Aruba's New Windfarm

As Copenhaguen ended, unsurprisingly, in confusion, I have the opportunity to give you a more positive tale, and show you it is possible for people - including even bankers amongst them - to work towards a more sustainable future without necessarily endangering our way of life.

The Vader Piet 30MW wind farm on the island of Aruba.

In this case, it involves the construction of a windfarm in a place where it will directly replace fuel-oil-burning power plants. As you'll be able to see below, this wind farm is quite remarkable in a number of ways which means that this experience will not be replicable as easily everywhere, but it shows that there are many places and energy systems which it is possible to materially improve under almost all criterai using renewable energy.

(part of the wind power series)
Full disclosure: As indicated below, I financed the project discussed in this post last year.

Amongst notable features, one can find:
  • at around 60%, it has one of the highest capacity factors in the world, with 50% more power output per turbine than European offshore windfarms...; located on the Eastern coast of the island, it is exposed directly to the trade winds, which are highly regular and almost always in the same direction (allowing to put the turbines very close to one another); their almost constant strength also mean that tear and wear is actually likely to be less than usual, as there are very few brutal changes in regime and torque;

  • it is a windy place...

  • it is now providing 20% of the island's overall electricity needs, replacing dirty and expensive fuel-oil in the process. At night, it will produce up to 60% of the demand. And thanks to the highly regular wind regime, this is very stable and predictable production; (even though they pushed for this project to happen, the local power company had quite a shock to see 'for real' how big a portion of their system the windfarm has suddenly become - as is still frequent, utilities have trouble taking wind seriously, but it this case the reality was quite compelling);

  • see how the blades bend under the strength of the wind
    (the second one was switched off temporarily for visits,
    thus its different orientation in this picture).

  • the utility will save money on fuel imports and, more importantly, will actually end up with cheaper power: it buys the electricity from the wind farm at a fixed price over 15 years which is roughly equivalent to what it costs to produce electricity from their traditional oil-fired generators with oil prices at $45/bbl. Who wants to bet on oil being consistently under $45 for the next 15 years? In fact, the prime minister of the island, who was present at the inauguration, used the opportunity of that ceremony to announce lower power prices for the poorest households on the island...

  • the windfarm is situated in a very isolated part of the island, invisible to everybody
    but it adds to that area's spectacular vistas.

  • and the reality is that the windfarm has received an enthusiastic welcome by the population of the island - the project team was telling me about how there were people all along the road clapping them when they were transporting the machinery to the site (not a trivial task, as the videos below show):

  • turbine unloading

    turbine transportation through the island
    both videos by antholejuez on youtube

  • and, finally (and this is where I come in), the windfarm was financed at the top of the financial crisis last year. I told the story in a blog post then ( How to keep on financing wind farms when banks have no money left.) but it's worth underlining here that one of the most dangerous consequences of the crash is that traditional banking - lending to the economy - has been, and still is, directly impacted and curtailed, as the result of lack of liquidity and heightened risk aversion by banks (which are just as stupid and gregarious in systematically cutting off credit as they were enthusiastic at shoving it onto clients before). So it was an especially proud moment for me to see this project, because we really made a difference at the time, saving the wind farm from a potentially damaging delay, and saving very real economic activity on the island and amongst the suppliers (which are mainly European).

  • erection works - same source.

    Wind is a capital-intensive but low risk activity where simple and stable financing structures are both necessary and useful - construction costs need to be spread out over a number of years for power generation costs to make sense. Technical and operational risks are understood and very small if you have a competent project company, and the revenue profile is highly predictable, thus making it possible for lenders to provide a large part of the initial cost at a fixed price without requiring any benefit sharing, making this cheaper than equity and keeping the ultimate power price down.

    This, called "project finance," is the boring kind of banking that makes the economy run but is sadly seen as unsexy or useless whenever new funny products are invented in the capital markets and create opportunities for bonus-generating bubbles... I've already been set aside as dreary 3 times in the past 15 years: emerging market bonds were all the rage in the mid-90s (until the Asian crisis), then the dot-coms were 'it' (until the crash), then the grand multi-product bubble of the past decade, with its mortgage-backed securities, collateralised loan obligations, credit default swaps and the rest. And having being bailed out, they're at it again, while project finance is still suffering - and wind or solar projects get built more slowly than they could as a result.

It's real! It's generating power! It's very high!

For those, like me, who hadn't a clue where Aruba is, it's here:

For a small island, oil refining has been rather important. Good to see it is looking to the future.

Oil refining has been rather important, but the refinery has been closed. Valero is trying to sell it, possibly to PetroChina or Brazil's Petrobas.

Aruba's main source of income is tourism. All of the drinking water comes from desalination.

That's an interesting add-on to your article on refinery closures

Aug 26, 2009
Valero has been seeking a buyer for the refinery and was close to a deal with Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA) in early 2008 before a fire at the refinery halted the sale, sources familiar with the transaction have told Reuters.

Valero, the largest U.S. refiner, has refused to identify potential buyers.

Since the January 2008 fire, Valero has been talking to both Petrobras and PetroChina (PTR.N) about a possible sale, according to the sources.

The Aruba refinery cannot make finished motor fuels like gasoline and can make only intermediate feedstock, but is capable of running low-grade crude oils that used to sell at deep discounts to higher-grade crude oil.

As worldwide demand for motor fuel has dwindled in the global economic downturn, the discount for low-grade crudes has evaporated, crushing the refinery's profitability.

Sources familiar with the refinery have said any buyer would have to make extensive investments worth billions of dollars to improve the plant's capabilities.

"I don't know why anyone would want to buy it," said one of the sources.

This gives us a glimpse into the future, many unexpected events, as we are not familiar with the internal cost and operating structure of oil companies.

And for those who don't like windfarms going up for visual reasons, in this case they are better than refinery stacks

Even worse then refinery stacks is the stink. Many years ago I was told that subject to the wind direction that day, the entire island would be coated with a thin oily film. I think Gulf Oil operated it at that time.

Also, that upgrade capability aspect is interesting. I had read the plant had produced (at one time perhaps) products. The crude upgrade aspect seems to fit with the recent deals China has cut with Vz for their heavy stuff (which the Gulf Coast refiners always thought would be theirs for the asking). Then add that to China's plan to suck about 200 million bo out of the market place over the next two years to fill their new Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Not sure what the end game will exactly look like but there does seem to be a specific plan in place by China.

Which of course means they can keep on building windmills well past 100% of their power demand, and use the excess for desalinating.

When I clicked on the google maps link you have given, I was surprised to see "Valero Oil Refining Company" as one of the places of interest (POI) highlighted on the map. In fact, there are just 19 places names at this resolution, and an oil refinery being one of them tells a lot about the importance of oil on an isolated island. But then, can't we just consider the whole world as an "isolated island"?

What is even more interesting and fun is to zoom down to the area that is this relatively small (by world standards) decrepit oil refinery, switch to sattelite view and look at the number of acres it occupies scattered along the coast of Aruba...I say we buy the ground, junk out the metal for scrap and build a concentrating mirror solar plant right there!

Think of the possibility...plenty of sunlight, out of the hurricane belt area, and a perfect place to test the economics against wind with the wind farm right across the island, and it would help diversify the islands electric production so that they would not have to worry as much about any variability issues...and when the island moves over to plug hybrid and electric cars (perfect here, the island is barely over 20 miles from tip to tip!)you have a renewable energy showcase and plenty of juice for the transportation as well...what a thought...


Thank you, this was very interesting. A nice step for the island.

"...and saving very real economic activity on the island..."

So it's business as usual then? Is that the plan forward? Has growth been factored in?

If the money had been spent on programs that reduce waste / consume less power, could that have also achieved 20%? Or is that path not "cool" enough.

Regards, Matt B
Still skeptical about delivering all this so-called "renewable" energy on a global scale. How much fossil fuel will be consumed replacing fossil fuel, all for BAU? How much turbine-power was used to build that ship and those cranes and trucks, and feed all those operators?

Honestly, what's the REAL energy benefit?

You seem to imagine that building oil refineries and pipelines and supertankers requires no fossil fuels, or trivial amounts compared to building wind turbines, etc.

Whatever we do, we will consume fossil fuels in building things. The important question is whether those things will still be useful when fossil fuels are scarce or absent.

If we build a coal-fired power station using coal and oil, when the coal gets too expensive to burn, the station is useless. If we build a wind turbine using coal and oil, when the coal and oil get too expensive to burn... the wind turbine still produces power.

for a while...


There are windmills in Holland that have been in existence for hundreds of years - I imagine these will last as long, with proper maintenance.

This luddite attitude some of you guys have really isn't very helpful...

How much turbine-power was used to build that ship and those cranes and trucks, and feed all those operators?

Not very much. Manufacturing and water transportation use very little oil.

Manufacturing is an inside activity - who wants internal combustion engine fumes? If you want an example of a very large world wide fleet of electric vehicles, look no farther than the plant floor, where electric fork lifts are everywhere.

Hi Jerome,

regarding general Project financing; in the face of what might become Depression 2.0 do you think that in the decades ahead the Banks might 'get it' or do you think that governments themselves will eventually be forced to create the effort? (E.g. "Hoover Dam").

Regards, Nick.

P.S. Best wishes fellow TODers for a good 2010.

Hi noutram

I think there's two separate questions there:
- one is that banks will continue to do project finance: it's a safe, well-understood lending activity. It's long term lending, so access to - or at least cost of - liquidity may still be an issue but it's highly likely that project finance will remain a core business for wholesale banks;
- the other is that governments may finally remember that infrastructure investment is capital-intensive and thus its cost is highly sensitive to the cost of capital, and its maturity - something which is way cheaper (and longer) for governments. Governments may thus decide to take over projects to make them happen, or at least to decide to provide dedicated funding to banks for these to happen.


Your articles on TOD are always a welcome morale booster for those of us who aren't confirmed doomers.

I am very interested in learning what energy intensive industries fit in well with wind power and also manufacture high value products.Little such information is readily available to someone without a lot of time to look for it.

Desalinated water is a high value product in Aruba.Can desalination plants run mostly or exclusively on wind power?Or does the nature and design of the desalination equipment require that it run continiously for long periods?

A wind powered irrigation pump for example can be turned on and off frequently without damaging it, and wind would be fine as a power source so long as the pump will run enough hours total in a week.Of course the productivity of the irrigation system is zero unless it is running, and continious power might be necessary to justify the expense of installing irrigation.Irrigation is obviously out of the question in Aruba, but there are probably plenty of places where wind powered irrigation would work without long distance transmission lines.

So my question should perhaps be reframed thus:

Are there any energy intensive industries that could locate profitably in places with good wind potential and run exclusively on wind power?

This question could be asked another way as well. What industries besides tourism will keep Aruba going? It is hard to believe tourism will continue to such an extent that it can keep the island's economy going. Farming is clearly a no-go, if the water comes from desalination. Is there some industry that can flourish in such a part of the world? At least the island is fairly close to Venezuela, so the distance Venezuelan tourists need to travel isn't too great.

