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jmw (Industrial) (OP)
7 Apr 11 6:33
Just Google Windfarms efficiency and you'll get all the latest reports.
Key at the moment is one by a conservation group, the John Muir Trust. It concludes:


Wind farm efficiency has been challenged by an environmental group, John Muir Trust. The con- servation group said its analysis found wind generation in the U.K. was below 20% of capacity most of the time, well below the 30% claimed by the industry. The report concluded that wind turbines "cannot be relied upon" to produce significant amounts of energy.

Try this link:

Of course, the BWEA says otherwise:


Myth: Wind farms are inefficient and only work 30% of the time
Fact: A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs depending on the wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will typically generate about 30% of the theoretical maximum output. This is known as its load factor. The load factor of conventional power stations is on average 50%5 . A modern wind turbine will generate enough to meet the electricity demands of more than a thousand homes over the course of a year.

I liked best the defense by Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables, who said:


No form of electricity worked at 100% capacity, 100% of the time.



VE1BLL (Military)
7 Apr 11 10:57
And in related news:

7MW * 30% is still 2 MW. smile
msquared48 (Structural)
7 Apr 11 19:35
Is this the same Jenny Hogan who just had a baby last year and is a traffic announcer for a local TV station in Seattle?

Or not...

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

Helpful Member!  jmw (Industrial) (OP)
8 Apr 11 6:51
Does a baby qualify as a "Scottish Renewable"? If so perhaps it is the same lady.  



Helpful Member!(2)  BigInch (Petroleum)
10 Apr 11 9:21
Perhaps in Englanda, the BEWA is correct.  Anywhere else its pretty much the Muir group that will be right.  In Spain its between 13% and 18% depending on if its a windy year or not.   

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

msquared48 (Structural)
10 Apr 11 9:50
I guess her first name is spelled Jenni...  She is definitely Brit from the accent.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

ccfowler (Mechanical)
11 Apr 11 0:28
"No form of electricity worked at 100% capacity, 100% of the time."

While that statement is true, but a bit of perspective is needed:

I've known coal fired steam power plants to be operated at maximum load continuously (24 hours/day, 7 days/week) for several weeks at a time to serve an urgent need.

Base load nuclear plants normally operate at some very large fraction of full power for most of their operating time.

Anyone care to depend on wind or solar to serve in similar capacities when actually needed?

Anyone care to speculate on what forms of power production will continue to be needed to cover for the times when the wind isn't blowing hard enough or is blowing too hard?

Similarly, what about overnight or during cloudy times for solar power?

Solar, wind, ... will surely play roles in power production, but conventional power production will remain necessary for a very long time.

Valuable advice from a professor many years ago:  First, design for graceful failure.  Everything we build will eventually fail, so we must strive to avoid injuries or secondary damage when that failure occurs.  Only then can practicality and economics be properly considered.

Helpful Member!  owg (Chemical)
11 Apr 11 8:57
ccfowler make a very good point. The numbers don't reflect the variable "when I need it or when it feels like it."


BigInch (Petroleum)
11 Apr 11 10:56
Yes the real numbers do reflect that.  It is why wind production in Spain is 13 to 18% of installed nameplate capacity.  You have to know which numbers to look at.  Installed capacity isn't one of the more descriptive numbers when it comes to actual power production.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

Helpful Member!  SparWeb (Aerospace)
13 Apr 11 21:24
Wind farms are designed to be economic on the energy production.  They do not need to produce at maximum or near maximum power all the time to accomplish this.

This is very difficult to communicate to the lay public, journalists, and politicians who don't know the difference between power and energy.

Some allowance has to be made for tax incentives and loans made by governments, to all sides, when comparing the numbers.  Some of these numbers are thoroughly buried.  Others are waved in your face without rigorous evidence.

Steven Fahey, CET

MAGTiger (Electrical)
15 Apr 11 8:59
Wind farms work great so long as they are 100% backed up by gas turbines spinning unloaded. Or as long as they are the tiniest  fraction of the coal and nuclear plant base load.   But then why would we buld then to supply the tiniest part of load. hmmm...

I guess they are best for the people selling them.


jmw (Industrial) (OP)
15 Apr 11 9:25
And the politicians. I believe Mr Camerron's father in law will be a beneficiary of the scam.
And with the BBC pension fund invested heavily in the wider AGW scam rip offs along with the WWF's deal in South America, what chance has the poor taxpayer - except perhaps that the dominoes falling in the Middle East may topple ever closer to the UK.

And then there are the follow on links:,m23bb5,default,1&m23bb5number=10&m23bb5category=Press%20articles%20%E2%80%93%20UK%2C%20Press%20articles%20%E2%80%93%20International&m23bb5pagenumber=11&m23bb5returnid=115&m23bb5returnid=115&page=115



BigInch (Petroleum)
15 Apr 11 14:30


Wind farms are designed to be economic on the energy production.  They do not need to produce at maximum or near maximum power all the time to accomplish this.

Obviously when they are only giving us 12 to 18% of nameplate generating capacity at the end of the day, or year as the case may be, there is very little economic anything going on anywhere, except for the huge tax credits that Marriott and the rest of the tax credit fund buyers are sucking up.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

DHambley (Electrical)
21 Apr 11 20:34
Solar and wind farms don't make a profit by generating electricity at competetive rates. They make a profit by generating tax write-offs.
BigInch (Petroleum)
22 Apr 11 2:14
I think you're right, however solar typically generates a much greater proportion of nameplate capacity, reaching 40% ranges for averages taken over very wide areas for relativly long time periods as well, so I don't put both in the same class.  Not too bad when you realize that the power source is off for about 50% of the time anyway.  It seems the Sun on the average can lay down a good power flux over a much greater area for a considerably longer time than what can be sustained by wind, except for those odd here and there nooks and crannies that always get a good blow.  Solar also does not seem to be prone to such great parasitic loads, such as momentum loss of the spinning blades when combating inertia of the towers swiveling back and forth, or the power loss when they don't.  For the most part it can be economically limited to 25 to 28% of max output.  I also think there is a good amount to blame on the use of what is probably a very highly idealistic wind velocity distribution curve that they tend to use when calculating expected output of a wind farm, simply because the Releigh distribution doesn't really happen and because of blade inertial losses from variable wind velocities (speed and direction). If anybody has seen a study on wind turbine parasitic losses, I sure would like to know about it.
Solar is quite a bit more expensive, making it still not ready for non-tax-credit-related roll out, but they can do something about that.  Prices have fallen a lot over the last two years.

Wind's greatest ad/disavantage IMO is that it makes a highly visible statement as to how much green paint their sponsers want the public to believe they have.  In the meantime, reuse your bath towels during extended stays.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

Helpful Member!  cranky108 (Electrical)
22 Apr 11 14:38
The best use for solar panels, is to shade your car from the hot summer sun. So please install more of them in parking lots please.
Helpful Member!  GregLocock (Automotive)
26 Apr 11 22:20
I've spent a while monitoring solar output. Averaged over a day the worst day's output is about 40% of what you'd expect on average for that date and location. The best day I've seen might be 120% of average.

Australia's weather is probably a bit more predictable than most continents so those figures are not reliable for all locations. Incidentally optimum condition is the sun high overhead surrounded by clouds. The clouds reflect more light back downwards.

One big problem we have is that the output voltage falls off as the cells heat up, which is what happens when the sun shines on them.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

BigInch (Petroleum)
27 Apr 11 2:55
Electrical devices do like the cold temperatures.  Maximum output is obtained on a similar cloudy day as you describe, but in winter with the air temp low, however still high enough to result in partly cloudy conditions.  A bit of well directed wind helps the cooling as well.

Cranky, you're not wrong.  The shade when make when placed above your own roof can reduce house temperatures and save some of that AC cost too.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

IRstuff (Aerospace)
27 Apr 11 10:06
Stands to reason, a typical shake roof with 1500 sf of area would be loaded with 532 kBTU/hr at solar maximum.  If nothing else, the reduced solar load would prolong the life of the roofing material.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

MAGTiger (Electrical)
28 Apr 11 15:53
I didn;t see anything about cost. I'm wondering if the cost falls with efficiency. At least the maintenance cost should fall with efficiency.   The real beauty of an offshore turbine is that if the thing falls over in the water. It will immediately sink to the bottom of the ocean and at 2mw, no one will ever miss it and it won't cause an environmentat disaster.


BigInch (Petroleum)
29 Apr 11 5:24
I would think that cost of equipment is like most things and probably increases with higher efficiency.  Maintenance probably goes up with that, given increased efficiency is often accompanied by higher complexity, but according to the typical definition of higher efficiency either power consumption would drop for a given amount of work output, or power gen would be higher for a given work input, thereby making for a cheaper overall lifecycle operation cost, and hopefully reducing payback time to make the higher initial cost of that higher efficiency more attractive in the long run.  Lower costs are often simply an unsustainable result of temporarily increased competition factors, rather than improvements in the manufacturering proceedure itself.

