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The Beauty of Windpower

by techno Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 10:06:53 AM EST

First posted at dkos
Poor Jerome had to come into the comments and debate the turbines-are-bad-because-they-kill-birds types (thanks).

-------------------------

Recently, I got into another (pointless) debate about whether wind turbines were "eyesores."  Debating aesthetics is hard enough, but relying on clever sentences and hand gestures is impossible.

So I went and found some footage I have on wind turbines here in Minnesota and cut them together into a video I called "The Beauty of Windpower" and posted the thing on Youtube.  (running time 5:20)

From the diaries - afew


The windmills in this video are found on a spine that cuts diagonally across southwestern Minnesota called Buffalo Ridge.  It is Minnesota's only prime wind site even though there are many near-prime sites in the state.

Compared to much of the nation, windpower in Minnesota is fairly advanced.  The key development, by far, was a political compromise.  Northern States Power (NSP, now Xcel Energy) needed to expand their on-site storage for spent fuel rods at one of their nukes.  Political approval for this expansion was withheld until NSP promised to seriously expand their wind capacity.

The reason this worked so well is that it forced a VERY serious utility to fit a windpower division into their organizational structure.  By now, it is just as easy to rise in the company ranks as a wind expert as it once was for a nuclear or combustion engineer.

There are always drawbacks to being an early adapter to any technology.  A careful viewer of the above video will notice that compared to the latest wind turbines, the Zonds on Buffalo Ridge now look like toys.  You can tell their age by how fast they spin.  

The reason why big wind turbines must spin more slowly than a small one is explained by an aerodynamic fact--the tips of the rotor blades must never exceed the speed of sound.  If the tip speed does exceed the speed of sound, the blades can be severely damaged, the efficiency drops, and they get very noisy.  This rule applies to all propellers so much experience has been gained in the aircraft industries.

Even so, modern wind turbines are now so large, they exist in somewhat uncharted territory.  Serious engineering has been applied to keep the rotors spinning slowly.  Changing the blade pitch is the most common way to regulating the speed and all the big turbines have a "cut-out" speed where a braking system actually stops the rotor from spinning too fast in high winds.

Slow rotors last longer, are quieter, and pose a much lower risk to birds.  The other turbines in the video are Vestas v82s which are much larger than the Zonds on Buffalo Ridge but themselves are dwarfed by the 126 meter rotors on the new 5 megawatt giants.

This video shows the assembly of a v82 Vestas.  It is roughly 1/2 the size of a new 5 MW turbine.


Display:
Details on The Beauty of Windpower

Music: "Två elegiska melodier" Edvard Grieg
Locations: Buffalo Ridge, Rice County Minnesota
Camera: Canon GL-1
Editing software: Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects
Compression software: Apple Compressor

This footage is VERY beautiful on a DVD.  The losses from compressing to MP4 and then to a Flash file by Youtube have taken their toll.

Hope you folks can still enjoy it and understand why some of us are such fans of windpower.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon Jul 30th, 2007 at 06:30:42 PM EST
Nice job!
Very minor nitpick: That would be the Swedish title for Grieg's compositions, "To elegiske melodier" should be the original Norwegian title... (or "Two elegiac melodies" in English, why not)

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 06:35:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are sure, I'll be happy to change it.  I took the title from the soundtrack file.  Pure cut and paste.  (I don't even know how to make that A with the circle over it just using my USA keyboard.)  

I'm thinking I may have used the wrong title.  Why would it be called "two" melodies when it is clearly just one?

Anyway--I just love the melody.  Pure 19th century Nordic romanticism.  When I was 16, I was in a choir that sang this tune to words written by someone other than Grieg.  It was perhaps the only number that choir did well.

Anyone here know the real story about this melody?  I would certainly like to get it right after all these years.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 09:25:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... of Minnesota has more gentleman Swedish farmers than gentleman Norwegian farmers.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 10:47:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are quite correct, the melody in question is "Våren" (The Spring) from "To elegiske melodier for strykeorkester""Två elegiska melodier för stråkorkester""Two Elegiac Melodies for Strings". The other melody of the two is "Hjertesår" (Heart wounds), which I did not find in any free, easily linkable version online.

Source: Complete list of Griegs works at the Grieg Museum Troldhaugen (in norwegian). It is Op34, so scroll down a bit.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 02:02:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank YOU!!!!!

