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Saving the world, one windfarm at a time

by Jerome a Paris Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 02:11:20 AM EST

As Copenhagen ends, 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 endangering our way of life.


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

This wind farm is quite remarkable in a number of ways:

(part of the wind power series)

Bumped by afew


  • 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;

  • 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 can produce up to 60% of the demand. And thanks to a 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 (dirty) 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 they 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 diary 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 slower than they could as a result.


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

Display:


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 10:28:08 AM EST
There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of harness and hardhat on, climbing up to hub height to take in the view of how simple harnessing of the forces of nature leads to a healthy civilization.  The view from the top of the nacelle is one of the great satisfactions of life, especially if you've had to work so hard in the conference rooms to get it done.

Projects like these are so fitting throughout the Caribbean, friends of mine have worked two decades to begin the industry on the islands like Aruba and Curacao.  Despite the abundant resource, the powers that be fought hard against sanity.

Which Vestas turbines are these?  (and notice the small, sweet foundation footprint).

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

by Crazy Horse on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 12:13:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These are Vestas V90 - 3MW.
More turbines of that size should be coming soon to other Caribean islands (can't say more now).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:07:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Was my guess, from the thin rotor blade chord because that turbine is one of the few which uses carbon fibre in the load carrying spar.  But there's nothing for perspective in the photos, so i wasn't sure.

Some of the most evolved turbines in the world.  cool, J.

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

by Crazy Horse on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:38:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
effing AMAZING!

that pic of you up there is epic, saved to drive.

the only place i ever saw trees bent over that much was south point of the big island of hawaii, another place where windpower is begging to be installed.

so proud of what you're doing, J, to further planetary sanity.

when i think of how much oil hawaii imports it makes me want to weep...

'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 Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:25:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good work.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:37:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ditto.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 08:07:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratulations, Jerome. The planet thanks you.

I'm glad to see you're wearing a harness and a hard hat. Just thinking about being up that high makes me dizzy.

by Mnemosyne on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, felicitations Jerome. Completing any project of this magnitude in these times is quite an accomplishment.

As Crazy Horse comments below it looks like the project was installed with minimum impact on the landscape. Kudos.

Paul


Paul Gipe

by pgipe (pgipe(at)igc.org) on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 12:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Decades ago when I would drive over the Altamont Pass here in northern CA I would notice two kinds of wind machines: the propeller blade type that I always see here at ET and (what I term) an "egg beater" type which has a more upright axis with the blades. So

  1. Do the eggbeaters still exist?

  2. Have they be made defunct by more advanced designs?

I never see photos of that type here.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 11:47:54 AM EST
We called them eggbeaters too, but the proper name is vertical axis turbines.  The modern versions were invented in France around 1927, and took the name of the inventor Darrieus.  But decades of extensive R&D couldn't overcome the basic inefficiencies of vertical axis rotors.

The trade-off was supposed to be that the heavy power train didn't need to be carried aloft as in horizontal axis turbines, but seeing proper angle of attack only a small portion of a rotation was too much to overcome.

On the plus side, such turbines are easy to build, transport (by donkey even) and erect, so may prove to be useful in windy 3rd world applications.

Here's one in the Tehachapis that mirrors those in the Altamont Pass.



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

by Crazy Horse on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 12:27:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank You.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 12:50:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
very nice.
by rootless2 on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 12:05:41 PM EST
The road transport equipment, the specialized supports for suspension both during transport and installation, the cranes used during installation and the personnel who perform the installation all seem to be highly specialized and skilled, of necessity. I presume that the trucks, the cranes and most of the people were transported to the island for the project.  What proportions were owned by Vestas and what portions were owned by independent project installation companies? And how many of the skills and equipment are also applicable to off-shore installations?

I always got a thrill from working high and always availed myself of such opportunities. I take it you share that sensibility.  Congratulations.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 12:08:45 PM EST
Of course I can't speak to this particular project, but it's highly likely that the transport and erection equipment and techs needed to be imported.  Given the high capacity factor, the cost would be bearable.  But it makes little economic sense to build the necessary infrastructure on small islands.  Local O&M techs can be trained.

None of the technology is transferable to offshore, at least as it's practiced in Europe.  Everything there is specialized for a particular technology configuration only applicable to the "pool table" of the North Sea.  As an example, Germany's largest shipper, Beluga Shipping, in a joint venture with the largest construction company Hoch-Tief, yesterday announced the orders for two new transport and erection ships, with a further two if all goes as planned.  (Here in Bremen!)

