Wind farms in danger

The TOD team was contacted by Greenpeace today regarding the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 889) introduced into Congress not long ago. Oddly enough (or not), Rep. Don Young (R-AK) included a provision in the bill that would block any wind farms from being built within 1.5 miles of any shipping lane.

From the letter that Greenpeace is asking people to forward to Congress:

The development of wind energy projects adjacent to shipping channels in other countries suggests that a 1.5 mile mandatory buffer is unnecessary.  Denmark and the United Kingdom are currently the world leaders in offshore wind energy, and both countries require a site specific review of impacts on navigation for projects 1/3 of a mile or greater from a shipping channel...In fact, the Middlegrunden wind farm in Denmark is within 1/3 nautical miles of a shipping channel, and there have been no negative impacts on navigation as a result of the wind farm since it was installed in 2001. In addition, this provision is more restrictive than laws dealing with other offshore structures, including oil and gas platforms that can be located within 500 feet of shipping channels.
Obviously, such regulations will have a big impact on future planning for large scale wind-farms. More immediately, the passing of the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill with this language in it will shut down Cape Wind, which has received a lot of press due to the fact that Robert Kennedy, Jr (an NRDC lawyer) has opposed the project on the grounds that it will muck up the view of his precious Nantucket Sound. Yet, Grist reports that even Kennedy isn't stupid enough to support Young's proposal (I guess under the assumption that he'll get people to oppose Cape Wind while promoting wind power in other people's backyards). On the other hand, the Boston Globe is speculating that Young's amendment is a direct result of lobbying on behalf of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, "which spent more than $800,000 over 3 1/2 years on federal lobbying against the project."

Considering that Don Young of Alaska doesn't seem to have an immediate stake in this issue, and it's not often that lawmakers think about potential future impact when formulating policy, it seems plausible that lobbyists have gotten to him. Projects like Cape Wind are important, and I think that anyone who is serious about developing alternative energy must weigh need over aesthetics (which does seem to be the predominant concern in the case of Cape Wind). Here's what the Cape Wind people have to say:

After four years of favorable regulatory review showing the project would lower energy costs, reduce air pollution and help wean the New England region off its dependence on imported oil and natural gas, Cape Wind's future is now threatened because of Alaska Congressman Don Young's backdoor attempt to kill America's first offshore wind farm.

Rep. Young's effort would also delay progress on the development of any other offshore wind proposals, causing the American renewable energy industry to fall further behind its foreign competitors.

If the Young Amendment were to pass it would deny New England the many benefits of the Cape Wind project including cleaner air, lower energy costs, increased energy independence, and more.

If you're not too jaded about the political process in the US, it's worth sending off the Greenpeace letter to Congress.
I have a beef with many of these form letters: They all assume you are an American living in the states--or part of the military living elsewhere.

Well, I grew up on Cape Cod.  I have family there; and I travel there quite a few times each year.  Now, I am a permanent resident of Canada, although I am still an American citizen.

Where is the option for an American citizen living abroad?  Who, precisely, is my Congressional representative?  My last voting place in the states?

Perhaps you could pass these concerns onto Greenpeace?

Do you vote absentee?  You must have a state residence to do that...don't you?  

If you don't vote absentee, U.S. congress critters won't give a rat's rear what you think.

Yes, I vote absentee.  And I use my last Congressional district. But the forms that institutions like construct are not constructed for me.  They wish an address in the states.  
I use my last address in the states. If the powers that be want to cross reference a city directory, they might ignore you, but in my experience they generally don't.
My sister works as a staffer in my local Congressperson's office, and I can tell you that form letters, particularly those generated by email, are usually ignored.  In the past they might have keep a tally, but now they rarely bother to do even that.  On the other hand, individualized letters (mailed or faxed) and emails were reviewed and responses generated by staff, mostly using form letters (can't escape them!).  These days I fax a letter. Good luck!
The wind power debate here in Vermont is very active. We have many hills and valleys, and enough "wind events" to make atmospheric displacement as common a subject for conversation as the sun and the rain (e.g. trees down, power out, chimney flashings in need of repair, etc.)

Few in this state question the merit of wind power, however much of the debate seems to be falling into two camps:

  1. "I'd rather look at windmills than power lines, and anyway we would be better off using wind power than relying on oil [sic] from the Middle East.", and

  2. "Windmills should be scaled appropriately to the environment and our towns, so that we can benefit from the power without sacrificing the bucolic nature of our surroundings."

Both of these arguments may be emotionally satisfying, however they seem to be naive in the sense that they ignore the harsh reality of human nature.

By this I mean: These windfarms are being built by entrepreneurs who wish to profit by building windmills in advantageous locations and selling power through the grid to the highest bidder.

There seems to be a universal assumption that if windmills are put up in one's community, one will be the immediate beneficiary.

Clearly this is not necessarily true. I wonder if those who are so in favor of windfarms realize that they may never see a single electron? Until now, the wind developers have been currying local favor by offering cash to the community. Why not power directly?

