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Wind Energy, Part 1: Introduction

Perhaps you’ve seen them standing high on the horizon, rotating at speeds that appear as sluggish. And they seem to be popping up almost everywhere yet unexpectedly as you drive somewhere new. They are the source of wind energy, the wind towers of today.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the huge array of wind towers in California just outside of Palm Springs. It was 1986, over thirty years ago when wind energy wasn’t as popular as today. Even then, the wind farm one cruises through on Interstate 10 (known improperly as “the ten” in California) was a timeline of wind tower development as technology advanced and size increased. The wind farm seemed to go on forever bouncing along the hilly landscape with many blades chopping in synchronicity.

Fast forward to now when wind farm installation is growing at a rate of 30% a year. How would I know this? Why, the government published it1 of course. It seems we have this funded unit called NREL that produces nothing really besides generating reports and employing post graduate PhD’s (at least that’s all they ever advertise for). That is somewhat of an oxymoron as post graduate PhD’s are out of touch with reality and typically have English as a second language so how can they be writing reports about factual situations as they exist?

Far be it for a native English speaking, 30-year writer, 30 years of industry experience, fourth generation taxpayer like me to expect to be hired a government entity that writes reports. I know, I’ve tried. I think I’ll stick to writing patents as they are criticized by the government instead of funded by Uncle Spam. You’ll like NREL’s reports, though. It seems as though the PhD’s there are pretty good with PowerPoint and Excel. You’ll get figures, lots of figures, presented in a way that has impact. Just remember folks, there’s such a thing as negative impact. Read between the lines

What I found was that the figures are somewhat disheartening. The reason is renewable energy contributes a minor percentage (6.4%) of America’s electricity1 while Germany on the other hand is paying their customers back and even paying them to USE electricity. This and the fact that wind energy is “free2 ” yet costs more on your bill is even more of a reason to be deterred. However, there is good news among the bad as well. You just have to look for it.

This whole house of cards has to consider the real cause of the high cost of electricity; energy losses.

Source slide 15 of '2015 Renewable Energy Data Book1'

Source slide 15 of “2015 Renewable Energy Data Book1

What’s not mentioned in these reports is the cause of the losses. The fact is, we are wasting half of our energy in losses. Allow me to repeat that so Washington and the industry can hear me, “WE ARE WASTING MORE THAN HALF OF OUR ENERGY”. Deer in the headlights response. I figgered as much.

Is the loss in the transmission or at the load? Answering that might have a lot of bearing as to why wind energy is more costly. I’ll address the usual chafe on cost that’s thrown up in another blog. One of the “excuses” given for the high cost of wind energy is the location of the wind source doesn’t match the location of the demand. This would explain the loss adding cost at roughly 50% of the consumption1 . You don’t see many wind farms located in Wyoming where the W stands for wind. Also realize that Wyoming does have wind farms although it is a coal state so subsidies take a back seat. Wyoming is one of the least populated states in the nation and one reason is the wind that combines with the cold temperatures making winter unbearable. Therefore, the source is there yet the load isn’t.

One such place that doesn’t have much wind is Golden, Colorado where NREL is located. Granted there is a windy section between Golden and Boulder with a few of NREL’s wind towers as a sand box to play in however they are rarely spinning. Seems like just another government slush fund idea for the DOE to have a desirable place to take trips to outside the misery of the Beltway rather than an actual wind research facility. On the other hand, we do have 300 days of sunshine each year which beats the DC funk by miles. Hence the NREL solar research might be huge however having driven by the facility numerous times, I’ve yet to see a solar panel on the place. Maybe that’s because it’s positioned up away from it all so you can’t see the volleyball nets used to while away time on the American buck.

As I said earlier, there is some good in the report as far as growth in the addition of wind energy. Slide 13 of the NREL Report1 shows that coal generation facilities were retired at a rate of 74% whereas wind additions increased 46% as per slide 13 of the NREL report1 . Of course slide 12 of the NREL report states that “In 2015, wind electricity installed capacity increased by more than 12%” but hey, it’s a government report that was probably presented to congress as they slept or thought of their next free meal courtesy of a lobbyist, if they even showed up in the first place. Still in all the reduction of coal fired plants fits perfectly with my national strategy: deplete the world’s other resources first and you’ll maintain power without firing a shot.

Slide 13 of '2015 Renewable Energy Data Book1'

Slide 13 of “2015 Renewable Energy Data Book1

References

  1. 2015 Renewable Energy Data Book
  2. Germany Gets Free Power for Christmas as Wind Power Set to Surge.” by Rachel Morison December 22, 2016, 5:41 AM MST
  3. Free As The Wind’: The True Cost Of Wind Energy, Posted at 5:20 pm on November 16, 2013 by Steve Maley

3 comments on “Wind Energy, Part 1: Introduction

  1. Brian_Harrington
    January 25, 2017

    Do we really need to politicize Planet Analog with vitriol like this?  I enjoy the magazine, but I expect informative articles, not snarky polical commentary.  Save it for your facebook posts.

     

    For a more balanced source, I suggest readers check out this Bloomberg article.

     

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-23/economics-will-keep-wind-and-solar-energy-thriving-under-trump

     

  2. Steve Taranovich
    February 19, 2017

    Hi Brian,

    First, I want to thank you for being a part of the Planet Analog audience and I do appreciate any feedback from my audience.

    Planet Analog is not a political blog, nor do I want it to be. It is;however, a highly diverse blogsite with an eclectic style in the range of topics and author personalities that emerge each day on this site.

    The author of this blog, Scott Deuty, has knowledge of patent law as it relates to the electronics world as well as knowledge and experience in electronics design; that makes for a really good blog discussion with tech insights to offer our Planet Analog audience.

    Just as some of us occasionally like spice in our food, Mr. Deuty mixes a bit of spice into his technical blogs occasionally, but only when it relates to his technical topic—as in this case. I like when our audience gets this kind of “Wait! What?” moment amidst a sea of technical facts and opinions. This is pretty much the only blog that does that which adds to the eclectic nature of this site.

    I absolutely do not want to make Planet Analog a forum for political-oriented back-and-forth opinions and justifications, but I do respect your right to counter Mr. Deuty's comment with your Bloomberg article.

    So please let's make Mr. Deuty's comment and your rebuttal be the final word on this and let's enjoy and learn from all the Planet Analog content.

     

  3. StephenGiderson
    August 30, 2018

    It is interesting to learn about how this alternative energy is doing its job in helping the environment be a much more conducive place to live in. Apart from solar, wind energy comes in next to have proven itself as a good source of alternative energy that can be trusted to benefit the environment in the long run. We usually take these benefits for granted so having the opportunity to read up on several aspects of this energy, really enlightens me in a way. It will not be long before we would all reach a stage whereby we start to worry about just how huge our carbon footprint has truly become and this sector is the one to interest us eventually.

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