It simply follows the old addage, "there is no free lunch."  Higher efficiency costs more, but reduces the operation cost, thereby making it a better investment over time.  If it doesn't work out that way, then don't look for the technology to be adopted on its own merrits alone.  It will need tax credits or some other investment incentive to make it happen.  While it may be poor economics for it to work out in the short term by financing these things with tax credits, etc., everyone hopes that the cost of providing whatever investment incentive today will be temporary while it fosters the development and mass acceptance of the technology to the point where continued use past a certain break even point (including the investment incentive cost) is passed some day and they become cheaper in the long run.  It does seem like a bit of a gamble from time to time, but "we must have faith", right?  In the meantime I just wish it didn't seem like its being given such a massive push that it will only result in benefits for the tax credit buyers and that the  leap of faith it is taking all the rest of us will be forgotten in that same long run that it will take to get there.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

CastMetal (Mechanical)
2 May 11 8:23
Assuming that increased efficiency goes hand in hand with increased cost is an appropriate assumption for established technologies (such as a pump). But not for electrical components, complexity of a CPU has increased greatly but cost to the consumer has remained fairly constant.
Photovoltaics may follow a path similar to that of computers. It is still in its infancy with unexpected advancements happening all the time. Such as the addition of a genetically modified virus boosting efficiency at MIT.
(published in Nature
Or possible radical changes to the way photo-voltaic cells are structured, such as those recently put forward by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (
Seeing these I remain hopeful that my 15.00 USD/yr (2009 IRS tax data)(doesn't seem like such a burden now does it?) I contribute to those tax incentives and research for renewable technology will help create a viable supplemental energy sources that can thrive on their own economic merit in the future.  

Comprehension is not understanding. Understanding is not wisdom. And it is wisdom that gives us the ability to apply what we know, to our real world situations

BigInch (Petroleum)
3 May 11 6:05
Good point. The roughly constant price for increased efficiency is undoubtedly the main reason that computer technologies have been so rapidly and widely accepted in society, as could also result even if simulation on an expensive computer was still worth the knowledge gained, might be in simulating nuclear explosions, etc.  In any case, you say PV "may" be one of those, and as we are apparently still in the "waiting period" to see if this applies to PV and other renewable energy technologies, it would indicate that the effect still has not been reached.  Hopefully, if not now, it soon will be.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

cranky108 (Electrical)
3 May 11 12:41
Exactly how much energy is used to manufacture PV cells? Is it more or less than what you expect to recieve from the PV cells? And how should one despose of used PV cells?

These are the same issues with wind power. Does the energy from the wind exceed the energy used to build the wind machine?

If these questions can't be answered, then I suspect the answer is they require more energy to build then they ever produce, making them not a enviromential marvial, but a jobs program.
CastMetal (Mechanical)
3 May 11 14:03
That question was answered many times
 It takes under a year to produce energy equivalent to what is consumed in the construction of the turbine. Quick google search showed numbers ranging from 3-8 months varying on size and placement.
Once you factor in standby power plants, required in some situations for low wind days, it can be much longer. I believe this was a major factor in the cancellation of a UK windfarm. The natural gas plant needed for backup actually canceled out many of the benefits touted by the proposed project.

As far as PV cells, most have a 20 year warranty, after that? They end up in a pile in China along with the rest of the worlds e-waste.

Renewables are not going to work everywhere for everyone tomorrow. It shouldn't be expected to, the first airplane flew 900ft should we not have invested in airplanes?

Comprehension is not understanding. Understanding is not wisdom. And it is wisdom that gives us the ability to apply what we know, to our real world situations

cranky108 (Electrical)
3 May 11 22:56
So are they worth the investment? So why do we still have tax breaks for them?

If the free market isen't interested, why is the goverment?
BigInch (Petroleum)
4 May 11 2:29
Not yet.  Well.. actually the jury is still out and until then, you have to consider that it will be more like a publically funded research and development project.  You have to decide if that's worth it as you cast your vote.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

Helpful Member!  moltenmetal (Chemical)
4 May 11 8:29
Renewables don't make sense when competing against fossil fuels with zero charges applied for disposal of their atmospheric waste.  Fossil fuels win hands down without an atmospheric tipping fee, until they're in short enough supply to drive up their price by a very large margin.

Charge for the disposal of the effluent, and suddenly the economics change- and the free market becomes interested big time.

Does government subsidy of renewables make sense in the meantime?  Personally I don't think so.  Subsidy is not sustainable and distorts the market, holding serious ethical investors at bay and making corruption more likely.  Why would you put your money into an industry which goes broke the minute a government subsidy goes away?

No different than the situation I was in when doing renovations on my home.  If I was permitted to just throw all the demo debris on my neighbour's yard or in the city park, why would I pay for a bin to dispose of the debris, much less cut all the wood up and burn it in my woodstove?  What's the payback for my effort?  It's the problem of the commons:  we all bear the costs of atmospheric pollution and adaptation to climate change, yet there is no feedback of this cost to the consumers of fossil fuels to deter their consumption.  It's a formula that leads to overconsumption.
cranky108 (Electrical)
4 May 11 14:50
Make me go back to the cost of thermal polution caused by PV panels, vs the reflection of the unused sun light back into space. There hasen't been assigned a cost to that global warming issue.

At least wind reduces something most of us don't need. But what will happen to all those towers when the wind machines have failed?
BigInch (Petroleum)
5 May 11 11:31
Stork nests

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

SparWeb (Aerospace)
10 May 11 18:53


As far as PV cells, most have a 20 year warranty, after that? They end up in a pile in China along with the rest of the worlds e-waste.

Who would throw away a panel just because its warranty expired?  Those early adopters are still getting power today.  There are some panels out there, over 40 years old, still cranking it out.

Sandia Labs tests find only a 0.4% decrease in peak power per year of use (King, Quintana,, 2000).

Solar panels haven't been readily available for long enough to prove to the general public that they last for a very long time, but to the scientific crowd that started studying them early on, and for those few that chose to use them long ago, there is no doubt.

I thought this thread was supposed to be about wind farms?

Now if you want to critique wind power  on longevity grounds, then you got me there.  The rows of derelicts in California's Tehachapi pass were a testament to that (gradually being replaced by now I hope?).   

Steven Fahey, CET

BigInch (Petroleum)
11 May 11 12:47
I think the criticism voiced on PV output depletion is valid when considered as a commercial enterprize, where you actually have to put out some cash to keep the system alive.  Cleaning, the inverters (an expensive part of the balance of system) still burn out every so often as well and there is the occasional replacement to gopher eaten cables, etc.  If its a hobby rooftop installation, you can get away with no cash outlay for those kind of things, but they will eventually eat you alive when your commercial PV installation output drops to 60% and you've got 20 acres of the stuff out there to clean and maintain.

Ya, sometimes the thread content rules get bent a bit... just to keep the thread fresh.  Somebody should close it some day too.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

cranky108 (Electrical)
11 May 11 14:24
So will there become a market for used PV? (Sort of like used cars).

If so, can we purchase them for a car port roof?
BigInch (Petroleum)
11 May 11 15:08
I think that there already is a VERY BIG market for used PV panels.  It seems that the problem there is that they are usually snapped up before they make it to Ebay.  You very seldom see any panels advertised anywhere.  I'm sure very few of them are actually going in the bin.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

Helpful Member!(3)  lacajun (Electrical)
11 May 11 16:09
I got a call after I was l laid off about working in the alternative energy industry.  The caller, a state government worker, asked if I was qualified.  I answered in the affirmative.  They asked a bunch of personal questions but never one about my education or experience.  They asked if I had kids.  I answered in the negative and asked why they would ask.  People with children were subsidized by the federal government so they counted.  People like me didn't.  It's one more subsidy to make me dislike alternative energy.

Is that discrimination by government?  Yes.

I've seen countless wind farms that are in some state of not operating in spite of winds.  I've driven by the wind research center in CO many times.  I've yet to see any of them working.  The last time I paid attention some were in bad need of repair.

It takes a lot of energy to make flat glass in large quantities for PV.
Helpful Member!  globi5 (Mechanical)
16 May 11 18:23
Btw, China installed more wind power last year than North America and Europe combined:

Not too long ago wind farms in Texas prevented a rolling black-out:
Last March Spain wind power produced 21% of Spain's electricity:
Spanish wind power is not only effective in reducing gas but also water consumption:
Spanish demand curve (including varying demand and variable but predictable renewable sources):

The capacity factor is not just a question of location but also a question of the wind turbine: A large rotor with a small generator yields a higher capacity factor.
Meanwhile Vestas, RE-Power, Enercon, Gamesa etc. have turbines specifically designed for low wind regions.