Because eventually the local people won't be able to afford it.

Take the payment in kWh instead of USD.
I've gotta' say that I've never seen a single electron anywhere.
Power is traded among utilities - you will see the power locally, but it will be through your local provider, at his rates. Too much line loss sending it very far away. They make their profit selling cheaper power to the big players in most cases, especially during the daytime peak.

The best way to insure the power remains local is for your municipality to build the power generating system. If you live in a city that generates its own power, you can get in touch with the windmill guys and they will help you sell windpower to your municipal generating company. If you get your power from a co-op, the same thing applies. If you do not have local municipal generating, you can approach your city leaders with it as a method for preventing blackouts, insuring local power, some local jobs and an additional revenue stream for your city. The windmill guys handle the financing, and a bond issue can take care of it for the city. Believe me, municipal and co-op generating companies are looking for any way out of the petroleum trap too, and if you put public support behind it, things can happen.

What they are afraid of is NIMBYism and any recoil from local people. But if it's locals asking for it, things usually go your way with enough people behind it.

My personal feeling is that there is nothing more bucolic than a bunch of windmills turning on top of a hill, especially if I know the power is heating my home!!

I'm suggesting that the local government use something simlar to an oil or gas well lease royalty and should preempt a portion of the power directly from a specific wind farm project that is built in their area by private investors.  This power would be given (in title only) to the local government, before it is metered into either the local grid or a x-country transmission line.  Thus the local government would receive the current market price for that specific power allotment at any time during the life of the windfarm for their entitled power.
Good, but this will affect the economics of wind farms which is already not too good. In Germany for example they are subsidizing wind power with about 10 eurocents/kwth (payed by consumers). Here the federal subsidy is 1.6 c/kwth. The plans to remove subsidies are still just plans and probably will stay this way.

I'm not sure if people are aware of the price they will have to pay, especially if wind starts growing beyond 10-15%. As I discussed here the costs would be mind-boggling.

Why are you worried about STORING power?  

As electricity moves to more of a real-time market pricing, the government woven glove over the invisible hand of the market will take care of the NEED for storage.

People can run their delayable loads when power is cheaper, things like charging the electric car, washer, dryer, et la.

If the shipping by electric rail infrastructure is constructed properly (along with tax law changes to make JIT shipping not advantatagous tax wise) when there is excess electrical power, the freight trains move.

The present POV WRT electrical power - flip a switch and its there, will just have to change.   Variable pricing based on resource aviablity will force the change is all.

Wind varies in an order of minutes. What you suggest would require that the price of your power changes every 5 minutes and all you do the whole day is watch the weather forecast and rush to switch your AC on and off.

Can you imagine the losses that a loss of power would cause for a aluminium factory for example? Sorry, but this is a total nonsense.

You don't switch your A/C on and off, it monitors the markets and does it for you.  You don't have any disruption of climate control because it's storing cooling as ice when power is cheap.

Besides, the variations in wind power go down the bigger the area covered by the wind farm is.

Well, don't you think consumers should be paying 12¢/kWh rather than 1.6.  Seems to me that expensive power is better than no power at all.  

If USA can finance new technologies, develop and build 2,593 F-35 fighter jets, they can afford a few new wind turbines.  All depends on which one they want the most sky power consumers or sky power producers.

Wonder how long that fill up is going to last.

Link didn't fit in the box.
It isn't easy to figure out how much it will cost to generate electricity - the following is one example of an attempt to compare electrical and NG space heating.  And the conclusion is: frustration...  The biggest problem is the prediction of the various fuel prices and volatilities.

My reading has convinced me that wind power isn't as "relatively" expensive as the conventional wisdom would have it.  For one thing, once it is built, the "fuel" is almost "free" and therefore, with very low price volatility (risk).  And, if you believe in peak oil, then high fuel prices and volatility will be (are?) the norm.  (How about 30-year fuel contracts?  Under huge price increases, most of the suppliers will simply go bankrupt, and the power company will then have to pay market rates.)  Capital and maintenance costs are high for wind, but no other generation method is exactly free.  The following link gives another comparison:

I think that one of the reasons that the USA has been on a wind power building binge is the subsidy, but I also think that the power companies have discovered a type of a gold mine in wind, and they are taking advantage of it.  Maybe the wind power companies are pleading poor economics partly because they are attempting to milk us for more dollars.  Heck, the oil industry does this all the time, and they get billions and massive tax breaks every year!  Maybe the wind power industry is just drinking at the same trough.

What really amazes me about wind power support is the perception that many people have that it will wean us off the power of huge corporations. I wonder on what base? Anybody here know how to install and maintain a 5 MW wind turbine?

It will be clearly the opposite IMO, and with the implied necessity of subsidies you will have to add a heightened tax burden as a nice little extra.