I discover the mp3 file I was using was recorded by the Stockholm Philharmonic (which explains the Swedish spelling).  The word Våren is included in parenthesis so I assumed it was not part of the name but some Nordic musical notation.  

I also remember the choral version I learned was called "The Last Spring" but since I always assume such texts are either bad translations or written by someone other than the composer, it was not useful information.

I find this sort of confusion quite embarrassing.  My grandfather who immigrated from Sweden was fluent in four languages (Swedish, Polish, German, English).  He had four years of formal education.  I, with a university degree, can barely navigate in one language.

But what is not in question is that Grieg's little tune is so beautiful it can make grown men weep.

Thanks again.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 04:43:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are very welcome. 5 minutes with google and wikipedia (en/sv/no) was all it took. Being able to read swedish and norwegian (if you can read one you can read both) was a great advantage.

Polish? That is impressive. German and English are fairly easy for a swede, being germanic languages and all. But polish, yeah that is impressive.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 08:56:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The story he told me was that when he got to Chicago in 1899, his first job in a foundry was with a bunch of Poles.  He claimed he thought they were speaking English so set out to learn it first (that, I never believed.)  

What is true is that his language skills were first used in union organizing activities and later in Minnesota to help organize agricultural coops.  I never found out if could ever write in Polish, but he could whip a crowd into a political frenzy in Polish.  That may not fit the classic definition of "fluent" but it is close enough for me.  His neighbor claimed he had a noticeable Swedish accent when he spoke Polish but that no one had trouble understanding him.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 12:07:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice work with an encouraging perspective that might open people's minds.  The point about government using its leverage with Xcel should be publicized for more administrations to consider it.

A thought:  more upbeat music than Grieg may make it more attractive on dkos?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 04:54:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You think Grieg too "heavy" for dkos??

--Sigh--

That had never crossed my mind.

We Nordics are a damn serious bunch.  Last night, some friends and I were toasting the memory Ingmar Bergman.  We agreed that he was historically important, a careful craftsman, an inspired intellect, and a treasure to the Nordic people.  BUT...There were also suggestions that his topics were a bit frivolous.  Read that again.  Some Scandinavian Americans were suggesting that the director of Persona could have improved his moviemaking if only he had been MORE serious.

And no, we have NOT been fitting in very well during the age of Bush the Dim.

So what would you suggest?


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 05:10:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I´m probably the worst to ask, but I bet melo, rg and others could.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 05:52:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
something frothy, with a disco 2-beat meter, maybe?

jes' kidding

being on die-lup, i can't see the video, so it's hard to say.

is there a link to the mp3 of the grieg? that i'd love to hear, even if it will be half an hour to d/load!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 03:30:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
send me an email and I hook you up

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 04:20:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
{turns and shakes fist at Altamont Pass).


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 03:15:02 AM EST
Yeah, those Altamont Pass wind turbines are pretty ugly--which means that under the "iron" law of fluid aesthetics, they are inefficient as well.  They also had lattice towers and so provided perches for birds who would then launch themselves into those rapidly spinning blades.

MOST of the wind-turbines-are-hazardous-to-birds story comes from those primitive turbines in Altamont Pass.  This is an incredible wind site--why hasn't anyone replaced those worthless pieces of junk?

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 04:56:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i used to drive by those birdblenders on I 5 (iirc)...nasty but necessary...

it's time they we upgraded, they're bad pr now.

"iron" law of fluid aesthetics, they are inefficient as well.

lol, that's delightful, is it your creation?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 03:33:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think so

I first noticed this with airplanes.  Those that looked fast almost always were.  Then I noticed it with sailboats, and with cars.  One day it dawned on me that anything that operates in a fluid will have an aesthetic value that is actually predictable.

I believe that aesthetics has an evolutionary basis.  For example, baby anythings are so cute and adorable they actually cause parents to care for them.  And of course, the concept of infinity does not begin to describe what men will do to have sex with an attractive mate.

So, since aesthetics can be used to explain human behavior, I have wondered what other applications a lust for beauty can put to.  Hence my interest in the shapes produced from the study of fluid dynamics.