PS.  I can now officially announce that Deutsche WindGuard is technical manager of Germany's first offshore project, Alpha Ventus.  It is an exciting time to have moved to Bremen.

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

by Crazy Horse on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 01:13:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the trucks and trailers were brought especially for the job, they're very specialised and are used elsewhere as turbines are delivered onland.

Offshore, the turbines used are too big to be transported onland - so the factories are by the sea or by rivers and the equipment is transported directly by ship or barge to the sites.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:09:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Comments - Saving the world, one windfarm at a time
it is now providing 20% of the island's overall electricity needs, replacing dirty and expensive fuel-oil in the process. At night, it can produce up to 60% of the demand.

Any plans to go 100% with further projects?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:53:08 PM EST
it's going to take a coupe of years, but the locals are highly motivated now that they see this one working.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:10:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really cool.

I have some colleagues who study Africa, and we've talked several times about how there's a huge untapped market for renewable energy products, particularly in West Africa.  The key being the marginal cost of production.  In many small villages, there is still little or no electricity absent village generators.

And when you are in someplace like central Nigeria, and you are producing electricity with with a 1500 W generator using gasoline. Well, the per kw price is pretty darn high.  You look at something like that and you figure that your getting something like 3.75 kwh per gallon of gasoline.  Even at 0.50 USD per gallon, that's still 0.133 USD per kwh. And considering that getting gas delivered to a village probably raises fuel costs two to three times, small scale wind and solar are intensely competitive. The problem is primarily one of financing.  But, with the marginal cost of electricity so, so, so high, any increased start up costs are overwhelmed by decreased costs of operation.  And with the alternative being so expensive, it's possible to actually make money selling to what we think of as people to poor to buy...

Yet, ironically, some of the best markets for micro to low utility grade renewables are precisely in these countries that lack developed infrastructure.  Particularly so when you look at products like these: (in German)

 

If you look to the product page for the VAT ENAIRGIES 6, which has a top output of 6kwh, you'll see that it kicks in at about 7 mph (11 kph) and at somewhere between 13-16 mph (21-26 kph) you're hitting that 0.75 kwh sweet spot that is comparable to 1500 W generator working at half load (which is what they use to calculate how long a tank of gas will last.)

 The thing weighs around 1800 lbs or 800 kgs.  Which means it's heavy, but you can get it to a location on a truck.  Walking away from Copenhagen, one of the sticking points seems to be finding a way for poor villagers in Africa to turn on the lights without jacking up carbon emissions even higher than they are now.

The easiest weigh to start displacing electric production that uses fossil fuels is to start targeting these applications where the marginal cost is quite high because it makes money to do the right thing here.  This isn't only true in developing countries.  The little wind turbine whose picture I put up here is produced in Munster, NRW, DE and production is starting soon in Muncie, IN, USA (my hometown)  They are for use for street lights and use both a small vertical axis turbine and solar panels.  Street lights are another great area for renewables.  It's a huge cost to get lines to the location (particularly with urban sprawl in the US) and to keep the thing up.  A little money upfront here can go a long way towards saving money in the end.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 01:15:59 AM EST
I'd advice against buying WRE units. Solar photovoltaics are cheaper per kWh than those things. For small wind the traditional three blade design also works best (diary will be up this year, I hope).
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 08:22:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not a matter of either/or though, is it?

To MfM, the financing problem - as I point out - is not difficult to crack if you rebase your thinking about value.

Energy Pools are not Rocket Science, and it was interesting to see the first electronic currency based on electricity launched in Copenhagen the other day. (my bold).

The Concept | Kiwah

A community is like an engine; it makes things happen. The Kiwah is its fuel. Kiwah is a special purpose currency, designed to enable transactions between people, groups and companies that actively want to build a society that is CO2 slim and based on an inclusive world. The unit of account is the Kilowatt-Hour.

Btw, MfM, I just rescued your 'linked in' message from my spam folder....Thanks.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:49:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Small wind has less potential coverage than solar PV. It's more of a niche technology. If you use it, you should be sure that you get something out of it (a lower price than for solar PV, first of all).
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 12:05:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does small wind and solar PV compare on EROEI basis?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:37:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No clue. Current solar PV now has a payback period of 1 and a half years, I gather, from what I gather. Which given the 30 year lifespan you can reasonably expect is 20:1. I've never seen anything on small wind.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:35:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could you contact me offline about these VAWTs for the industrial zone off I-69.