If there are no long-term prospects, it seems sort of pointless to build more wind turbines and solar PV.

Yes.Ammonia for instance is a very valuable product and can be manufactured with electricity but not economically so long as natural gas is cheap.But there might be some other chemical that could be manufactured in a start and stop manner suitable to using wind solely or almost solely as the power supply.

It occurs to me that a quarry used to produce gravel for instance could run on wind without problems so long as there is enough wind to run it enough hours per week or month on the average.
The only real problen would be a lowered utilization of the machinery but that might well be offset by the cheaper electricity as ff depletes.Labor efficiency would also suffer of course but labor is only a relatively small part of the operating expense overall of such a business because the machinery is so expensive.

Maybe the industrial processes used to manufacture some high value product can be organized in such a way that using wind as the exclusive power supply will work satisfactorily.

If so this would be of great benefit to the country overall and particularly helpful to some places such as out in the upper Mid West where jobs are in very short supply.

Your quarry idea is interesting, most quarry pits I know of fill with water when abandoned. Often pits are not any further apart than necessary maintain structural stability. If wind power was available to pump water back into the reservoir pit a hydro turbine supply tunnel could be excavated between a reservoir pit and an empty pit. Steady power would be available that way as long as enough surplus wind was generated to sustain the pumped hydro and keep the empty pit at the desired water level (I envision a deeper sink at one end of the empty pit) Just a thought.

I see that Aruba, an island of 100k people, has one of the highest standards of living in its neck of the Carribean; also that the island gets almost no rainfall, and that 3/4 of GDP comes from tourism, almost entirely from the US and Venezuela - not the healthiest scenario for a peak oil world, I'd think.

More to the point, how applicable is this as an example to the rest of the world? Sure, if you're living in an area with ample amounts of discretionary income being brought in from the outside AND have an outrageously high wind capacity factor AND are living in an extremely compact and isolated geographic setting you'd do well to invest in turbines. But that seems no more useful as an example to the rest of us than actors in Hollywood showing off their fuel cell cars.

Now, this book Stuart Staniford has reviewed sounds like a tale that could act as a real clarion call for Joe the Turbine Installer: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. It's the story of a kid in Malawi who learned about wind power from 3 textbooks at a local library, and built his own turbine to power his family's house. Reads like something straight out of Greer's new book. Well, maybe with our bevy of draconian neighborhood appearance regulations this is a no-starter as well; but things change.

What industries besides tourism will keep Aruba going?...Farming is clearly a no-go, if the water comes from desalination.

Why is farming clearly a no go? Maybe they can farm Ascidians and extract the Vanadium.../snark lite.

Vanadium in Biology: Accumulation Mechamism in Ascidians
Hitoshi Michibata1, Tatsuya Ueki1, Nobuo Yamaguchi2, Koichi Fukui3,
Toshiyuki Hamada4, Miwako Asanuma4 and Hiroshi Hirota4

Ascidians, so-called sea squirts, are well known to contain high levels of vanadium. In
remarkable cases, the concentration of cellular vanadium reaches 350 mM, corresponding to
about 107 times the concentration of seawater. Vanadium accumulated in the ascidians is
reduced to the +3 oxidation state via the +4 oxidation state and stored in vacuoles of vanadocytes

PowerPedia:Vanadium redox batteries

On a more serious note it is highly unlikely that anyone in Aruba can economically extract Vanadium from ascidians but I see no reason why they couldn't at least farm fish.

This technology:
is being currently being tested by the founder of :

... farm Ascidians and extract the Vanadium...

Vanadium in Biology: Accumulation Mechamism in Ascidians
Hitoshi Michibata1, Tatsuya Ueki1, Nobuo Yamaguchi2, Koichi Fukui3,
Toshiyuki Hamada4, Miwako Asanuma4 and Hiroshi Hirota4

Ascidians, so-called sea squirts, are well known to contain high levels of vanadium. In remarkable cases, the concentration of cellular vanadium reaches 350 mM, corresponding to about 107 times the concentration of seawater...

When copying from PDF to HTML, don't forget to insert carets. 10^7 times, 10000000 times, not 107 times.

(How fire can be domesticated)

Gail -

So, for the next 30 or 40 years do you think it's better for Aruba to continue burning imported oil instead?

Or would you prefer to shut down the whole island and forcibly evacuate all its people to the mainland?

One industry that could flourish on wind power is aluminum smelting, which is an enormously energy-intensive electrolytic process. As I recall, there is quite a bit of bauxite deposits not all that far way in parts of northern South America and some of the Caribbean. Of course, such a consideration may be academic if there is a lot of excess capacity in the aluminum industry.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that the wind energy (even in this very windy place) is not cheap--it is just less expensive than electricity from oil-fired plants. While Jerome did not discuss the cost of wind-generated electricity in this post (because the exact price is confidential), Oil Drum staff members did talk about this a bit in our group. Aruba's wind generated electricity is a step down from the expensive oil-generated electricity in cost, but it is still quite high in an absolute sense--compared to coal or natural gas generated electricity elsewhere, for example. So it is hard to see it as a source of electricity for the aluminum industry, for example.

I don't think moving people forcibly will be an issue. If little money is coming into the economy, residents will not have money to buy food or electricity. This will be a problem. They will want to move to anyplace that might be better.

err... you're twisting this into sounding worse than I made it (as usual as regards wind :) ). The project was selected on the basis of a competitive tender, ie they bid on a price for 15 years and were the best offer - which simply means that the actual cost of production is lower than that.

It's not high in the absolute sense - it's higher than the cost of fully amortised coal plants that do not pay for their externalities, but it's cheaper than any new plant using any other technology, and chepaer than gas-fired power with no carbon price and gas above 4$/mbtu (is this something you ant to bet on over the next 15 years?).

So, unless you get subsidized gas, or have access to existing amortised generation assets, it's a pretty competitive source of power...

So what you are saying essentially is that wind isn't getting cheaper, but FF generated electricity is getting more expensive.

Well yes! and this is the general trend with everything, all energy, all food, resources and products mfg from them too...forever.

This little fact combined with ever shrinking economy simply means we CAN"T GET THERE FROM HERE.

We need to change the way money works or we are royally screwed.

No, wind power's cost is fixed - you mainly have to repay the debt that made it possible to pay your initial capital outlay. Running cost are extremely low. So, with fixed interest rates, you have absolutely fixed costs for 20 years.

"Running cost are extremely low. So, with fixed interest rates, you have absolutely fixed costs for 20 years."

And therein lies one of the great advantages of wind and solar, in that it removes the massive price volatility we hae seen over the last decade (and which we can assume will only get worse) of fossil fuel driven energy production. Renewables when well planned and well executed allow for planning based on relatively fixed energy prices. Even if the price is slightly higher in a current day comparison, that stability insurance can be worth a fortune in the longer haul.

I have said that I would go ahead and pay $4.00 or even $5.00 per gallon starting tomorrrow for gasoline IF I could be assured that price would hold stable on into the outlying years. It would be worth the slight extra cost to get price stability. As fossil fuels get more expensive (and the consensus here at TOD is that they will) the advantage to renewables only increases, you have stability and a relatively low price, plus the lack of ongoing carbon release.


I doubt that RE can remove price volatility.  Costs may be fixed, but overall prices are determined by market conditions.  An RE system is always going to be running as much as it can, and expansion takes capital expenditures and time for construction.  A change in demand can peg or floor the price just as we've seen with oil.

This depends on whether the electric utility is regulated (and how) or not.


True, but if prices are regulated, some other mechanism has to be used to match immediate demand with supply.  You'd effectively be making a market with something other than cash.

Gail -

You forgot to preface your reply comments with the caveat: "at current fossil fuel prices".

When major structural changes occur, some things that used to be feasible no longer remain so, and some things that were formerly unfeasible become feasible.

As a simple example, in New England during the late 19th Century lobsters were so plentiful and cheap that it was feasible to use them as bait for striped bass fishing. Now some hundred years later, it is not feasible for most people to use lobsters as even an occasional source of food.

You should not need reminding that things DO change, sometimes quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Those wind turbines are going to around for 30+ years, and neither you nor I know what the price of fossil fuel will be at that time. But one thing we CAN both be certain of is that if one has a wind turbine, the price of fossil fuel becomes largely irrelevant.

I'm afraid you don't understand the doomer mindset.

1. We are doomed because fossil fuels are too expensive.
2. We can't mitigate this because fossil fuels are cheap so the alternatives look too expensive.

They don't see the contradiction :)

I don't understand. Jerome is the one insisting that fossil fuel prices will rise.

I am the one who keeps talking about credit contraction keeping oil prices low.

You need high oil prices to be an optimist--that is what makes alternatives "work".

In the midst of a pretty sharp downturn (and zero inflation), oil prices are still at $80/bbl. I suppose what you mean by "low" ...

The relevant comparison for wind is usually gas prices, which are indeed quite low today, but for how long is an open question - both the technical and environmental side of the shale stuff and the economic issue of the gap in the cost of gas and oil BTUs.

My point is that you don't need very extreme fossil fuel prices for wind to make sense. My other point is that current market mechanisms prevent us from making that calculation, because what is economic and what is profitable are not the same thing.

no, you misunderstand completely

0) fossil fuels allowed our current greedy way of life and our addiction to it.
1) oil is by far the best ever available energy resource nature provided to our species
2) price will change this fact of life and science (and the consequences following the peak oil and gas)
3) our species is incapable to accept that one can live reasonably well without being addicted
4) we are far to many now.
5) nature (whatever this stands for) will regulate for us
(that is the meaning of being doomed)



The power of a wind turbine is proportional to the third power of the wind velocity, thus the generation cost is closely related to the third power of the average wind velocity at the site, which should be considered when comparing genertion costs of energy sources.

Bjerke -

While the power of a wind turbine is indeed proportional to the third power of the wind velocity, I'm not sure what you mean by 'generation cost' in this particular case.

The cost of generating wind power is largely embedded in the initial capital investment, with some relatively small operational and maintenance costs added it. These are largely fixed regardless of what the average wind speed is.

On the other hand, if what you really mean is the value of the average amount of electrical energy generated over a period of time, then taking the cube of the average wind velocity is not quite correct either.

One should not take the cube of the average velocity, but rather the average of the velocities cubed. If one puts pencil to paper the reason becomes obvious. Say that the average yearly wind velocity is 16 mph. As such, much more power will be produced in the velocity region between 16 mph on up than will be produced from the region from 0 to 16 mph. Thus, cubing the average wind velocity tends to underestimate the average amount of power produced over time. This is more than just numerical nit-picking, as it the difference can be substantial.


You are of course correct, the power generation of a wind turbine is proportional to the third power of the wind velocity, that’s why I said the cost of generation is “closely related” to the third power of the “average” wind velocity. To calculate the actual production one also needs to know at which wind velocity the turbine starts (3 m/s), the velocity at the rated capacity (12-14 m/s) and the velocity at turbine trip (25 m/s). In addition the temperature (air density) is required and the efficiency of the turbine and generator of course.