Regarding the cost - above 10-15% wind penetration we will have to find a way to store that wind energy and start building expensive storages in a geometric progression. Nobody included these costs in this article and noone included the costs of maintaining a fossil powered backup capacity even with penetration well below 10%. But of course who cares, what is important is to show the public that we do something to reduce fossil fuels usage. Blah.

Let us not fool ourselves, wind is not THE answer. It could be one of the answers but relying on it to replace all nuclear, gas and coal is simply not serious. I'd also say irresponsible, IMO.

Let us not fool ourselves, wind is not THE answer.
Very true, but it appears to be the only one which is zero-emission, has few political and almost no technical hitches, is cheaper than gas-fired TODAY and can be ordered and delivered in a couple of years.
Well, I think the rational thing is to look at the energy mix a power company (or region) has, and how to manage both cost and risk.  Recently California (heavily fueld by natural gas) took a cost hit.  Perhaps some more wind would have balanced the portfolio, as it were.

According to my Southern California Edison stub, I got 3% of my 2004 power from wind (1% solar, 1% small hydro, 2% biomass, 9% large hydro, 11% geothermal, 18% coal, 22% nuke, 33% natural gas).

(In terms of weaning us off corporations ... the "off grid" stuff does continue to evolve with some technology overlap.)

Yes, I agree it would be wise to replace especially the natural gas production with wind. Just like oil, NG has no future as a fuel for electricity, and wasting 60% of it (probably 70% with transmission and conversion losses) is an absolute shame.

15% wind and 19% gas would look much better IMO. The obsolate NG power plants could be left as a backup for wind. All you will need is some NG storage facilities. Hope your grid is not too decentralized.

(the "off grid" stuff is doomed. we are all in the Matrix and nobody is researching red pills)

I agree that a sense of ownership will greatly improve the chances of windpower ("community wind"). Here in Vermont, the debate is raging in part because at least one high-profile developer is from out of state, and the local communities are not going to be the direct beneficiaries of the power generated.

Note that in our state there is a law against billboards, and there are a lot more pristine scenic views than one can find elsewhere, upstate New York for example. (I live in an absolutely gorgeous valley, that has "scenic view corridor" building restrictions.) So here, wind farms would not be just another blight on the landscape, but the only "blight".
That's also a part of the resistance.

Sorry folks - I realize now that my post was off-topic.

I had just finished listening to a local radio broadcast about the past-present-future of the Vermont landscape. A very educated woman spoke authoritatively for about 30 minutes in front of a live audience about why Vermont is like it is today. Great program, very stimulating, and then right at the end she was asked what she thought about wind farms. She responded, "I'd rather look at windmills than depend on oil from the Middle East." And she got a huge round of applause!

OK, with more windmills, we'd use less coal, hydro, nuclear and natural gas to power the grid, but not oil in any appreciable way. At least not until the vehicle fleet gets converted to plug-in hybrids. Which is obviously some time off. People still don't seem to get the fact that we don't use oil for electricity generation, but for transportation.

Running out of cheap fossil energy is not going to be the problem, people's reaction to the situation will be. I think we could compare it to someone thinking they have a lot of money in the bank, and then one day their debit card gets rejected, and they find out the account is empty and the money is gone. Very upsetting! Who spent all the money! What are we going to do now! Hey you, give me some of your money!

</off topic observations>

Wrote this without knowing that you other folks were having the informative follow-up discussion in the meantime. Thanks for the additional information.
Nothing a hand held portable GPS won't solve, providing you can get a batteries for it.
To return to the topic, currently in the United States, sea-based windfarms are built in relatively shallow water. Any sea captain straying from a shipping lane would be the responsible party or irresponsible a la the Exxon Valdez. Why doesn't Young add offshore oil rigs to his list of shipping hazards? And when was the last time one of those was flattened for being too close to a shipping lane? Oh, I forgot. the S.S.Katrina. As for the NIMBY complaints, skip the comparison of wind turbine towers to power lines. Instead compare slender towers to hulking cooling towers and reactor enclosure domes. Not to mention those plumes of smoke from coal fired power plants along the Great Lakes that can be used as navigation aids.
I'm kind of amused by the 'Eyesore' arguments about Windpower, at least when I think that any other power-station, platform or Transmission Line that gets built has a veneer of 'necessity' about it, but like Mom trying to give you healthy foods, anything that is potentially 'good for you' is suspect-   and predictably attacked from all sides, mind you.

I attended an Audubon meeting a couple months ago, talking about the issues around windpower in Maine, and those battle-lines were trenched in deep.

I should dig up a picture of Lovely Santa Barbara, CA, with her cute little Row of Oil Platforms out along the shore, there.

I would think that a township that OK's a windfarm would, by all rights, be looking at the tax revenue from the Power Sales.  If you've got the sites, I shouldn't think you'd need to sweeten the deal much to bring them in.  Does that fit with Windpower economics?  Not my field..


Here's my take on the aesthetics of wind power.

