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World's Largest Wind Farm Gets Green Light 388

Posted by Hemos
from the a-windy-tomorrow dept.
cliffski writes "According to the BBC website the UK govt has just given the go ahead to two large offshore wind-farm projects. Between them the schemes would produce enough renewable electricity to power about one million households. The larger London Array project covers 144 sq miles (232 sq km) between Margate in Kent and Clacton, Essex and will be the world's biggest when it is completed. The £1.5bn scheme will have 341 turbines rising from the sea about 12 miles (20km) off the Kent and Essex coasts, as well as five offshore substations and four meteorological masts"
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World's Largest Wind Farm Gets Green Light

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  • by SNR monkey (1021747) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:43AM (#17286530)
    Last time I checked, 144 square miles would be 373 square kilometers. Remeber is 1.609*1.609 *144...
    • by smaddox (928261) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:46AM (#17286594)
      thats the Imperial-Metric square mile. Oft' confused with the strict Imperial square mile.

      It was invented solely for the purposes of this article, and has yet to reach widespread use.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SNR monkey (1021747)
      Ignoring my typos (must use preview), when I RTFA, it says

      the larger London Array project covers 90 sq miles (232 sq km) between Margate in Kent and Clacton, Essex.
      So, the 232 km^2 is correct, but the summary is wrong about the 144 square miles.
    • by mypalmike (454265)
      From the article:

      The larger London Array project covers 90 sq miles (232 sq km) between Margate in Kent and Clacton, Essex.
      The second wind farm, called the Thanet scheme, will cover 13.5 sq miles (35 sq km) off the north Kent coast.


      I'd call it 103.5 sq miles (267 sq km).
  • The Law of Unintended Consequences in full effect: http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=14562 [heartland.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tomknight (190939)
      Hopefully it'll kill off a few bloody seagulls. Maybe we should have a wind farm in central London to cut down on the vicious bastards.
    • by SNR monkey (1021747) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:53AM (#17286698)
      Compare the number of bird deaths from those windfarms to the number of bird deaths (and non-bird deaths) that would result if it was a coal burning power plant instead. Every project has costs (not all costs are $$). Hopefully the people in charge weigh the environmental costs as well as the monetary costs (sometimes the environmental costs end up being monetary costs anyway). Most large scale power generation techniques have an environmental impact.. The question is - do the benefits outweigh the costs?
    • Survival of the fittest my friend.

      I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that birds adapt very quickly to windmills. We built skyscrapers, and birds die when they fly into them, yet we haven't torn down our buildings. The stupid ones either die, breed in sufficient numbers to replace those lost, or adopt behavior such that they do not fly into them.
      • by udderly (890305) *
        I agree...but I wouldn't want to be the one to stand up and say that at a PETA meeting.
    • by randallman (605329) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:54AM (#17286720)
      Scarecrow. Duh.
    • by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:59AM (#17286798)
      I guess there has to be, or has already been, a decision about the acceptable tradeoffs before it is built. For a given amount of power from wind versus coal, which method is best overall, not just to birds or the pocketbook or the ozone layer.

      Typically in order to find out what the Unintended Consequences are things have to be built first, and while wind farms aren't exactly new neither are they common. As with most things the more widespread they become the more effort will be focused on correcting whatever problems they have.

      A friend and I had a similar discussion about cell phone towers while hunting this weekend. He was complaining that the woodcock population has been down lately, and I mentioned that one factor might be the continued proliferation of cell phone towers in our area. Towers were going up with solid beacon lights that screwed up the navigation systems of some migratory birds. A simple change to blinking beacons seems to be fixing the problem. Of course we had to find piles of woodcocks dead around cell phone towers before we even knew it was necessary.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 18, 2006 @12:03PM (#17286850)
      It really helps to have some perspective.
      Mans activity contributes to a vast number of bird deaths every year:
      1. Utility transmission and distribution lines, the backbone of our electrical power system, are responsible for 130 to 174 million bird deaths a year in the U.S.
      2. Collisions with automobiles and trucks result in the deaths of between 60 and 80 million birds annually in the U.S
      3. Tall building and residential house windows also claim their share of birds. Some of the five million tall buildings in U.S.
      4. Agricultural pesticides are "conservatively estimated" to directly kill 67 million birds pe year.

      In December of 2002, the report "Effects of Wind Turbines on Birds and Bats in Northeast Wisconsin" was released. The study was completed by Robert Howe and Amy Wolf of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and William Evans. Their study covered a two-year period between 1999 and 2001, in the area surrounding the 31 turbines operating in Kewaunee County by Madison Gas & Electric (MG&E) and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) Corporation.


