you to a major degree. We we have a call to retool all industry to do a WWII style effort to make WT, and a call to retool all industry to do a WWII style effort to make hybrid cars, and a call to retool all industry to do a WWII style effort to make electrified rail locomotives, and a call to retool all industry to do a WWII style effort to make PV arrays, etc, etc.

Seems to me the same plants can't to the these things at the same time. You are right, the scale is way to big to accomplish this in the short time we have left. Certainly the US is bankrupt, but doesn't know it yet. The only way a massive scale of this magitude can be done is to have every wealthy company and person chip in just about everything they own into it. And since these places have their money locked up in dodgy debt, one wonders how rich these people actually are.

That said, I think some of this needs to be done as fast as possible. Build the WT where it makes sence, build PV panels as fast as we can and get them out there. Not to stave off the coming Grim Reaper, as that is virtually a lost cause now, but to allow those who survive some of the comforts we take for granted.

Richard Wakefield

Build the WT where it makes sence,

Such as Ontario

build PV panels as fast as we can and get them out there.-

Even in better solar and worse wind locations than Ontario, PV solar is still more expensive for local renewable power.

PV solar is still several steps behind wind and will likely never be (even at cost half to a third of today) competitve in Ontario (too far north, a bit too cloudy).

Per memory, Ontario recognizes this and pays 33 cents.kWh for PV solar vs. 11 cents per kWh for wind, biomass, small hydro, and almost zero new generation is coming from PV solar. Besides, don't you like cheap coal in Ontario ? PV solar is the WORST renewable (for economics) by far in ON.

PV solar is one item I would leave off the "Rush" list.

I agree that we cannot "rush everything", but we can rush several things (as we did in WW II).

On the "Maximum Commercial Urgency" List I would put:

Conservation & Insulation
Solar Hot Water Heaters
Electrify Railroads
Build Urban Rail (see Toronto's $6 billion plans)
Wind Turbines
HV DC transmission
Pumped Storage
Ground Loop Heat Pumps
More Hydro where possible
Promote Bicycling (including eBikes).

I would take Tar sands development OFF the "Maximum Commercial Urgency" List and slow down development there.

PV Solar should continue growing fast, but not at a crash or faster pace till economics improve.

Improving Fleet Gas Mileage should start FAST, but limits to what is possible (not THE best use of our resources long term). A secondary effort.

In next ten years, 9 new nukes in USA, two or three in Canada is about the maximum economic effort (any faster drives prices up) and this pace will allow us to speed up 2018+ construction pace by creating industry skills, etc.

Best Hopes,


PV solar is the WORST renewable (for economics) by far in ON.

Yet the Ontario government is helping fund a $350 million 1000 acre solar panel farm in Sarnia. And, according to the company, is just the beginning.

Richard Wakefield

And yet my company is deploying hundreds of peak kW of PV for no other reason than they are the most cost effective.

Congrats on the production. The question is, is PV panels on a mass scale in places like Ontario viable where in the winter the sun, during days times, shines less that 25% of the time (cloudy the rest), that the actual time panels can get viable sun is only 6-7 hours a day in the winter.

Then there is the problem of weather. Soon as a soggy snow storm or ice storm hits, all these panels are covered and rendered basically useless until they become clean again. It's one thing to clean off a few panels, it's another to clean 1000 acres of them. Any system that is added to clean them (such as heating) would take away from the ouput.

The cost to the government for the power from these panels is going to be some 43c/kwh, almost 10x the price currently charged to customers. True that number may go down, but by how much and how long would that take (no way of knowing).

Finally, my concern, as with any of the "silver bullet" alternatives is only ever shown to the public as such. You almost never read about the negative issues involved. That holding back of crucial information is highly misleading the public to make choices they are not fully understanding of.

Richard Wakefield


Could you give me more details on the economics, application and location where PV solar is the most cost effective ?

I could well believe Hawaii, for example. Good sun, alternative is oil burning utility.



We're working in Senegal, West Africa, where like Hawaii the alternative is oil fired electricity. Not cheap with today's oil price. Added to that we'll operating in off grid environments so the alternatives is micro (few kW) diesel generators with all the maintenance expense that implies. The application is mobile telecoms infrastructure and the payback is 3-5 years (in comparison to onsite diesel generation).

