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2007 Wind Statistics - and Future Trends

by nb41 Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 11:26:41 AM EST

The statistics on the new installations of wind turbines throughout the world can be seen at this site: http://www.gwec.net and more specifically:


And in this, is some great news - the U.S. is #1 in a good way, this time. A bit more than 1/4 of all new installations were done in the U.S. 2008 looks to be a repeat of this effort. Very little wind capacity was retired (old worn out small units taken down, often in repowering efforts in Europe, where new units replace older ones).

About 91% of all turbines were installed in 10 countries, but this is a more broad-based arrangement than a few years ago, when the U.S., Spain and Germany constituted most of the wind turbine market. The big unknown is what happens at the end of 2008, when the PTC incentive in the U.S. (worth about 2.6 c/kw-hr to wealthy passive tax investors, based on the 2 c/kw-hr tax credit). If the PTC is not extended, or a more logical arrangement like Renewable Feed-In Laws is instituted (or better yet, the PTC is renewed and RFIL's are passed), 1/4 of worldwide demand for wind turbines would vanish, and this will not be good for domestic manufacturers of wind turbines and components for these wind turbines.

Note: Both Michigan and Minnesota are considering RFILs, and California recently invoked a limited form of these via Public Service Commission rules. Ontario also has a RFIL for 10 MW or less projects, and about 1 GW of these will be installed shortly, plus their newer big projects. So a short-lived demise of the PTC might not be as bad as the last lapse in this incentive. But, it would be better for all if the PTC was extended, at minimum for another year. Note that the PTC is starting to be noticeable in its effects on Federal tax receipts - a 3 year extension was going to cost the already less than broke Federal Govt over $5 billion.

But, regardless, if you U.S. readers have any squeeze on your state legislators, look into a version of the RFIL law proposed in Michigan (see http://www.wind-works.org). And if you have any squeeze with your U.S. Congressperson(s)/Senators, start squeezing! And get your friends and neighbors involved, too. Not only is this a matter of a sensible future with respect to our Climate, national security, future U.S. natural gas prices, balance of payments, its also about a growing economy.

For European wind turbine and related manufacturers and workers, as we get to the end of 2008, perhaps it will be time to stock up on headache and heartache remedies. If the U.S. wind industry collapses, prices for turbines might shrink a bit, and profits will shrink a whole lot, as the U.S. industry will all of a sudden be in a need to export a lot of product onto the rest of the world. Of course, purveyors of nukes will come  to try and fill in the gap, despite the unpopularity of their product.

Mr. Burns will be so happy.....(as in The Simpsons)

When that PTC and/or PTC/RFIL scene gets remedied, there will be a whipsaw effect as the huge demand will once again go to "max plus" mode. It's almost like wind turbines from around the world will get sucked into the U.S......And many if not all of the schemes of nukers will themselves get nuked, since wind and nukes are both what is referred to as "baseline power". For significant percentages of load supply, its either wind of nukes - not both, as the editors of "Windpower Monthly"  have consistently pointed out. The time when people will have to actually pay attention to those (and other) wise editors is approaching quite rapidily...

As Homer Simpson would say - "Doh!" Quick, give the dude a donut, or in a pinch, a croissant...Thinking and decision making works up a heavy appetite, and with infinite eating, thinking can be completely avoided, at least 'till the food supply runs out....


Comments >> (2 comments)

Food Fight

by nb41 Wed Feb 6th, 2008 at 08:38:24 AM EST

This is from the other side of the Atlantic, obviously, but so are many of the ET readers. And food and energy..also worldwide concerns..

Of late there has been quite a lot written (for example, in The Oil Drum - some lengthy reading here) about the conversion of starch and sugars into Ethanol (EtOH) and plant oils into biodiesel (FAEE - fatty acid ethyl esters and FAMEs - fatty acid methyl esters). Well, there is room for improvement with respect to the manufacture of these materials, no doubt. It would be nice if close to zero fossil fuel inputs went into the conversion of foods into fuels, and also close to zero fossil fuel inputs in the production of these foods. And a lot of the hype that EtOH will replace imported gasoline should be examined, and then the notion that EtOH production will keep gasoline prices low could be done away with. Not a popular thing to say, but there is only one way that gasoline and oil derived diesel prices will drop - and that is with lowered demand. Better yet, just don't support Osama Been Forgotten's supporters by sending them money in return for their oil, and/or oil derived hydrocarbons and petrochemicals, such as urea. But I digress.