Fossil fuels and nuclear receive more subsidies than wind power and have received them for a much longer time period:

Thinfilm PV-modules can meanwhile be purchased for less than a $1 per W:
And PV-Inverters can be found for $0.3 per W.
You can essentially build a PV system for less than $2 /W. At a capacity factor of only 15% and 25 years life time you are at $0.06 per kWh (not counting interest and maintenance costs but keep in mind: There are no moving parts).
(A new nuclear power plant is around $7 /W requires cooling water, uranium imports, long construction time, repository etc. and needs to compete at wholesale electricity prices:
A modern thinfilm module can produce 30 times more energy than is needed for its production.
Of course cheaper than any new power plant is investing in efficient appliances. Most people are unaware what efficient appliances can save.

And if you are worried about the thermal pollution of a black surface: Compare the PV-surface area with the asphalt surface area.

And if you are worried about the scrap metal coming from a wind turbine: Compare it to the scrap metal coming from cars, trucks, ships, locomotives, aircrafts...
cranky108 (Electrical)
16 May 11 22:47
I am a sceptic mainly because very few people are willing to state facts. You state a few, which is a start.

A fact we can also agree to is that solar power is unavailable at about the same time every day. So it's impact can only be limited by the energy storage capacity of the system it is attached to (storage includes fossel fuels).

Wind is not blowing 100% of the time, and again it's impact can only be limited by the energy storage.

Yes solar black surfaces can add to global warming, only if it is applied in some places. If you were to apply solar panels over asphult parking lots, then we can truly say they reduce global warming. But if you place them in a light colored area, then you can't.

Wind turban blades probally don't have much metal, if they did they would be to heavy. The mass of metal in a wind machine is in the tower. And is there a scrap value that exceeds the cost of removal, safely?

Energy efficent appliances don't seem to appeal to most consumers. They aren't cheep, and don't have ice makers, with water in the door. The two major types of consumers, want either cheep, or many features, and energy efficent models don't have either.
globi5 (Mechanical)
17 May 11 3:22
Actually, most people are not willing to simply read facts (which can easily be found).

The point is: Asphalt doesn't add to global warming - greenhouse gas emissions do (besides PV as opposed to asphalt produces electric power and thus cannot heat as much as asphalt can - 1st law.) Two thirds of all fossil primary energy consumption is pumped directly into the atmosphere as heat and no-one claims that this adds to global warming in any significance either.

The fact that PV only produces power during day time is actually an advantage because there is always more power needed during day time. PV reduces the load on the grid.

Besides that interconnected wind farms provide baseload:
The US has currently 314 GW of coal, 401 GW of hydro and 79 GW of hydro capacity:
So, wind power mainly reduces fossil fuel and shifts water consumption - there's no need for any back-up:

Most mass of a wind turbine is actually in the tower. The rotor blades are relatively light and the copper in the nacelle has a significant scrap value - particularly in 25 years from now.
The reason why wind turbine blades are not made out of metal (as opposed to aircraft-wings) is because they deal with a much higher degree of varying loads.

Energy efficient lights and appliances have a return on investment of up to 40%:
( Most people simply don't think about paying electricity bills when they purchase a new appliance. )

Cheap fossil fuels will not last forever. Engineers and not bankers can develop renewable and efficiency measures to mitigate this dependence (and get paid for this work).
Engineers who fight efficiency and renewables with false pretenses cut off the branch their sitting on.
CastMetal (Mechanical)
17 May 11 7:28
One factor commonly neglected in reviewing these alternative energies is the opportunity cost to the individual of these investments. Renewables are not a win-win. Yes it sounds great that a PV system over its life will have a return on investment of 3:1. How long is that lifespan? 30 years? Assume initial investment is 10,000$ The return on a U.S. treasury bond over that same period is currently 45,000$. So assuming zero maintenance on PV (unrealistic) this is still a poor investment as you are losing at least 15,000$ that could be made in other ventures. Like it or not bankers play a role, and while renewables have a promising future they are not a cure all solution, yet.

Comprehension is not understanding. Understanding is not wisdom. And it is wisdom that gives us the ability to apply what we know, to our real world situations

moltenmetal (Chemical)
17 May 11 7:40
Thank you globi5 for generating a breath of fresh air here!

As to the economics, until there's a tipping charge for the disposal of atmospheric pollutants, there's no level playing field amongst energy sources, and the only reason people will make the new investments is if they're willing to gamble on subsidy.  If the tipping charge remains at zero, fossil fuels WIN, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future until shortage drives up the prices of the source fuels to levels far higher than present ones.  Shale gas has fundamentally altered the equation.

What I want to see is truly fully-burdened energy pricing, so consumers get the full market feedback signal related to their behaviour and hence have a reason to change it.  A dollar invested to reduce consumption and a dollar invested to generate new production must both bear the same fruit.  Right now, government subsidy is focused primarily on generation.  All forms of generation have environmental impact.

BigInch (Petroleum)
17 May 11 11:45
If everything boiled down to a simple economic decision, dollars and interest rates, how many designer names, including Penzoil, do you think would survive.  The fate of the world, or the wellbeing of virtually anything, except their own shareholders desires cannot be left down to investors making decisions based only on cost and interest rates.  When will that become well understood.  As badly as many of you would like to believe, capitalism does not have the answer to anything, except the way to make more money.  If that is not your objective, you're using the wrong tools.  


Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand'  ...  Book of Ecclesiasticus

CastMetal (Mechanical)
17 May 11 13:16
I think we can all acknowledge that these issues involve more factors (technical, economic, political, sociological, psychological) than any one person can truly fully grasp and measure, but what is the point of these discussions if not to temper one another's ardent beliefs with contrasting ideas?

I think belittling one idea for being narrow sighted does little good as we all know a combination of factors will be involved in the final outcome good, bad, or indifferent.

Comprehension is not understanding. Understanding is not wisdom. And it is wisdom that gives us the ability to apply what we know, to our real world situations

cranky108 (Electrical)
17 May 11 14:00
What I see is that the banker wants to see a return on investment, and economics play a part.

The consumer wants things that they perceve make there lives better, efficent or not.

The utility engineer wants power production that can dependibly be scheduled, at a cost that can be sold to the consumer.
A small amount of wind, or solar can reasonably be mixed into the typical fluxauations of consumer load.
However, a large amount of any energy source must be dependibaly scheduled to follow the customer needs. Wind isen't there. Solar is better, but is still lacking.
What happens with a large changing energy source on the grid is it incerases the cost and maintenance of the plants that have to move up and down to compliment it. The wind people don't get that, and are not addressing that concern.

The wind people are also not doing the engineering development in modeling there designs to work with the power grid. It is inaccurate to model a 150 MW wind farm as a syncronous generator, because the wind manufacturer has not developed a model for his machines.
owg (Chemical)
18 May 11 8:17
Visitor from another planet - "How do you decide where to put the windmills?"
Turbine Planner - "We locate them where the wind is best."
Visitor - "What is the reason for the windmills?"
Planner - "We are expecting climate change."
Visitor - "So how do you know the wind won't change?"
Planner - "Oops!"

Just kidding!


moltenmetal (Chemical)
18 May 11 8:26
BigInch said:  "The fate of the world, or the wellbeing of virtually anything, except their own shareholders desires, cannot be left down to investors making decisions based only on cost and interest rates....capitalism doesn't have the answer to anything, aside from how to make more money."

Couldn't agree with you more on those points!  

We cannot and indeed SHOULD not expect the shareholders of companies (i.e. the public) to know enough to care about anything those companies do in the course of making money for us.  That's what we shareholders hire management to do for us- and why we need government to be there to set limits via regulation on what constitutes the public interest, and provide police, investigators, regulatory bodies and of course courts and jails to house the ones who stray across the line of the public interest in the pursuit of making money.  Fallible human institutions all, granted.

BigInch also said " If that (i.e. making more money) is not your objective, you're using the wrong tools."

Sorry, I don't quite agree with you there.  Economics are a reality that cannot be ignored.  

Democratic governments have fundamentally only two tools which allow them to intervene in the capitalist marketplace for what their electorate consider to be the public good:  regulation, and taxation.  They can, do and indeed MUST use those tools to keep the system stable and to avoid problems created by the market.  Problems, say, like a disconnect between the costs of energy consumption and who pays those costs.

People who are rich may choose to buy "virtuous" energy- I guess that's what you meant by your Pennzoil example?  Otherwise it's lost on me.  But if we count on this alone, failure will be the predictable result.  

My point is simply this:  we cannot count on people's virtue alone to do what is in the public interest in environmental matters or anything else.  In the energy field, we cannot AFFORD to promote virtue through subsidy unless we also punish "vice" via taxation.  Subsidy distorts the market and confuses shareholders who are choosing what to invest in, and managers of companies who are trying to make the right decisions on their behalf.  Subsidy also allows government to play favourites based on lobbying efforts and forces them to bet on market winners and losers.

