Discussion on Large-Scale Wind Power

ArqaneArqane Solar Expert Posts: 31 ✭✭
Had to come to my old, favorite forum after reading another article on pushback against large-scale wind power.  There are always good, realistic discussion here, and I wanted to see what people think about it.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of large-scale wind (har, har).  There are the commonly discussed issues, like the effect on birds, which is certainly an issue but debatable how much of one.  There are the problems from living too close to one, which really ultimately just means that they need a pretty significant allocation of land to make people comfortable with them.

But for me, the big issue is really ultimately in the economics.  Brand new, huge turbines are great.  The manufacturing for them is amazing.  But all I see for the most part is a maintenance nightmare.  They're composed of so few pieces, that when one goes, you've got a huge replacement job and cost.  Yes, the fewer pieces in a system makes problems a bit less likely, but for something that massive, that's not always a benefit.  And the difficulty in simple maintenance... having to climb 50m+ for many maintenance issues isn't a walk in the park.  Offshore turbines have some benefits over land-based ones, but you're adding another huge maintenance problem.  Those huge turbines can generate a lot of power and money pretty quickly, but I'm surprised that insurance companies will touch them.  I have a pretty cavalier attitude, but I'd shy away from investing in those huge turbines because of potential catastrophic failures.

I think that utility-scale wind really needs to head in a different direction.  I'm aware that surface area and altitude are key to generating power in general, and that it's exponential.  But I think for wind to keep making inroads (not that it's doing poorly), it'll have to be more attractive.  Perhaps controlling the environment might be a way to work around some of the problems it has.  Obviously wind generally works best by simply harnessing what we're given, and you don't want to put additional power into the system since you'll always work with diminished returns.  But using fixed environments, like tunnels with a high pressure/low pressure side or something similar would give a little more control to wind power.  Until something changes with the trajectory of wind power, I'll be putting my long-term bets more on solar, since it's more modular, easier to control, and generally requires less difficult maintenance.


  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,027 admin
    Wind power gets the highest government subsidies--They are not there because they are economically viable.

    This is a classic miss-match between the load (your house, your business, etc.) and the energy source.

    An analogy... You are driving a car, from your driveway, onto city streets, freeway, snow, rain, hills, etc. And your engine and you got a crazy friend that is controlling the throttle on your car without even looking out the window. That is a pretty useless vehicle. Your only choices are to slam on the brakes, go slow, or turn off the ignition as you drive down the road.

    That is the problem with wind power too... People want their power on demand, and on there schedule. You do not plug in the electric water heater on a windy afternoon, and turn off your A/C on a still/hot day.

    When the amount of "alternative energy" is 10% or less of the grid--The energy companies can sort of "make do" by varying the output of their generators--10% or less is "rounding error" for a large grid.

    When you get over 10%, then the energy company has to operate in a completely different mode... They have to run (boilers hot, generators at speed on standby, etc.) to pick up loads in fractions of a second as the wind varies. They are not saving fuel and money now... They are simply wasting energy (coal, gas, water from hydro, etc.) to keep ready at a moments notice.

    Base power plants (huge coal, nuclear, etc.) can take 24 hours +/= from a cold start to generating power. Hydro can start up in a few minutes (and that is why utilities love hydro for varying load support, plus it is a cheap source of energy).

    There are old threads here that show Denmark, Germany, etc. have not shut down old coal powered stations--They cannot, because their customers would be in the dark at times. Wind power is not a "dispatchable" energy source (you cannot call on wind power "on demand").

    You can read here (and the comments) about all the back-filling that engineers, companies, and politicians are doing to cover for the very expensive green power disaster that they are creating:


    And for what? If this is to reduce CO2 emissions, then it is not working (fracking natural gas and oil vs coal in the US has reduced our CO2 output--And nuclear is the solution here--IF CO2 is going to "kill us"--Which it is not, CO2 is plant food and not a significant green house gas--Water is a huge moderator in our climate--And the computer models do a poor job of simulating that).

    So--If CO2 reduction is not happening with wind. And saving fossil fuels is not happening--Then way are we doing this. Because of corrupted government and scientists. And that creates a flood of companies that are willing to siphon off some of the cash, and recycle it back into the government process.

    Until there is a cost efficient, reliable, large scale storage system--Solar, wind, etc. are not going to be of much help when connected to our national power grid. Pumped water storage is about as close as we can come today to cost effective energy storage (efficient, cheap, quick turn around, etc.). But few places have water+mountains+resources. And out west--The anti-dam movement has stopped most dam construction and is even starting to take dams down and make rivers wild again.

    Pick anything power related--Generation, storage, loads, and do the math. Very quickly you see how things begin to break down. And overlay reality over expectations.

    Nobody here would suggest that people run their off grid homes on solar panels + gasoline gensets. Everyone has sources of electricity (solar, wind) that charge batteries--Then draw energy from the batteries to power their loads--When needed.

    And there are a few loads that can work well when connected to solar panels directly--Pumping loads (water, even A/C sometimes)--Pump during the day (irrigation, pond, cool house during day). But that is not going work for everyone and not for all loads. Go to the gas station to pump gas for your car--And you have to wait for the sun to rise, clouds to clear--Can't pump gas for 4 days during stormy weather--Nope, not going to be an economically successful gas station.

    In my humble opinion.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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