I wonder about a hybrid of a small durable wind turbine + solar PV. Battery life should be much better and one might be able to downsize the solar PV a bit.

Best Hopes,



It seems to me that home heating in Maine is in a very good position to supply renewable liquid fuels. I concentrate on jet fuel here because I feel that ultimately that is the hydrocabon fuel we'll need in the future. Maine's wind potential is pretty good with mountains showing class 7 and the coast showing class 4 with some islands showing class 6. The resource is cetainly there to become a major liquid fuels supplier.


I tried, I swear, but I have a headcold today.. and I'm trying to make some sawdusty stuff in the basement. I don't quite get the process for getting Jetfuel.. or at least what the feedstock is supposed to be. It sounds well thought-out. Have you tried to set up a proof-of-concept model?

I'll save it to the desktop and try again, but it might be (very) helpful to put an abstract or flow-chart up front.

Now.. am I the only one who thinks Clif's projections need a bit of challenging, or am I beating a dead horse? Or am I just wrong?

Bob Fiske

PS, I really do like the thinking around using the heat outputs from various household appliances as a part of the heating regime. I've got some holiday lights and our electric range that have been justified with this line of thought. (What Incandescents I still use are usually on Dimmers, however, since I often find they are bright enough when dimmed back a ways, or even down to a whisper when the house is dark. My Watts-up meter says that this 100w collection is usually running at 65w nominal, or around 10w when 'ghosting'.. ) _ Bob

Hi Bob,

I'm not so good a drawings but see if this helps:

EDIT: New figure. Energy inputs assume 100% efficiency, you'd 3000 more watts of heat if the electrolyzer were 70% efficienct. Assumed target is octane.


Thanks for the Illustrations. I wish I had the chemistry to make the pieces fit. This does seem fascinating, but is far enough off from my strengths that I glaze over looking at it. Might still be the headcold, but I'd love to hear the discussion between you and others who could discuss it's merits knowledgably..

apart from my own understanding however, and again.. is this something you could set up a prototype for, run it through its paces? There's something rebelliously cornucopian (if that word isn't too poisonous around here) about the prospect of selling jetfuel as an offshoot of heating my house.

Bob Fiske

Hi Bob,

I'd say this is not particularly cornucopian, but rather an acknowledgement that we do need hydrocabon fuels in one sector even though the efficiency cost is high. It is also an acknowledgement that people who live in cold climates are going to use more energy than those who live in more temperate climates no matter how much we improve our architecture. When it is 40 below, we're going to use heat. So, contraction and convergence places an extra burden on people with irreducible energy use. On the other hand, people who live in cold climates have been applying innovation to their unique situation for a long time, and this is just another iteration of Yankee ingenuity. (My family is from the Boston area originally but I grew up in Waterville.) Since the home heating and aviation sectors have comparable fossil energy use now, making this substitution has the correct scale. Comparison with say the Ceder Hills Bakken oil production where you have one productive well per 575 acres producing 100 bbl/day each, downtown Waterville, with quarter acre lots, would produce 0.16 bbl/day/acre averaged over a year. This makes the town look like a resource that is currently under development, or like a gusher if you only consider the winter production rate, though you would not need to drill or build pipelines to exploit it. You might need to put wind turbines on Sugarloaf and Saddleback though. There are some tradeoffs.

On the chemistry side, I'm just conserving energy. The enthalpy of combustion for n-octane (eight carbon and eighteen hydrogen atoms) is 5430 kJ/mole and for hydrogen gas it is 286 kJ/mole so we're going to supply about 357 kJ/mole in our carbon monoxide formation. We need nine moles of hydrogen and 8 moles of cabon monoxide as feed stock plus 8 moles of hydrogen to remove oxygen to make one mole of octane so this is where the (rough) energy in and heat out numbers come from. I should really be using an enthalpy of combustion of 283 kJ/mole for carbon monoxide but it took me a while to find it. My CRC is packed away right now.