You comment underlines my comment to Gail namely that the production cost of wind energy varies a lot with the location and is probably fairly low at Aruba. Aruba has 3 MW Vestas wind turbines. The investment cost is about 7 MUS$ per turbine. With a capacity factor of 60 % it produces 15.8 GWh per year. With a more common capacity factor of 30-40 % the production would be only 8-10 GWh per year and they would get the corresponding higher generating cost of electricity.

P.S. I see that engineering units are often used in this blog. It would be nice if you would switch to SI units as there are many international readers. Presently there are only three countries that have not changed to SI, namely Burma, Liberia and USA.

One April 1st, I gave the answer to a calculation to Landsvirkjun in acre-feet/day (the correct US hydro unit) instead of m3/sec.

The response from Reykjavik was immediate and strong ! I had to explain April Fools Day to them ...

How about a compromise with CGS units ?


Concur with Gail.
All the lights on but nowhere to go and nothing to eat - Easter Island.

Compare with the new West wind site that has the best wind characteristics in the world and will provide at some times all the power requirements of nearby Wellington.

If Aruba is full of limestone (as is Jamaica), concrete production might be a source of revenue. OTOH Jamaica's Carib Concrete plant IIRC is large enough to supply the whole Caribbean area.

Aruba is an island, and so hey have to choose between getting their natural gas shipped in or piped undersea from Venezuela, whose current president covets the island for himself. Neither option is attractive for scaling upwards.

They could decide to just let their economy shrink to what it was, i.e. subsistence farming and fishing for the Aruban natives (culturally Europeanized Taino Indians, basically), with some income in exchange for letting a European navy make port calls.

Or they could let tourism continue while it may, get as much wind & solar built, and when the crunch comes use their capital for anything they can.

What makes you think that Chavez covets Aruba? never heard that before.

Venezuela seems to have a history of ceding territory to it's neighbors, not conquering.

If there are no long-term prospects, it seems sort of pointless to build more wind turbines and solar PV.

Gail, at least they could build enough wind turbines for generating all the electricity for the people who live there. Probably you think that a lot of people will leave the island if tourism goes down. OTOH, there are going more and more 'pensionado's' to live, like on the neighbour island of Curaçao where I am.

Can desalination plants run mostly or exclusively on wind power?

It depends on the type of plant.  A reverse osmosis plant will have no difficulty with turning pumps up and down, while a flash-distillation plant is going to be very expensive to run on electricity and have long delays to warm up.  Aruba's water is from a flash distillation system using waste heat from the electric plant, so adding enough wind power is going to require a change in the water supply also.  RO is possible, but so is solar distillation.

Are there any energy intensive industries that could locate profitably in places with good wind potential and run exclusively on wind power?

I don't think it makes sense to ask that until all the petroleum has been replaced.  Iceland seems to be trying to lock up the world market for aluminum with its vast hydroelectric capacity.

Interesting article with useful comments by TOD staff and old timers. Given the fact that banks can still run risky bets for a big payday and be bailed out if they fail, why would they settle for chump change returns even if produced wonderful results and benefited society. Until we force banks to act like banks and perform traditional banking functions, it just ain't gonna happen. Right now a big investment bank like Goldman Sachs who could care less about a project like this can borrow money from the Fed at close to 0% and put it in to long treasuries and make a guaranteed return of perhaps 5% going forward based on the way rates have been trending. Or they could leverage it 10 to 1 and get 50% if the bansters and Fed thugsters print them enough wampum. And these are safe bets. Unless the structure of taxpayer support of banks is changed, it's all just spit into the wind

While we argue, Jerome builds! Congratulations on another excellent project, and may the winds stay at your back!

Your sentence "banks (which are just as stupid and gregarious in systematically cutting off credit as they were enthusiastic at shoving it onto clients before)", is one of the truest thoughts I have read about this whole so called "crisis". At least in the U.S., the banking industry has become completely dysfunctional, if it were an individual the patient would be declared suffering from bi-polar disorder. No one will speak ill of the ill, but at some point we are going to have to recognize that the banks are simply not reliable as co-parties.

Once again Jerome I would like to ask if your have considered your financing structure as a way of financing large scale concentrating mirror solar energy?

It is hard to imagine a safer long term investment than solar over a long period of time: Once the capital expense is endured the plant should be even cheaper to maintain than a wind plant, and the amount of solar energy striking the mirrors can be easily predicted. I would consider bonds in a well structured solar installation of this type to be as safe or safer than TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) bonds, which have been reliable top rated bonds for three quarters of a century now.

Again, thank you for your work on behalf of creating real installation of alternative energy, not just talking about it, but seeing to it that it is built, and thank you for giving me an excuse to visit Aruba, beautiful place!


Thanks RC!

Re CST (concentrated solar) - yes, project finance is appropriate, and is indeed being used, provided that you have an appropriate purchase tariff for the electricity, as it still is rather more expensive. In many European countries, you have the requisite feed-in tariffs and such plants are being built in Spain and Italy. Colleagues of mine do solar while I focus on wind, so I can't point you right away to actual projects, but I know they have been financed.

Do any of your colleagues want to author TOD articles?

Keep up the great work; Aruba is an excellent choice for wind power, and I wouldn't be surprised if they add to the current capacity.

Well done Jerome, another week another deal! I stopped at Aruba during our voyage by yacht from UK to Australia and can vouch for the 15-25kt wind from the east virtually all day every day. It is the ideal wind power candidate and I would be surprised if the the next phase isn't on the drawing board already. What about the other islands in the ABC chain? Bothe Bonaire and Curacao must be itching to get their wind farms too.

BTW it is great sailing along the Venezuelan coast. Fast comfortable downwind trades. Lots of interesting places to go to. After Aruba we had a wild 2 night passage to Cartegena in Columbia. We had 12 hrs of 45kts gusting 55kts, huge running and breaking seas in absolute pitch dark. Luckily the boat handled it all just fine.

We had 12 hrs of 45kts gusting 55kts, huge running and breaking seas in absolute pitch dark. Luckily the boat handled it all just fine.

Talk about getting a feel for wind energy!

"You know who the good seamen are when the storm comes." Greek Proverb


Yes, they're thinking about a second windfarm already. It should take a couple years to get it done. Things are happening on the other islands too, but as I haven't been able to find a public source about it, I can't say more at this point...

Things are happening on the other islands too, but as I haven't been able to find a public source about it, I can't say more at this point...

On Curaçao: last that I read here was the plan to have 20% electricity from wind in the last years of the next decade.

When I lived in ST Croix from 2000-2004 I brought this topic to the attention of the unbelievably corrupt Island government and it was completely dismissed as foolish and unnecessary.
AT the time of course oil was still relatively cheap (they burn oil for electric).
The big employer other than tourism was Hovensa so you can figure from there the reluctance.
Now they wish they listened to me I bet.

That Island was a hell hole and very dangerous.
My house got broken into and my Jeep Cherokee was stolen..........some paradise huh?

I liked that picture of that gnarled windswept tree so much I made it my desktop background.

To me it symbolizes the fact that only the flexible, the ones who are able to go with the flow of the changing winds have a chance to survive the coming storms. Those who rigidly dig in their heels and try to stand against the forces of nature will snap like a dry and lifeless twig and be blown away for good. Good riddance to them!

May I recommend everyone go out on the ocean in a small sailboat every once in a while to learn a bit of humility and be one with nature even if only for a short time!.

I suspect there will be a lot of people going out on the ocean in not-so-small sailboats in the near future. As late as 1947, Gustav Erikson (from a home port in Aaland) operated a fleet of sail-powered cargo ships which made money carrying grain from Australia to Europe.

These vessels carried up to 5000 tons of bulk cargo half way around the world for virtually no fuel cost (at least some of them had a small steam engine for tasks such as raising the anchor, and they used oil for lighting and coal or oil for cooking). Erikson's ships had small crews, twenty men or so if I remember correctly (see

With modern improvements in materials -- I'm thinking of sailcloth and rope in particular -- I feel certain much larger ships could be built to sail with similar small crews and very modest power assist for sail handling. We may be about to see a new generation of windjammers.

I share your suspicion ;-)

I agree - crossing one of the worlds major oceans on a small yacht is a great, humbling experience. There are two types of people: those who have done it and those who haven't. The ones who have share an understanding that those who haven't cannot comprehend.

And I agree - transport based on wind could come back into use. Modern sails and lines are made from high tech oil based fabrics and fibres and the question of cost and energy cost vs using the inputs as fuel means making a choice does come into play. Returning to the old cotton and hemp products for sails and lines is not the only issue either. How long will the GPS satellite system remain in place? What about modern spars and rigging? Etc etc. Having an auxiliary engine wil also mean some oil based fuel will be needed. If our case is relevant the vast majority of the distance we covered was done under sail power alone. The engine was used around ports etc. We also had a diesel genset that kept our batteries charged. In total we used 3,000 litres of diesel and covered 16,000nm. Probably 2,000 litres was used by the genset (2 hours per day for 500 days at 2litres/hr). BTW we also had wind and solar generating capacity.

And I agree - transport based on wind could come back into use. Modern sails and lines are made from high tech oil based fabrics and fibres and the question of cost and energy cost vs using the inputs as fuel means making a choice does come into play. Returning to the old cotton and hemp products for sails and lines is not the only issue either. How long will the GPS satellite system remain in place? What about modern spars and rigging? Etc etc.

These are the kinds of things we should now be saving fossil fuels for. It should become a crime to waste them for superfluous purposes such as powering soccer mom's SUVs! However some return to hemp and cotton may be warranted. In Mystic Connecticut I had opportunity to visit The Plymouth Cordage Company Ropewalk:

Sailors generally call ropes, lines ;-)

This is a 250-foot segment of the Plymouth Cordage Company's ropewalk, built by its founder, Bourne Spooner, in 1824. This ropewalk was operated by the firm until 1947, when modernization eliminated its usefulness. The original building, located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was over 1,000 feet long and contained three rope-making grounds. It would be impossible, of course, for a sailing vessel to operate without rope, so one can understand the importance of this exhibit to the story of America and the sea.

The three main steps in the production of rope are illustrated here with the equipment that did the work. Natural fibers are first spun into yarn; many yarns are twisted together to form a strand; and then three strands are twisted together in the opposite direction to form rope. The extreme length of the building was important as the spinning and twisting had to be done in a straight line, and one needed a 1,000-foot-long path to make a 100-fathom (600-foot) rope. The tension of twisting the parts in the opposite direction at each step is what holds rope together.

Early rope was made of either American or Russian hemp, but by the 1830s abaca (manila) was being imported from the Philippines and rapidly became the preferred fiber. Manila is cleaner than hemp, as well as more durable and flexible, and does not have to be tarred, as did hemp, to resist deterioration by heat, rain and salt water.

Best hopes for preservation of some of the skills and knowledge from our maritime past, it might come in handy again.