Rembrandt and I happen to think windmills are beautiful.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 04:14:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since you can negotiate Veblen's prose, I should suggest to you D'arcy Thompson's On Growth and Form, a book I haven't read but I have seen mentioned in every serious discussion of physical constraints to builogical form. And, on the subject of growth, there's Julian Huxley's Problems of Relative Growth, another classic which I have read and found fascinating.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 04:59:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You might enjoy the writing of Paul Graham on 'design'. Also, Geezer in Paris (when he's back online after the summer) would have a lot to talk with you about the aerodynamics of planes, sails and boats.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 05:44:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As a major developer of the Altamont Pass, i reject the notion of birdblenders.  Those ancient turbines, most of which are still spinning, were the birth of the modern wind industry.  They should be revered as the musem pieces they are, and not be compared with the technological revolution which produced the modern 90 meter diameter turbines of today.

The effect on avian mortality IS ONLY PRESENT IN THE ALTAMONT PASS, and in a sane world would be no reflection on the avian effects of turbines of today.  In fact, worldwide there is no evidence that windpower has a significant destructive effect on flying wildlife.  Despite the industry admitting that in the Altamont we did have a negative effect, solely due to site conditions and the particular turbines involved.

But that negative effect is far outweighed by the cumulative effect of normal poison power production on avian wildlife.

The industry is far advanced from those days, but would never have evolved to such high levels if it wasn't for the data from those early turbines.  To me, they may be archaic technology, but they are still beautiful.

And the new turbines are wonders in their own right.

I'm commenting from a hotel in the middle of a due diligence trip to evaluate the performance of a new generation of turbines, and am thankful both for a few minutes to comment, and the luck to still be involved at the heart of this necessary industry.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 08:02:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ouch, you're right, bit too flip for my own good there, sorry...

i love birds as much as the next guy, and i think it was a giant red herring, all that fuss about them.

penny farthings squashed worms and bugs too, after all...

thanks for your work in this exciting field.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 08:26:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and largely find the developments, if appropriately sited, designed and managed, quite lovely and wonderful solutions to our energy needs.

but I have to take issue with this:

"In fact, worldwide there is no evidence that windpower has a significant destructive effect on flying wildlife."

This is simply not the case. There is growing evidence certainly in Australia that for reasons that even the best science can't quite work out yet, there is a behaviour response from some birds that puts them at risk from wind turbines. Poor siting has also been a major issue, including in Australia the siting of one windfarm directly in a rare bird species' migration path. There has also not been sufficient work done here on the mortality risks to bats.

My point would be that windpower is overwhelmingly a beneficial development, but proponents of it risk losing credibility when they play down known impacts from them such as bird and bat kills. These impacts are  far and away best tackled by open recognition that this is a key impact that needs to be mitigated, through better science & design, and ensuring that there is sufficiently strong regulation to stop the inappropriate siting and design of wind turbines - such as in bird migration paths.

As it is, sadly in Tasmania, that particular windfarm if it can't work out a way to stop the far higher than estimated wedge-tailed eagle deaths, will be a significant contributor to the extinction of the species, the largest raptor in Australia. I commend the windfarm operators for taking the steps they have, but it incontrovertibly highlights that your statement is incorrect.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 09:12:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, "strong proponent," i said no SIGNIFICANT issue.  Significant, in my view, is the 60,000 premature deaths a year in the US from particulates, many of which are eliminated by windpower.  Significant, is the 2 million deaths per year in China, as reported by that environmental group the World Bank.

Don't hold an industry trying to provide a workable solution to our climate crises responsible for a few poorly sited projects, when overarching greed has affected virtually every industry known to man.

If you really were a strong proponent, you'd comment on the real issues, instead of expecting the windpower industry to be the first business to provide its own police force.  

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 02:06:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Those ancient turbines, most of which are still spinning, were the birth of the modern wind industry.  They should be revered as the musem pieces they are, and not be compared with the technological revolution which produced the modern 90 meter diameter turbines of today.

If these are museum pieces, then WHY aren't they in a museum?

I live in Minnesota.  Tonight we are in a state of shock because a major highway bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River.  I am furious at the sort of people who think it is OK to delay replacement of infrastructure.  It makes NO DIFFERENCE if the wind industry was born in Altamont Pass (an utterly absurd claim, BTW).  The fact is that these old turbines are AT LEAST 15 YEARS out of date.  Now they are simply a PR disaster.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 12:33:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for your shock-induced furor, but you should do some research before you make arguments.  I didn't say windpower was born in the Altamont Pass, i said the wind INDUSTRY was born there, meaning commercial use of turbines.  The Danish industry wouldn't have made the strides it did without the COMMERCIAL sale of turbines to California, in the first years primarily to the Altamont.

