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Wind Power

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Part of my work involves analysis and siting for wind power. I'm fairly new at it but have enjoyed learning it. One thing about wind power that I find entertaining is the attitudes surrounding it. It seems as though people's feelings about it may be as important as the science and financials. I know, I'm probably not making sense. For example: If I mention a site I'm evaluating, somebody will either pick one of two monologues to ramble into. 1-"That's great! You can sell the power back to the power company." or 2-"Those things kill tons of birds. Terrible!" What I find interesting about this is that both ideas are invalid, yet very popular. I evaluate small systems, which are not used to generate power for sale, but only for use on site and net metering. I even heard somebody call wind turbines "gross polluters" the other day. I thought that was interesting, hearing that term I first heard many years ago in California's war against the automobile. I can't help but think of "check your premises".

For the most part I just look at the financials, the science of the available wind resource, the local environment (including things like neighbors, surface roughness of the surrounding terrain, etc), and try to generate an expected payback. The conclusion I've come to is that very few sites are worth the effort. However, there are many sites with great potential that have yet to be tapped. I actually haven't dealt with any government subsidies (another popular story). There are some good incentives here from the utilities, however.

I'm curious about what my fellow Ayn Rand fans think of the subject, or if any of you have ever looked into it.

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Part of my work involves analysis and siting for wind power. I'm fairly new at it but have enjoyed learning it. One thing about wind power that I find entertaining is the attitudes surrounding it. It seems as though people's feelings about it may be as important as the science and financials. I know, I'm probably not making sense. For example: If I mention a site I'm evaluating, somebody will either pick one of two monologues to ramble into. 1-"That's great! You can sell the power back to the power company." or 2-"Those things kill tons of birds. Terrible!" What I find interesting about this is that both ideas are invalid, yet very popular. I evaluate small systems, which are not used to generate power for sale, but only for use on site and net metering. I even heard somebody call wind turbines "gross polluters" the other day. I thought that was interesting, hearing that term I first heard many years ago in California's war against the automobile. I can't help but think of "check your premises".

For the most part I just look at the financials, the science of the available wind resource, the local environment (including things like neighbors, surface roughness of the surrounding terrain, etc), and try to generate an expected payback. The conclusion I've come to is that very few sites are worth the effort. However, there are many sites with great potential that have yet to be tapped. I actually haven't dealt with any government subsidies (another popular story). There are some good incentives here from the utilities, however.

I'm curious about what my fellow Ayn Rand fans think of the subject, or if any of you have ever looked into it.

Wind turbines would be a great niche source for electric power in areas of the world that cannot be hooked to a grid, but have steady wind blows. It sounds just right for the Frozen North.

Bob Kolker

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It is generally very expensive compared with traditional methods and overall is heavily subsidized by the government. Don't assume that because you don't see direct subsidies where you are working that there aren't any upstream in the financial flow. You will have to look into it.

The most serious affect in siting, assuming a site that works to convert energy, is the excessive noise from the blades near homes. Politically, the viros don't want them in their wilderness "viewsheds" and are frantic over birds. They talk a lot about "alternative energy" because they want to destroy the energy industry, but ultimately balk at anything that works.

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In Europe they are a populist government's answer to the green lobby's continuous whining. Most people don't know any better so they are happy to see the coast and fields fill up with turbines (plus anybody arriving by plane then thinks the country is green).

So I have an instinctive negative reaction to the mere mention of wind power.

It has its uses, as you mentioned, especially in remote areas with strong wind where the stuff can provide power to applications which would be hard to wire to the grid. Nothing new here, remember the old US farms and their iconic windmill.

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It has its uses, as you mentioned, especially in remote areas with strong wind where the stuff can provide power to applications which would be hard to wire to the grid. Nothing new here, remember the old US farms and their iconic windmill.

In Holland wind-power was used early on because there is a good steady wind blow from the North Sea. Windmills were popular before reasonably efficient steam engines were available and before electric generators were developed. The Dutch windmill is iconic of Holland prior to electrification.

If the power is there and it can be used in a comparatively efficient manner, then why not use it? The sun pours out its energy upon us in vast quantities. If there is an economic way of tapping into that energy, it only makes sense to do it.

Bob Kolker

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Politically, the viros don't want them in their wilderness "viewsheds" and are frantic over birds. They talk a lot about "alternative energy" because they want to destroy the energy industry, but ultimately balk at anything that works.
Certainly. "The goal of the enviornmentalist is the extinction of man." Can't remember where I heard that. Ha-ha..."viewsheds".

There are a few topics in my life that I know something about; just a few :D . Perhaps it's just "getting smarter in my old age". But, one thing I've noticed with people is a common tendancy to form really strong opinions based on poorly developed premises. Wind power is one such area where I see this from people. Most people have strong opinions (either pro or con) and a vast majority haven't a clue about what they're saying. It's troubling to me because I think it makes people easy to lead estray. "Sheeple". Note: I don't see that in the comments here and I guess I'm not really surprised. Objectivists, it seems, have a strong grasp on deduction. I really like that.

In my work, I've been surprised at how few sites really are economically feasible for wind power. I'm conservative in my analysis and have even been a pain in the rear for manufacturers who have put out overly optimistic data on their equipment. At the same time, as I suppose it is for many "green" things, I see people willing to open their wallets to use a technology like wind power when the payback just isn't there, and they really don't have a grasp on what they're buying.