Not near as great but certainly humbling is the experience of being on a small fishing boat whose diesel dies with the batteries near fully dischaged as the tide and wind bear it out to sea. The tenuousness of existence, dependent on a single alternator nut lost in the bilge comes home very quickly. It is not hard to generalize from that little specific experience to the whole of the complex world mechanical system we rely on for 'simple' day to day existence. Of course the same fishery that boat was working had been manned by sail power only vessels (by fed reg) until 1952. A lot can change in 30 years.

Jerome -

Another great wind power article! It's good to see some success stories for a change.

I have a question for you having to do with the manner in which some of the major components of a wind farm project are typically procured.

It appears from the video clips that the Aruba wind farm was a Vestas project in which Vestas supplied both the turbine nacelle assembly and the towers (as suggested by the fact that both were unloaded from the same vessel and that the towers also bore the Vestas name).

So here's my question: It is common practice, at least among European wind power firms such as Vestas, to provide both the turbine nacelle assemblies and the towers, or is the manufacture of the towers sometimes done by another party under a separate contract independent of the turbine supplier?

The reason I ask that is that some people here in Delaware are trying to start a business venture that would fabricate the steel towers for the proposed offshore wind farm for southern Delaware. They are seeking state funds and federal grants, so as a taxpayer I have an interest in whether such a venture makes sense. At this stage it strikes me as a case of putting the cart before the horse, because the project hasn't even been officially initiated and is a long way from even selecting a supplier of the wind turbines. It strikes me that if outfits like Vestas typically also supply their own towers made in their own facilities, then this venture might wind up with no customers.

I would very much appreciate your shedding some light on this subject.

Towers are usually procured locally - it's reasonably easy to manufacture and in most places transport will be an issue. In this case, Aruba had no local capacity to manufacture these, so they were imported along the rest, by ship (the local bit of transport was not too difficult in this case, as the videos show).

But demonstrating in advance the capacity to build the towers (and, in the case of offshore, you could likely also include the manufacturing of the foundations if monopiles are used, which is quite likely) is probably a good idea.

Jerome -


So then, a business based on manufacturing towers might indeed become a going concern should several wind farms start being built in the Mid-Atlantic states. I guess it all depends on how fast these projects come to fruition.

I think the initial idea here in Delaware was to form a joint venture with an existing supplier of heavy manufactured items used in the nuclear power industry, with the rolled steel coming from a small steel mill in northern Delaware. The former party has since backed out, so this venture is looking for other alternatives, such as possibly setting up the fabrication facility right on the grounds of the steel mill. As the mill is right on the Delaware River, the tower segments could be transported to the wind farm site by barge.

As far as I can tell from the various bits of information I've obtained, the manufacture of these towers appears to be fairly straightforward moderately large steel fabrication, with nothing or not much in the way of specialized items such as large steel forgings. However, I imagine that special attention must be paid to the connections between the segments that make up the tower.

All I can say is that the project team should get in touch with the industrial side of the big manufacturers like Siemens and Vestas. If you contact me by mail, I can point you towards the right contacts.

I live in Palm Beach County, Florida. I think it was about 2, maybe 3, years ago, I was driving south on I-95, just south of the town of Jupiter. I exited I-95 at Donald Ross Road, and on the off-ramp was an articulated rig hauling a tower, or at least a big section of a wind turbine tower. I knew it wasn't for anything local (Florida southeast coast wind is no good for wind power) so it must have been on its way somewhere offshore. I guessed that it was on its way to the Port of Palm Beach and heading to the islands. I was not attentive enough to look for any logos or labels on it as I drove by.

GE (#1 in sales in USA and I think Canada) should also be contacted.

With water access, expand your horizons for possible sales. Eastern Canada (Maritimes, Great Lakes), Gulf Coast of Texas, Mississippi/Missouri/Ohio River basin and Phase II Aruba are all viable markets. Even Ireland, the UK and offshore EU are possible with a weak dollar. Barge to port and truck or rail rest of the distance.

The decline in the USA $ since 2001 only helps :-)

Best Hopes,


As far as I am aware all turbines are supplied complete with towers and towers would have to be manufactured under licence from the turbine supplier.

This project (see the EWEC posters at the bottom of the page) uses steel jackets as offshore foundations. The larger onshore turbines 5+MW and 90m towers are starting to use precast concrete for the lower tower sections see here (pdf)

Towers aside there is steel used for foundations, bearings and the cranes for construction.

There is a very limited number of vessels which are capable of installing offshore turbines.

FWIW: I grew up on sailing and windsurfing and ended up working in the wind power industry!

OMG -- Technology used for constructing and installing such offshore projects is old hat for the petroleum industry. Be it a wind turbine or a well head it's the same engineering for the most part. The problem is costs: when oil/NG prices jump oil industry actvity jumps and so do the costs. Right now building/installing offshore WT's would be much cheaper than a year ago. But there's the rub: when energy prices fell so did much of the incentive for the alts.

Offshore Gulf of Mexico (excluding the Deep Water) has been sliding down hill for many years. Lots of capability/personnel here to handle the new work. Last year the state of Texas awarded offshore wind leases in the GOM. But haven't heard anything about actual development plans yet.

OMGlikeWTF -

If you scroll up a bit you will see the question I asked Jerome re whether the fabrication of the towers are typically carried out by the turbine supplier or handled as a separate part of the project by an independent steel fabricator.

Jerome indicated that the towers are usually procured locally if possible. However, you are saying that the turbine supplier typically also supplies the towers. I'm curious as to the different answers.

If towers have to be manufactured under license from the turbine manufacturer, then that would appear to make a business scheme aimed at fabricating towers far less attractive than if the towers were a separate part of the project.

I am also not surprised that there are a limited number of vessels capable of installing offshore turbines, as it looks to be a highly specialized operation involving the delicate handling of some pretty large items.

By the way, are you involved in wind power in the US or in Europe? Are the procurement and construction practices markedly different between the two markets?

The tower must be made to the specifications of the turbine manufacturer, and include secondary work inside, so it will always be purchased by the turbine manufacturer and not by the project developer (who buys wind turbines including the tower and, usually, onshore, the foundation as well, which the turbine manufacturer will also subcontract locally to a construction company).

While vader means "father" in Dutch, I don't think piet means anything. Vader piet sounds like a character list for a scene in The Empire Strikes Back.

Piet is a Dutch name.

Great work Jerome. I enjoy reading these success stories. Keep it up!

This is realy a great step for the island which lives from its tourism. The windmills will fit quite nice into the charming landscape. Tourists will come en masse only to watch these beautiful wittnesses of human ingenuity.

I was impressed by the videos,

  • the cargo ship was run on solar power and kites only!
  • the giant trucs took their power from tidal wave forces!
  • all parts of the constructions with their impressive dimensions where 100% recycled and farbicated in factories running entirely on thermal heat power!
  • all this financed without the imperative of exponential growth!
  • I liked the techno-sound in the background, that made it easier for me to imagine the new era for mankind that is dawning...

Now it realy seems to me, windcraft will pull us out of our dilemma of energy scarcity and the laws of physics, which are so against us lately.

One question: Why don't we build these things directly in outer space, say the moon. Earth is such a used place and, to be honest, quite old-fashioned for modern financiers and since soon we will arrive on mars that would be a nice test to power the new colonies with our new paradigm...

I like those bankers who explain the world while their very income is thoroughly based on false assumptions concerning limits and physics in general. When already their entire life turns only around selling dreams (e.g. of growth) to the people, how serious can I take an article with such "solutions"???


Don't feed the cuisine-challenged sub-span dweller.  Open subthread in a new tab and flag if it bothers you.


What have I done wrong? Was there an error in my reasoning?

Jerome certainly is a talented banker and financier, I read some of his blog and if you don't question the basis of endless exponential growth, he is quite convincing. However, bankers in general will not provide solutions to a problem that is caused by limits. Jerome frequently talks about his clean new energy here, that is coming from windpower. He does this because he makes a living from it. On one of his previous posts I could already show, that in Germany, installed onshore windpower is largly saturated after only 10-20 years and does not follow any exponential function, as do the interests, from which he makes his living. In fact, it follows the very Hubbert curve with a R2 of some 0,87 or so.

Windpower does not provide a solution to the paramount scarcity of metalls and energy. It is just a new dream sold to the ignorant masses to steer the flux of investments in a direction and Jerome uses this site as a means of advertisement to do so. Much more interesting would be an analysis of how useless all these efforts are (in Germany, where onshore windpower is almost saturated, it participates in the order of 1-2% to the primary energy consumption of that country). It would be interesting to work out the sharp contrast between all this hype and bluster on the one hand and reality on the other.

Please forgive me if my opinion is not yours and if I put my opinion in some ironic manner. But please don't become personal.


For one, I've always made my role in these projects quite explicit, so I hope that my interest is at least open. That said, as I've explained before, given our role as a non-recourse lenders, we need to make sure that the projects make sense for everybody over the long run and we cannot afford to be naive or misty-eyed about any aspect of the technology.

As to exponential growth, we're not really in that paradigm either: this is about providing a service which allows to spread the upfront cost of investment over the longterm generation of the asset. The core risk the banks take is an operational one, and the price for that can be rather low. Cost of capital (or cost of funding) issues are almost completely separate - they are bundled by default by banks, but it is quite possible to separate them, and for instance have (risk-free) funding provided by a public body (which will not take project risk). My work is mainly to ensure that the contractual package allocating responsibility and costs is fair and robust for 20 years.

In Germany, onshore wind is not really saturated, as construction continues at a steady rythm. But the industry is moving offshore, where it can be industrialized and rationalized on a larger scale. Note that onshore wind already provides 8% of all electricity (the comparison using primary energy are always misleading given that a big fraction of fossil fuel primary energy is lost in the power generation process, whereas wind energy is already in the form of electricity to start with). and numbers on what wind represents today say very little about where it could go to. It's like saying in 1955 that nuclear represents only a small fraction of generation...

Windpower does not provide a solution to the paramount scarcity of metalls and energy.

Well, yes it does - it probably has one of the best EROI of all technologies available today, and uses mostly very basic metals (steel). Your argument about the fuel used by the trucks and ships is ridiculous on its face - just do the calculations of how many gallons of fuel are use in construction and how many MWh will be generated over 20 years.

It is just a new dream sold to the ignorant masses to steer the flux of investments in a direction and Jerome uses this site as a means of advertisement to do so.

That's a pretty insulting thing to say, you know. I will evaluate your further replies on the basis of your clarification of that accusation.

Thank you very much for your reply, Jerome,

I didn't mean to insult you, english is not my best known language (in french it would be easier ;-)), I appologize if it came across that way. You always made your role very clear and you did indeed point out, why you show us a part of your work and why it matters on this site.

I appreciate the information you provide, as you also do in your other articles about finance-issues. However, on this particular subject, the point I criticize is this "we do the first step into a new future" (which I ridicoulized a little bit). This is not the case, neither onshore nor offshore. The fact, that all these windpower agregates are financed by banks, who ask for interest, shows, that exponential growth (of ressources made accessible to man) stays an imperative, there is nothing new about it. You can do anything, provided that you have enough energy. As I understand it, you provide the basis on which banks decide to invest on this or that project, your work, ergo, is tied to this paradigm. Clearly, this will not go on for ever.