Diary rescue by Migeru

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Midwest (USA) Stranded Wind

by nb41 Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 01:17:02 PM EST

Most people really do not have the vaguest idea of the wind resource across the U.S. So it should come as little surprise that they always fall for lines such as "wind could do 10% of the US supply by 2020", or maybe 6%, or maybe 2% if you use some of the Energy Information Agency projections. Of course, the answer to "What is the U.S. wind capacity?" is slightly tricky, and it has less to do with the wind resource than most people might suspect.

Strange? Well, here's the reason. The correct question is not "What is the wind energy capacity?" or "What is the wind resource?", but more correctly "What is the wind energy capacity at some given production price?". The question and resulting answers, to be proper, have to have that price part (you could even do cost, but people and partnerships/coops/companies and other entities like to make a profit). Besides, if you make a profit on the sale of the produced electricity, at least you have covered your costs......

Now that that is out of the way, lets define the "wind resource universe" as < 10 cents/kw-hr for a production price, not including any subsidies. Odds are, you would need an average wind speed at the hub height of ~ 6.5 m/s (~ 14.6 mph) or better. For much of the midwest, this would actually be considered really mild, while in most other parts of the world, 6.5 m/s at an 80 meter hub height would be cause for celebration. It turns out that we have several times the available consumption level of electricity in the U.S. at the 6.5 m/s or greater wind speeds at 80 meter heights. For example, here is a link or two to some very decent studies of the US wind potential, many set to the 6.9 m/s at 80 meter threshold:

A very conservative estimate can be obtained from the American Wind Energy Association at
http://www.awea.org/projects/ (you need to click on a state for the estimated wind energy potential). Here they are for the top 12 states, which all all east of the Rockies/west of the Mississippi, generally. The units are in Gigawatts (GW) of average potential (= GW-hr/yr divided by 8766 hrs/yr (average)):

North Dakota    138.4
South Dakota    117.2
Minnesota        75.0
Iowa             62.9
Kansas          121.9
Oklahoma         82.7
Texas           136.1
Montana         116.0
Nebraska         99.1
Wyoming          85.2
Colorado         54.9
New Mexico       49.7

Total          1139.1

Since the current total US consumption averages 450 GW, there appears to be 2.5 times that required. However, it gets even better, even for just for these states. And we are not even talking about the very large Texas offshore capacity, which could be similar to its onshore capacity; they have a lot of shallow water in the Gulf, after all.

The AWEA numbers are from a study done in 1989 by the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL), using wind data from 10 meter height measurements and extrapolated to 50 meter heights for turbines at being made at the existing time (~1990) using the 1/7 power law:

U2 = U1 *(h2/h1)^1/7

or the wind speed at height h2 (U2) is equal to the wind speed at height h1 (U1) times the height ratio raised to the 1/7 power. Since the power is roughly proportional to the cube of the wind speed, the power at h2 (P2) is roughly:

P2 = U1 *(h2/h1)^3/7

or roughly proportional to the the square root of the height ratio.

However, modern turbines in the US are on average using 80 meter towers, and they are more efficient than the "older classics". And it turns out that the 1/7th power law is really only valid for lakes and oceans, or really flat land with nothing growing on it. And it fails to take notice of "nocturnal jets" and other wind phenomena. What this means is that the wind speed increases with height above the ground faster than the 1/7 law predicts, more like a 1/5 to 1/4 factor.

So, the wind speed correction would be more like 1.21 (1/5 power) to 1.36 (1/4 power) as fast as the wind speeds predicted by the old U.S. Wind Map estimates. This means that the power and energy available would increase by 1.78 to 2.4 times those values listed. In other words, a modern estimate of the U.S. Midwest wind energy would be 2072 GW to 2740 GW of average delivered capacity, or roughly 4.6 to 6.1 times the total average U.S. electricity consumption.

And this is only using the FAST wind speed sites. The problem is, most of this potential electricity is far far away from potential customers, and only a few big metro areas (Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Denver) seem to be reasonably near the windy zones of the midwest. And by the time the cost of constructing the long distance HVDC lines is added to the mix, it gets to be cheaper to use a lot of the more expensive wind (6 m/s to 7 m/s or offshore) around the more populated regions, like NY, Pa, Michigan, New England and California. No need to get ALL of the power from the windy zones of the midwest. And as for shipping H2....ugh, smarter to ship the electricity. So some of the electrical energy requirements of distant urban areas can be supplied by this "distant wind", but supplying all of it may not be the best option, as local wind has some benefits, too.