Given a choice between subsidy for renewables and taxation of fossil fuels, the latter is far more appealing and more likely to yield the necessary levels of the following three highly desirable things:

1)  Investment in conservation and energy efficiency (since higher prices generate a payback for the necessary investments aside from merely a feeling of self-satisfaction for doing the right thing)

2)  Investment in new technologies on the basis of their technical merit, in this case their ability to generate NET electrical energy over their lifecycle without generating matching greenhouse gas emissions, and

3)  Reduction in our reliance on finite, increasingly environmentally costly fossil fuels- fuels that have higher value long-term uses to society as chemical feedstocks rather than merley as a source of energy.  Think it's hard to make transport fuels from biomass?  Try making the millions of OTHER compounds we currently depend on which are sourced from oil, gas or coal tar!  While it's possible, making transport fuels is childsplay in comparison.
globi5 (Mechanical)
18 May 11 12:48
As I said before: The utilities already have to deal with a much larger variable demand anyway. Dealing with a variable and very predictable wind power fraction is not an issue, besides wind turbines can always reduce their power output if the grid could not handle it.
And modern wind turbines provide active and reactive power control:
And so do even relatively small PV-inverters:

Whether renewables are a financial success is a simple question of the frame conditions.
In fact renewable energies and weatherization of buildings have attracted lots of private investors (incl. bankers) worldwide - but of course, mostly in regions where favorable frame conditions do exist.

The reason why Americans primarily buy Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado's (as opposed to VW Golf's and Ford Fiesta's - the 2 best selling cars in Europe) and thus worsen the US trade deficit and increase the dependence on imported resources is not because Americans have a special need for these cars and Europeans do not: It's because the US as opposed to Europe has set frame conditions which include an almost missing gas tax and tax deductions for such vehicles.

The reason why the US has pricey stealth bombers and Europe does not is also because of frame conditions set by the government.
Having built $2 billion stealth bomber's a piece is not a better win-win-situation than reducing the trade deficit and the dependence on imported fuels and the dependence on imported technology.

Thanks to the fact that Germany introduced feed-in-tariffs almost 20 years ago, Germany not only reduced its dependence on imported fuels and created many jobs - but German wind turbine manufacturers also export over 80% of the wind turbines (stealth bombers on the other hand could not even be exported, even if there was any significant market for it).
Even the German PV-industry not only generated thousands of new jobs - it actually pays more taxes than it indirectly receives in feed-in tariffs.
The reason why Germany exports more than the US (despite of the weak USD and being much smaller than the US) and Japan is also because Germany has set different frame conditions.

cranky108 (Electrical)
18 May 11 13:13
So your answer to wind power verability is "deal with it. We in wind power don't have any obiligation". Is that right?

Wrong. This issue is simply that the wind industry isen't willing to fix or pay for the problems they cause. It is just to easy to pass those issue off on everybody else (just like the CO2 you poport to avoid).
Bottom line is the wind industry is no better that the coal industry. They are just as much free loaders as the polluters they claim to be better than.

So next time you claim to be avoiding polution, look at the electrical polution you are placing on the grid.

And while we are on the topic, why don't wind providers connect into the local utilities generation ACE, and see if they can make the grade required of other generation.
globi5 (Mechanical)
19 May 11 2:48
Why don't you just read the facts I provided instead of just randomly bad mouthing renewables and efficiency measures with false accusations?

By the way, my household is at 300 kWh per year and person electric energy consumption and we are not missing out on any comfort (granted we don't get our heating and hot water needs from electric energy).
The average US household is at 3800 kWh per year and person. Most people are completely unaware what efficient appliances can do.  
moltenmetal (Chemical)
19 May 11 7:37
globi5:  what you're calling "frame conditions" are exactly what I'm talking about: government regulation and taxation in the public interest.  But it matters greatly whether the "frame conditions" are funded out of general revenue, and hence have to compete with schools and hospitals for public resources, or are self-funded (i.e. funded by directed taxation).  I know that the latter is a fool's paradise to some folks, but there are examples where this does work.

A fundamental principle that should apply in any energy system is a kWh of consumption AVOIDED has to be worth at LEAST a kWh provided by new generation capacity.  All forms of energy production have some environmental impact.

To further this point:  we can receive a feed-in tarrif to put up to 200 kW of PV panels on our roof, with a guaranteed subsidy (an absurd ~ $0.60/kWh)on the produced power for 20 years.  Even with the "local content" requirements, forcing us to buy panels and inverters from local suppliers charging 2-3x the world market rate for these products, it'll still generate a tidy net revenue stream for us, so we're likely to do it (probably not all 200 kW, but at least 20 kW or so).  

Unfortunately, nobody will pay us anything to hunt down and kill the 30 kW our building draws when it is unoccupied, and at the nominal local rate of $0.04/kWh (even less in the wee hours of the morning), the payback on any investment we make to kill that parasitic load will be infinite.  We may do this out of the goodness of our own environmental consciences, but by doing so we would be at odds with the purely financial interests of our shareholders (which in this case are, for the most part, the same people).

Fighting the market is pointless.  The market needs to be altered.
globi5 (Mechanical)
19 May 11 9:46
I also believe that increasing tax on energy and reduce tax on work would be better than any subsidies. (Where I live I pay about 3 times as much on gas and half on income tax compared to a person living in the US and I certainly prefer these tax-rates).

However, feed-in tariffs are normally paid by the rate payers and not by the tax payer (and it should always be this way, since this also incentivizes energy conservation and the purchase of efficient appliances).
Since feed-in tariffs are paid by rate payers (and large electric consumers which actually depend on affordable electricity can be excluded) is also why in Germany the tax burden is being reduced thanks to the feed-in tariffs.
(In short: The feed-in tariffs created business which created jobs and which pay taxes. In addition, feed-in tariffs do reduce spot-market electric prices which does help industries which really depend on low electricity prices.)

Nevertheless, it's important that feed-in tariffs are constantly adapted. The feed-in tariffs for PV in Germany start meanwhile at 21.11 cents/kWh (almost half of what they were 4 years ago) and will drop below 20 cents/kWh by July:

cranky108 (Electrical)
19 May 11 13:54
Read the facts? Bad mouthing renewables?

If you would present facts that refute what I have said, or did you not read my post.

I have nothing bad to say about renewables, just bad things to say about renewable operators, and developers. They won't spend the money to rectify the problems they create.

The verability problem with wind is a problem for the grid operators, and the wind developers won't fix the problem they have created.  
GregLocock (Automotive)
19 May 11 20:04
"my household is at 300 kWh per year "

hmm, 50W on average. No fridge. No freezer. No toaster or microwave. One laptop. One LED light.

I suppose it is possible, but colour me sceptical.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

lacajun (Electrical)
23 May 11 11:34
I am skeptical about anything related to AGW, Green Energy, Smart Grid, etc. because the science behind it has been politicized.  Al Gore stands to make billions overnight on the frenzy he fabricated over AGW.  That makes me suspicious of his intentions.  Whenever anyone tries to manipulate me through fear, I become suspicious of them.

If we have higher energy prices through taxation, we will be hurting the poor.  That is unconscionable.

And since when did the US government have the responsibility to tell me what kind of light bulbs to buy, where to get energy, what appliances to buy, etc.?  Those are my decisions based upon the circumstances of my life, which the US, local, and state governments are clueless about.

I also believe many in the public know when they are paying too much for utilities just as I do.  I suspect most people want to keep as much of their money in their pockets as possible.  I also suspect most people want to enjoy modern conveniences throughout their lives w/out paying an arm and a leg for them.  Most of us will become slaves to convenience, if we can afford it.  We all seek the path of least resistance.  There are some who believe our primary mode of transportation should be bicycles.  How does that help a single mother, who can only afford to live 15 miles from the nearest town with a doctor, grocery store, etc.?

I live pretty close to the bone as it is because I grew up in poverty and have no desire to return to it.  Mother was a Depression Era child and she wasted as little as absolutely possible.  Those lessons stuck.  For anyone to ass-u-me they know what's best for the individual is sheer arrogance.  We have far too many people with the case of the long proboscis, who really need to give themselves a long, hard gaze in the mirror in the effort of self-examination.

When I have looked into numbers in the past, the amount of renewables is a drop in the bucket of what we use daily in the US and we are spending ourselves crazy to do it.  I don't think that's too smart.  We are debt laden and pay billions daily just to service the interest on our debt.  We have to stop spending money we don't have.

A contractor recently told me he spent $34,000US installing PV on his home.  Who can afford that?  He didn't pay the full amount because he got "rebates" totaling $33,000US.  Where do those rebates come from?  Who ultimately pays for his new energy source?  Why is that morally superior?

I had a discussion with an engineer in the utility industry recently who claimed his company was providing incentives to install renewables, purchase energy efficient appliances, etc.  He disagreed with me that those were really being paid by the US government.  Lo and behold that ended recently because the government was not going to pay the utility company any longer to incentivize its customers to do all that stuff.  Where does government get its money?

The media implies we import a lot of Mid East oil.  We import some but the bulk we import from the Western Hemisphere and primarily Canada.  We also sell some of ours on the global market.  I think this is an indicator of how much misinformation is told about energy.  I think people want to do the right thing but with so much of the energy debate, CO2, etc. being politicized, they don't know what to believe.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
23 May 11 12:32
Directly from from US Energy Information Adminstration: we imported 7.8 million barrels per day in February, of which, only 2.2 million was from Canada.  