But o.k., maybe one day, this will change (I don't think so, banks will go and electricity by wind likewise). Rests the problem of quantity. Your argument is, that power from wind is already in its highest quality, electricity. However, to make our industrial world function with electricity, much more power will be necessary as is today, one joule is not worth one joule when you change its purpose. The second law of thermodynamics still holds: best first, mobility with oil seems to use less energy than mobility with electricity. Otherwise, the trucs and cargos in the videos should run long time already on other stuff than on fossil fuels. This is the reason, why I compare only primary energy, not electricity. If it would be possible to change all the parts of industrial Germany (for example) to electricity and wind-power seems to be saturated (which we will only know in the future), than its total part would even diminish. I would not have a problem if it would be diminish from, say, 30% to 25%, but 1-2% is already a very weak foundation (solar is even worse).

Materials: you say, you use basic materials like steel, however, steel incorporates molybdenum, which will pose problems if you go large-scale. Even steel is not so simple. Wiring (copper) is another issue. If the blades are made from some kind of fibre fabrics, you have the petrol right in your machine (the matrix material). In small quantities, all this is no problem, but clearly you tell the banks that there is something big coming.

Onshore -> offshore: again best first. Onshore is simpler than offshore. I investigated a little in the foundation of offshore wind-power. It seemed to me that concrete foundations are a choice. Concrete is already in much easier environments largely misunderstood, concerning its durability. Salt water is the worst environment that can happen to concrete. What you will harvest on the long run is an immens effort to keep these constructions from falling apart. It will work maybe, but the effort you put in this is not comparable to these easy power providing facilities that work with coal or oil. The devil lies in the detail.

Windmills exist since centuries and use sustainably the power provided finally by the sun. They are pitoresque creatures and a good sign of the ingenuity of men. Turning them in giant machines to provide greedy homo-industrialis with interest is, in my humble opinion, more a sign of short sight.


The world spends over $2000 billion just on crude oil every year.

If during the next 10 years only 5% of this money would be spent on photovoltaic thinfilm factories instead, the world will produce 533 GW (the power of over 533 coal power plants) of PV-modules every single year.

Photovoltaic thinfilm modules are mostly based on oxygen and silicon (the most common elements in the earth crust) and have pay back time which can currently be low as 1 year (and keeps declining) and these PV modules last over 30 years.

There's no reason to keep on heating homes and showers with oil and gas when electrically powered heat pumps (e.g. powered by wind or PV) or solar hot water systems can do the same more efficiently without having to import any fuel and spend money on refining it.

There's no reason to keep on heating homes and showers with oil and gas when electrically powered heat pumps (e.g. powered by wind or PV) or solar hot water systems can do the same more efficiently without having to import any fuel and spend money on refining it.

Hi anyone,

Here's someone who agrees with you (click on the video link toward the bottom of the page):

[It dropped to -15C last night with winds gusting to 50 kph and our small 115-volt ductless heat pump had no problem keeping the entire lower level at a constant 20C whilst drawing less power than a conventional toaster.]


1) there's no money creation, overall, in the financing of a windfarm. It's spreading the capital cost out, against a fee.
2) there's enough demand for electricity to consider wind as a supplier of this and not discount its lack of suitability as a substitute to fuel in some uses.
3) wind takes a small fraction of the demand for its most important metals, so I'm not sure it's really a problem. With its high EROI, it will be able to get better access to these resources if it gets to that kind of scarcity
4) most offshore foundations are steel monopiles, for now

But yes, wind is industrial-scale energy, and a likely contender to best prolong BAU.


to 2) As I understand it, sustainable industrialisation must mean that almost everything runs on electricity (use heat for heat). Because, in this case, electricity must work in places where hitherto coal and oil where better suited, the overall energy-demand must increase. Since windpower on a finite surface must saturate, its part of primary energy supply thus decreases. Of course, for a supplier of electricity, this development is satisfying. It doesn't has to bother the investor, but it is the reason, why the already tiny fraction of energy provided by wind will even diminish (solar, geothermal, etc. is the same). This is a strong hint that there will never be a sustainable industrialisation and that windpower is not a first step forward into a new future, but one of the last steps of an almost finished chapter of history.

to 3) This will be very interesting to know, to which extend one can increase the demand until scarcity will be palpable. I don't know if there is research done in this direction, but I am pretty sure that yes, this exists and I will search for it.

ERoEI, I forgot to mention that, as I understand it, in energy-providing business, only the scale counts, not how smart we got it. Take a car, the effieceny is only 20-40%, but nevertheless everyone has one because the abundance of petrol is so big. Combustion engines do work at some hundreds of degrees that men can do at 36 degrees, they are much less effiecient, but the fuel is more abundant. Your argument would hold only, if my reply to point 2 is false. And, finally, only in a steady-state world, not in a growing one (nature wants us to grow).

to 4) If sea-water is agressiv to concrete, that means that it is agressiv to the steel inside. It would be interesting to know how they protect the steel from corrosion.

I think they will close this thread soon, so I am looking forward to your next post (and dreams ;-)).


There are several places with "sustainable industrialization" from renewable hydroelectric sources. Quebec, British Columbia, Norway, Iceland (with geothermal) for 100%, many more with 50+% renewable; New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil, Venezuela (all with industrialization) plus Washington & Oregon.

Build Grand Inga (40 GW) and most of Africa could be on renewable electricity (combined with other hydro & geothermal projects).

Long Term, we may have islands of industrialization, but it need not disappear.



Of course this exists, yesterday I visited one of the barrage along the river Rhine at the border between Switzerland and Germany (I made a photo some time ago):

Its a huge one (for european criteria) and... all the time I go there, there are maintenance construction sites (you can see them on the photo in yellow and blue). Now they finished with the turbines, next is one of the overfall-shuts, etc. Petrol-driven utility everywhere, truck-cranes, diggers, special equipment, all with combustion engines. They now installed even a permanent construction site there. In Brazil there was a huge power cut recently because one turbine at the giant barrage of Itaipú was damaged, they seem to have problems with the maintenance there.

And it will be the same in Daruba. It will work with fossil fuels and than, it will slowly decay, cease to work. The process will be accelerated if banks go bankrupt and can no longer finance the maintenance, even if there are still fossil fuels in the ground. Banks, in turn, have to disappear at the very moment when there is no more growth (we wittness this process at the moment). There is no such thing as sustainable industrialisation.


In Brazil there was a huge power cut recently because one turbine at the giant barrage of Itaipú was damaged, they seem to have problems with the maintenance there.

Not true, there were no maintenance problems with turbines at Itaipu. Perhaps you are confusing the problems at Itaipu with what happened in 2009 Sayano–Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station accident in Russia, where there was indeed a mechanical failure of a turbine with catastrophic and tragic results. Itaipu is a well maintained and ultra modern facility. When it comes to hydro the Brazilians are way ahead of the Russians.,,OI4094129-EI8139,00-Prob...

For those that can't read Portuguese the gist of the comment below is that this was a transmission problem and a failure of the grid not the turbines. As far as the over all effect it caused a major power outage but at least they were back on line in a few hours...and they didn't lose 75 workers like what happened in Russia.

Segundo o ministro de Minas e Energia, Edison Lobão, o problema ocorreu na hidrelétrica de Itaipu devido a uma falha das linhas abastecidas por Furnas. Com 20 unidades geradoras e 14 mil megawatts de potência instalada, a usina binacional de Itaipu fornece 19,3% da energia consumida no Brasil e abastece 87,3% do consumo paraguaio.

Segundo o secretátio executivo do ministério, Márcio Zimmermann, foram três linhas que causaram o problema: duas que vão do Paraná a Itaberá, no sul de São Paulo, e outra que liga Itaberá a Tijuco Preto, no sul de Minas Gerais. O secretário afirma que o problema foi possivelmente causado por condições meteorológicas adversas

Your picture shows the power plant Eglisau on the Rhine. It was built during the first world war from 1915 to 1919. So not much oil based input here, and after nearly 100 years of operation you might be broadminded enough to foregive the expense of the installation of a new turbine set. Even after payment of interest the improved conversion efficiency of new turbines amplely justifies the cost of replacement.
By the way the installed capacity of 110 MW is not particulary impressive. One of the older hydropower plants on the Danube in Austria, Ybbs Persenbeug has an installed capacity of 236 MW.
Hydro power is used in Europe since roman times, for example the romans operated water powered marble saw mills. Might be a long wait for the "end of time".

Albania in their decades of isolation and the People's Republic of Korea both were able to keep their hydro going.

Some of the cheapest (and greenest) power in the world is the delta between a neglected hydropower plant and one that is operating at peak efficiency with modern equipment. But ignore the pictured plant for a most of a century and it will still produce more than half what is does today.

Corn ethanol or bio-diesel to maintain a large hydropower plant will have a VERY large EROEI, and much could be done with horses & electric motors (ICC is just cheaper & easier).


Alan and Obdacher,

I recognize that we talk about hydropower now in Jeromes article about Arubas wind-farm. But what we talk here about is the general feasibility of a "green" industrialisation with "clean" electricity, so I think it fits here, because it affects the two.

The size of Eglisau doesn't matter so much in this context. Its an old one and they wanted to tear it down and build a new one, however, its under historical protection (Denkmalschutz) and so they had to renovate it. Doesn't matter so much, too, because what counts is, that it needs maintenance. Most part of the installed waterpower in developped Europe was installed very roughly around that time (please don't nail me here). Since than, it provides in Germany roughly 10% of its primary energy demand. Its good, much better than wind, solar or other forms of the new era technology. In face of the "best first" imperative, it must fit much better into the functioning of an industrial society than does wind or solar. That there is almost no room for growing shows that it is... saturated. But we grow, so does energy demand, thus it will not help us. Its a backbone technology.

Now put yourself back into the times of WW1. Only tiny fractions of the population used electricity, no TV, PC, cellphone, refrigiator, no electric cars, trains etc. Oil (in a big scale) came only 20 years later, so hydro was an enormous invention for the few who where dependent on it. Growth at that time was not so much a problem, because fundamental inventions (not as today) where made that did realy change the world (the big crisis in the 30s was not about scarcity of ressources, but scarcity of demand/advertising). So, interest was no problem neither and it stood that way until relatively short ago (began in 1980, but was delayed do to IT-revolution and their efficiency gains). Another point: the state was strong at that time. The new inventions were used in robust applications. The state guarantied, what mattered was the durability (the same is true for trains, where the government worked out impressive guidelines for security that made this transportation method a real killer app. When the Deutsche Bahn was privatised, this effort soon became much too expensive, the trains became more sexy and much less reliable, the same development took place in GB, much more pronounced).

