US Department of Interior Moves to Speed Up Wind Energy

The U.S. Interior Department has recently released a report entitled "Survey of Available Data on OCS Resources and Identification of Data Gaps". The report, commissioned by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and completed by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) branch of the department, outlines the energy resources available in the outer continental shelf (OCS) of the United States. Although the MMS is more well known for its role in auctioning off and granting permits for offshore oil and gas leases, the report is striking in that wind and wave energy potential receives top billing. The report (14 MB pdf) along with videos, podcasts, and presentation slides can be downloaded from the department's web site.

REPower 5M wind turbine, currently the world's largest, in the Scottish North Sea.

One takeaway is that the MMS has been directed to place a larger emphasis on renewable energy. The report table of contents has the following three main sections:


The report is primarily a compilation of data generated previously by MMS and other agencies such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing the energy potential (both known and estimated) offshore. A smaller fraction discusses the "information gaps", and there is obviously much work to be done before we really know how much renewable and untapped fossil energy can realistically be obtained. While the prominence of renewable energy in the overall OCS report is evident, this is not a new activity by MMS. Here is a press release from last summer on developing the regulatory framework.

Salazar chose the 25x25 Summit, a renewable energy conference, to announce the report's release, and is currently taking his show on the road for four public hearings. The first was yesterday in Atlantic City, NJ, and the next is April 8, 2009 in New Orleans. Salazar's emphasis on renewables has been highlighted in many press reports:

Salazar said ocean winds along the East Coast can generate 1 million megawatts of power, roughly the equivalent of 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired power plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now operating in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

This elicited an expected response from the Coal Lobby:

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, said he was puzzled by Salazar's projections. He said wind-power plants face roadblocks including local opposition, concerns about their impact on wildlife, and problems in efficiently transmitting power from far offshore.

"It really is a stretch," he said of Salazar's estimate. "How you put that many new (wind) plants up, especially in deep water, is confusing. Even if you could do what he said, you still need to deal with the fact that the best wind plants generate power about 30 percent of the time. There's got to be something to back that up."

Local environmental groups had their own message to deliver, that being that their coastlines should not be reopened for oil and gas drilling. As a Senator from Colorado, Salazar had voted to end limits on offshore drilling in Florida. Thus, many groups are trying to get a sense of what Salazar's (or Obama's) priorities will be.

The Wind Energy Association is most interested in how the permitting process will work and what the resulting regulatory framework will look like. There has been one instance of competing claims for siting wind farms in New Jersey while waiting for the MMS to formulate its rules. There has also been a feud between the Interior Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on who gets to regulate tidal energy,

The dispute, which dates to late 2007, pits the Interior Department against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over which entity should approve projects that use coastal waves and currents to produce power.

Offshore wind development has been entangled in the dispute because Interior's Minerals Management Service does not want to separate wind projects from the tidal wave, or hydrokinetic power, programs — which FERC in turn has refused to surrender, according to several officials who have followed the dispute.

but this seems to have been resolved. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gives Interior authority to regulate the transmission of electricity from offshore. A resource for following the developing regulatory framework is the Offshore Energy Law Blog.

If anyone can make it to one of the remaining public meetings, be sure to drop us a line. Here is the schedule:

New Orleans, LA
When: Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Doors open at 8 AM, event begins at 9 AM Where: Tulane University
McAlister Auditorium
McAlister Drive between Freret and Willow Streets
6823 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA

Anchorage, AK
When: Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Doors open at 8 AM, event begins at 9 AM Where: Dena'ina Civic & Convention Center
600 W. Seventh Ave
Anchorage, AK

San Francisco, CA
When: Thursday, April 16, 2009
Doors open at 8 AM, event begins at 9 AM Where: Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF
Robertson Auditorium
1675 Owens Street
San Francisco, CA

And once we put up thousands of these wind mills we will find that "surprise" it changes the weather patterns.

DelusionaL: as severe as the effects of building highrises (reduces wind speeds), cutting down forests (increases wind speeds), hilltop removal (increases wind speeds, apart from all other nasty side-effects on climate, water, and landscape)?

I think we should worry about the real problem, which is our climate! First steps: stop building new coal-fired powerplants, work on the most important alternatives: efficiency, wind, biomass, solar.

And further uprates of existing nukes and building as many nukes as we can safely and economically, 6, 7 or 8 new US nukes in the next decade.

Best Hopes for a Rush to Wind and a further build-out of nukes


I left out the nukes because:

The reason that hardly any nuclear power plants were built over the past decades is that they're simply too expensive and too risky for investors. Without exception, all recent additions had massive cost-overruns and construction delays.

If you start planning now, you may have a few plants in 10 years. By that time one of the following (but probably more than one) is likely to have happened:

1. A kWh from wind combined with backup or transport capacity (dams, batteries, pressurized air, long-distance electricity transport) is cheaper than a kWh from a new nuclear plant (it probably already is cheaper)
2. Solar energy (including backup or transport capacity as above) will be cheaper (this will take a bit longer)
3. No solution is found for the waste (Yucca mountain was scrapped, Asse in Germany collapsed on top of the waste)
4. Another nuclear power plant blows up (most operating plants are getting really creaky, and that includes some of the American and European ones)

If only one of these predictions comes true, nuclear is dead, and deserves to be.

