What is needed to take Wind Energy to the next level?

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What is needed to take Wind Energy to the next level?

Postby Ken Carlson » Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:26 pm

What will make Wind a bigger driver?

According to American Wind Energy Association, there is 25,170 MW of installed generation in the United States (overtaking Germany in 2008 - 23,902MX) and 4,451 MW under Construction in the U.S.

With wind turbines now getting to the 5MW size and with international manufacturers coming into our country the massive growth of the wind turbine industry is taking place now.

U.S. wind power capacity has grown by an average of 32% each year for the last 5 years. Wind power provided 42% of the entire new U.S. generating capacity added in 2008, up from 35% in 2007.

Nearly 48 billion kWh of electricity was generated by wind power in the U.S. in 2008 - enough for the equivalent of 4.5 million average American homes.

With the right government policies, Wind power could provide at least 20% of the nations electricity by 2030.

In comparison to Nuclear Power we should not rule it out of the picture for multiple forms of energy our going to have to be with us for years to come but with the many environmental issues that have faced Nuclear power over these past years I do not see expanded nuclear power construction taking place in the near future. Nuclear power presently supplies about 20% of the electricity in the United States but due to high cost and worries over what could happen there has been no construction of new reactors in the U.S. since 1979.

FYI: U.S. News and World Report April 2009 has numerous article addressing “Can America Prosper in the New Green Economy.
Ken Carlson
 
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Re: What is needed to take Wind Energy to the next level?

Postby Mike Chritton » Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:37 pm

Regarding Wind Power, some points I would love to have answered:
1. One of the bigger detractors to wind power is that it is not 100% reliable, so there will need to be a 100% backup source of continuously available infrastructure in place to supply that power when wind is absent from the grid. One possible answer is storage of excess power during peak wind generation, but I ma not aware of any viable solution sat present and given the efficiency losses involved in storing and recovering that energy I wonder what the true cost/benefit ratio will ever be.
2. How many acres of land and how many turbines have to be built to reliably produce the same reliable energy as one large coal-fired plant? I am not a fan of coal, “clean-burning” or otherwise in part because of the lives lost each year mining the coal as well as the emissions issues, but I heard someone on a radio show state that all the US wind farms combined do not generate as much energy annually as one coal plant. IS that a valid statement?
3. What is the real carbon footprint of a wind farm when you consider the mining, manufacturing, installation, and transmission of electricity from wind-friendly locales to actual point of use consumers? I have never seen any data on that, although I have searched online a few times trying to find that information.

Full disclosure: Yes, I am pro-nuclear. The issue of side effects of nuclear power is often used to stimulate the knee-jerk fears that people have regarding anything nuclear. Three-Mile Island scared people, but despite a MAJOR meltdown of the reactor core it actually produced no ill-effects other than crippling the US nuclear industry. Chernobyl did release contaminants across a wide region, but the actual deaths that have resulted from that aberration have been reported to have been as low as 47. Even the higher estimates of total possible illnesses/deaths are lower than the number of coal miners that die annually from mine collapses and premature death from black-lung and similar illnesses directly attributable to coal mining.
Mike Chritton
 
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Re: What is needed to take Wind Energy to the next level?

Postby Probir Ghosh » Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:38 pm

While I am not an expert in Wind Technologies, I do believe, wind energy is a very viable Sustainable Energy Initiative. With massive scaling, transmission costs even at $6M/mile becomes a fraction of the total costs, and my understanding is in high wind areas, the costs are now in the 8- 10cents/kWh range with today’s technology. As Ken points out if the new 5MW turbines come up and they further tweak their technologies, their prices/kWh should further go down.

As to your question about the carbon footprint wind technologies have currently have a very low carbon foot print after considering cradle to cradle lifecycle (actually slightly lower than solar as it stands today) .

There has been a fairly deep study done by Stanford University and California PUC commission to show that if wind and solar are very complementary as the 4-5 years study showed most wind generation is in the night and solar generated energy during daytime. Their report contends that wind and solar can meet 70% of the electric energy needs of California without significant investments in transmission and storage.

To me what can be an ideal scenario is if we can have Wind, Solar (their biggest issue is to drive their costs down aggressively further, and massive scaling under a long term structured policy is the only way to achieve that) and Nuclear (get the fear and perception issues resolved through massive education campaign, instead of trying to sweep concerns under the carpet) complemented by Hydro and gas turbines to manage the valleys and shortfalls can be a the dream scenario.

In parallel, if USA as the largest source of coal reserves, find an economically viable solution for lowering the carbon footprint, that can be a worthwhile cause too.

What I’d like everyone to start thinking about is how to grow the Sustainable Energy Initiative Pie 10,000 -20,000 times more from the current usage. SEI is an emerging market and is a blip on the radar screen right now. We should consider all energy sources as potential complimentary resources as long as they meet the SEI criteria. Our traditional mindset forces us to always think about a mature market/ limited resources scenario where it is completely logical to think of getting a larger slice of the pie. Right now the pie is really tiny for SEI and it makes total sense to band together and grow the pie. We can worry about getting a bigger slice of the pie when the market has grown 10,000 times more and starts to mature.
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