So now they are there and despite their longevity they are old and need continued increasing effort to work any longer (it would amaze me if the new turbines will hold another 100 years). Growth today is a problem, so is to finance such thinks and the construction of new ones, look in the graph Jerome put in this very thread, prizes for ressources increase and its palpable. The job of Jerome (he may correct me) is to prevent all possible expense, minimize every effort, calculate the very limits for the If he made a mistake somewhere and the construction doesn't work before 20 years are over, or has only not enough output of energy, his assurance has to pay to the Everything turns around interest and growth. And 20 years is not a long time, for normal constructions we assure 70-80 years and its not a long time neither for a fixed construction. The bank is happy, because in 20 years, they know they can give a credit for the maintenance.

I don't know if I am the only one who sees a contradiction of this mechanism and a reliable, sustainable infrastructure. Exponential growth in a limited environment is a headache. In 20 years, the banks, for whom Jerome calculated all the risk so sophisitcatedly, will probably no longer exist.

The point I want to make here is that we don't only have to maintain the old Eglisau barrage, but all the old and new infrastructure that was build with fossil fuels. This time without them. I am broadminded enough to see, that Eglisau is only a very small part of the ensemble that holds as an example. You can go to every wind turbine and say: look, this is only small. Obdacher, I ask you to be broadminded enough to see, that with this technology we have to fill a gap of 90% of our energy demands in an exponentially growing world.

Alan, at that time, they probably used horses to construct the barrage. But if you have a horse, do you still need electricity? You see that we agree?


The concrete and construction done in todays Swedish hydro powerplants is better then what was done 50-100 years ago since it takes time to learn the longevity lessons. But todays plants have electronics that will have to be replaced more frequently. Since this is a low volume and high value use of electronics it can support far higher costs then for instance consumer goods and I am very sure that systems will be built and if nothing else works hand built.

The job of Jerome (he may correct me) is to prevent all possible expense, minimize every effort, calculate the very limits for the If he made a mistake somewhere and the construction doesn't work before 20 years are over, or has only not enough output of energy, his assurance has to pay to the

No, our job is to maximize the chance that we get paid back. Banks will tend to insist on bigger maintenance budgets, because maintenance keeps the asset going. If the asset does not work, we do not get paid back.

In 20 years, the banks, for whom Jerome calculated all the risk so sophisitcatedly, will probably no longer exist.

But the windfarm will still exist (and most likely, someone will have taken over the right to get paid interest by the project to the bank, because it is a valuable asset). The whole point of project finance is that it does not matter who owns the farm, or who owns the debt, it only cares about making the project work, and generating the cashflow. How this is allocated is a separate question.

Your beliefs are not really fact based. We live in a limited world but energy production from renewable sources is anything but saturated or close to natural limits like solar irradiation. Austrian Production from hydro, wind increased from 123.556 TerraJoule in 1970 to 380.636 Terrajoule in 2008. It was not even 10.000 TerraJoule in 1920.
And yes there is such a thing as improved quality and yes that does happen in material sciences. Modern day turbines will outlast and outperform turbines from 1919. Otherwise you could buy a 1919 vintage car, or feel confident going to war in a 1917 armour plated vehicle.


Of course, in addition to what I said, you have to be paid. It doesn't matter who finances what first, who takes which risk where and when. The point is that this wind-farm has been build and paid (salaries, material, real estate) and that this was done by debt (not to do it by debt would mean throwing money out of the window).

And of course, when a bank goes bankrupt, their assets will be sold to another one who is still in the game. But the game itself is becoming smaller and finally one day, there will be no one left who is in the position to buy and maintain such a facility, and the bigger it is, the faster this day will arrive. Keep in mind that we don't only talk about the visible "wind-mills", its also the wiring, the distribution (there must be something on the other end which is still working), let alone the whole organisation. These wind parcs are embedded in a world of fossil fuels, that is only working in this very special environment. When the refrigerator is empty, the party is over, even as the light inside is still burning. There are endless examples of such development, go to the east of Germany, there you can by whole castles for an apple and an egg. I am pretty sure that at the time, when the castles were build, they were very "valuable assets". Langre en France c'est la même chose...

Time changes and so do the opinions of the people vis à vis different objects. At this moment, dramatic changes are upon us. In a time not so far away, people will recognize overdimensioned offshore windfarms as what they are in my opinion - gadgets, I am sorry, if this sounds offensive. I know that Jerome puts a lot of energy of his life into these things, but me too I work all day long for things, that will be useless in the not so distant future. The most convincing argument why electricity from wind/hydro/solar will not replace and extend fossil fuels is, that it is an old technology, which, if interesting, would have been put into place long time ago. Otherwise it would be against the laws of thermodynamic (nature abhors gradients) and this is not possible. And there is no conspiracy that made it this way, please believe me.


take your row in the Excel-sheet and look at the annual increase. I think, Austria sees its boom in 2005, 2006 and 2007, however, in the years before there were decreases. The picture is not so clear. Anyway thank you for the link, keep in mind that Austria as Switzerland are extreme cases with a lot of mountains and water and the climate is warming, glaciers are disappearing and tax paradises also.

I think, we will not solve this subject here and now. I hope nevertheless to have made a valuable contribution to it. Tomorrow I have to go back into my hamster wheel and so for me, I think this discussion ends here.

One word on the comment from Magnus Redin: we use the same concrete today as we did one hundred years ago, the only thing that changed is the covering thickness over the steel-rebars. That increased and so did the material usage.


I like my 1923/24 streetcars :-)


WW I ... no electric cars, trains etc.

Several times a week I use a streetcar built in 1923 or 1924 and a month ago I saw our workcar (an 1897 Ford, Davis, Bacon single truck streetcar) in operation spreading sand. We also have a 1912 streetcar awaiting restoration.

In today's Drumbeat a photo is taken of a 1906 greenhouse with an electric trolley freight streetcar. Those vegetables may be delivered the "last mile" by horses.

I have seen many photos of mules delivering supplies to streetcar lines under construction.

A US electric railroad of 1908,_Baltimore_and_Annapolis_Electri...

But if you have a horse, do you still need electricity ?

ABSOLUTELY ! Electric trains & streetcars provide the bulk of transport, horses and mules the last mile.


This article made me very happy to read it.

Thank you for sharing it.


Yes, quite a positive step. Being from another Island with similar annual electricity usage and near total petroleum dependence, I am very eager to find information on how they manage such a facility with an isolated grid. I looked up the island utility company but found very little information on their public web site. Several questions that emerge immediately for me (assuming Aruba is not connected via cable to the mainland) :

1. How frequent are the electricity outages on Aruba?
2. Does the windfarm or the utility have energy storage to manage variable output?
3. What type of generators do they use in conjunction with this farm, and
4. how much additional spinning reserve is required to accommodate the project?

Any guidance & information available in better understanding how these challenges were addressed would make this already great example even more valuable for me. Mahalo for a very interesting post.

Someone needs to start a new website called "The Copper Mine".

I could take a drive of an hour and take a picture of the post-apocalyptic landscape of South Point, Hawaii. It's a hell of a lot less happy. Just as counterpoise.

Wind works, of course, as long as you keep diesel powered up and on standby. Or expect blackouts when it doesn't.

1. no idea, but I would expect not frequent as the system is built on mostly flexible fueloil power plants
2. no, but in this case the wind input will be particularly easy to manage, for 2 reasons: 1) the wind output itself is unusually regular due to the wind patterns and 2) the systme is quite flexible as it is given that it is built on fuel oil plants which can be switched on and off relatively easily and follow the load (or net load after incorporating the wind generation)

2. no, but in this case the wind input will be particularly easy to manage, for 2 reasons: 1) the wind output itself is unusually regular due to the wind patterns

Jerome, there are some months though, especially september and october, with days with (almost) no wind. So the oil plants backup that you mentioned will have to remain in place (or must find other solutions or cope with days without electricity (and water)).

So the oil plants backup that you mentioned will have to remain in place

Yes. Why would that be a problem?

The wind turbine manufacturer Enercon sells self sufficient power systems based on wind-diesel and stand-alone systems (with a higher wind share and includes flywheels):
self sufficient power systems using wind energy

In addition to flywheels, redox batteries have also been applied:

These windturbines are of the variable speed type which means that (at least part of) the power from the AC generator is converted back into DC and then back to AC using an inverter (power electronics). This has an disadvantage in that it incorporates power electronics, but this is extremely compensated by the advantages like controlable power output and the variable blade speed.

The controlable power output can actively improve power quality (correct voltage, frequency, phase of the network) and the variable blade speed and angle can dampen power output changes in gusty wind speeds, eliminate vibrations to prolong structural life and reduce audible noise, continue to produce power at extreme wind speeds or shutdown gradually instead of suddenly. In case of network overload the variable blade angle can reduce power output and -if the turbines are not running at maximum power for the given wind speed- can provide very fast balancing power.

Based on
a) the turbine characteristics as described above
b) currently the power is generated using diesel engines (which can adapt to changes in demand/production quickly)
c) assuming there is only one power utility (and thus no power exchange governing the amounts of power generated by each utility many hours in advance)
d) very predictable wind
the required spinning reserve is very limited and depends mostly on generator bootup time and expected maximum demand change. I guess the spinning reserve would be about the same as before the addition of the windturbines.

Kotzebue island operates off of a wind & resistance heating grid. Spinning reserve is the variable resistance load.

Basically, an excess of wind almost all of the time which is dumped into a resistance heating load. This is what I propose for overnight on Aruba (and perhaps more than overnight).

Best Hopes for Renewable Energy on islands,


Despite running 100% on renewable energy and wind electricity basically being nearly free of cost, dumping excess power into resistance heating seems like such a waste...

Not if there is a use for the "waste heat". On Aruba to desalinate water, on Kutzebue to heat water (fish processing ?) and space heating municipal buildings & schools (from memory).

Best Hopes for Less Waste,


Just to be clear, Kutzebue plans to build enough wind to meet peak demand, but there are times, even on windy days, when they must run diesel generators to meet peak demand today. Base load is < average wind generation.

Right, using the heat usefully is better ofcourse, but are they using resistor banks for that or heat pumps? From an energy point of view a heatpump is preferred, but economics might not agree if the energy used is surplus and really cheap...

Heat pumps cannot be throttled as quickly and efficiently as resistive heat can.

Remember, every cycle# (from memory reading about control system) i.e. every 1/60th second, the resistive load is adjusted to match generation to "rest of load". Heat pumps do not do this well.

I suspect that their limited capital funds are better spent on more wind turbines than on heat pump water heaters (it is COLD in the Bering Sea).

Ideally, one might not want efficient heating. Wind = Peak demand will give an excess of electricity for 22 hours/day (SWAG).

Best Hopes for more Wind,


# Actually a several cycle average voltage

Heat pumps cannot be throttled as quickly and efficiently as resistive heat can.

To the extent that induction motors change their power consumption in response to frequency changes, it happens automagically.  In an island-sized system, the granularity of heat-pump demand would be fine enough to handle such duty without difficulty by switching them on and off.