5) Given humans still attack each other/one anothers property - how in the world we live in are fission plants not a target of evil do-ers?
6) All human efforts fail over time. Some of the failure modes of fission are really bad. If fission was safe, why does Price-Anderson exist? Why do fines get handed out by FedGov for not following the safety rules?

re.6 : Because we take the risks from nuclear plants more seriously than equivalent, or even identical, risks from other power sources.

How about the nuke power industry has promised that fission is "safe" - yet can't even meet the governments requirements for safe operation.

And somehow, security guards are allowed to sleep on the job when watching fission plants.

If operation was happening without violation of the agreed safety rules, then the fission business would have a good chance at making the claim they are 'safe''.

If operation was happening without violation of the agreed safety rules, then the fission business would have a good chance at making the claim they are 'safe''.

No, then they would be able to claim that they were following the rules.

If they had ever killed as many people as coal plants kill every year they'd be banned, yet somehow coal is "clean" and "safe".

Folks are just afraid of what they don't understand. Coal miners dying of black lung and cave ins, acid rain killing lakes, smog, and fly-ash dumps giving the neighbors heavy metal poisoning, these are all well established and "safe" risks.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

Safe, adj. : Free from risk.

Name me a energy source that is safe! Now if you want to talk about relative safety.

Below is a bar chart of the demonstrated death risk of several energy sources.

Anti-nuc people like to emphasize hypothetical risks based on worst worst case models not what has been demonstrated.

See "Black Swan - Nuclear"


Now Alan, you can’t get away that easy. :) Just blowing it off by suggesting a nuclear Black Swan event is not an argument. With only three significant nuclear power reactor accidents in the last sixty years which caused a total of fewer than 60 deaths, a number that the world coal power industry exceeds several times a week, nuclear is safer than any power industry other than hydroelectric, (note that the hydro deaths do not include dam failures).

Modern reactors have better failure analysis than most any other system with the highest probability significant release of radio nuclides being from a large military attack. New designs like LFTR would contain much less than one percent of the fission products that todays reactors have reducing the risk by another two to three orders of magnitude.

Risk can never be reduced to zero, however nuclear reactors in general, and LFTR in particular have the ability to reduce CO2 by over 75% while eliminating the need for foreign oil. Something environmentalists and economists seem to like.

A bit emotional for a "hard fact" site? How's this for some hard facts? Ontario, Canada now has 6,000 MW coal-fired generation. By June it plans to accept the bids from one of three contenders (AREVA, Westinghouse, AECL) to build another 2,200 MW nuclear and shut down that much coal gen. The new nuclear will be built on fixed-price contracts with contractor taking liability for any overruns. In Canada, no "Price-Anderson" act has been necessary. Spent fuel is stored onsite in dry casks until such time as it will be needed for use in a new fuel run in the reactors. There is some discussion of a waste burial site in the Whiteshell some time in distant future, but no real problem for present 22 reactors. Between additional new nukes, new renewables and conservation, Ontario plans to have shut down all coal generation before 2020.

Ontario's Green Jobs program
combined with some high capacity factor new generation Nuclear power seems like a good combination to me.

A bit emotional for a "hard fact" site?

Nope - the topic has been hashed out before. And say I spend the time to, once again, hash it out. Not like your mind uis going to be changed.

5) Given humans still attack each other/one anothers property - how in the world we live in are fission plants not a target of evil do-ers?

Because they have more effective targets to attack.

6) All human efforts fail over time. Some of the failure modes of fission are really bad.

Chernobyl is about as bad as it gets and the eventual death toll is still less than 1/7th of what coal power kills in the US every year. That's if the LNT hypothesis is true, it may well not be but it's unlikely we'll ever know; it's kind of hard to detect ~4000 cancers out of a backdrop of several hundred million that would be expected from the usual suspects( metabolism, smoke inhalation etc.).

If fission was safe, why does Price-Anderson exist?

Because nuclear energy is held to a higher standard than other power sources.

The value EPA places on a human life for determining if an action is cost effective in saving lives or not is $6.9 million(it was lowered $1 million during the Bush years). If coal power had to pay this rate for each life prematurely lost(30 000/year according to EPA) it would come to a total of $210 billion/annum.

This is not even some kind of a failure mode(unless you concede that coal is in permanent failure mode). If coal was regulated as stringently as nuclear energy every single coal plant in existance would be shut down permanently tomorrow.

Why do fines get handed out by FedGov for not following the safety rules?

Because nuclear energy is held to a higher standard than other power sources.

Because nuclear energy is held to a higher standard than other power sources.

This begs the question WHY? When it comes to safety and environmental impact per MWH delivered, the facts surrounding nuclear power don't justify how it is regarded in the socio-political sphere. If we were to let facts be the guide and apply the same level of standards to coal, oil and gas, fossil fuels would be anathema and nuclear would be the choice. Yet, the opposite has been the case.

I might be a little slow on the uptake here, but could this be because powerful fossil-fuel interests, representing the richest corporations on the planet, wanted to knee-cap the only serious competition? For example: Amory Lovins, famous for his anti-nuke stance, and I'm sure a go-to guy for many anti-nuclear arguments said this

You know, I've worked for major oil companies for about thirty-five years, and they understand how expensive it is to drill for oil.