Sure, I am not sea side in Nantucket, but we have some nice fresh water lakes up here...

Nothing as good as a simple graphic presentation. Cape Wind has done digital simulations but the haute bourgeoise Nantucketeers are having none of it. Short sighted in the extreme.
I'm having the same issues trying to find a space for a greenmarket on the UES. Everyone seems to have objections to every location. Ultra-micro-NIMBY minded is my current label.
Offshore platforms might not do much for the environment above the sea surface, but all of them I've dived on are the only places you see fish in the GOM.  Each plfm has a barracuda and many times also a sea turtle swimming in the upper 20' zone, the jacket legs are covered in barnacles and tiny fish, shrimp, octopus, oysters, etc.  As you go down farther, there's sun fish and and some drum, with snappers and spiney oysters around 80-100 ft depth.  The only thing I haven't seen near them are sharks.  Apparently sharks do not like the small electric voltages from the anticorrosion anodes and stray  magnetic fields they set up.  The GOM is remarkedly free from reefs, rocks and other natural features where fish can live, except for a few gas blowout holes here and there, until you get about 150 miles out.  There's one group of coral reefs and one or two groups of protruding rocks.  If you swim 100 ft outside the platforms, you see nothing.
Well stated.
Can someone explain what the issue is with wind farms 1.5 miles of any shipping lane?  Is this just a backdoor way to keep them away from certain areas, or is there some impact on the shiiping lanes?  

I have come to the opinion that there is no way to generate the amounts of power we need without some adverse impacts, and that goes for any method you may devise.  But some are worse than others.  And it seems to me that wind turbines are lower impact than most, especially when off shore or in existing industrial areas.  Far better off shore than stuck where people actually live.  

Maybe they think we'll be moving to sailboats after PO and the  wind mills will be stealing from the wind... just a guess :)
That's exactly the point. There is no inevitable impact on shipping lanes. As described in this letter (pdf) from the Cape Wind people to Young, the UK has a law which says that individual wind farm sites must be investigated for their potential interference with shipping. Basically, a shorter distance than 1.5 miles is not necessarily a problem, and it should be determined on a case by case basis. And in the case of Cape Wind, no problem has been found.
The potential impact must be assessed on a case by case basis.   To simply pass a block limit of 1.5 miles show little understanding of the subject. Oil platforms, of which their are countless in the North Sea, have a statutory "exclusion zone" of 500 metres, or only 0,27 miles. The potential consequence of a collision with a wind turbine are infinitely smaller than with a platform.  There were only eleven such collisions with passing vessels between 1967 and 1999.  (Don't have the most recent statistics - interested if anyone has a link).
One has to wonder what "carrot" was offered to Rep Young ?
This is NOT to question the benefit of wind farms. But I do have some questions:

There's no good way to store large amounts of electrical energy. Is that true? The wind energy is sporadic I assume. So it adds when it can? This then allows gas/coal/nuclear to be conserved? I think I read someplace that that's the hierarchy -- gas can be adjusted up and down most easily, nuclear least. So it saves gas mostly? But this then puts limits on how much wind can contribute. Does anyone know roughly what percentage that is? One still has to have the capacity to generate at almost full load without wind? And aside from all that, how big a wind farm would it take to light NYC? How much does wind change between day and night? How much can it be smoothed out by hooking up wind farms from different areas? Bottom line, how much can wind farms contribute to our energy needs?

Bottom line is: no one really knows how to answer your questions.

Most of these things will only be known after major projects are built. Especially in offshore projects there will be a lower limit output that's granted for the all year - that's the granted conservation. Beyond that limit you'll have switch on and off gas generation.

For NYC try to get the yearly comsuption. Then you know that on average a wind turbine produces in a year it's plate MW times .3 times the nº of hours of the year. For a GE 3.2 (like the ones in Cape Wind), and for a REPower 5M (the world biggest):

GE 3.2 Yearly output = 3.2 * 0.3 * 8760 = 8410 MW

5M Yearly output = 5 * 0.3 * 8760 = 13140 MW

This 0.3 factor varies from place to place, in the North Sea it'll be higher. To get a better feeling 8410 MW are roughly equal to 4950 boe, 13140 MW to 7730 boe.

Know you have the get the NYC yearly electric comsumption and divide it by those figures - that will give the therotical number of turbines needed.

All the other questions are really hard to answer generically.

More info:

On average a US household consumes 10 MW per year.

So a 3.2 MW turbine in theory supports 840 households, a 5 MW 130 households.

Obviously a 5M suports 1300 households not 130...
To be pedantic a MW is already a rate, so you do not have to say "per year".
A little more generally, electrical power (watt, kW, MW, etc.) is a measure of the RATE of use (as TJ said).  Electrical ENERGY use is described in terms of watts x time, thus the kWH (killowatt-hour) units used in your electric utility billing.  If we want to compare ELECTRICAL ENERGY with, say, the energy released burning a gallon of oil or cu. ft. of methane, we must remember to include the time component on the electrical side of the equation.  Design of electrical systems must consider both rate (watts) and total energy (kWH).  These are not the same thing.  And these rate and capacity over some period of time consumption and system design issues exist in all energy delivery systems.