The issue of total system cost is always relevant.  Does it make more sense to over-size the generation and use dump loads, economize on generation with heat pumps and large insulated heat stores to time-shift demand, or just off-load existing systems by e.g. throttling and even free-wheeling a diesel when other supplies meet instantaneous demand?  You won't know before you run the numbers.

Perhaps the resistor banks are so much cheaper then heat-pumps that this offsets the possible efficiency gain. Also, COP depends heavily on the required increase in temperature. If the source (seawater, air) temperature is more then (say) 40 degrees lower then the target temperature then the compressors in the heatpumps need to work so hard that the COP dramatically lowers.

On the topic of spinning reserve: Imagine having spinning reserve in the form of a diesel engine being pulled (using the generator as a motor) along by the speed of the net frequency without (or with very little) fuel being injected and if more power would be needed then the diesel is already at speed and injecting fuel would mean that the diesel will start pulling the net along near instantaneous. This seems very efficient to me or am I missing something? And is this a common method?

Also, COP depends heavily on the required increase in temperature.

Not the COP so much, but the throughput.  This depends greatly on the working fluid.  If you are running with conventional refrigerants and a fixed-speed compressor, the mass-flow through the system falls off rather rapidly as the evaporator temperature goes down; the compressor load falls and so does the heat produced.  It's my understanding that CO2 does not have such a steep density dropoff in that region and works much better at lower temperatures.

Imagine having spinning reserve in the form of a diesel engine

That is exactly what I was suggesting.  I suspect it is already done, and in any case the synchronous alternator would be very desirable to have spinning at all times so it can provide reactive power.  The one thing that would be worthwhile to add is a feature to deactivate cylinders to decrease the amount of pumping work on air being moved through the engine when it is running at far less than full power.

Having a motor, a flywheel, a slightly modified diesel engine and a generator on a common shaft has been a high-end UPS set up for nuclear powerplants, military bunkers and so on. The main problem is the continous wear on all the moving parts making it expensive to run and it is also an expensive installation. The cool thing with it is that it can be made EMP proof and built withouth electronics.

I wonder if the rate of change for wind might be slower or comparabe to the start up time for a quick start diesel powerplants? The proper start up signal for the diesels on an isolated iceland might be a 1/3 minute wind prognosis from a weather radar.

But in the case when there are no turbines then the diesel has to be running and providing power instead of freewheeling. This would result in even more wear and ofcourse diesel usage. So the wear argument is not a real one imho.

Turbines have some inherent stored energy (the mass of the turning blades) that can be used as a short UPS function. The variable speed type already uses this feature of temporary speedup/slowdown to compensate gusts of wind.

Kotzebue wind system is low penetration, the diesels run all the time

Low-Penetration Systems
The wind farm in Kotzebue is one of many low-penetration systems that have been installed worldwide. Low-penetration systems vary from small to relatively large isolated grids. Some large grids, such as those found in certain areas of the United States and Europe, reach a wind power penetration that would classify them in the same category as low-penetration systems. In low-penetration systems, the wind turbines act as just another generation source, requiring no special arrangements.

The control technology required at this level of generation is trivial, especially given the control, flexibility, and speed of modern diesel and wind systems. In many systems, no form of automated control is required; the wind turbines act under their existing controllers, and an operator monitors all system functions. Because the diesel engines are designed to allow for rapid fluctuations in power requirements from the load, the addition of wind has very limited impact, if any, on the ability of the diesel control to supply the remaining difference. Issues of spinning reserve, a term used to represent the availability of instantaneous system capacity to cover rapid changes in system load or energy production, are addressed by the allowable capacity of the diesel engines, which in many cases can run at 125% rated power for short periods of time with no adverse impact.

from here Low penetration is < 50% instantaneous and < 20% average.

I'm pretty sure the resistance grid referred to in a several places is the city operated resistance grid that heats the potable water system so it doesn't freeze. One of the circulation loops is heated by waste heat from the diesel generators but I'm fairly certain the rest are heated by a resistance grid. The heated pipes have to be insulated away from the surrounding permafrost ground to boot or else they will melt it, turn it to mush and the whole piping system self destruct as it sinks unevenly. Acrtic and sub arctic construction is a whole different can of worms.

The article I read several years ago indicated that max wind was > base load.

It is quite possible that, in a remote village of 2,000 that most of the 3 AM load would be refrigerators cycling. Given the costs of outdoor lighting, it would be reasonable that they would have very little if any.

Other 3 AM loads ? Fans if they have central heating, but that is uncertain.

Phantom loads for turned off electronics perhaps.


BTW, they have ten 66 kW and one 100 kW WTs.

Can you find a link to the article? My searches turned up a lot of the same indistinct kind of stuff.

Night load would certainly include freezers, the people hunt and fish for a lot of their protein. The town now claims about 3600 residents.

It has been over a decade since I taught at their tech center, a fair sized structure with large shops, classrooms, dorm rooms etc. Wind gen wasn't installed back then. Considering how cheap resistance baseboard units are or how easy it would be to design resistance/oil dual heat source boiler units, such may have been installed in the larger public buildings. There are street lights and mid winter they are on a lot, Kotzebue being 30 miles north of the arctic circle and all.

The locals are a politically savvy bunch. They had just opened their brand new regional hospital when I was there, heavily funded by fed money. Sugar daddy US Sen. Ted Stevens flew in. Low and behold when I walked by the hospital the evening after he arrived I saw a brand new street sign on the new access street to the hospital. It was now named "STEVEN'S WAY.'

If the max load is exceeded by wind often enough a lot of resistance heat may well have been added with appropriate switching gear. They know how to get funding up there. Heating the potable water supply system is a 24/7 enterprise and eats a bunch of juice year round, the sewage treatment plant also could be a big night user. I just got flat tired of trying to parse out how much from the articles I found.

Actually Kotzebue is the fat end of long narrow penninsula, but it might as well be an island as far a grid connections go. It is a pretty low piece of land that the town sits on as well so best of luck might need to wished it on several fronts.

Its a tough spot, above the arctic circle, air access only most of the year, though barge season is likely increasing as the polar summer melt increases. The water supply has to be heated year round I believe (permafrost ground) and I'm near certain that at the very least the smaller lines away from the utilidoors/ducts would utilize resistance heat for that purpose. There are four potable water circulation loops one of which is heated by the waste heat from the diesel generators. Last I read only 8% of the town's power came from wind but a gallon of diesel fuel is saved by every 14kwh the wind produces. That fuel is barged in and expensive.

The Red Dog zinc mine, world's largest producer of zinc concentrate is 82 air miles from Kotzebue, the regional hub of a very sparsely populated and very cold region. I've only spent one fall in the town, the wind was regular. Lots of ocean to the west and open tundra to the east, not much gets its way except the wind mills I'd guess.

Thoughts on Maximizing Wind/Renewables on Aruba

Currently wind supplies, when conditions are favorable, 60% of base load.

Also, waste heat from fuel oil generation helps drive desalination, the major source of fresh water on the island.

W.E.B. Aruba N.V. generates electricity, and produces drinking and industrial water through an integrated process utilizing steam

I know too little (but willing to do an on-site assessment !) about demand side measures for water or electricity on Aruba.

With the refinery closed, the demand for industrial water is surely lower and there is excess water capacity.

Norway once had steam boilers driven by electrical resistance.

Step Two may be tripling wind generation, which would give 180% of base load demand for (SWAG) 1,000 hours/year. The surplus electricity could generate steam for the existing desalinization plant.

This resistance load could also provide grid stability through millisecond control of the resistance load. As long as wind generated (SWAG) 115% to 125% of demand, the grid could be 100% wind. But at some point (say wind < 115% of demand) small (1 to 3 MW) diesel generators would be needed and then the existing steam plant should be heated up and the diesels turned off as demand rises @ dawn.

The switch point for going to oil generation will depend upon the predictability of two variables; wind and demand (other than desalinization).

Options for Step Three

A) More wind, with the goal being to get a majority of heat for desalinization from surplus/control load wind generation. Back-up is oil and oil is turned on when wind drops to within X (115% ?) of demand

B) Adding significant solar PV to the grid as well as solar preheating of water for desalinization. Given the very limited geography of Aruba, solar PV would be quite unstable (a cloud crosses the island) but oil generation can throttle up and down easily to accommodate that. Solar peaks at solar noon and demand typically peaks at 3 to 4 PM (air conditioning) or 6 PM (cooking dinner).

c) Pumped Storage is a possibility. The highest point (188 m) is a bit over 2 km from from zero m elevation. With TBMs, and expensive oil, a 2 km tunnel is likely economic. 100 m elevation difference can be economic (Luxembourg runs about 1 GW pumped storage with about that delta).

A primary use of pumped storage would be for grid control. The potential to use hydropower (such as spinning reserve) could cut the 15% safety margin to 1% or 2% (again a SWAG) and actually use of pumped storage could eliminate any oil burning safety margin.

Pumping water uphill could combine with boiling water as loads for surplus wind and grid control.

Hydrogeneration could shift both wind and solar PV generation to meet demand. I could see a daily cycle where pumped storage is up 11 PM to 5 AM, down 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM (solar takes over then), up 11 AM to 1 PM (excess solar) and down 2 PM till 8 PM.

The above is for "typical days". Atypical days can be meet by no desalinization and burning oil after pumped storage is exhausted (all the water is in the lower reservoir).

Water distillation is discontinued when winds die down and during peak electrical demand. Solar preheating reduces the demand for electrical resistance heat.

The pumped storage is one place to store distilled water (the emergency reserve).

Best Hopes for Renewable Solutions,


solar preheating of water for desalinization

Since there is no shortage of salt water they could use a solar pond for this purpose.

The disadvantage of using resistance heat for water desal is that it produces less than 1/3 as much water per kWh (17 kWh/m³ for flash distillation vs. 5 kWh/m³ for RO [per this]).  The flip side of being able to absorb the available RE supply is... you absorb the available RE supply and have to use fossil fuels for the rest.  There's also the issue of billing; if the RE supplier is getting a fixed per-MWH return, any discounted power used to make fresh water has to be compensated by higher rates paid by other users.

The flash distillation plant in Aruba produces 11.2 million gallons per day (~42400 m³).  This would require about 8.8 megawatts average using RO or 30 megawatts average power using distillation.  Power production is on the order of 60 MW (if I'm reading the author's faulty units correctly).  The question of Aruba's best options for its available wind power and other RE is interesting and deserves analysis.

What I want to know: Is wind power becoming cheaper? If so, by how much and how quickly?

Yes, I'd like to know that too. Jerome, do you perhaps have some information about turbine prices and developments from the past and expectations about the future?

I know that a few years ago the turbines temporarily became more expensive because lack of gearboxes. But modern turbines don't have gearboxes anymore so I guess prices have come down again...?

see this by EWEA (the trade group):

prices went up again until 2008, and are now down to where they were in 2006 or so. The long term trend is down, the increase in recent years was due to the sharp price increases for commodities (steel, mainly) plus shortages in capacity which allowed turbine manufacturers to jack up their prices.

Thanks :-)

Edit: I've read some of your earlier articles as well and see that this info was available in one of those as well. Sorry for not UTFS.