After realizing the grotesque amount of propagandizing that goes on with American "news" corporations in recent years, I figure this point is a valid one for consideration. Public opinion is bought and sold and facts have little to do with the matter. Think tanks, faux institutes, guru "experts" that get paid to spread opinion, are often funded by wealthy interests for the sole purpose of massaging public opinion. I think nuclear power lost the P.R. war with fossil fuel interests a long time ago, and so it is held to different standards that serve to hobble it because of the negative political climate that has been crafted over recent decades.

I think nuclear power lost the P.R. war with fossil fuel interests a long time ago, and so it is held to different standards that serve to hobble it because of the negative political climate that has been crafted over recent decades.

Quite right.

And then AGW comes along out of left field, with prominent environmentalists like James Lovelock publicly endorsing nuclear power as a necessary response.  Looks like fossil's holding action may not last much longer; we can hope.

Correct, but not putting up the wind mills will also change the weather patterns, globally, and in a harmful way. Seems pretty clear which is the less of two evils.

One of the many positive aspects of highly distributed wind power is that while a wind turbine's actual generation might often only be 35% of it's nameplate capacity, a lull in one area is very often compensated by a brisk wind in another. The weather variations between the plains, Great Lakes, mountains, and oceans is considerable, and a smart grid backed by hydro, geothermal, and solar can help to ameliorate peaks and valleys in wind generation. I applaud this emphasis by the Interior Secretary and look forward to an acceleration of onshore and offshore wind farms.

not again Eric !
.... just a short glimse at that assembly - most people see the flaw(s). A windturbine is an aerial version of a Kaplan propeller (or a boat propeller for that matter) and thos are not serial-coupled onto the same axis, due to you know ; efficiency , vortex ,turbulence and more. Nuff said.

paalmyrtvedt -

Indeed, this Selsam scheme of putting multiple rotors on slender flexible shafts is, almost by inspection, a very poor design that rapidly gets even more impractical the larger one makes it. Can you just picture say six 50-meter diameter rotors spinning away on some flexible shaft that is say 400 meters long? I'd give it an operating life of about 24 hours before the whole thing self-destructs.

By the way, the conventional three-bladed large wind turbine doesn't really have much in common with a Kaplan propeller, as the latter is a very 'solid' propeller specifically designed for low-head hydroelectric plants. It operates within a duct rather than in an open fluid stream, so has entirely different fluid dynamics.

Rather, the modern large wind turbine most closely resembles a large variable-pitch aircraft propeller, in that the blades have a very high aspect ratio, are slightly tapered, and have a varying angle of attack along the blade (the latter feature intended to prevent sudden stalling). There are of course important differences in airfoil section, but the closest resemblance is really to an aircraft propeller.

One can buy a 2 bladed turbine

eric blair -

Well, granted that a two-turbine system is not as problematic as a multiple-turbine system, that long unsupported shaft is still a very worrisome feature of this design, one that will create some serious vibrational and structural problems once the size of this thing gets beyond small backyard type of models. With careful shaft design, this thing might have a chance in the small size range, but I don't see it scaling up very well to even a moderate size system.

Doug's patents seem to require cheap carbon fibre composits to work. I provided a link to his ideas as the front page showed the "new" 5 MW wind machine.

(new in that 5 MW turbines are the latest and greatest. If a 2 blade tubine was shown, I'd post to Selam's design also)

(I find Doug's design interesting in that his wind machine vision doesn't have a gearbox and can "float" - thus not needing a big, expensive anchor system)

I found this article mind-boggling ! If "green subsidies" in US pan out as in Spain,well, change there will be !

Job Losses From Obama Green Stimulus Foreseen in Spanish Study

- Subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain’s experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.

For every new position that depends on energy price supports, at least 2.2 jobs in other industries will disappear, according to a study from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget proposal contains about $20 billion in tax incentives for clean-energy programs. In Spain, where wind turbines provided 11 percent of power demand last year, generators earn rates as much as 11 times more for renewable energy compared with burning fossil fuels.

The premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power - - which are charged to consumers in their bills -- translated into a $774,000 cost for each Spanish “green job” created since 2000, said Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university and author of the report.

“The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices,” he said in an interview.

Spain’s Acerinox SA, the nation’s largest stainless-steel producer, blamed domestic energy costs for deciding to expand in South Africa and the U.S., according to the study.

More on the same at REUTERS:

“The study’s results demonstrate how such ‘green jobs’ policy clearly hinders Spain’s way out of the current economic crisis, even while U.S. politicians insist that rushing into such a scheme will ease their own emergence from the turmoil,” Calzada wrote.

Conservative bloggers have seized on the study to show that Obama’s green energy push will cost the U.S. some 6 million jobs — although others have injected a note of skepticism.

The problem with this kind of reasoning is that it would prevent any new development, because it takes time and investments to get far enough on the learning curve. If nobody walks ahead, nobody will walk. And we cannot afford not to walk (peak oil, climate change).

By the way,the German experience shows that renewables don't raise electricity prices appreciably. Moreover, renewables have started to lower peak prices. Link in German:

I would like to know who commissioned the study (under the motto: who pays get to decide the outcome). Also, discussing a study is difficult without having it at hand.

Hi Mark - full report for your pleasure and debugging option (here :PDF-warning)

I guess this report would take quite some time debugging, but they authors make their attitude clear from the beginning by talking about LESSONS FROM THE SPANISH RENEWABLES BUBBLE, and "green jobs" (their quotes).