      The report found that over the study period, 25 bird carcasses were found at the sites. The report states that "the resulting mortality rate of 1.29 birds/tower/year is close to the nationwide estimate of 2.19 birds/tower.16- The report further states, "While bird collisions do occur (with commercial wind turbines) the impacts on global populations appear to be relatively minor, especially in comparison with other human-related causes of mortality such as communications towers, collisions with buildings, and vehicles collisions."

      • by Ucklak (755284)
        5. Birds that fly into my large window that either die from impact or get their knocked out carcasses picked up by larger, predatory birds : approximately 15 a year.

        I know when it's time to clean the window then the outline of said bird is left on the window.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by End Program (963207)
        Tell the to the rich snobs trying to stop a wind farm off the coast of Nantucket, MA. All of a sudden, they have become bird advocates. http://www.saveoursound.org/node/119 [saveoursound.org] All while they drive their large SUV's. F'ing hypocrites Another example of we are for green power, except for NIMBY
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Duhavid (677874)
        So, the report was done by Howe'nWolf?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by truthsearch (249536)
      From what I've been reading, the largest turbines hardly kill any birds. Apparently the larger propellers move slower, giving birds time to avoid a collision.

      I'm much more curious to know the impact to the waters. Hundreds of pillars built into the sea floor might affect sea life or water currents.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I'm much more curious to know the impact to the waters. Hundreds of pillars built into the sea floor might affect sea life or water currents.

        What about the climate effects of sucking that much energy out of the wind?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by polar red (215081)
          from the article on wind power on wikipedia
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power [wikipedia.org]
          "An estimated 1% to 3% of energy from the Sun that hits the earth is converted into wind energy. This is about 50 to 100 times more energy than is converted into biomass by all the plants on Earth through photosynthesis." This gives you an idea of the scale.
    • by Angostura (703910)
      Before any windfarm is approved in the UK there is a tremendous amount of debate about the effect on birds, particularly where the farms are close to migratory routes. The exact sites would have been chosen with this in mind.
    • by jafiwam (310805)
      Aw go fook yourself already.

      Fluffy the neighborhood kitty kills way more songbirds, exotic birds, rare land mammals, rare land reptiles than any wind tower every will yet there is no one bitching about that.

      Radio antennae for Clearchannel do the same damn thing, nobody ever complains about them.... not to mention glass covered sky reflection having every goddamn downtown in every goddamn city on the planet kill more birds in a friggin day than all the wind towers in the world in a single day.

      Yeah, because t
    • Most of the Altamont Pass turbines were built back in the 80's. It's one of the earliest attempts at a major windfarm, so it's not surprising that they're chewing through raptors like buzzsaws.

      I say yank them down and replace them with more modern, more efficient, less bird-hungry turbines.
  • by syrinx (106469) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:45AM (#17286558) Homepage
    Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

      I don't know which is worse... the use of the term "renewable" (from an energy/mass-there-is-only-so-much-of-it point of view) or the use of the term "renewable" when you're talking about wind. The tides aren't renewable. Geothermal isn't renewable. Solar isn't renewable. These are all forms of energy that are simply used.

      Trees are renewable. Oil is renewable (um, if you're really patient). How can we expect to get people to think more critically
      • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:56PM (#17290662) Journal
        Sorry, but your distinctions are just silly.

        First off, language is about communication, and requires transmitter and receiver to agree on the meanings of symbols/words. "Renewable energy" is a well recognised term, and does its communciation job perfectly well, even if it doesn't quite match your idea of what "renewable" means. "Kick the bucket" similarly communicates an idea, despite having a meaning unrelated to do with kicking or buckets.

        Secondly, the word "renewable" is entirely justifiable in "renewable energy". It refers to energy souces which are constantly renewed, so that extracting energy from them depletes the source only for a short period of time (months or years for hydroelectric, hours for tidal, possibly minutes or hours for wind.)

        Finally, why should it be that harnessing solar power by photosynthesis is renewable, but harnessing it by photoelectric cell is not?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ScentCone (795499)
          First off, language is about communication, and requires transmitter and receiver to agree on the meanings of symbols/words. "Renewable energy" is a well recognised term, and does its communciation job perfectly well, even if it doesn't quite match your idea of what "renewable" means

          There's nothing at all wrong with language evolving. What I don't like is when it devolves - when two distinct words/phrases used to make the distinction between two similar but importantly different concepts are replaced wit
  • by mobiux (118006) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:49AM (#17286636)
    "Enough to power about 1 million homes."

    How about a MW output. That's a specific number that can be compared to other forms of electric generation.

    Is that one million homes in the late spring (mildest time of year), when no one is running a/c or heat?

    Or is that one million homes in the middle of summer when whole power grids collapse from the strain?