Jerome, Thanks for your response. Since bigger turbines are cheaper there's the obvious question: Are turbines still getting bigger? Any idea how much bigger they are expected to get?

I do not see that the price dropped from 1,000 to 2,000 size. So then are bigger turbines really still getting cheaper?

Actually, it's no longer clear that bigger turbines are cheaper, and the onshore market seems satisfied to install 1.5-3MW turbines, with site specifications driving the particular model. There is the fact that the logistics of bringing large turbines to sites onshore becomes a massive headache, but that constraint does not exist offshore, and yet you see offshore projects being built now with 2MW or 2.3MW turbines when bigger ones could theoretically be used. Offshore, you can use bigger rotors with smaller turbines and get much improved power curves with proven turbine models.

Bigger turbines will make sense if your production license specifies a number of turbines rather than a max. MW or an area. After that, it's wind conditions vs turbine prices - note that smaller turbines are often also sold onshore, where demand has been weaker, and manufacturers had an incentive to reduce prices (no such incentive for the big, offshore-only turbines).

it's no longer clear that bigger turbines are cheaper

Could you expand on that? Have you seen analyses of the engineering economics of larger turbines (5M & 7MW)?

I would guess that the current stagnation in wind growth (due to the economy) would make a transition to larger turbines harder, because it's easier to move to new models when you expand your manufacturing capacity, something you won't do when business is flat. Does that make sense?

Could you expand on that? Have you seen analyses of the engineering economics of larger turbines (5M & 7MW)?

As Jerome already mentioned:
One problem with wind-turbines 5 MW and above (especially on-shore) is, that their components cannot be easily transported from one location to another due to their size and weight and some components including tower simply need to be manufactured on-site. Not to mention: One needs a crane that can lift the much higher weight of the components and this crane also needs to be transported and assembled.

Here are pictures of the Enercon 126, a 6 MW wind turbine:

The rotor blades weigh 65 t each and the entire turbine without tower weighs 650 t.

A 6 MW turbine has double the weight of a 3 MW turbine (keep in mind, the forces working on the components are basically doubled). There's really not much to gain by going much larger than 3 MW - especially since the components cannot be moved and lifted easily - unless transportation is less of an issue and the foundation is very costly which may be the case with off-shore turbines.

I can understand the logistics problems.

But the same laws of physics still apply - if you double the length of the blades you quadruple the power output.

In the case of going from 3MW to 6MW, I'm not sure the forces on the components are doubled: if the blade gets longer, the tip will move faster, and do more work with the same forces, right? So I'd think that if one were to double the power output, the blade length (and structural strength needed) would only increase by 40%.

If there were no logistics problems, would there by any reason why the same economies of scale that moved us from 30KW to 3MW wouldn't apply?

Maybe the turbines are approaching a sweet spot regarding construction and usability which slows down increases in size. This doesn't say turbines won't grow bigger but that this pace will slow down while materials and support machinery adjusts.

In the case of going from 3MW to 6MW, I'm not sure the forces on the components are doubled: if the blade gets longer, the tip will move faster, and do more work with the same forces, right?

There's an optimal tip speed to wind speed ratio. (For instance, if the tip exceeds that speed, turbulence is generated and efficiency reduced.)
If you compare different sized wind turbines you'll notice that the rpm goes down with longer blades.
And if the rpm goes down, the torque has to be increased correspondingly to generate even more power.

For example:
The Enercon E-33 with a rotor diameter of 33.4 m has an rpm range of 18 rpm - 45 rpm.
The Enercon E-70 with a rotor diameter of 71 m has an rpm range of 6 rpm - 21.5 rpm.

You can see, that with half the rotor diameter the rpm range is more than doubled.
Now, if you produce 4 times more power with the larger turbine, you actually end up with a torque that is at least 8 times higher. So the blades, rotor hubs, bearings, gears also have to bear forces that are at least 8 times higher, but at the same time you only produce 4 times more energy.

In addition, regardless of the rpm you still end up with quadruple the forces on the tower if you quadruple the power output at the same wind speed.

The falling rpm makes sense: if blade length doubles, then the distance traveled per rotation also doubles, and if tip speed needs to stay the same then RPM will drop in half.

So, up to a certain point doubling the blade length quadruples both power output and torque, but after we hit maximum tip speed it octuples(?) the torque. So below that point the ratio of power: blade length rises. It still does after that point, but the ratio of torque:power starts to rise, so the advantage of size declines (and blade material strength limits become more important).

What dictates maximum tip speed? Do you happen to know roughly at which turbine size it's reached?

I wonder if the recent research on turbulence reduction via use of whale fin design makes a difference?

The tip speed ratio (tip speed/wind speed) should be around 7 with a 3 bladed turbine:

If they would go down to 2 or even 1 blade they could probably increase the tip speed ratio accordingly. But this may not necessarily be helpful with long blades as they eventually would reach very high tip speeds (and high wing tip drags).

When you look at the Enercon examples above, the maximum tip speed doesn't go above 80 m/s or so (even though it can handle wind speeds of over 25 m/s). So at higher wind speeds the tip speed ratio is going down, which may simply be because drag of the blade also goes up with v^2.

I wonder if the recent research on turbulence reduction via use of whale fin design makes a difference?

Besides that modern wind turbines are already close to the Betz-limit, I think that might help in bettering stall performance and allowing the blade to deliver more torque without stalling and thus also improving efficiency but that probably wouldn't necessarily help in improving high speed aerodynamics of the wing tips.
Btw, they already do use winglets:

However: What would help is using wind concentrators: (It's German but you should get the idea).

This way you can increase the rpm without increasing tip speed, as you install fixed blades to increase the wind speed through the turbine.

But then again: When you have a turbine with 100 m rotor diameter you would need to install gigantic fixed blades around that turbine. So it's probably more an option for a small wind turbine.
Actually, these small turbines do use some sort of concentrators:

Or one could possibly also use two rotors running on the same axle - one inner rotor with a higher rpm and one outer with a lower rpm. But then again would the costs of the added complexity offset the energy gain?

Just as railroad guns could use ship sized artillery, it seems that using rail transport to the site (say along the RR ROW) would allow large cranes and large component pieces. Much larger than road transport would allow.

Any thoughts ?


It's a good idea, but building railroads to a site would add significantly to overall project capital costs, right?

Offshore, you can use bigger rotors with smaller turbines

I'm lost in your terminology here, because I would use "rotor" and "turbine" synonymously unless I was using "turbine" to mean everything on top of the tower.  By "turbine" do you mean "generator", and can you explain the tradeoffs a bit more clearly?

A recent trend in turbine technology has been to use turbines with smaller capacity (say 2MW instead of 3MW) but install on them longer blades that allow them to have a better power curve (ie the maximum rated capacity is reached at lower wind speeds), meaning that more MWh can be produced with the same wind profile than with the other models.

Given the spacing requirements between turbines to avoid wake effects (a bigger problem offshore than onshore) - typically 5-7 rotor diameters in the prevailing wind direction - and the wind profile, different turbines can give you more MWh per square kilometer than others. It also depends, offshore if you have a permit for a number of turbines, for a fixed area or for specific turbine sizes.

That seems to be deliberately reducing one's peak output to reduce costs. It will increase capacity factor (because the nominal nameplate rating is lower), but will achieve lower overall KWH output than could be achieved by increasing the size of the generator proportionately.

In the past, longer blades were always accompanied by larger turbine capacity in order to maximize total KWH output. I wonder what has changed, to change that design philosophy?

I guess this depends on the windprofile as said by Jerome before. If you are in an area where speeds are often below 6 m/s then a turbine that starts earlier is of more interest then one that starts later (but with a higher peak performance). In the end it all comes down to produced kWh per Euro and not MWp per Euro.

I often hear the argument of nameplate power vs capacity from anti-wind folks and, while only the kWh/Euro figure is decisive, having a higher capacity factor will be good to counter those arguments (if they are able to listen to an argument anyway).

a turbine that starts earlier

If the generator gets larger, does it start significantly later? I wouldn't have thought the difference would have been large.

I would think that it would be a trade-off between the extra cost of the larger turbine, vs the additional benefit of the extra KWH from peak wind periods.

Not expanding the generator along with the blades sounds like a cost-saving measure during hard times.

There may be no additional benefit to the peak. Depending upon infrastructure, no-one may be interested in buying peak values that occur, say, less than 1% of the time. And they may not be interested to install the transmission capacity, the load regulation facilities, etc. all of which would need to be scaled to handle that peak. So it can be more cost effective to build with smaller turbines and then control the rotors to deliver a smaller max power but over a broader percentage availability at a cost saving in infrastructure.

The peak may not occur often, but it should produce a fair amount of power. Also, the turbines are feathered over a reasonably wide range of wind speeds, so I would think the peak wouldn't be that rare - it would be interesting to see data.

On the other hand, there's yet another part of the cost of providing that peak power: dealing with sudden declines in output. I've often wondered if the mirror image of demand load shedding is supply peak shaving. IOW, the peak power may not be worth capturing at times, if the grid doesn't have the resources to replace it quickly. may be that the trend of growing overall wind turbine size (including blades and generator) will be replaced by a trend of growing blade size. This is analogous, I think, to the breakdown of MIPS for PC speed measurement in an era of multiple processors.

Instead of rising nameplate generator capacity, we'll see rising capacity factors, like the unheard of 60% for Aruba.

This will make it hard to measure growth trends, at least using consistent numbers.

Also, the turbines are feathered over a reasonably wide range of wind speeds, so I would think the peak wouldn't be that rare

This is not true for modern turbines. These will deliver full power well into 9 Bf and then gradually throttle back until well into 10 Bf before they stop (depending on turbine type and software options).

For most situations wind is used to provide MWh and other sources provide the MW on request because it's the MWh that are expensive. But as you said capacity is important too, because higher capacity usually equals more MWh as well. More efficient drive trains, better blade design etc can increase capacity for the same location.

deliver full power well into 9 Bf and then gradually throttle back until well into 10 Bf

Well, that's a 14 km/hr range. Plus, a 3MW generator would hit the 2MW point probably 10 km/hr below that point, so down-rating it from 3MW to 2MW would reduce power output over roughly a 24 km/hr range. That's a reasonably wide range of wind speeds.

More efficient drive trains, better blade design etc can increase capacity for the same location.

Makes sense - there should be a lot of design details that can be tweaked to increase overall output.

Kodiak Island in Alaska added the first part of a wind turbine project this July. Take a look:

The generation link will give some statistics.

Congrats to Aruba- a hopeful sign.

It looks like KEA needs about 6x as much wind to get diesel use down to zero.  The large fraction of hydro means no other storage is required—an enviable situation to have.

Strange, hydro power on Kodiak Island has dropped in 2009 while wind and diesel are up. Nothing in the news section to show why that is.

Maybe they had less precipitation.  I'd just look it up, but the NCDC wants $4 per year for what is probably day-by-day data and doesn't seem to have any free annual totals.