Their reasoning is that if the subsidies would have been spent on supporting other industries (basically the energy-intensive kind) more jobs would have been generated or saved. Furthermore, electricity rates are claimed to increase (although that should have been covered by the capital costs: I think they're counting negative effects double).

Studies like these completely neglect the fact that the subsidies help new developments ahead on their learning curves. In that sense, the benefits are shared with other countries. It's no more than right that developed countries bring new renewables to maturity using subsidies.

The other way around, energy leakage (energy-intensive energy moving abroad) is only possible if other countries do not engage in similar activities, and don't include external costs in electricity bills.

Future benefits are also completely left out of the picture: it is likely that external costs for coal will make future electricity from coal much more expensive. The already available wind and solar capacity will be incredible profit-makers as investments have been paid of.

In the end is a political decision to plan for the future or simply let the status quo be. The latter is in the interest of the fossil fuel lobby (like the Saudis complaining that action on climate change would ruin their economy).

Perhaps Spain exaggerated a bit, and it cost them some, but from the larger perspective, they should be commended for helping new renewables become more competitive. And on the longer run, the investments (or subsidies) will also benefit Spain.

Here's "my" response to "your" post:
Spain’s job-creation record is far from stellar—the country has had double-digit unemployment since the restoration of democracy thirty years ago, and today has a 14% jobless rate. Renewable-energy leadership has not been a panacea, as much as the current premier hopes it will pull Spain out of the current crisis.

But the study doesn’t actually identify those jobs allegedly destroyed by renewable-energy spending. What the study actually says is that government spending on renewable energy is less than half as efficient at job creation as private-sector spending. Specifically, each green job required on average 571,000 euros, compared with 259,000 euros in “average capital per worker” in the rest of the economy.

So how does that translate into outright job destruction? It’s simply a question of opportunity cost, the paper says: “The money spent by the government cannot, once committed to “green jobs”, be consumed or invested by private parties and therefore the jobs that would depend on such consumption and investment will disappear or not be created.”

On paper, that makes sense. But Spain’s support for renewable energy came out of existing tax revenues—there were no special levies on corporate activity designed to underwrite clean energy.

The money the government has spent on clean energy may have edged out other government spending, but it’s hard to see how it could have edged out private-sector spending, especially when the Socialist government there has reduced corporate income-tax rates, most recently this past January.

And just where did that study come from? Professor Gabriel Calzada is the founder and president of the Fundacion Juan de Mariana, a libertarian think tank founded in 2005. He’s also a fellow of the Center for New Europe, a Brussels-based libertarian think thank than in recent years apparently accepted funding from Exxon Mobil.

Another case of comparing things that are not alike. Spain is primarily different from the U.S. in that it is part of the Euro zone. When it entered it received a lot of subsidies as did Ireland also. That resulted in a housing boom in Spain and a technology boom in Ireland. Both countries are now in recession. The problem for both is that there is no way to have monetary stimulus since the Euro is outside the control of each. There have been large job losses in both countries, one with extensive wind development and one without.

A more appropriate comparison would be among states within the United States some of which have emphasized wind energy like Iowa and some of which have not. It turns out that Iowa currently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country along with North and South Dakota which have also emphasized wind energy. Iowa is behind only Texas and California in wind energy production and it is a much smaller state.

Things that are different can not be compared. If they are the result is silly nonsense. I do not put much weight on the Spanish study since there are other factors at work and the study itself doesn't seem to make much sense in the light of contrary evidence from Iowa.

"A more appropriate comparison would be among states within the United States some of which have emphasized wind energy like Iowa and some of which have not."

Can it be? X has proposed comparing things that are not the same, by suggesting that a careful understanding of relevant 'factors' would reveal both the important similarities AND differences, and therefore provide some useful perspective.

What confuses me is why groups like Consumer Reports keeps doing these 'Showdowns' between DIFFERENT makes and models of things? Why don't they just buy a case of the same product, and compare them?

You're SO close! So close..

A lot of these windmills seem to follow one design concept. Why aren't windmills that follow a concept of rotation around a vertical axis persued? I would assume a rotating vertical axis would reduce the need for extra gears, thus reducing maintainance costs.

A lot of these windmills seem to follow one design concept.

Because that concept works.

Why aren't windmills that follow a concept of rotation around a vertical axis persued?

For every blade having force acted on it by the wind, another blade has force acting on the wind in the other direction.

I would assume a rotating vertical axis would reduce the need for extra gears

Considering they do not work as well and thusly are not deployed - that would result in less gears yes.

The large three bladed archetypes proved to be very durable and reliable, and have a high coefficient of performance. For a while, the two bladed variants looked like the wave of the future, but they lost market share for various reasons, including being less durable - pulsating torque has indeed proven to be a large materials issue.

for vertical axis turbines, less gears can be a significant cost-reduction, but if it comes at the cost of lower efficiency - and it has so far - it's not worth it.

I've been seeing suggestions that two-blade designs may be used for off-shore turbines.  The explanation I recall is that the land-based units are limited to low blade-tip speeds for noise abatement, and this requires 3 blades; an off-shore design can be noisy and run at much higher speed.  Higher speed means lower torque, greater stored rotational energy, narrower (and cheaper) blades, less time for blades flying through the tower's wind shadow, etc.  I have no particular expertise in these matters, but these do make sense to me.