Of the remainder, fully 72% come from OPEC member countries, which is dominated primarily by Middle East, Arab, or African countries.  This means that our imported oil prices are directly driven by the production set by OPEC, and the prices resulting therefrom.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

cranky108 (Electrical)
23 May 11 14:49
And just how much of that oil went into the production of electricity? Very little. So wind energy will not reduce the import of oil by very much.

Has anyone noticed how much coal we are exporting to China?
We spend our money on wind, and they buy our unused coal. Are we really saving the planet, or just making GE rich?
lacajun (Electrical)
25 May 11 19:54

Quote (IRstuff):

we imported 7.8 million barrels per day in February, of which, only 2.2 million was from Canada.

That's about 30%, which is what I remembered from the last few years.  The last time I tracked this, if memory serves, we imported roughly 12-15% from the Middle East.  If you listen to the media, they imply we import all of our crude imports from the Middle East.  

This is one man's take on pricing of crude oil.  WRTG

I've read similar positions on the price, too, which state OPEC really doesn't have much power to control price.  Since it is a global commodity, I suspect the price is something not easily controlled.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
26 May 11 1:07
As I said in my post, 72%, which is almost all of the remainder, come from OPEC countries:

Algeria                     Africa
Angola                     Africa
Ecuador                     South America
Iran                     Middle East
Iraq                     Middle East
Kuwait                     Middle East
Libya                     Africa
Nigeria                     Africa
Qatar                     Middle East
Saudi Arabia             Middle East
United Arab Emirates     Middle East
Venezuela    South America

Clearly, OPEC, and hence, the bulk of our oil, is controlled by Middle East countries, and certainly, Venezuela is no friend of the US.  And while Libya is not technically in the Middle East, they are both Arab and definitely aligned against the US.

Saudi Arabia has been keeping up the base price for decades.  Despite decades of cajoling by the US, Saudi Arabia continues to its limit production, which is the typical method a cartel uses to control prices, WRTG not withstanding.

There is no incentive for anyone to undercut prices in anything that the western world depends on strategically, particularly since we continue to pay for the same amount of oil regardless of whether the price is at $50/bbl or $120/bbl and since it's still a limited resource which becomes useless as a leverage if the Saudis pump themselves dry.  This means that the prices are, in effect, controlled.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

cranky108 (Electrical)
27 May 11 22:44
Can we use wind pumps in the US to extract oil from North America?

It's a win-win, as it uses renewable energy to reduce our dependence on imported oil. Or even solar oil pumps.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
28 May 11 3:33
Yeah, sure, good luck with that.  

We consume about 20 million bbl/day.  We have about 21 billion bbl of proven reserves.  That's 2.87 yrs of independence.  We'll then be 100% dependent on foreign oil after that.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

cranky108 (Electrical)
28 May 11 23:53
I think you missed my point.

Electricty business is not a big consumer of oil.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
29 May 11 0:48
I didn't say anything about electricity.  

"Can we use wind pumps in the US to extract oil from North America?  It's a win-win, as it uses renewable energy to reduce our dependence on imported oil. "

The implication is to only consume domestic oil, hence, the point about domestic oil only lasting 3 years at full consumption.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

owg (Chemical)
29 May 11 10:16
IRstuff has summarized the oil situation well. Saudi could shut down tomorrow and push the price over $200/bbl, or pump more and push the price down to around $40/bbl.


lacajun (Electrical)
29 May 11 21:46
This bothers me more than oil.....

Former US Comptroller General David Walker on US debt ceiling

I will confess a lot of ignorance on proven reserves and OPEC so I have two questions:
1. Do we really know proven reserves globally?  There are two different theories on the formation of oil.
2.  Do all of those OPEC countries act as a cartel or independent nations?  Some of those nations need to maintain production to keep their natives happy.
cranky108 (Electrical)
29 May 11 23:29
Help me understand what oil production has to do with wind generation, and solar generation?

Oil consumption seems to be more of transportation problem. Wind generation is a problem for the power grid. How do they relate other than a minor way?

Now natural gas, once compressed can be used as a transportation fuel, but that usage will increase the cost ofelectricity (there is a link there).

We also can look at using compressed air as a fuel in cars, and the refueling time should be short compaired to battery technology. But compressed air production will impact several other energy sources (compressed air production dosen't sound right, but I have to call it something).
lacajun (Electrical)
19 Jun 11 23:01
In a county business meeting Friday, the AGW topic arose and how politicized it is, which obfuscates people because they don't know who to believe in the scientific community.  That statement feeds nicely into this man's resignation letter.......

Hal Lewis resigns from UCSB
IRstuff (Aerospace)
20 Jun 11 2:00
A very one-sided commentary from a man no longer capable of retracting or defending his commentary, having passed away last month.  

While there is no doubt that sizable amounts of money exist on that side of the argument, an equally large, if not larger stake exists on the side of the naysayers.  Lewis claimed "trillions" of dollars driving the debate in one direction, yet never mentioned the actual trillions of dollars in fossil fuel production and consumption, nor the trillions of dollars of machinery and infrastructural dedicated to fossil fuel usage.

So, here's one rebuttal:


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

IRstuff (Aerospace)
20 Jun 11 12:15
What's the point of that?  China's industries pollute unfettered, regardless of what product they build.  Even the wonderful local recycling events that collect up dead batteries, dead computers, dead monitors, etc., have reputation of shipping all that toxic and hazardous refuse to China for reclamation.  It's well known that such reclamation facilities are cesspools of toxicity.  Seems pretty clear what agenda that author is serving.

China apparently feels that they have so many people that a few premature deaths are of little consequence.  Just look up any mention of tainted milk.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

lacajun (Electrical)
22 Jun 11 18:38
IRStuff, I won't even comment on Mr. Romm's article.  He didn't gain my respect.
jmw (Industrial) (OP)
25 Jun 11 7:25
The point is that everything has a price.
When it comes to child labour exploitation then there is usually a group concerned enough to agitate for ethical purchasing. For example, the supermarkets now sell lots more "Fair Trade" products  and manufacturers are at least a bit more concerned about trying to present an image of being "responsible" and "ethical".
During Apartheid agitators were able to influence the way big companies where dealing with South Africa.
This attitude has seen investment banks, pension finds etc take a bit more care about where they invest their funds. It has even caused the UK labour government to approach arms trading with an "ethical" claim.
So the point is that if there is something objectionable that something might be done.
The problem is that labelling something green blinkers a lot of people.
There is nothing unethical, it seems, about the BBC pension funds being heavily invested into projects that depend on the success of AGW scams.
So when it comes to manufacturing wind turbines in such a way, will we see this condemned or will we hear about breaking eggs to make an omelette.
On the other hand thee point is that this is yet another of those examples of thee law of unintended consequences.

My colleague ran an electronics factory (joint venture) in China. There was a lot he wanted to do and wasn't allowed to despite being the MD. The factory was built on land simply taken from farmers without recompense. The working conditions were appalling by western standards.
When he noted the condition of the drinking water he ordered a water purifier but he was prevented from having it installed by the local Manager. This wasn't simple neglect but a deliberate policy.
He was, in the end, glad to be out of there.

But to what extent would there be a movement to insist on appropriate standards being imposed and how successful would it be?
The fact of something happening doesn't mean it has to continue to happen. It could be made that appropriate measures are made a condition of the contracts.
Too many things happen to the advantage of some parts of the population at the expense of others. It doesn't have to be that way. It isn't axiomatic.  



IRstuff (Aerospace)
27 Jun 11 3:06
The problem is implied error in costing, by saying, "See what a mess going green creates."  But, the issue is doing business in China, period; regardless of the product, the Chinese have zip in the way of consumer and environmental protection, cases in point, tainted milk and toxic toy paints.  The only saving grace is an occasional execution by the Red Army for something truly heinous.

The question should be whether going green with the appropriate chain of safeguards produces in the same results as doing business in China.  To paint wind power in a poor light based on known issues with Chinese business practices is simply disingenuous, since the nongreen products that the Chinese produce have similar impacts on the environment and quality of life in China.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

jmw (Industrial) (OP)
27 Jun 11 7:57
The point is that if you want to go green you either impose and enforce strict contractual requirements associated with the environment or you pay the price to have the things made elsewhere.

In china there is a factor called "quality fade" and since it is recognised, anyone wanting to manufacture in China must consider that it is either susceptible to remedy or it isn't.
You take your choice and then decide what to do.
This is the choice being made by the turbine manufacturing companies which are mostly European. Luxuriating in their "green credentials" they are thus making a mockery of the environmental cause by choosing to manufacture in China as they have done by closing down or not exploiting European manufacturing locations.

Since wind turbines are never going to be economically competitive, there is no ROI and and hence, having made a decsion to spend tax payers money on something that isn't going to pay for itself on the basis of "its for your own good, trust us." then that ethos should extend to the manufacturing and equally justify a higher price for the turbines.