I agree that the Altamont turbines are a PR disaster, but you should find out why and who has prevented the Altamont repowering proposals from going forward before you slam the industry.  The industry has been trying to upgrade the Altamont for over a decade; stopped by hostile utilities, the legislature and the misunderstood bird issue.

Those turbines represent the living claim that turbines have a useful life of at least 20 years.  They should, however, be replaced, but modern turbines won't fit the bill.  The Altamont wind resource isn't thick enough, and sometimes doesn't even reach 300 feet high.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 01:58:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have done YEARS of research.  Thank you very much.

You claim the Danish wind turbine industry wouldn't have made the great commerial strides it did without a few orders from Altamont.  How very "ugly American" of you.  I truly hope you don't actually believe such nonsense.

And if you did some research, you would know that I have NEVER blamed the wind turbine industry for their inability to do a better job.  In fact, I have written BOOKS on the subject of whom to blame and trust me, the manufacturers aren't even on my list.

Don't you have ANYTHING better to do with your life than defend the garbage turbines at Altamont???

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 02:34:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't you have ANYTHING better to do with your life than defend the garbage turbines at Altamont???

Don't you think that's going over the line?

Crazy Horse says those turbines should be replaced. What he does with his life is work for wind power. Not much point in the two of you SHOUTING at each other?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 02:57:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew, he's talking about the land i've walked a thousand times, and the project i built with my sweat and guts.  and he may be a supporter (Look at the beautiful post) but he's missed totally the California effect on windpower's growth.

I know exactly what happened in Denmark at the start of the industry, as i was a guest of the first modern Danish turbine designer.  I sat at dinner tonight with one (northern European) who also watched the industry's birth, and he strongly confirmed my statement.  I've been stunned as dozens of Danish pioneers welcomed those whose purchases gave Denmark a new industry, and when i was last at the Risoe unannounced, dozens of staff came to the room to express their thanks and hear the latest.

And i absolutely stand by the statement that we couldn't today be selling around the world brand new 90 meter turbine designs as having a 20 year life, without the fact that the 15 meter Altamont turbines have already done that and more.

For him to attack someone who built some of the projects he's trashing as garbage, who doesn't seem to know anything about the 12 year effort to replace those machines, is akin to sacrilege.  That ancient garbage provided in a few years the engineering data which allowed an infant industry to develope, mature and expand to what it is today.  Without that data, including critical loads data, there would be no wind industry today.

And about the birds... when people are dying and more millions each year are at risk, what can one say?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 06:33:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The passion's understandable and all to the good, imo. It'd be nice if your disagreement didn't go beyond the line into personal invective, though - and it seemed to be getting there, hence my quote from techno and my comment.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 at 08:16:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
really appreciated the second video. First did not come up for me.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!
by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 10:22:02 AM EST
Thanks for these videos, the second one is really interesting.

I just wonder, how are we going to build these things without liquid fuels? Surely electric engines can replace those in the cranes and trucks, but how far from now?

luis_de_sousa@mastodon.social

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 01:55:45 PM EST
Thanks.  That second video has been viewed over 25,000 times.  It is about the wind turbine I can walk to visit so I act like it is mine ;-)

The answer is--we are not going to build these things without liquid fuels--for now.

Petroleum is capital.  Windpower is income.  We simply MUST use our capital to build the infrastructure that allows us to live off our income.  There are no other reasonable choices.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 02:09:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Petroleum is capital.  Windpower is income.  We simply MUST use our capital to build the infrastructure that allows us to live off our income.  There are no other reasonable choices.

bingo, you nailed it perfectly...gobbling the seed corn, burning the furniture...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 08:29:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Petroleum is capital.  Windpower is income.

THAT is really good.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 12:02:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it is rather good, isn't it!

petroleum is capital, windpower is income...   and what does that make nuclear?  hot speculative venture capital?  and solar power -- the interest on a trust fund?  or perhaps an annuity with a very long lifetime?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 at 02:30:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Rumpole and Johnny Cochran were still alive,

DL would be bankrupt and selling hand-powered or rubber-band powered fans to impoverished peasants in Bolivia.

There is, however, some hope here.

Understand that there are a few class-action suits slowly maturing at the International Avian Criminal Court in Le Hawk, charging genocide, mass extinction,species-bias, etc., going back to the Cretaceous.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 08:22:26 PM EST


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