It makes me think of Al Gore a little bit. Honestly, I'm on the fence regarding global warming, and if man would have any influence over it. But, it's Gore's snake-oil approach of selling the idea to Joe Lunchbucket that really bothers me. I understand there are kiosks in airports now where people can slide their credit cards after a flight to buy back "carbon credits". Whan an uncomfortable concept.

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But, it's Gore's snake-oil approach of selling the idea to Joe Lunchbucket that really bothers me.

Since they haven't been lobotomized by the Humanities departments of our "best" universities, the Joes aren't buying much of it. It's the eduMacated that buy into this stuff and, falling back on what's been pounded into them, have no problem enslaving the Joes to do what's necessary.

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It makes me think of Al Gore a little bit. Honestly, I'm on the fence regarding global warming, and if man would have any influence over it. But, it's Gore's snake-oil approach of selling the idea to Joe Lunchbucket that really bothers me. I understand there are kiosks in airports now where people can slide their credit cards after a flight to buy back "carbon credits". Whan an uncomfortable concept.

Better that than a. enforce it on everybody via extra taxation (e.g. green tax on air travel from and to the UK) and b. enforce the payment regardless of your desire to pay it or not during private transactions (e.g. pixmania in France tagging a 4 euro "eco-contribution" to any electronics purchase; no, it is not optional).

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In Holland wind-power was used early on because there is a good steady wind blow from the North Sea. Windmills were popular before reasonably efficient steam engines were available and before electric generators were developed. The Dutch windmill is iconic of Holland prior to electrification.

If the power is there and it can be used in a comparatively efficient manner, then why not use it? The sun pours out its energy upon us in vast quantities. If there is an economic way of tapping into that energy, it only makes sense to do it.

Bob Kolker

Sounds reasonable. But there are a number of problems with wind power when incorporated into a grid such as the Pacific Northwest power grid, where wind is not so steady and hydroelectric power from the Columbia River dams is vastly more stable and productive [i'm currently working at Bonneville Power Administration, which manages the NW power grid and forecasts and schedules power from the Federal Columbia River Power System]. Wind is mostly an annoyance and even a liability, since it is so hard to forcast reliably. Even though it's producing in kilowatt-hours rather than the dam gigawatt-hours, it can blow transformers and lines by overloading parts of the grid which are expecting a certain range of power to service long-term contracts and suddenly find themselves with a shot of extra production which may or may not be needed at that time to serve actual demand. Remember, at the grid level, there is no storage, except the estimated potential of geothermal sources, reserves of oil & gas resources, or dam water levels. In terms of actual ready-to-use power, storage is not an option. So, much of the time, when the winds aren't blowing, the windmills lay idle; when the winds are blowing, due to flowgate constraints, to protect the components of the grid, the wind generation is turned off and the windmills lay idle, or, actually, they rotate disconnected from the grid. Wind power -- being a Green Initiative -- is a huge bullet point on BPA's annual reports and they tout the heck out of it, but it's really meaningless in the context of their overall power generation. It's a means of gaining big state and federal subsidies and green street-cred [it's Oregon, land of eco-nuts]. The BPO CEO was glowing in his annual speech to the troops about salmon breeding, dam breaches (for salmon breeding), the Federal Charities drive, and wind farm growth, and said, enthusiatically "If you ignore that one red dot [on the overhead], we did pretty well!" That "red dot" was our financial losses for the year. There's a different kind of economics operating here.

The best use of wind (and solar) power, as it has been for centuries, is for the individual user, such as a farm, or partially self-sustaining home. There, you can turn off the power from the utilities and use your own, or feed it to a battery for later use. A similar argument applies to solar power. The inefficiencies for both in this case are negligible compared to the far lower demand. It makes sense. It does not make sense for large-scale, grid-sized generation, except in those areas in which wind is virtually a constant and other options are not available. If it weren't massively subsidized, it wouldn't even show up on the grid at all, at least in the U.S.

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It does not make sense for large-scale, grid-sized generation, except in those areas in which wind is virtually a constant and other options are not available. If it weren't massively subsidized, it wouldn't even show up on the grid at all, at least in the U.S.

Yes. For something that is hooked into the grid, one needs reliable baseline power. Hydroelectric is a good candidate if the water flows through an impound, nuclear power and power that comes from a steady heat source geothermal or burning fuel. Stuff like sun and wind or o.k. in isolation or added to already existing baseline power. With panels on the roof one can rig the system so that power generated from the panels is used and the excess is fed back into the grid. When the sun is not shining, one gets power from the grid. There are all sorts of neat things that can be done.

Anyone who says there is an energy shortage has not been paying attention.

Bob Kolker

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It does not make sense for large-scale, grid-sized generation, except in those areas in which wind is virtually a constant and other options are not available. If it weren't massively subsidized, it wouldn't even show up on the grid at all, at least in the U.S.
I like it for some areas, small systems, net meetering. There actually are some areas where it makes sense on a larger scale. There are a couple areas in California that have already been utilized for this. Shiloh Wind Farm is a good example - strong, steady winds. But, I also see the politicization of wind power, as you point out. That, surely, will finish it as the greenies squeeze all they can from their golden goose, science be damned (no pun). I love hydro-electric dams for power. The darn environmentalists stop at nothing to prevent new damns in California, however.

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