From people in the business in the late 1980s I have been told that the large change in polar moment of one and two bladed designs were the biggest problem. When a multi ton one or two bladed rotor assembly goes parallel to the tower axis small loads can move the cab assembly away from its nominal axis. As the blade(s) move to the horizontal position the massive change in polar moment places a huge toque on the tower. This toque on the tower at twice the rotation speed has caused the failure of many large two bladed wind machines. Three blades eliminate change in polar moment hence reducing tower loads at only a small loss of efficiency.

The torque problem is easily abated with a hinge at the hub, using cyclic pitch control of the rotor to "fly" it into the desired plane of rotation; this eliminates the need to apply torque from the nacelle through the hub.  It works for helicopters, and it can even be done with trivial hardware on home-built tubines by placing the hinge at 45 degrees to the line of the blades.

Vertical-axis turbines have been tested, and found wanting.  There was a whole heap of "eggbeater" turbines in the hills east of Sacramento; I drove past some of them in 1994.  They had some problems with raptor kills (they'd perch on the top section and dive off, apparently unable to see the spinning blades below) and service issues.

The biggest is probably scaling.  It's just not possible to build a VAWT at the scale on which we're now building HAWTs, and they're cheaper the bigger they get.  The hubs of the biggest HAWT's are now being put some 400 feet in the air, with the blades swinging some 200 feet above that.  This gets into much faster-moving air and catches much more power.  Building a VAWT to catch those winds would have to extend pretty much from the ground up, with a much taller tower.  The capture area isn't arranged as favorably even if you could solve the structural and vibrational issues.

As others have noted, the HAWT is the "best of breed", and future ground-based machines are going to look a lot like today's.  About the only thing that might beat it is the flying wind turbine, which looks different because it has a completely different set of constraints.  The flying wind turbine is not very well tested and may come to nothing.

Vertical-axis turbines have been tested, and found wanting.

Good comment E.P. IIRC correctly an intrinsic problen with VAWTs is that the torque from the wind on the blades is perpedicular to the rotation axis (and it has a long moment arm). This places serious stresses on the turbine hub. For a HAWT accurately facing into the wind, these torques are minimized (although the fact that the wind is usually stronger higher up is a problem).

I suspect the HAWT, is still a long way from being optimal. I do not believe that straight blades are optimal. Some studies claim that nonsmooth blades (like the bumps seen on whale fins), can improve performance at low wind speeds. Systems, which monitor the wind before it reaches the turbine, can allow the turbine to more accuaretly face into the wind -and blades can be dynamically feathered to minimize wear and tear. All of these sorts of improvements are each worth several percent efficiency gains. Of course new materials as well are still being developed. We are only part way through the learning curve.

I hate to agree with the coal lobby, but the economics of deepwater WTs have not yet been demonstrated. This still must be considered to be somewhat of a long shot.

I'm agnostic with the Darrieus form of verticals (eggbeater style), but some of the savonius ones are very appealing for mechanical simplicity, low vibration and overall durability.. I don't know how far up they scale.. but the varied applications for these small ones is still enormous.

The turbine starts producing electricity at very low wind velocities of 1-2 m/s, and it is totally soundless. In inland circumstances the most common wind speed is 3 m/s. Turbines of A model series withstand stormy winds of 60 m/s, B-models 40 m/s and C-models 30 m/s. .

“Our wind turbines work in hot, humid and cold conditions and keep itself free from ice even in extreme circumstances, as proven in Sahara in Africa and Antarctica.”

“The turbines produce electricity also during heavy storms. and hurricanes. Even turbulence and alternating wind direction do not in any way damage the performance of the turbines,” Joutsiniemi explains.

Savonius designs are drag-based designs, as opposed to lift-based designs, and are inherently much less efficient, and do not scale well at all.

Three-bladed HAWTs (Horizontal-Axis Wind Turbines)are pre-eminent for very good reasons. The three blades provide balance for the negative pressure pulse that occurs every time a blade sweeps past the tower, at the time the blade and tower are perpendicular. Two-bladed HAWTs are a little more efficient but there is a blade disk nutation (rocking) stress to be paid at the blade hub and the attendant drive shaft and its connection to to the generator set. One-bladed designs have been tested and been found to be a little more efficent yet, but with the same problem with a bigger magnitude, and there needs to be a large counter-weight at the other side of the hub from the one blade.

Other posters have adequately summarized some of the reasons VAWTs (Vertical Axis...)do not compete...

As for efficiency, look up Betz's Law...if I recall properly, there can exist no wind turbine that is more than 59.3% efficient at converting the ambient wind energy into electrical energy. It has to do with the wind 'piling up' in front of the blade disk and spilling around the periphery of the blade disk circumference...think about it, if the turbine was 100% efficient all the wind velocity would stop at the turbine disk, and no wind would travel past the turbine disk...obviously impossible.

All this being said, I think wind turbines are a viable part of the mis for electricity generation...honestly, rather that piddle around forever trying to squeeze 2-3 more % of efficiency out of the designs, we need to more accurately map all the potential sites, and solve the transmission and load-leveling and the NIMBY and the credit/financing issues, as well as the organized resistance from the coal industry and reactionary conservative obstructionists in bed with the coal industry....the turbines are good-to-go now.

A lot of these windmills seem to follow one design concept. Why aren't windmills that follow a concept of rotation around a vertical axis persued? I would assume a rotating vertical axis would reduce the need for extra gears, thus reducing maintainance costs.