Seems to me the Wind Turbine companies should be taken to task by the various governments investing tax money in this nonsense.
They have been busy closing European manufacturing sites and sub contracting it all to China in full knowledge of the problems, and there have been many.

That reduces the China problem to the magnets.... one problem might be manageable. Or you find a new solution.
This is all an aside from the bottom line question which is how green these things are anyway.

Just about everything "green" seems either subject to the law of unintended consequences or not thought through properly or both.
Of course, the way energy costs are going, the magic equation of
labour costs*distance-to-market*fuel costs which is what makes China the manufacturing giant it is, are the one vulnerability of the Chinese economic model. When China made a major grab for fossil fuels including bunker fuels (for power and shipping) they pushed the price up so far that for some products they came second. An example is car seats which all of a sudden were cheaper to acquire from Mexico. Repeated across the board this could be damaging.

At the moment, for all the toxic toys, the quality fade etc. China is not going to worry because they still get the business.

But if they started to lose significant business because of energy costs or because of some kind of imposed conditions, these issues then things might possibly be susceptible to change.
The only thing I would wonder about is if the usual results would apply. We may have reached a point where we have to take what we are offered and lump it. China is just too big in manufacturing and in any "economic conflict" China could strangle the west by embargoing exports and be able to contain any internal consequences in the short term.

And, incidentally, this is another reason why going green is most likely to become unilateralist economic suicide.
Under what conceivable circumstances will China stop emitting CO2? How can you make them stop burning coal?



Helpful Member!(2)  stevenal (Electrical)
1 Jul 11 17:28

"Wind turbines are a little like tribbles."
SparWeb (Aerospace)
2 Sep 11 14:33

Quote:"Wind turbines are a little like tribbles."

Ironically, as soon as I clicked on that link, a pop-up ad from DuPont came up:  "new brush control herbicide" to be applied at the base of your towers.  Kind of a mixed message there!


Steven Fahey, CET

lacajun (Electrical)
2 Sep 11 17:16
ccfowler (Mechanical)
2 Sep 11 19:18
The article "" seems helpful until one contemplates the importance of the differences between assertions, facts, and demonstrable experiences.  Cogeneration is indeed a superb way to realize more effective use of an energy source (coal, gas, oil, or whatever), but there are painfully severe limitations on its practicality.  It is essential that a reasonably adjacent user of the "waste heat" be suitable not only for the quantity and quality of the "waste heat stream," but also the timing of its availability.  The costs of heat recovery systems are seldom inexpensive (both physically and financially), and waste heat is just that.  "Waste heat" is indeed a "waste" because its value is degraded below the point of local usefulness.  For example, 1000 Btu's at 1000F are obviously much more valuable and potentially useful than 1000 Btu's at 200F.  If an evaluation fails to take such facts into proper consideration, false and misleading conclusions can easily be reached.

The "smart grid" concept is also potentially useful, but only to the extent of its capabilities.  It does not add any energy to the grid, it merely provides some control capabilities.

Remote wind, solar, or other energy sources still carry with them the transmission system losses which inherently increase with distance.

The long and short of all of this is that there are no simple, easy solutions, and everything involves very substantial investments (both physical and financial).

The inherent reliability problems of wind and solar power do indeed make them preferentially more costly because of the burden that their reliability limitations impose upon the relibility needs of the connected system.  The article "" should be read and re-read until understood by anyone and everyone.  It very nicely expresses the very problems that seem so often to be dreamily dismissed by those with overly hopeful attitudes about "renewable" energy sources.

Energy storage does offer some aid to the reliability problems, but energy storage systems have their own inherent problems.  The main one is the physical reality that "energy out" will always be significantly less than "energy in" for any such system.  Therefore, that inherent lost energy must come from some source either conventional or renewable.  The practical balances may prove to be very different from anyone's initial presumptions.

I very much favor the development of new and different energy conversion and power production systems, and the more truly environmentally friendly the better.  The diffences that I have with many, if not most, "environmentalists" is their failure to recognize that the mere declaration that something is "environmentally friendly" provides no assurance that the subject device, system, or proposal will not have adverse consequences that greatly overwhelm the anticipated good presumed to be provided by that device, system, or proposal.

It is very easy to "draw a line around" some seemingly wonderful item for the purpose of evaluating its performance and decree that it is wonderful.  Unfortunately, when that "magic line" is drawn around the truly complete system (mining, manufacturing, transportation, ...) the evaluation is sure to be less favorable.

Plug-in electric cars provide a convenient example of this problem.  They are commonly described as being zero-emission vehicles.  Looking at just the vehicle itself, it may indeed have near zero emissions (abraded rubber from the tires surely constitutes an emission, for example).  The complete evaluation of its zero-emission status changes dramatically when one is forced to consider the energy sources, transmission & distribution system losses, manufacturing, ....  How can the complete system associated with such a vehicle ever be considered to be zero-emission other than by denying the existence of reality?  Similar problems are associated with all systems whether conventional or otherwise, and nothing can be considered to be truly "environmentally friendly" unless the entire system and its effects are thoroughly and fairly evaluated and then found to be truly beneficial in the whole.

Valuable advice from a professor many years ago:  First, design for graceful failure.  Everything we build will eventually fail, so we must strive to avoid injuries or secondary damage when that failure occurs.  Only then can practicality and economics be properly considered.

jmw (Industrial) (OP)
2 Sep 11 19:34
One of the advantages of the unbundling and deregulation of power generation was the concept of auto-generators.
This is a major market for power plant producers.
Typically some industries are very heat and steam usage intensive.
Paper and textile production, for example.
By producing their own power and utilising the bulk of the heat/steam in their processes they may have some small surplus to make available to other users but they also have the opportunity to sell electricity to the grid.
Some such auto-generators start off in a small way and then expand and in expanding vary the power plant mix so they can take advantage of fuel prices by switching from gas to fuel oils to distillates as and when appropriate.

There are many advantages to this.
But it does question the balance of many small localised generating facilities compared to a few regional major power generators.
Shades of Schumacher perhaps? (Small is Beautiful).
Some people consider that one of the risks inherent in the hoped for development of fusion reactors is that the focus is still largely on a very few major generating plants where the ideal might be for a many very small power plants.

I guess ideal would be one power plant per house?  virtually zero distribution...distribution is a major cost of the Big is beautiful approach. It is also a problem for win generation...something commented on this article:



moltenmetal (Chemical)
8 Sep 11 8:27
ccfowler:  the "thorough and fair evaluation" you talk about is next to impossible.  And it's unnecessary.  All you need to do is to put a price on energy to account for the undesired effects which are currently accounted ZERO cost, and the market will sort out the winners from the losers.  Obviously, setting those relative costs is a matter for "thorough and fair evaluation", so it's not so simple- but it's a darn sight better than having governments betting on winners and losers via unsustainable subsidy.  

Pricing energy properly does one thing more important than any other:  it treats the economics of a Joule or a kWh the same way, whether it's new generation or consumption avoided by conservation and energy efficiency improvement.  The latter is always preferable because it has the lowest environmental impact over the long term.

In regard to waste heat, it's time we stopped treating this waste, and CO2, as wastes which have zero costs of disposal.  This will fundamentally alter the calculations in regard to what investments for the use of secondary heat resources are economically justified.  We used to throw away a lot of useful stuff until we altered the "tipping cost" for these wastes.
cranky108 (Electrical)
8 Sep 11 14:06
I believe we use waste heat to evaprate away recycled water. What's better than that?

Maybe adding wood chips to the coal mix is an idea, however when we tried that before it cloged up the ball mill.
lacajun (Electrical)
8 Sep 11 14:55
cranky108, some areas ban burning of wood for household heat.
jmw (Industrial) (OP)
8 Sep 11 18:24
One of the troubles with "green" is that a great many people are opting for wood burning stoves.

Problem one is that wood theft and illegal logging is now becoming a serious issue. Not surprising given the cost of a small bundle of wood. Also, even legitimate supplies of wood are bad news in  a country where woodland is already under pressure.

Problem two: yes, wood may or may not be carbon neutral, but it puts out a lot of other pollutants.
In the Uk those oldies among us can remember the smogs and the smoke from wood and coal fires permeating the atmosphere.
If you listen to the greenies the air is a poison soup and getting worse. Conversely, depsite a substantial population increase and a huge increase in car ownership, air quality today is far far better than it was within living memory. This is especially true in the industrial towns and cities.




cranky108 (Electrical)
9 Sep 11 9:31
In areas where there is significent amount of trees killed by insects, there is a push to harvest the wood. However so much of it is not of a quality for making lumber, and making mulch just adds to the already large quanity of mulch already produced. Mixing this wood into coal for power production is very attrictave because it reduces the amount of coal consumed.

As for the cost of wood in small bundles, exactly how dumb are you to pay that price, when a cord of wood is $100 to $200 a cord in many parts of the US.

My understanding is with the new requirements of wood stoves, significently reduces the amount of soot into the air.

And even more interesting is the increased use of wood pellets for home heating, which uses waste wood. The problem is there are so few pellets manufactured, and so much waste wood is land filled.