I terms of setting up a demonstration, Fischer-Tropsch is the province of oil companies and though it was demonstrated at atmospheric pressure initially, it is done at high pressure now so that I'm not so sure I'd want to try that at home. You'd need a lab to prototype I think. I'd think Boeing, BP and the State of Maine should probably get together on this. I have been thinking about the direct method from carbon dioxide and I might be able to set something up outdoors once the weather warms up. Right now I think I'll get my 460 watts of CFLs and fixtures set up in space heater fashion since I don't have to worry much about pipes freezing here in Maryland. I want to wait until I'm on renewables before pushing up the power, but I'd like to get some experience growing plants with more visible light input than the Sun provides. I'm also going to look at the post christmas markdown for LED tree lights so I can experiment with volumetric lighting. I think about half off gives the same cost per watt of heat value as for CFLs given the LEDs' 100,000 hour life expectancy so I might try to get a couple hundred watts of those just to see how plants grow when the light comes from everywhere in a volume.


Very Interested to hear how plants respond to LED and CFL illumination.

And really didn't mean anything negative about the Cornucopian reference.. just trying to be a rebel's rebel..

I wonder if any grad students could be enticed to try it out? UNLV has a big energy department.. don't know who does energy research in the Maine Schools these days, but that's something I really should know, in any case. I really want to see who is looking into tide and wave.. I know there are a few, but I'd guess too few.

Thanks for all the elaboration! I'm trying!



How about skipping the bottom part of the picture and powerring your jet with hydrogen.

Aviation has certain technical requirements for fuel that I think hydrogen would have a hard time meeting. So far as I know, all hydrogen storage methods have a lower energy density for one thing which may be OK in traction applications but seems like it would be a problem for flight. The space shuttle uses liquid hydrogen but then jetisons the fuel tank. I suspect you'd run into similar issues with aviation. Boeing and the airforce are certainly looking at hydrocarbon replacement fuels rather than non-hydrocarbon fuels.


So since I'm now taking over that job, how much will my cut be?

Ayres et al. disagree, and cite increasing electrification as one of the driving forces enabling economic growth in the 20th century.

Electric power is not going to produce food

Food production takes up a few percent of oil&gas use, so there's no threat to it in the near term, and no reason not to use electric combines in the long term.

and move food and everything else

Electrified rail is 2-3x more efficient than fossil rail, and 10x more efficient than trucks.

nor will it heat the homes in the U.S.

Heat pumps are 3x more efficient, even in Canadian winters.

nor will it provide fertilizer


Not to mention that fertilizer uses only 3-4% of natural gas production and is highly portable, so it's mere scaremongering to be concerned about that in the short or medium term.

we don't have time and capital to develop a solar economy

An assertion for which you offer zero evidence.

Given how most of your other assertions are well-known to be wrong - each one of the above rebuttals has been provided multiple times previously, with multiple supporting links from multiple people - you can't be expecting anyone to take that kind of wild, unsupported assertion seriously.

As the Peak Oil induced recession begins in 2008

If it doesn't - and the odds are it won't - will you be honest enough to admit it and to learn from your mistake? Or will you keep insisting that the end is nigh...this time for real?

Baseless fear-mongering doesn't help anyone.

you can't be expecting anyone to take that kind of wild, unsupported assertion seriously

That isn't their goal either. Repetition is. They have learned that a broken-record approach is highly effective from several extremely successful sources. Truth or (accuracy) is also something they are not concerned with. Hence the lack of it in their posts. Lip Service and Cherry Picking. Name of the Game.

The Germans were the best army in the world for close to one hundred years. When they were defeated in 1945 they still were.

The Germans were the best tank manufacturers in the world for the entirety of WWII. In terms of innovation and several other categories.

They were beaten by the T-34/85 and the Sherman M-4. Grossly inferior assault vehicles compared to the best German stuff. But the allied effort won on numbers and production. Another form of repetition.

Nice report, Jerome. Did anyone talk about "floating wind towers?" I never hear anything about that, but it seems to me that it would be relevant. There are places in the world where it may not be practical to put wind towers on a concrete base in the ocean. I also wonder if global warming won't eventually put these offshore wind towers under water.


very good question.

some ideas related to this can be found in this PDF.

Edit: link address update

I can already feel the winds of change blowing through the land...

Coupled with LPG and new nukes maybe we can keep the lights on in the 20s and 30s...

I've some questions that maybe someone can answer:

1. Why not make the blades much thinner and lighter but flexible so that they bend AWAY from the pole as the unit rotates? This would save material and make the unit automatically be able to tolerate very high wind speeds without shutdown.
2. Why stop at 5MW? Why not put 2 units on a stick back to back with 6 blades instead of 3?
3. What about subsurface turbines -water has orders of magnitude more energy than wind and runs constantly in some locations...