Ignorant -

During the 1970s, when developmental work was being done on large wind power systems, a variety of different design concepts were evaluated, included several different types of vertical-axis wind turbines.

While the vertical-axis wind turbine has certain advantages (including being omni-directional and perhaps slightly better performance in low-wind conditions), it also has major disadvantages, the main one being that the supporting shaft is necessarily quite long, in that it has to extend from the bottom of the turbine all the way up to the top, whereas the shaft of a horizontal-axis turbine can be quite short. This drawback becomes more and more of a problem as the size of the turbine gets larger.

Another disadvantage is that for a given power output the vertical-axis turbine will have a considerably heavier rotating mass, thus creating more potentially destructive rotational inertia during very high wind conditions. And lastly, it is more difficult to raise a vertical turbine high off the ground to take advantage of the increase in wind speed with elevation.

In many areas of technology, after an initial developmental period there is an eventual convergence of basic design features that represent various design comprises proven to provide the best overall characteristics in relation to cost. Wind turbines are a perfect example of this evolutionary process. The large, three-bladed horizontal-axis turbine with very thin blades has by now become a highly optimized design. As such, I doubt that the wind turbine of 50 years from now will look much different than the current ones.

Just out of curiosity, would the design be different if we assume that in "post peak" we may not be able to use as much high-tech materials.

I'm thinking of the "good old" windmills build out of wood that were used (for example) by the Dutch to pump water or for turning a millstone to grind grain into flour.

An example of such a windmill (this one has been fully restored and is in active use!):

I'm thinking that part of the things that make a design "optimal" may change as we have fewer resources to build them.

A windmill like this would have the advantage that it can be built and maintained by a skilled carpenter (of course this one doesn't produce electricity, it converts wind energy directly into "labour" to grind grains into flour).

This particular windmill is a fond childhood memory of mine, I spent many ours their watching the flour coming out... I was fascinated by this "technological marvel".

I'd say that this type of design was also the result of a long (centuries!) evolutionary process.


picoday -

Windmills certainly could go low-tech simply by reverting to older designs. Of course, they would become a great deal smaller and far less efficient, but in a post-peak world so would practically everything else.

Theoretically, you could build an old-style Dutch windmill to turn a generator instead of a grindstone. Don't expect all that much power out it, though.

Of all the types of alternative energy, wind power is probably the most inherently low-tech and one which could relatively easily lend itself to grass-roots construction efforts. Hell, many of these old windmills even had wooden gears. Building a fairly large generator from scratch would be challenging, but neither is it rocket science. If you really want to get super grassroots and local, you might even rig up a small windmill to turn a bunch of alternators salvaged from abandoned cars. Perhaps 8 or 10 such alternators rigged up in parallel could provide a modest amount of12-volt power to a small group of homes.

People, please keep in mind some obvious alternatives on windmill design. As I have said many times here, it seems strange to me that the designers just don't chuck out the failure-prone and expensive gearbox and alternator up there on that stick and replace them with a simple, very very rugged fluid pump that works happily at any shaft rotating speed, and pushes power down to the ground and to a turbine and or storage. This allows many mills to drive one really big turbine- alternator, of the kind we know all about, sitting on the ground and safe to maintain, and also permits any amount of hydro storage.

Sounds damn obvious to me. Would also allow better impedance match so the mill produces power over a wider range of wind speeds. This idea is OLD, but good.

very very rugged fluid pump that works happily at any shaft rotating speed, and pushes power down to the ground

Q in the pipe adds resistance, after you rob the energy of the oil going down - now you have to invest energy to put the fluid back at the top, working fluid would need to be replaced/kept clean, as temps change so will the pressure in the system - creating some really nasty pressures if not maintained.

Like the fluid computers designed for space (no one knew if transistors would work in space) the idea has been researched. I believe fluid leaks is what did in the designs. (Think about the need to rotate the blades into the wind and how you are going to keep up pressure/flow)

wimbi -

It is far from obvious to me why running pipes up and down the tower of a large wind turbine and thence to a central turbine is simpler and less complicated than running electrical lines. So instead of each turbine having an electrical generator housed in its nacelle, you would have a hydraulic pump in the nacelle of each turbine. How do you know that you still wouldn't need a gearbox to keep the hydraulic pumps operating at optimum speed?

Furthermore, what you are talking about is a hydraulic motor type of system in which the pressured fluid from the multiple turbines is collected and merged into a single stream which would turn a single large central turbine, which in turn would spin a single large generator. There would be significant losses both at the individual hydraulic pumps and at the central large turbine that would surely exceed the losses associated with having the wind turbine mechanically linked directly to a generator via a gearbox.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I really fail to see why such a system would be either simpler or more cost-effective.

wimbi, I agree that your pump-windmill concept has some strong advantages over current wind turbines. If you combine a windmill with a hydroelectic dam, you can simply use your windmill to directly pump water to the upstream side of the dam. All the electricity would then be generated by the hydroelectic turbine and none by the windmill.

This would solve the intermittency problem and greatly reduce the complexity of the windmill. If the dam is already full, simply let the water overflow the dam. Simple and effective assuming you can find a good wind site near a dam of sufficient capacity. There is course evaporative losses if the water sits behind the dam for too long.

Dams are in valleys and the best wind is on ridgetops or coastlines. I suggested on the hydro thread that cheap turbines making unregulated DC transmitted via quick install pylons could run variable speed motors coupled to positive displacement water pumps. Those pumps can run at a range of rpm including zero and send the hydro outfall water back up to the lake level. If I recall another poster suggested permanent magnet rotors in the electrical machinery to overcome frequent stopping and starting.