I apologize to those for whom this is trivial, but I can see where folks would like to play with calculations involving electrical and oil/gas energy (I'm too lazy to do any more right now), and I want to be sure everyone understands the difference petween power and energy.  And I hope I have it right myself.

A while back, I asked the same question about the number of wind turbines that would be needed to power NYC, and Tom Deplume responded:

If we assume an average of 1kw electricity use per capita then New York city would need 8 to 10 Gw supply. At a typical 30% duty cycle that comes to 25 to 40 Gw installed. Using 5MW turbines that works out to 5000 to 8000 turbines spread out over 1000 to 1600 square mile. 1600 sq mi is 40 miles per side.

Some good basic questions by davebygolly.
First, I would recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in the wind energy business go to

This is a very good website, worth visiting just for fun if nothing else, with many links, stories of wind power installations, links on financial planning for wind power, etc.  

How much wind power is potentially available?  Optimists will give double digit numbers in percents, say 10%  to 15% of U.S. electical consumption, while the doubters will say that could only happen if almost every usable site with windpower potential is used, and with the most efficient large scale windmills in production...not a likely scenario, and they give mid single digit numbers as the highest realistic goal, say 5% to 7% of U.S electric consumption. The Union of Concerned Scientists say 8% as a goal by 2020. -rural-economies.html
 That doesn't sould like a lot, but it is.  Look at energy production by type in the U.S.

If we produced 8% of our 2000 year electric power by wind, that would be almost twice as much as oil used for power production, nearly half the amount produced by nuclear, and over half the amount produced by natural gas at that time (the natural gas portion has surely risen since then)

The displacement of natural gas consumption could be a HUGE factor in favor of windpower.  Natural gas production is peaked in North America, and we are preparing to embark on a massive campaign to import it from others by way of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas)  The handling of LNG is expensive, complicated, and potentially dangerous, so much so that heated resistance has arisen to protest the building of LNG terminals in the U.S.  (begs a great NIMBY question:  Which would you rather have in your backyard, a windmill or an LNG terminal? (!)

What the Administration and those who support the massive billions to build LNG infrastructure are not admitting (at least yet) is that even with the projected volume of LNG planned for importation, we will still face a major shortfall of natural gas by 2020, according to the National Petroleum Council (NPC)  (check for thier 2003 massive report in the report links at

On the storage of electric power, needless to say this is the holy grail.  If we could overcome the variability of wind through efficient storage, it would be a great breakthrough, and make wind (and also solar and ocean wave power) a dream power source.  So far, it has proven difficult.  Not impossible however, and the price determines everything.  Some of the known methods are:
>Batteries.  Not cheap, but cheaper than many alternatives, IF the batteries have the ability to take  long cycles of deep discharge/charge.  Improving daily.
>Compressed air.  This is very workable, and only the capital costs seem to be a real issue.
>Pumped water storage.  Consumes lots of real estate at fantastic costs of preparign the lake or reservior, but can store many has been done on large scale in several places and proven VERY reliable and with a long life, plus provides a lake for other uses.  Again, VERY EXPENSIVE, and many environmental impact issues depending on location.
Flywheel, supercapacitor, the splitting of water to make hydrogen, and other "exotic" methods.  All of these are still in the lab.  Not to say it won't happen, but it will be awhile...and we are running out of time, particularly as it pertains to natural gas.

Pertaining to the high wind/low wind problem, and power variability, this is often called the "power conditioning" problem, and Europe has already had to face it.  If a utility or nation gets too much of it's power from windmills located in a small geographical area, and the wind suddenly either (a) goes flat, near zero wind speed, or (b) takes off into storm level wind speeds, the utility is left virtually without baseline power, bucause at low speeds the windmill won't produce, and at wind storm speeds, the windmills begin self protecting braking or "kick out" procedures to keep from flying apart in the storm due to overspeed.  This has been a real problem for small nations like Holland or Denmark, because they are very small countries, and one storm or lull event can blanket the whole nation and all of it's windmills.
It is assumed that the U.S., with it's very large baseline power production and very large geographical area would not be seriously threatened by this factor.