We could use superconducting ring storage or perhaps ground thermal storage to even load.

Regards, Nick.

Five words: "Vibration very bad for bearings"

What determines the velocity at which a windmill spins? I would imagine a 300 ton, 80 meter turbine has a pretty high moment of inertia. It seems like we can create a spinning reserve just by draining energy from the windmills during high demand and letting their angular velocity accelerate during times of slack demand.

AC generators pretty much run at one speed. I'd imagine you'd need pretty complicated gearing to allow for a large turbine speed variance.

Frequency and voltage can be controlled by changing the field frequency and current. Another method is to rectify generator output to DC and then use an inverter to generate the desired frequency and voltage. What is truly dependent on wind speed is the wattage which is the cube of wind speed. A drop in wind speed from say 18 knots to 16 knots actually cuts the amount of watts available in half.

The larger the diameter of the blades, the higher the low end of the wind before any energy can be extracted. But the higher the high end too. They also draw more energy the larger the blades at any given wind speed.

I too wondered about why only 3 blades? Many turbo prop aircraft have 4 or even 6 blades. What about counter roatating blades like the Russian Bear aircraft had to help balance?

Surely there is research on this, but would be interesting to see the science of it.

The one thing that has never been talked about is the consequences of harnesing all this wind. Will we get to the point of WT having their own issues with changing local weather patterns? I suspect not as we won't make it to there.

Richard Wakefield

"I too wondered about why only 3 blades?"

Minimizes vibration on the rotor and fatigue failures.

While it is of course important to minimize vibrations in a wind turbine, I don't that's the only reason for having three rather than four or more blades.

For a given swept area of a turbine, one wants to absorb as much power contained in the wind passing through that area as possible. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, long slender blades do a better job of absorbing power than blades that are highly 'solid'.

There are trade-offs. Blades having a samll area (areaof the blade itself, not swept area) will maintain a high volumetric flow rate of air through the turbine but will have a relatively low pressure drop. On the other hand, blades with a large area will create a large pressure drop, but will have a lower volumetric flow rate through the turbine. Turbines with thin blades are high-speed and low-torque, while turbines with thick, wide blades are low-speed and high-torque.

The goal is to optimize volumetric flow rate and pressure drop so as to absorb the maximum amount of power. This is expressed as the 'power coefficient', which is the ratio of the power absored to the total power content of the wind stream at any give wind speed. The large three-bladed turbines have been carefully optimized to provide a high power coefficient.

There's also the consideration of trying to minimize the rotating mass of the turbine blades and thus minimize the loads on the bearings and gearbox.

One sign that wind power has become a mature technology is the fact that all large wind turbines now more or less look alike. Such was not always to the case, as a glance through any book on wind power from the 1970s will show a wide array of wind turbine types under consideration.

The other reason is that there is generally a wind gradient between the top of the sweep and the bottom, and a 3 blade design is less affected than a 2 or 4 (or more) design.
When one blade is at at the top, there are two at the bottom (in the slower wind) to balance the off-axis load, and and vice - versa when a blade is at the bottom.

I'll play devil's advocate here:

1) Expansion of a highway just encourages more traffic and likewise expansion of electricity capacity only encourages use. We should not seek to replace aging capacity whether nuclear or coal with renewables but to reduce consumption through rationing, efficient electric devices, insulation, and triple glazing on houses, etc.

2) Similar to the US postwar buildout of suburbia and Interstate highway networdk resulting in a modern unsustainable architecture in terms of living more likely to collapse, the buildout of such a massive renewable energy architecture on high sea(wind turbines) and in the deserts (solar) connected to land with cables is in high need of maintenance far away from population centres and leaves the population highly dependent on a dangerously unstable energy source while the best solution would have been to eliminate unnecessary electrical appliances such as TVs, Radios, refrigerators in favour of more traditional entertainement or food storage (pantry/larder).
Due to the lack of Fossil fuels in the end the maintenance, repair, replacement of such massive high-tech solar and wind complexes will be impossible and the population will be in a similar panic as today with the present panic over dwindling fossil fuels.