Thus the dam becomes a kind of large battery. This needs good wind resources close to hydro (say <50 km) and sufficient headroom or spare capacity in the dam and water turbine station. That will happen as many rivers dry out.

Well, people, this was just a sneaky test to see how many of you knew of the hydraulic windmill experiments of Parker-Hannifin. They work. Better than the conventional geardrive mills standing next to them. Trouble is, I can't find a web address, so you can go ahead and holler at me for inventing yet another fantasy.

Old saying -- "if you can make it work, you can make it work better".

PS. Frigal, you can always make a dam or a hole and use your field of windmills to pump water, as you say. But don't let it evaporate- cover it with a floating city full of happy people riding up and down in their fishing cottages as power demand changes the water level. Hey! We have only begun to fantasize, but gotta stop. Bedtime.

They work.

For certain values of work.

As I remember being told, the leaking and the rotation of the nacell were issues.

(kinda like how stirling cycle engines "work" - show me the mass produced cheap engines.)

Well, Eric, PH, not me, says they work. PH has the oomph to take them to market, so all we gotta do is relax and watch what plays out. Check in next year.

About those cheap mass produced stirlings. Yea, I remember all right. There are good ones around, but they need a PH equivalent, and so far, the VC's have had perfect pitch- perfectly wrong- every time. I asked one of them why in the world they would put their bets on a long-dead horse with a grave stone over it. His answer? "Ah well, we win some and we lose some."! I then asked him why he didn't just hire some smart young consultant to at least look up the stirling options and separate out the ones that were still flying around, or at least not yet dead and moldering away in the cold, cold ground. He didn't bother to answer that one. Maybe I need to hire somebody with tact.

Hey Wimbi!
Out of the box thinking.. excellent! I have a combination using this one and two other alt-energy proposals.. it's downright elegant, and far too intriguing to post here. Maybe Angus King would like it, but he'll have to pay me for it.

But for you, Drop me an email, and I'll tell you about it.

'There's no greatness without Audacity.' Oscar Wilde
(or else maybe "I can resist anything except temptation.")


Wind turbines using single automotive alternators have been staples of DIY since the 70's.

It is a great relief to see TOD discussion shift from lamentations on GOP obstructionism, willful cornucopian blindness, or just plain anti-science denial to spirited debate as to the overkill attached to favoured solutions - the classic "picking winners" failure mode.

A good example in Alaska, which has more stranded coastal wind than British Columbia or (I'll bet) the US East Coast. Big wind cannot get to big markets. Despite this, government wind advocates slow the kind of blended energy solutions necessary to serve remote coastal markets. These include wind, tidal, biogas and gas blends.

The message is familiar: Wind won't solve our problems without a new electrical grid. Moreover, we are arriving at solution debates very late in the game. Not only do nuclear plants cost three times that of coal, they take three times as long with current permitting procedures. I was fascinated to see a recent anti-coal post that failed to mention nukes. If we are nearing a tipping point of 350 ppm - and it sure looks convincing - time is of the essence.

Sadly, while nukes have those tricky and tragic failure modes, most of their performance numbers are incredibly impressive even at very advanced ages. Plus, they fit our existing "big wire" grids. Rights of way for new transmission routes are practically impossible. Nukes and rights of way are stopped dead by the NIMBY/BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything) crowds.

This means we are left with offshore wind and a few other potentially scalable options, plus a few more nukes on existing sites and maybe clean coal and gas peaking - if people are willing to pay the price.

The coolest part of wind is that it can potentially work on a decentralized basis, like solar power, with lots of people using standard designs to build part of their needs, potentially bypassing large scale capital shortages. This highlights the real message of the banking debacle. The GOP allowed the bankers and the militarists to blow ALL our meager savings on consumption, greed and waste. I wonder if do-it-yourself can help offset such very bad timing?

Various large battery technologies (vanadium redox comes to mind), plus water and even compressed air can store power on a scale that ranges up to 100 MW/24 hours, perhaps more in series. Otherwise, the grid needs to be there to act as a flywheel or power expectations must be adjusted back to standards familiar to most of the real world. I haven't seen much work on the full cost of independent distributed power net of grid-related savings, the essence of resilience in a post-carbon world. Lots of utility studies on this cost issue though, especially in California. A few in Canada.

In a nutshell, can distributed generation deliver enough power or will we need to stretch our skepticism to allow massive visions like this one to take a risk with a huge chunk of our resources and fiscal stability? Luckily, offshore HVDC transmission and other fairly new technologies should enable such large-scale visions to deliver big power to big coastal markets. Right now, onshore wind does not have that luxury. While this post was exaggerated to the point of absurdity, as far as I know it has stout technological roots.

Can we afford it? Better yet, can we afford not to? Big offshore wind is real and one of the best available options. Let's not let this one - a real "yes, we can" - blow past us. Now, how to execute...

If we are nearing a tipping point of 350 ppm - and it sure looks convincing - time is of the essence.

If 350 was the number, we are already too late. The current value is ~385ppm.

Granted. I have assumed the past two decades was the last window. It was not only slammed shut, it was smashed along with the wall into which it was set by the wanton stripping of our financial system. Financial theft is THE technique for stealing fixed assets, assets that presumably meet the definition of "nailed down".

