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Here's an interesting comparison. When hybrid cars came out, one of the techniques used to reduce fuel consumption was "auto stop" of the engine. When you stop the car, the engine stops.

Then when you need to go again, the engine needs to start back up. (Obviously it's more complicated than that!) So the immediate reaction of the hybrid-car-denier community was "that's going to wear out your starter motor really fast!"

But obviously it doesn't wear out your "starter motor" because there is no starter motor. It's some combination of traction motor or motors, depending on the system, but the old-fashioned starter motor with Bendix drive engaging the flywheel is not in the picture at all.

Similarly with wind turbines, what you have today is a pretty complicated system with high-load gearing between the hub and the generator, plus what amounts to a helicoptor rotor blade management system to deal with varying wind strengths. The gearing can be replaced by direct drive connections, and one would think that over time the blade management system could also be simplified. So there's lots of space for technical improvements that go in the direction of simplification of the mechanical system--potentially down to something with very few moving parts.

Meanwhile, despite 60+ years of investment in engineering, nuclear reactors are fundamentally complicated, dangerous, and expensive.

by asdf on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 02:16:33 PM EST
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