Instering enough is those of us with wind, don't have many smog problems. Probally the best use of wind yet.
berkshire (Aeronautics)
9 Sep 11 13:34
"""The "smart grid" concept is also potentially useful, but only to the extent of its capabilities.  It does not add any energy to the grid, it merely provides some control capabilities."""

  So where was the "Smart Grid" in southern California yesterday?
 It would appear that the cascade failure of the grid was control related.

The good engineer does not need to memorize every formula; he just needs to know where he can find them when he needs them.  Old professor

lacajun (Electrical)
9 Sep 11 14:07
I've sat through a few presentations on smart grid.  Inevitably the question arises about how much control will be exercised.  There are usually a lot of wide-eyed, raised eyebrow looks of shock and fear from the unhealthy, when the answer is "shut you off, if you bump your limit."  My eyes narrow to slits for even contemplating such control over an individual's life.  That is not what the USA is about.

I don't know why we can't be thankful for what we do have and let nature and free markets take their course.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

cranky108 (Electrical)
9 Sep 11 14:51
Smart Grid, dumb idea.

To think some one wants to cut off some customers, so others can have cheeper electricty. Maybe we can cut customers off when the wind dosen't blow.

The problem here is most people don't understand what smart grid is, and when you explain it to them, they don't want it.

Gee the goverment has done a great job of propraganda. Edwin Bernase would be proud.
davefitz (Mechanical)
15 Sep 11 10:27
As I understand it, the "smart grid" would allow greater integration of wind energy , by way of reducing demand for short periods ( by turning off 220V appliances) when wind energy has suddenly tripped offline .

One major impediment to larger wind farm acceptance is the inherent instability in the wind turbine output vs wind speed. Most large turbines will deliver rated output for wind speeds in the 20-55 mph range, but at 55.000000001 mph they trip offline. For large farms exposed to the same wind speed, this leads to a sudden loss of 1-2 GWe output in a matter of minutes, as demonstrated in Texas ERCOT a few years ago. At that time, the only alternative was to suddenly startup gas turbines and shut off certain supplies to certain industrial consumers- but with smart grid, they woould likely shut off power to homeowners HVAC, driers, hot water heaters, and heating systems for 30 minutes ( ie the time needed to startup the gas turbines).

Since that ERCOT event ( and similar events in europe)it has been theorized that by installing a wide grid of wind sensors wired to a central monitoring location ( dispatch) , one can better predict the onset of the instability and therefore startup the gas turbines earlier, or reduce homeowner demand via the smart grid. But there is no doubt that the smart grid would allow more flexibility to respond to such a disturbance without leading to a  system blackout.
lacajun (Electrical)
15 Sep 11 12:18
Smart grid, from the presentations I've seen, is also about gathering information about outlets and control of those outlets, from your refrigerator to your iron.  Who cares about the little, insignificant details of my life?  I'm a very low power user because I don't want to pay for it even at 0.10¢/kwh.  Call me cheap......

And who needs reams of data to the umpteenth power on those insignificant details?

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

IRstuff (Aerospace)
15 Sep 11 15:08
It's what I call the "Costco Effect"; while your details are small, when multiplied by 10 million, they can become major issues.  

The same deal applies at Costco.  My SB always asks, "why is our bill $200?"  Invariably, it's because while any individual item was only $10, buying 20 of them adds up.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

lacajun (Electrical)
15 Sep 11 15:44
IRStuff, I get the Costco effect.  I believe in the individual's right to privacy especially in their own home.  Whose business is it to know their coffee pot goes on at 5A?  Whose business is it to know an iron is used once a week?  Whose business is it to know a spouse is dying from cancer and requires more energy for in-home care?  Are they going to start scheduling people's lives in their own homes to that degree?

The last presentation I heard was an Englishman.  I have not researched his information and don't have time to; however, he said this was tried in Britain 30 or 40 years ago and it failed miserably.  Brits didn't want to do their laundry at 11P to get inexpensive rates, kids dictated some usage through illnesses, school, etc., and so on  They wanted to use energy when it was convenient for them and their family.

Some things need to be thought through more than they appear to be to me right now.  If we have capacity problems, build more power generation to meet demand.  And don't mess with economics to justify a position that would otherwise fail.

Now, I will stop exhaling because certainly I've hit someone's limit for CO2 pollution.  big smile

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

stevenal (Electrical)
15 Sep 11 16:05
So please explain to me why the Brits who do do their laundry at 11 (by simply setting a timer on the newer washers) should be subsidizing those who do their wash earlier. After all, the cost to supply the energy earlier is higher. Sounds like a socialist redistribution of wealth to me.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
15 Sep 11 16:30
None of my appliances are smart enough to tell a meter anything.

If you're gobbling up 5 kW at a certain time, I don't think they care how you consumed the power, just that you did.   


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

lacajun (Electrical)
15 Sep 11 17:35
IRstuff, blind energy consumption exist today but that is not what they want in the future per the presentations I've heard.  They want "intelligence" on every outlet to know what is plugged in and every other bit of data they can possibly get from it including usage.  Will they get there?  Dunno but that's the plan and I, as an older US citizen, don't like that much intrusion.  We have too much now.  I don't think we will change any more than the Brits did so it will not matter in the long run.  But, we'll have wasted a bucketload of money, which we don't have, on "innovation."

I attended a meeting recently wherein Hwy. 36, which runs betwixt Denver and Boulder was discussed.  Boulderites wanted mass transit because it is better for Mother Earth and all the other things Boulderites value.  I'm uncertain about the phase of the project but companies have invested in strategic spots betwixt the two cities, at great expense for some.  I almost bought in this area because it was touted as the next "great" area.  I forget who the speaker was but now Boulderites want to rip up Hwy. 36 and build a super-duper, 8-lane highway or some such thing, betwixt Denver and Boulder.  I don't remember the monies involved but they were not insignificant.

What happened to their much desired light rail project?  They don't want it because they want the convenience and luxury of their own little cocoons, i.e., their cars transporting them according to their free will.

I didn't think anyone would ever give up the freedom a car provides and I was not wrong.  We are Americans whether liberal or conservative.  We like and want that freedom.

I do.  When I am ready to do something, I am ready.  I don't care to wait for any form of mass transit.  I am old enough to have ridden mass transit, more than once, and dislike it for most cases except theme parks.  smile  But, younger people may be losing the flavor of freedom.  Time will tell....

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

cranky108 (Electrical)
15 Sep 11 19:16
So the word is getting out what exactly "smart Grid" is. Here again it is a concession for wind power, for some one to feel green, or so someone else can save money.

Now if "Smart Grid" was only used to control when you charged your "smart car", you might have something.

Here's an idea, change most of your applicances to gas (gas stove, heat, gas refridgator, gas air-conditioner). Then how effective would smart grid be?
jmw (Industrial) (OP)
15 Sep 11 20:15
I'm sure we discussed this in another thread.

Simply put, the potential is that with separate rings for different parts of the house, a smart meter/switchbox would be able to isolate different rings.
They can recognise various appliances, even if dumb, by their characteristic inrush and operating currents etc. A kettle is different to a phone charger etc.

But we are now seeing some smart devices able to communicate with your PC. By extension they can also communicate with your smart switchgear. Possibly self configuring wirless networks back to the smartmeter/switch box.
So instead of a brown out affecting whole districts, the smart grid system has the ability to reach into your home and shut off various appliances in the home.
Half time in the big game on TV and you may watch the adverts but not put the kettle on.

Of course, this may also involve a system of penalties for using excessive loads or "bad behaviour" such as leaving appliances on standby instead of switching them off. Automatic fines. Penalty points which influence how your home is treated during a shortage.

OK, so far so good/bad.
The fact is this system means big brother knows what you do all day long, what you put in and take out of the fridge, how many times you open the door and what programs you watch as well as identifying "anti-social" power use.

But I'll bet that no smart grid will shut down AL Gore's kettles
 but some low income schmuck with poor voting behaviour, can bet will find about all he can do is watch selected TV channels (probably all about climate change and full of subliminal content and as punishment for bad behaviour the big sports events will be denied.

I mean, it's all for your own good, isn't it?



berkshire (Aeronautics)
15 Sep 11 22:03
I believe you are resident in the UK, when I left there some 40 years ago, the local electricity boards were strongly promoting Night storage heaters. These were wired on a separate ring main with their own meter, and time switch. The idea was that they would only draw current, when the steam powered plants were idling, at a time  of day or night, when the generating companies were making far more current than they could dispose of, and therefore deeply discounted the rate. Now the idea seems to have swung to the exact opposite, where instead of being encouraged to do something, you are being punished for "Bad Behaviour".

The good engineer does not need to memorize every formula; he just needs to know where he can find them when he needs them.  Old professor

lacajun (Electrical)
15 Sep 11 22:31
To wit.......,28804,2026474_2026675_2044302,00.html

Boulder, according to people around here, is 25 square miles surrounded by reality.  Some Boulder residents verify the veracity of that statement.