3) The large capital intensive corporations are the driving powers bbehind this strategy to deal with dwindling fossil fuels as they want to maintain their stranglehold on the population as up till now with large nucler and fossil fuel plants in central locations. A decentralized and long term sustainable energy plan of low energy use such as banning of private autos in favor of bicycle use with electric trains and buses/trams and small scale solar on rooftops(PV or simpler water heater like in China) and restriction of use of home electricity to eliminate need for nuclear and coal power plants by refusing licensing of certain elecrical devices(TV, radio, fridge,etc.) plus massive double/triple glazing and insulation to eliminate dangers of blackmail from Russia(NAtgas) and corresponding energy need for heating.

A serious energy plan looks like what I have recommended as one cannot use up all the remaining fossil fuels to maintain massive alternative electric power plants, plug in hybrid vehicles and poorly insulated plus airconditioned Mcmansions filled with consumer electronics in suburbs.

Full disclosure: I live in Germany with the most advanced alterantive enrgy plans. My aprtment where I live has recently been insualted and gootten new windows so that we are toasty warm with low energy bills. I own a small apartment that I rent out and had to pay my part of the building insualtion about €9000-10000 over several years, no small piece of chantge. In England some years ago my mother, while she still lived there got an estimate for double glazing of ca. 17000 pound sterling if memory serves me. Insulation done as in Germany externally and made to look asif the insulation were real bricks was not known to me but perhaps available.

A massive Marshall plan in the manner of insulating every building and replacing all old windows and devices could be made into a cost analysis to see how much energy would be saved in comparison to costs of a massive build out of windmills at sea and Pholtovoltaic plants. I suspect that the amount of energy saved per invested money would be greater through the suggested conservation measures per unit of money and long term more sustainable than through alternative energy power plant expansion and be politically wiser due to the effect mentioned which we could callthe "filled up highway effect" where a highway will alwyays be filled no nmatter how big you make it. In the end you could shut down most power plants and over time more and more without replacement by increasing conservation measures year for year.

Over on this side of the pond, politicians believe that asking (or even daring to mention conservation/using less) is political suicide. The last president who asked (in a pretty limited way) was Jimmy Carter, and his unpopularity lead to Reagan. Common political wisdom is that conservation had a lot to do with that. It was more likely that the apparent ineptness of the handling of the Iranian hostage crisis had more to do with it. But no politician wants to risk his career testing this assumption. IMO over here, we have to be really careful how we promote conservation lest a political backlash cause much harm.

"Insulation done as in Germany externally and made to look asif the insulation were real bricks was not known to me but perhaps available."

Please contact me at jkutz(at)kutzwald(dot)com.
I have a pressing need to find out more about the externally applied insulation that looks like bricks.

I live in an old farm house (in the northern Midwest USA) with clay tile structural walls with brick facing on the outside and lathe/plaster on the inside - And NO insulation & no way I have found to insulate inside the walls (clay tiles run some vertical and some horizontal). I have thought of spraying urethane foam covered by (something) but it would look like heck. Almost sprayed last summer, but couldn't bring myself to destroy the beautiful brick exterior look.

Thanks in advance for any information you might be able to supply me.

I live in an old farm house (in the northern Midwest USA) with clay tile structural walls with brick facing on the outside and lathe/plaster on the inside - And NO insulation & no way I have found to insulate inside the walls (clay tiles run some vertical and some horizontal). I have thought of spraying urethane foam covered by (something) but it would look like heck. Almost sprayed last summer, but couldn't bring myself to destroy the beautiful brick exterior look.

There are a number of synthetic "stucco" + foam systems that you can use to simulate brick, such as Parex AMS:

which is not a DIY job, needs skilled application crew.

You can also consider strapping the wall, spraying with Icynene or Urathane using a spray foam contractor, then sheathing over and a thin brick veneer to finish.

Much better in my opinion to gut out the exterior walls inside, i.e. remove the lath and plaster, frame, insulate, drywall.

This will also let you upgrade antique pipes and electrics in those walls with minimal hassle at the same time if that has not already been done.

Messy, but can be mostly DIY, probably well worth it to have a crew come in to do the taping and mud on the drywall if your not skilled at that. The end result leaves you with real brick on the outside, which can't be beat on a number of levels, and will be the best in terms of the $ value of the building when it's done

Much better in my opinion to gut out the exterior walls inside, i.e. remove the lath and plaster, frame, insulate, drywall.