And when you JUST export the electricity, odds are, not much benefit remains behind for those living in the "wind plantation" zones...better than nothing, but then nothing is a very low standard to go by. Using some of this copious potential electricity "in local mode" would bring significantly more economic benefit than merely exporting raw electricity...think value added.

The NH3 idea is one way to go value added. Take electricity, zap water with it and make H2 and O2, then take more of this electricity and power up cryogenic air separation plants to get pure N2 (these plants are all based on big compressors). Then make NH3 and use this for local agriculture, and maybe some local energy needs. With some of the crops, make EtOH and other fuels via fermentation...you can even power the distillation systems with heat pumps (compressors again) instead of boilers. As for the excess CO2 normally vented off...well, there are many possibilities. With more H2, the CO2 can be reduced to Methanol, Ethanol, Acetic Acid---> Ethyl Acetate, vinyl acetate, Ethyl biodiesel esters and other potential fuels and basic chemicals. Or you can react the H2 and CO2 to make "syn-gas" and water; separate the water out and the syngas and more H2 can be used to make gasoline, diesel fuels, Ethane, Propane, Butane and other chemicals/feedstocks. The CO2 could also be fully reduced to CH4, which is readily shippable and useful in numerous ways. Or this electricity could be used to make things like aluminum, silicon, titanium, sodium, boron, magnesium, chloralkalis, ceramics and other electro-chemicals/electrometals.

One use that is expanding is wind turbine manufacture...it also makes sense to assemble these/make the components of these with as much wind turbine energy as can be done.

So, there are lots of ways to use the wind resource of the midwest, and especially the sparsely populated regions of the upper midwest. All in a global climate friendly mode. Using these lands as solely wind plantations does not have to be the only choice. Who knows, maybe it will make life on the farm a viable option, something equated with economic growth instead of population decline.

Also cross-posted on http://www.strandedwind.org

Note: Many of the farming regions in the US midwest/west or just about everywhere have been getting less populated and "older" as a net migration of people are attracted to areas, with, among other things, greater economic vitality. Until recently, as crop prices declined, farm sizes have increased and population densities have decreased. Some kind of economics in action, but not a very viable kind. Ultra depressed prices like in the late 1990's/early 2000's don't bode well for the farm economy....anywhere. Then along comes modern wind turbines.....and higher energy prices. Still, getting a price of 5 c/kw-hr for wind derived electricity is considered to be a good thing in the windy areas of the Great Plains. But maybe that's commonplace across the Atlantic.....or maybe not. As well as 8 m/s hub height winds, which I guess are there in Spain, Portugal, France, Great Britain, and Norway.


Comments >> (16 comments)

Another Peak Oil Admission..Sorta

by nb41 Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 07:22:34 AM EST

From our buddies at The Oil Drum, comes a report of this recent presentation by and to some Important Type People. This is nominally about a presentation given by the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), an entity analogous to the US EIA, and very well connected to the current fossil fuel-nuke complex that tends to rule our world. In effect, he admits Peak Oil is here. Then he goes to predict the End Of The World As We Know It (EOTAWKI), caused by all that existing coal combustion and then all that new planned coal burning in China and India.....! Well, he does not use that term, but with 800 GW of coal burners scheduled for construction in these two countries....well, we will just zoom on past our 450 ppm "Cap" in CO2 concentrations for our atmosphere.

Diary rescue by Migeru

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Railroads and Wind Turbines

by nb41 Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 07:13:32 PM EST

I'm not sure if this applies for a lot of Europe's train lines, but in the U.S. and Canada, rail lines typically occupy about 10% of the property owned by rail companies. This is because the track section (rails and ties) is only about 2 meters wide/track, while the property containing the track would typically be about 30 meters wide. Then there are the rail yards, sidings, and "abandoned" land which used to have some function associated with the rails.

For rail companies, income is derived from not only the trains running down the tracks, but also leasing activities, especially for other utilities, like electric lines, gas, oil, petroleum pipelines, fiber optics, cell-phone towers, microwave towers and maybe even the odd Ammonia line (~ 3000 km of those in the U.S.). However, one thing that they apparently do not have is income from wind turbine leasing...

Diary Rescue by Migeru - rescued by autofew <skrr>

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