If we are now at 385ppm, we are way behind the eight-ball, still divided and hopelessly prejudiced as to solutions: All wind, all nukes, all solar, all big, all small and - above all - all priced below marginal cost. Not gonna happen. Price signals are almost totally absent. Maybe this is the dark matter, the converse of pro-active conservation, demand and supply destruction driven by economic hardship - zero purchasing power. Negatonnes versus negawatts.

Can we get ahead of this file? We must. Banning nukes, avoiding putting a base price on CO2, bypassing early caps and quotas for CO2, wind in the wrong places, solar in shady lanes and leaving fossil fuels at the wrong end of a temporary glut to set the heat rate. All this will ensure we stay stuck in the polemic mode.

Man, I hate to agree with Exxon Mobil, whose ads are geared to the "drill drill drill" crowd, but they are right to say we need big power and many many sources of small power if we have a hope to support lifestyles anything like that I enjoyed during my lifetime (July 14/06 was my 50th birthday). All of the above.

The common denominators: Clean and truly affordable on a lifecycle basis. Due to the absence of real incentives, real price signals and full costing, we're still stuck without transport at Mile 1 of the long and arduous road toward solutions. If we don't act to reverse or eliminate perverse incentives, long lead times, ridiculous risk profiles, political correctness and technology bias are going to make energy an unaffordable necessity in the very near future.

Time to realize that a non-plan can also be a very bad plan. As far as energy is concerned, the free market as conceived by cornucopian zealots, has only just begun to fail us. Next up? Our very own loved ones. The younger they are, the fewer options they will enjoy. Sorry Jimmy, we burnt it all up on trips to the 7/11.

Michigan's Governor Granholm has formed the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council to undertake a more detailed analysis of wind power opportunities around our Great Lakes.

According to initial studies it looks like there are over 36,000 MW of potentially available capacity at depths of <60 meters and located no closer than 10 km offshore. Average capacity factors for offshore wind projects are around 37% as compared to around 28% for typical land based projects. Looks like a pretty interesting renewable energy opportunity to me.

One of the concerns to date is the effect of wind-driven ice flows; their mass can cause a lot of damage (or imply a larger construction expense). Of course, that concern may be melting away...

You raise a good point. The potential for ice damage is an unknown and there will need to be some work done on this this issue. Yes, with global warming the Great Lakes ice flows seem to getting smaller and of shorter duration. I believe there will also generally be less ice as you move away from the shoreline.

Offshore oil and gas rigging has some experience with dealing with ice damage. The trick is to do it really cheap. Oil and gas rigs are typically low volume produced specialized monsters, but wind turbines generate far fewer revenues than your average oil and gas rig, so have to be cheaper. High volume (large orders), large scale (many turbines per offshore wind farm) can help a lot, but right now there's some technical issues and there really is a need for large scale field proof. A couple billion in large demonstration projects should do it.

I am optimistic that we can do a small pilot project for a bit less than that. Hopefully, we will not have to go the full blown deep oil platform design to accomplish much of this.

This offshore wind potential is further enhanced by the nearby 1872 MW Ludington Pumped Storage facility located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

This represents the equivalent output of about 3 - 600 MW coal plants for 8 hours.

...apart from the obvious "VESTAS" does anyone have any good wind investment ideas?


Well the big wind companies are probably a relatively safe bet, but maybe not that exiting. Startups with innovative products that fit into the hegemonic three bladed design I think can be very lucrative, while not being too much of a long shot. Of course, they are also high risk. The ones that increase yearly kWh per turbine are very interesting:

Most of these don't have publicly traded shares though.


Saul Griffith: Inventing a super-kite to tap the energy of high-altitude wind

shit, I had almost 100 questions ready for that fellow .... but he didn't even answer one of them :-)

I read about the 9 Am meeting at Tulane at 9:38, changed shirts and ran to the streetcar, and then ran accross Tulane. Missed the remarks by Sec. Salazar but got in a 3 minute statement/question.

Stayed for later public comments, nothing much except soem networking. I am glad that the Secretary is doing the public outreach. BTW, there appears to be a sea change in attitudes towards off shore drilling off Florida.


Thanks for the effort, Alan. I was hoping you would make it.

I take it that this meeting had fewer people protesting against offshore drilling, though?

Of the two good alternative energy sources, I'd still say solar is preferable because wind turbines are vulnerable to high winds, rain and hail. In addition, the spacing between turbines has to be quite long, to set up 250 GW of wind turbine generating capacity is going to take up quite a bit of space and because of the large area the probability of a severe weather event taking out a section is fairly high. Solar panels sitting in the desert are less likely to be affected by the weather, where thunderstorms and high winds/hail are rare. Solar panels in temperate areas are again vulnerable to severe weather, which is a significant hazard in the United States.

I'd still say solar is preferable because wind turbines are vulnerable to high winds, rain and hail.

So are solar panels. They are sealed VS rain, but moisture is not a net positive to electronics.

I think we are going to need it all.

I think we should learn to do without it all.

We will likely be doing both

Prime areas are those using heating oil or electric heating. Add heat pumps and install wind turbines locally.

For a couple years worth of heating oil costs you could install an air source heat pump and enough wind capacity to power them. Its also the cheapest and easiest way of storing electricity, as heat within buildings. Roughly speaking more wind equals more heating demand.