Normally insulations are affixed on the outside, as inside insulations are having problems with condensed water between the wall and the insulation. Your house will soon be mould-infested…
If your choosing an inside insulation, you have to install a vapour barrier between the wall and the insulation.

If your choosing an inside insulation, you have to install a vapour barrier between the wall and the insulation.

Correct. A vapor barrier is needed on the "warm" side of the insulation. This is polyethalene sheet plastic when using batt type insulation such as fiberglass, or mineral wool types such as Roxul, or open cell foam boards like expanded polystyrene ("beadboard" the stuff that looks like white disposable coffee cups). All penetrations in the poly barrier must be sealed air tight using special adhesive tape, or "acoustic sealant", a nasty (super sticky bubble gum from hell) goo that is applied from a caulking gun

Most closed cell foams, sprayed or sold as rigid sheets, like extruded polystyrene ("pink" or "blue" board) are vapour proof so do not require an additional barrier as long as all the seams are correctly sealed air tight during instalation.

Check with your supplier for detailed info.

Most closed cell foams, sprayed or sold as rigid sheets, like extruded polystyrene ("pink" or "blue" board) are vapour proof so do not require an additional barrier as long as all the seams are correctly sealed air tight during instalation.

…. don't forget that you have to take care of possible thermal bridging (floors, balcony…)
and yes you are right the vapour barrier is needed on the “warm” side - mea culpa

Wikipedia in English and German on insulation has lots of good links even for doing older houses, bottom of English page. The last links shows a typical German house before and after. Where we live they just put an insulation styropor or similar slabs up and then applied a type of preprinted material on top like a thick wallpaper printed with bricks pattern so no difference is noticed.

I did exactly this 25 years ago. Brick Victoria style, 1880s home. No insulation at all. Lath and plaster inside. I gutted the whole inside, added new inside walls from 2x2 to 2x4 and insulated it, then drywalling. Re plumbed the house, rewired the house, all new forced air heating including ductwork.

Took me 15 years, dominated our lives, almost cost me my marrage (she hated the mess. The dust GETS EVERYWHERE!), and costs a lot of money (we often had to stop to rebuld enough cash to continue). When we finally got it done we sold the house.

Would never do that gain. It's a MAJOR undertaking and highy disruptive. And it's not just me, I've read many horror stories of the same thing around here.

Best advice? Move. Or have lots of money and have a contractor come in and live elsewhere until it's done.

Richard Wakefield

Here's some interesting websites:

1) A collection of maps showing world potential for wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable power:

2) An interactive map showing Canada's wind enery potential:

Our best potential is off the East Coast, but I dont know if icebergs and winter ice will permit devellopment. We may just have to settle for devellopment on small islands like Sable Island or the Madeleine Islands in the Gulf of St-Lawrence.

110 MW are planned for PEI.


purely from wind condition POV, where are the best places to harness the energy?

Smooth, even, laminar flow a high % of the time.

Non-turbulent flow is good for the bearings & blades (and total life of WT, 35 years better than 21 years of operation).

Constant even wind makes it easier to optimize turbine to location, and gives a high yield.


where on earth is the bill best filled? and how much energy can one expect to extract from these optimal locations?

The best location is a thousand feet up. And we can extract as much wind energy as we want.

Perhaps the constant katabatic winds off of the Antarctic ice shelf in certain places ?

Wind is seldom "perfect"


if one put WT there, what would be the cost difference for a unit energy produced?

Initially higher, due to costs of installation & maintenance (REMOTE location) and specialized design.


how about over the expected lifetime? overall return rate of investment?

Close offshore is probably best:

1. Air Density
2. Less turbulent air flow and no friction from ground cover
3. Less transmission losses
4. Proximity to markets
5. But still far enough away to reduce noise pollution
6. Serviceable by boats and crane barges (existing technology) - and you dont need to build roads to acces or service them
7. All on same level = ease of servicing by the same kind of craft.

Seems to me that 4-8 kms offshore is optimum assuming no great variations in water depth.

I would state by depth (deep enough for barge mounted crane but no deeper) and as close to shore as possible (far enough away to avoid turbulence caused by beach condo towers :-).

Trade winds better than storm winds.