I went to school at BSU and my family still lives nearby.

I've written critically about this "project" at

http://www.wind-works.org/SmallTurbines/MuncieVAWT--AnExpensiveDemonstration.html

Muncie VAWT--An Expensive Demonstration--As can be quickly seen in comparison to the Bergey Excel, the VAT-20 kW turbine is overrated by almost three times. Unfortunately, this is typical of the new crop of VAWTs. Designer's and promoters greatly overstate what the turbines are truly capable of delivering. . .

I photographed the Savonious rotors on the light standards about a month ago.

pgipe@igc.org

Paul Gipe

by pgipe (pgipe(at)igc.org) on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 12:30:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratulations! Keep them coming.
sidd
by sidd on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:53:40 PM EST
This is one of those diaries that tidies up one's little corner of faith in humankind.  

And the videos are stupendous.  Everyone on my mailing list loves to get Jerome's photos of wind power equipment, so the videos will be a huge treat.

Karen in Traunwalchen

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 08:57:04 AM EST
Will the extremely high capacity factors have any negative effect on the projected lifetimes of the equipment?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 09:59:58 AM EST
By the way, we have an interesting wind debate going in Sweden right now. Both the Royal Academy of Sciences and the Royal Academy of Engineering have recently started arguing that the Nordic (or at least Swedish) grid regulation potential (from hydro) is almost depleted, allowing only an increase in wind power generation from 2 TWh to 10 (annual consumption is 150 TWh) while the wind enthusiast in charge of our version of the EIA is arguing that we can reach 30 TWh. This latter number is based on flawed and extremely simplified computer models and he's generally seen as being wrong.

An interesting affair to say the least. If wind is to reach 10 % in Sweden, billions will have to spent on strengthening the grid and possibly on exploiting the protected rivers or building gas turbines.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:23:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is it that allows Spain to accommodate much more wind than Sweden?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:28:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Plenty of fossil fuel powered turbines available for balancing?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:32:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought Sweden had plenty of hydro for balancing, too.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:36:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Furthermore, the balancing capacity in Sweden is in the north (where the rivers are) while the demand is in the south (where people live). North-south transmission capacity is limited, so you can get issues both with wind located both in the north (lines are full of power and dams are full of water, no room left for wind) and in the south (lines are already full of power and suddenly the wind dies down in the south...).

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:38:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Note the protected rivers in the far north. Roughly 10-15 % of the Swedish population live north of Dalälven. There's a reason the nukes are all in the south...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:44:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of nukes, Oskarshamn 3 was recently restarted after its uprate and is now officially the world most powerful BWR, weighing in at 1450 MW. When it entered operation for the first time in 1985, it generated 1050 MW. :)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:52:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
An interesting affair to say the least. If wind is to reach 10 % in Sweden, billions will have to spent on strengthening the grid and possibly on exploiting the protected rivers or building gas turbines.

That is not the estimate of people at the grid division at Vattenfall. The other year at a seminar a representative claimed that the cost for strengthening the grid enough to deal with an all-wind scenario was about two öre/kWh. The rep also explained that dealing with wind variations is not harder then dealing with nuclear plants having emergency shut-downs and off periods.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 02:56:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bad bankers don't do hard hat - nor harness, nor T-shirt ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 10:23:21 AM EST
or bunjee jump from the top wearing ET t-shirts.

oh, wait

'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 Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 11:50:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just noticed a phrase while i was posting a link of the article to fb, to which i have to disagree.


to work towards a more sustainable future without endangering our way of life.

it's my understanding that "our way of life" is at the root of what causes the problems in the first place.  Would you please explain what you meant by that?  I'm not asking for a description of how windpower will provide transportation fuels for a sustainable civilization, just, what about our way of life isn't endangering?

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

by Crazy Horse on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 03:41:57 PM EST
When I read that from Jerome I read it as access to highly qualified health care and warm showers. :)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 07:37:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An incredible victory, Jerome. I envy you the chance to make a real difference, in a part of the world I know well and remember with affection. Sincere congratulations.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Dec 26th, 2009 at 11:31:02 PM EST


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