Boulder County, from what one Weld County guy said, is $300,000,000+/- in debt, with no way to pay that debt.  Residents in the eastern part of Boulder Co. want to secede and join Weld Co.  Weld doesn't want their debt and they would bring about $100,000,000+/- of debt with them.  Weld Co. is very conservative and, as a result, is fairly solvent.  Weld also has more natural resources to help pay the bills and remain solvent.  They are O&G, mining, etc. friendly.  They understand free enterprise, capitalism, business, and how the economy works.

I've been skimming over some booklets I got from the US government on smart grid.  It does not include wind power but will center around smart meters, controlling individual loads in homes, and PVs.  Control is on its way and PV manufacturers and probably glass manufacturers lobbied heavily for smart grid.

They claim blackouts and brownouts are because of our aging infrastructure, aging power plants, and lack of capacity.  Yet they printed a lot of problems are due to chronic underinvestment.  Further, a little reading at wiki on blackouts in the US reveals most were due to weather related issues or earthquakes.  You cannot control nature and when it decides to issue up hurricanes, huge snowfalls, ice storms, high winds, floods, etc.  Some were caused by human error.  When I read disparate information like that, I become suspicious and tend to believe my emotions and rational mind are being manipulated.  I also tend to suspect the cause of some blackouts because of the crap Ken Lay and Enron pulled on people to give the appearance of energy shortages.

I may have posted this elsewhere and if I have, forgive me.  Another local municipality wanted its residents to conserve water because we have a water shortage.  They wanted to be good citizens so they acted in accordance with the request and conserved.  Turns out they were really good at conserving water.  They were so good the municipality lost so much revenue they were unable to meet their costs and had to tell people to start using water again.

These are examples to me of why the truth is so important and the truth from people who know which end is up and which hole to keep shut.  I am not convinced we have the right people talking yet.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

jmw (Industrial) (OP)
16 Sep 11 7:13
Oh yes, night storage heaters..... I cannot think of anything less efficient.

They are fine for soaking up unused power at night and limiting daytime excesses.
The trouble is they are not energy efficient. That isn't what they are designed for.

They are very user unfriendly.
You set them and during the night they generate heat in ceramic blocks and then, during the day, release the heat.
The trouble with the climate is that you don't know from one day to the next what heat you will need.
Coupled with these is the hot water problem. Dwellings with dual tariff electricity tend to have massive hot water storage tanks which are heated at night. SO you have to have enough hot water at sufficient temperature to cater for normal day time use.
The tanks have little or no thermostatic control, so tend to boil.
Also, since storage heaters are so impracticable, most people who have them tend to use even less efficient fan heaters for immediate heat.



cranky108 (Electrical)
16 Sep 11 10:03
FYI, there is a difference between brown out and black outs. Brown out can be made by your local utility to tell people to reduce demand (it rarely works, and results in many legal issues), or they can be caused by a lack or proper VAR support.
Blackouts can be made by a local utility to reduce consumption for lack of generation, fault clearing (usually local weather, some times from bad drivers, etc.), or human error.

The under investment is a way of saying "utilities have not installed enough lines for the political needs of the goverment". However many utilities are not allowed a ROI for lines to no where.

Yes there is a municipality where they had to tell people to start using water. The rest of the story is in an effort to reduce water usage, they convenced there largest customer, a coal power plant, to use recycled water in place of first use water. They also started using recycled water to water parks. And the water demand went down so much they were loseing money.

Given the water business is a very low profit business, and in most cases a non-profit. Which is why most water systems are owned by city goverments, or co-ops.
jmw (Industrial) (OP)
16 Sep 11 11:21
It seems the problem is they had water available but didn't have a means to supply the same amount to more customers.

This is the wonderful non-joined up thinking of governments and some suppliers. I bet they made the plea to reduce water just to show they were environmentally concious but counted on most people ignoring them. I bet they were caught by surprise when people actually did as asked.




lacajun (Electrical)
16 Sep 11 11:27
cranky108, in reading Big Brother's literature on Smart Grid then reading the causes of blackouts last night, I failed to make the correlation Big Brother intends.  Most of the problems were due to natural causes or human error.  I guess I wrote too much and that got lost.  I'll try to be more succinct.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

berkshire (Aeronautics)
16 Sep 11 13:30
Your comment below was right on even 40 years ago.

""They are very user unfriendly. You set them and during the night they generate heat in ceramic blocks and then, during the day, release the heat. The trouble with the climate is that you don't know from one day to the next what heat you will need.""

My father and I were installing Night storage electric floors in the early 1960s in the UK and they had all of the problems you just describe.  One day you would be cooking in the room and have all the doors and windows open, the next day you would be freezing, running fan heaters.

The good engineer does not need to memorize every formula; he just needs to know where he can find them when he needs them.  Old professor

jmw (Industrial) (OP)
16 Sep 11 13:34
Maybe we can incite the greenies to have them banned.
The only trouble is the alternative is natural gas or oil fired.
But I'm sure storage heaters will actually appeal to greenies as a means to store wind turbine generated heat when they run and release it when they don't. Still no thought for convenience, but what people want or need isn't high on their agenda.



cranky108 (Electrical)
16 Sep 11 14:43
Lacajun, It is my belief that most electrict utilities design and plan for 99.9% power availability, and planning or building above that increases the cost in an expontial manor. Most people are happy with that, and not willing to pay more for what I call fluff. Utilities also only build what they are allowed to build by the local commissions, or board.

People in DC want to spend what they believe is a big pot of money they believe utilities have on projects they favor for what ever. The issues are simple, utility are built to serve there customers, not wind farms. And wind developers can't afford to build transmission lines and make a profit. So the desire is to shift the cost to the utilities thinking they have all this money.

The issue of blackouts should be simple. We can't avoid them 100%.
The issue of brownouts because of VAR support seems simple to the simple minded, but is very complex. Simple capacitor support of vars, only works so much. At some point rotating machines are needed. Wind generation dosen't qualify because they depend on capacitors to supply the required VARS (Induction machines don't produce VARs, they consume them).

Water will become a big issue, and with farmers using most of the water, and a big farm lobby, it will be hard to get water rights. The ideas of cleaning and reusing water, or just reducing the use of it will become a big thing. It will affect many water utilities, not just how they operate, but how they bill there customers.  
lacajun (Electrical)
16 Sep 11 18:14
cranky108, the plants I've worked in were the same.  Money talks the same language everywhere.  Some adhered to Crosby Zero Defects, which is brutal, in addition to up time issues.  Down time is always unpleasant for the one causing it.  Been there, done that, the T-shirt is always too big.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

cranky108 (Electrical)
18 Sep 11 1:13
The bitter sweet is recieving the t-shirt for a project you don't agree with. They are also difficult to work on.

Wind farms are hard to work on, because they won't give you the information you need, but they expect you to give them the information they want.

Other plants have simular issues in that they expect, but don't deliver.

The interesting thing is people don't trust utilities, thinking they are all greedy corporations. It never sinks in that some utilities are non-profit.
berkshire (Aeronautics)
18 Sep 11 2:38
      "  It never sinks in that some utilities are non-profit."

  Yes, but did they intend to be that way?


The good engineer does not need to memorize every formula; he just needs to know where he can find them when he needs them.  Old professor

lacajun (Electrical)
18 Sep 11 18:37

Quote (cranky108):

Other plants have simular issues in that they expect, but don't deliver.

I respectfully disagree.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

stevenal (Electrical)
19 Sep 11 11:33
"Yes, but did they intend to be that way?"


cranky108 (Electrical)
19 Sep 11 14:43
There are exceptions to everything.

Yes some utilities do intend to be non-profit.

And I do believe that often ther is a disconnect between designer and user. And having been on both sides (designer and user), that is our jobs as engineers to do better.
However, there are those among us who desire profit over technical execelence (or maybe we just have a boss like that).

I still don't see wind generation designers giveing much in the way as modeling tools for there products.
Maybe that is just the wind industrys attitude, "It's your problem, deal with it".
SomptingGuy (Automotive)
23 Sep 11 5:25
Without a natural gas pipeline to the area, homes where I grew up have limited choices for heating:

Night storage heaters. Horrible things.
Solid fuel. All that shovelling of coal/anthacite.
Oil. Requires a big tank somewhere.

There's still no gas there. My mother uses bottled propane for her heating. Now that is VERY expensive.

- Steve

lacajun (Electrical)
23 Sep 11 14:18
SomptingGuy, we grew up with a butane tank in the pasture for the hot water heater, stove/oven, and space heaters.  Crude but we made it and didn't suffer any more than today.  There were times Mr. Tom, the butane deliverer, would give Mother a bit extra or let her pay when she could.  We all attended the same small country church and he knew our circumstances.  There are things about those days I miss.  :)

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

SomptingGuy (Automotive)
26 Sep 11 8:49
The propane delivery guy in my mother's village is probably the analog of the old milk man. The previous one died young (!), but he was a ginger, so we'd all know.

- Steve

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