So the realistic view is this:  Wind will NEVER provide all of our electric power, and in fact realistically will never provide more than about 10% of it.  But if it can provide about 5% to 8% of electric power consumed, it will be a HUGE ASSET in the coming natural gas crunch.  It will have huge advantages over the import of LNG, in that it will keep U.S. money in the country, will not be prone to possible interruption and will be much safer than LNG terminals with hundreds of billions of BTU's ready to burn if ignited.  We will almost certainly have to build the LNG terminals, but we desperately need to reduce the strain on our natural gas system.  Wind combined with efficient passive solar housing, solar hot water, solar PV electric and solar assisted ground coupled (geo-thermal) heat pumps promise the possibilty of this, and frees up needed natural gas for industrial, and in some cases, possibly even clean transportation fuel (natural gas buses, trams or taxi's)
If, as the DOE hope to do, a new generation of windmills are designed that can operate at lower and more varied windspeed, the wind industry could be of even greater assistance.  
President Bush, Matthew Simmons, T. Boone Pickens, and I agree on this:  We MUST FREE NATURAL GAS UP BY REDUCING IT'S USE FOR ELECTRIC POWER PRODUCTION.  This is, and and should be, a national goal.  
Wind and solar make this possible, and are the only real alternatives to massive expenditure building nuclear power plants and the risks and dangers of increased uranium mining and nuclear waste issues, or, a massive expansion of coal burning, which risks major GHG emissions unless very expensive and experimental carbon capture technology is introduced.

It almost makes wind/solar a "no brainer".

You forgot the last option for storage:
  • Turn electricity into product and store that.
You can store ice for air conditioning; I'll bet that somebody clever could design a  refrigerator to make ice when power is cheap and run the refrigerator section on it until it melts (icebox mode).  You can overheat your DHW tank and mix it back down to proper temperature at the outlet with a tempering valve.

All of that can be done without electric vehicles or anything else that stores electricity.  All you have to do to make it happen is create the markets and info networks to let them work.

Re: storing solar and wind energy

Try thinking outside the box.  Photosynthesis stores solar energy from the last growing season.  Biomas, i.e. corn, is stored solar and wind (from the rain etc.).  Photosynthesis does not need to be invented, just used.

Got it. We will make an artificial Sun powered by wind turbines. It will shine above huge areas of the Earth, growing plants, which we'll burn for electricity afterwards. I like it :)
Nah, just a small genetic modification to splice in some plant genes so we can perform photosynthesis.  Then we can replace our refrigerators with grow lights powered by wind farms.  Might take a while to get used to the new complexion.....
I always wondered why those SF authors always imagined aliens as little green humanoids... Could they have deduced the ultimate source of energy for any civilisation? :)





Danish Wind Power Association



"Why do modern wind turbines have 3 blades?"

Hey, that's not bad.  I am going to explain it the way I was taught and see if it agrees with your answer (I am doing this closed book, from memory of how I was taught....

Early Dutch pumping windmills had 4 blades.  The turned slow, so the stress on the hub was not so great, and it was assumed that the more blades the more power, (that's why farm type water pumping windmills have blades all the way around) but as they turn faster, that becomes less efficient.  So the ruduction to four or even two blades seemed the natural path.  But with hub failure at high speed it was realized that it's not a great idea to have two opposing side blades pulling at the hub.  A quick look at work on aircraft propellers revealed a better arrangement, and some early windmills were even built from airplane props....three blade with no blade exactly across from the other one on the hub...thus the stress is spread around the hub equally...and there you have it, the growth of the three bladed windmill (some experimenters have tried five and even seven blade windmills, but found no gain over a larger three blade windmill, which was cheaper and easier to construct than the more multi blade types.

There were a single blade experimental windmill built in Germany but they never got it in ballance with its counterweight.
Maybe they just hopped, skipped and jumped over to France.
I can't argue with any of that logic.  Everything you said is true.  Then it must be a trick question... I guess.  Here's the "true story" that I pilfered from one of the above links (sorry don't remember which one it was, so this is also a closed book answer, ha ha.).  Trust me :-/

Since wind speed over the Earth's surface is lowest near the ground and increases as you go up, the largest bending forces at the shaft are developed by a 2 bladed propeller when in the vertical position, because it has the lightest load on the bottom blade at the same time as the top blade experiences its heaviest.  That effect is compounded due to the interference of the tower or pole structure supporting the  machinery, which acts to slow winds on the lower blade even more so than if they were in completely free air without a tower.  This makes the lower blade's drag load that much less.  The high drag load from the top blade and low drage on the bottom blade tends to bend the shaft upward and also imparts a significant vibration to the shaft, gear box and generator as the blades change position when rotating.  A 3-bladed propeller is more balanced because, while it has 1 blade in maximum wind above the propeller nacelle, there are 2 blades in the regions of lesser wind velocities, (which are still slightly higher than when a blade is nearest the ground) and ... no blades passing near the pole or tower support in the area of the very lowest wind speed.  This 3 blade arrangement thus significantly equalizes the bending forces and vibrations on the shaft and mechanical components.  Of course no more than 3 blades would be worth the trouble, due to the other reasons you mention as well.  If you're not an engineer, you qualify in my book.  Damn! I didn't know that us engineering types were so sharp.

After reading TOD for some time, I'm finally drawn to post.