Dakota/Saskatchewan plains along a lightly used spur RR line could also be good (served by rail mounted crane, no real access roads needed).

Iowa ALMOST as good >:-)


The mindset here seems to focus only on unreliable horizontal winds. Vertical winds also exist--they are called updrafts. They are very frequent and intense above continental landmasses, especially in the summer months. They are much more reliable and easy to manage.

Someone (L.M. Michaud-The Wizard of On) has invented a way to harness the energy they contain by "collecting" them before they release from the lower warm air layer. His invention is presented at I recommend the FAQ section after reading the Business Presentation.

It's the same energy that powers thunderstorms, called Convective Available Potential Energy. It can be modulated at night and during winter months by using waste heat or geothermal, especially in NW USA. It can also use warm seawater (or even lakewater, eg Lake Superior), especially if it is warmer than the air over the land (fall, winter)

The AVE uses a form of "passive solar" heat. The surface of the earth is its "solar panel". The machine attracts (via the creation of a low-pressure point) heated air near the surface to a central location, extracts a portion of its energy using turbines, and releases the remainder, still buoyant, to the upper reaches of the atmosphere via an artificially created vortex. Heat exchangers can be installed to add wast heat or to humidify the air, adding to its potential to rise and create heat aloft by condensation

Its potential is immense and good locations are widely available. It will also collect a good fraction of the horizontal winds that blow over it. BTW, it emits no carbon dioxide.

"There are none so blind as he who will not see."

I work in the UK renewables industry, and expect to profit from the expansion in offshore wind. However, I'm concerned by the path the government is taking.

Faced with the twin problems of energy security and climate change, they appear to have decided the solution is to pick a number of winning technologies - namely nuclear, offshore wind and lukewarm support for CCS. But I don't think the government is very good at picking winners.

I would prefer to see them put a long-term price on climate change (via a CO2 price) and energy security (eg via capacity credits) and let the market sort out which technologies to use.

However, this is more a vague misgiving than a well thought out argument. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

UK energy policy is a muddled as ever and I suspect the real policy will be to hope the problem goes away. I would like to see the Government support wave energy which I beleive has the only real long term potential of delivering anything near total energy requirements for the UK. The recent pelemis trials are promising and at a potential yield of 30MW / 100gwh - PA per km2 it is easy to see the potential of large scale deployment in the western approaches, irish sea, North Sea, and North West Scotland.

As for the intermittancy of renewables demand management would appear to be a major part of the answer. In the 1990's I believe the national grid ran trials using radio transmitters to energise 'economy 7' type circuits in domestic properties during lulls in the grid.

I assume long term replacement for gas heating will be heat pumps. GSHP along with water heating appears to be one way of managing supply flutuation. Additionally at a commercial level there are a range of processes that can utlise electric in such a way. Refrigerators, gas compressors, heating.

Wave energy is decades away from reaching the point where wind is today (and will likely never get there IMHO).

Support for wave energy is no answer.

The solution to wind fluctuations in the UK is 1) a half dozen pumped storage schemes in Wales & Scotland and 2) interconnections with major hydro sources in Iceland and Norway (perhaps Switzerland & Austria as well) with 3) improved transmission (modest likely).

Demand management looks promising, I admit.

Best Hopes for keeping the lights on,


Hi Alan

The recent experimental 3MW Pelemis Unit off Scotland cost around £4 million pounds. Not cheap I agree but then the costs of wind in the 'experimental phase' were horrific too. Assuming production costs come down through economies of scale and energy costs increase is it not feasible that wave becomes commercial viable - assuming all technicial issues are resolved?

Im hopeful of wave energy. My experience of sailing in the north sea and atlantic tell me that big waves are much more reliable than both solar and wind!

none is more reliable than the westerlies and the ACC - 130Sv in constant motion.

Salt water is a harsh environment ! Drives costs up and storms damage & destroy.

Yes, I see wave energy extraction where wind was in early 1970s or so. It is 35 years later for wind, with continual development, cost & operating experience, etc.

Another viable renewable power source will be "nice" in 30+ years time, but wave may never become cost competitive.

Can we wait on a gamble that may never arrive ?

Best Hopes for Available technology, and for future R&D,


An item in a paper recently, in an answer to a Parliamentry question it seems that the Ministry of Defence has opposed plans for onshore wind turbines. No joined up government.