I don't understand exactly what is so objectionable about wind generators. As far as I'm aware there seem to be four main objections:

  1. They are ugly, or they mar the views. Obviously, this is a matter of taste, but I don't see it myself. The coal or gas fired plant they replace would likely get set well back from the ocean/vista, but it's going to be in someone's field of vision, and I've never heard anyone describe one of these as pretty. Seems a Nimby argument to me.

  2. They kill birds. This seems pretty likely. I've found a few dead birds under them myself. The question is whether they kill more than other power generation methods. I suspect that the avian victims of wind schemes are just more visible.

  3. They are noisy. I've stood under wind jennies in Albany (Western Australia, where I live), and along the coast of Holland, and they seem pretty quiet to me. Maybe there are noisy ones, I don't know

  4. Some sort of efficiency or cost/benefit objection. Not being of an engineering background I'm not well equipped to judge the merits here.

I came across ,however. The design they use seems to remedy most of the problems thus far ascribed to wind power generators. My question for anyone who would know, or believes they do, is why this kind of design is not the prevalent one. Perhaps they have limited scalability and are incapable of delivering the kind of output they the larger windmill types do. Any comments?
5. They destabilizes the grid if the ammount of wind power is large. This means that you either need loads that can be disconnected when the wind do not blow, or massive ammounts of energy storage or spare powerplants, preferably hydro powerplants or even other wind powerplants sufficiently far away that it very seldom is calm in both areas at once.

This means that you either need a new kind of electricity customers or to build the same capacity twise and that is very expensive.

I think the biggest problem is that they are expensive to build. A cost reduction of 25-50% would do wonders. Or if electricity would be more expensive. How costlier fuels affect this probably depends on the ammount of raw material cost compared with labour costs.

Objecting to them seems extremely short sighted to me too.

We have many wind generators here.  About 20%-25% of the grid's load is supplied by wind generators.  A few of the sites are located in bird migration paths.  It has been found here that most birds spicies seem not to be affected, however some bird deaths have been recorded.  It is believed the birds quickly learn to avoid them as the number of bird deaths trail off quickly with time.

Some of the original designs made significant noises, but the newer designs are much quieter.

You may not have these in your area because of unfavorable prices paid for electricity they make when it is sold into the electrical grid.

Magnus has explained the reason for technical objections.  A certain amount of that can be overcome with a robust grid that incorporates numerous wind generating sites over wide areas that are unlikely to have the same wind characteristics at the same time, but there is still some risk of grid instabilities.

(Darn, I wish you hadn't mentioned the "Windside" type wind rotor, now your going to make me have to write too much! :-)  All kidding aside, it gives a great place to work some ideas that I am involved with!  (To another post asking the question, I am personally  NOT an engineer, given my so so math skills, but more of in the line of "developer and catalyst". :-)

Referencing the  site, linked in your post:
The vertical axis wind turbine shown is a variety of what has long been called the Savonius turbine.  These are "drag type" wind turbines of vertical axis design.
The design is described in the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) website at
As follows:
". They can be useful for grinding grain, pumping water, and many other tasks; but are not good for generating electricity. RPM's above 1000 are generally best for producing electricity; however, drag-based VAWTs usually turn below 100 RPM. One might use a gearbox, but then efficiency suffers and the machine may not start at all easily."

So how much power do they produce?
Only by going to the largest model do we get into power production useful for a full household:
The biggest model described in the technical specifications (the "WS-75") shows:  3225 kWh per year at wind speed of 3 meters per second, and 11,283 kWh per year at 5 meters per second wind speed. the last number (11,283 kWh per year) is pretty respectable, given comparisons of what an average household uses. To make it easy for American readers, a wind speed of one meter per second is the same as 2.24 miles per hour. (so that 3 meters per second is around 7 miles per hour, and 5 meters per second around 11 mph)

  A quick google search looked like this, as far as yearly household kWh consumption goes:

"The average U.S. household used 10,215 kWh a year in 1997"

In Scotland, as a European example:
 Average household use is 3880 kWh per year

"The average single-family home in Wisconsin consumes almost exactly 10000 kWh of electricity each year"
But, another source says, "The average home in Wisconsin consumes roughly 8500 kWh annually"

Now we must recall that only the biggest model Windsurf turbine is capable of matching an American households yearly consumption and this would be ONLY IN IDEAL CONDITIONS, and excluding the variability from month to month and day to day.  The system would require some type of battery or other storage to be useful as a household system, or, require continued connection to the grid, and sale of excess current when the rotor was at optimum output, and grid use when it was not.
If compare to a comparable HAWT (in this case, a little two blade lift type system)...example
"Assuming a 12 mph (5.4 m/s) wind, a Whisper 500 will produce as much as 500 kWh per month. That is enough energy to power the average California home."
(This would give some 6000 kWh per anum, less than assumed in some of the links above for the "average" home, but some work on home efficiency would put it close.  Note that it is a very small turbine, so the efficiency is VERY GOOD given it's size.  (By the way, we should mention here that it would be relatively easy, if the effort is made, to reduce a medium size home's electric consumption by at least half through well known means {smaller refridgeration/freezer, geo-thermal or ground coupled heat pumps, efficient lighting and other appliances, etc.)

If we think about the "scalability issue" we have to take Windside's own numbers as the guide:
"Expected annual production is -100W/m2  = 860 kWh/m2/year"
That's not a lot when compared to the commercial windpower systems (all of which are HAWT (Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines, lift type rotors, many of which are in the multi megawatt range at any given moment, so that the Savonius rotors would have to be VERY LARGE to be competitive, and would still face the limiting factor that they can never turn faster than the wind speed.

BUT, let's not dismiss the Savonius and other drag type rotors too easily!

If we look at the standard HAWT lift type 3-blade wind rotor, it has some obvious drawbacks:  It must be continuously guided into the wind, and it needs height to keep a clean stable air stream of adequate wind coming to it to make reliable power.  Due to it's design, it must have a certain wind speed to produce, but it the wind is too high, it must be braked, or kick out to avoid destruction.  the lift type fast windmill does not do well in lower to ground application, or in choppy fast changing (speed or directional changes) wind.
This is the Savonius' strong suit.  The are great in cheap, low, slow, applications  (pumping water or compressing air, grinding, etc.) because they are workable at a very high variability of both wind speed and wind directions.  As the AWEA site points out..."All of these designs turn relatively slowly, but yield a high torque."

Now the AWEA dismisses the drag type VAWT design this way:
"Lift based designs can usually output much more power, more efficiently."

That's true, UNDER IDEAL CONDITIONS.  However, the conditions in much of the nation are seldom ideal.
This explains why you see wind turbines in the flat and windy West, or along coastlines with very predictably fast winds coming from predictable directions.  In much of the country, the wind speed moves up and down, from any direction within a matter of seconds, and is what we call "gusty" and "choppy", exactly the conditions which make the high fast, smart, efficient HAWT useless in much of the country.  Notice those are exactly the conditions the Windside type rotor would excel in.  (note for example, that in the technical specs, there is no "kickout speed", in other words, it will produce power up above what is a safe speed for the 3 bladed HAWT type...that's big, because that alone assures the system more producing time than the HAWT types)

So there you have it, the Windside or Savonius type turbine has it's place...and it's place may be growing in the world of wind energy, as a flexible, usable wind turbine is called for in the less ideal places of the world for wind development.  Combined with a storage system designed to match it's strongest features, (air compressors driven from rotor, or pumped water storage?) they should not be ruled out.  They are however, limited in some fundamental ways (mainly speed, thus limiting output), and alone, will not be "end all" solution.
They are cheap, reliable, simple to even home build (note the mention and photo at AWEA of those built out of old 55 gallon drums (which cannot be the optimal weight and balance for a rotor, but they are cheap!), and great in conditions where wind power is not yet in use due to lack of good clean wind direction and speed, even though the wind is plentiful, just chaotic.  The Savonius drag type windmill, still has a future.  I hope so, because I am involved in a start up firm betting on it! :-)

    I've read that there is a British report which states that windmill blades affect shipboard radar - I assume because they are rotating. The proposed Cape Cod project has only 1200 feet between sea lanes and the wind turbines.
    There's also a problem which may or may not be relevant in the Cape Cod case - windmills kill birds including some which we are making great efforts to preserve, such as the California Condor.
Buy better radars.

At least they are big reflectors with a lantern on top.
If anything they must make it easier to navigate.

I am sorry to inform you that navigation in general and piloting in particular (where small distances become important) is a decaying art in these days of GPS and high-powered electronic devices including but not limited to radar.

I learned both air and sea navigation the old fashioned ways, with clock-wound chronometers, celestial sextant, dividers, precision pencils, etc., and on sea I could find my way around the traditional way--"leadline (sounding weight of lead attached to a line, armed with tallow to pick up sand or mud or whatever), lattitude (from sextant), and lookout.

Funny thing happened one time when I took an Advanced Piloting class once. Several people got 98% on final exam, but I was the only one to get 100% by solving the last and most difficult problem. Others in class were way smarter and more experienced than I was--asked me how I did it. To which I replied:

"The chart was wrong. Once I figured that out I determined my exact position correctly."

Why was I the only one who figured out the chart was faulty? Only because of my early reading of science fiction, and in particular the A.E. van Vogt novels that expounded general semantics and the key punchline: "The map is not the territory."

All maps are "lies" because they would be useless if they included all information in the "territory." In addition to these kinds of "lies" almost all charts and maps have mistakes, just as almost all books have typographical errors.

Cruising sailboats have as one of their major hazards being run down by ships that rely on radar and do not post adequate human lookouts. I would not be surprised if wind turbine blades rotating at various speeds confused ship-borne radars bigtime, but I do not know the facts of this case.

I have never bet my life on radar and never will. Many many times I have bet my life on my navigational skills.