    Specifics please.
    • by LizardKing (5245) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:53AM (#17286684)

      How about a MW output.

      1.3GW according to the Register article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by simm1701 (835424)
      Following the link to the london array project gives 1GW peak power for 271 turbines which could power 750,000 homes (I assume the other array must produce 500MW to power the other 250,000

      This should mean that the new media mesurement of 1Hp (House power) is equal to 1.33KW peak power....
    • by NSIM (953498) on Monday December 18, 2006 @12:03PM (#17286858)
      > How about a MW output. That's a specific number that can
      > be compared to other forms of electric generation.

      According to the Register, it's 1.3GW

      > Or is that one million homes in the middle of summer when
      > whole power grids collapse from the strain?

      You are confusing US power requirements with UK. Vast majority of UK homes don't have A/C so you don't see that massive summer energy consumption spike, in fact quite the reverse, with fewer houses needing heat and daylight from 6am-10pm (give or take) the electricity requirements in the UK typically drop during the summer.
      • by terrymr (316118)
        Not 1.21GW ?
      • by el_womble (779715) on Monday December 18, 2006 @12:56PM (#17287804) Homepage
        We also take insulation more seriously: use brick/breze block cavity walls almost across the board and have double glazing - but compared to Scandiavians we're still savages when it comes to heat efficiency. I was in Stockholm a couple of weeks ago and the room was so hot because of the insulation I had to put a fan on to keep me cool.

        What I don't understand is that a wealthy and educated country like America sees air-conditioning as the solution to being too hot and not quadruple glazing. Insulation keeps you cool too (and makes it cheaper to run said air-conditioning if nothing else).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
          Well, where I live, A/C is pretty much a given. With Summer temperatures running in the mid 90s to the mid 100s (35-39c), there is no amount of insulation short of ~20 feet of earth thrown over your house that will make a difference. You're going to need something, and while insulation means that it'll be cooler until ~13:00, after that it just means it'll stay warm longer.

          Still, the first thing I did when I bought my new house was to put another layer of insulation in the attic, and get a quote for having
        • by budgenator (254554) on Monday December 18, 2006 @02:24PM (#17289340) Journal
          Actually the type of construction your talking about is pretty poorly insulated by american standards. Our windows are universally double pane, often with argon filling to reduce heat conduction, exterior wall are 15 cm thick with the wall filled with fiberglass insulation, and the attic has 30 to 45 Cm of insulation then the whole house is wrapped in plastic to prevent infiltration losses. Right now my thermostat is set at 62F and by opening the drapes to let some sun in the house stays between 65 and 68.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by iroll (717924)
          Well, there's also the matter of latitude to remember here, when comparing Europe and the USA. I live in Phoenix, which is at approximately the same latitude as Baghdad. Most of the USA lines up with the Mediterranean, not with Scandinavia.

          At high altitudes in AZ, you can get away with passive cooling if you have excellent insulation. You can open the doors and windows at night, and close them during the day, and keep your house livable. At low altitudes like Phoenix, however (~1500'), that's a fool's e
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by bdonalds (989355)
      "Enough to power about 1 million homes." How about a MW output. Specifics please.
      Maybe I can help. It will supply enough power to fill the Library of Congress two times over.
  • Mobile Farms (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:53AM (#17286694) Homepage Journal
    Why don't they put these wind farms on barges floating around the seas offshore, where the winds blow steady and reliable? Relocated when economical according to satellites tracking the seasonal winds.

    Barges covered with solar cells. And reverse-gyroscopes that generate power from waves and currents. They anchor landmines, don't they?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mad Dog Manley (93208)
      Why don't they put these wind farms on barges floating around the seas offshore

      Hmm, maybe you should have read the submission text, let alone the article. Let me quote for you:

      According to the BBC website ehe UK govt has just given the go ahead to two large offshore wind-farm projects

      Offshore, meaning, you know, not on land. On the water.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        The point is not so much the offshore location, as their mobility, as you could tell if you read my post's Subject. Mobile, as in moving. On the water.

        Side point: solar/gyro. Power stations capturing all the power passing through its point, not just the wind.
    • Sorry, I misinterpreted you on my first reply.

      I believe that the additional cost of installing windmills on a barge would not be economically feasible.

      To mount a windmill on a seaworthy barge is no small feat. These windmills are very, very heavy and require a very stable surface to be mounted on. Most large windmills require thousands of tons of concrete as a base. You would require the same foundation for a barge with a windmill on it.

      To relocate thousands of tons of windmill x 1000 windmills as the seaso
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I'm sure they ship the windmills on barges. Making those barges anchors for erect windmills is just more engineering. The kind that makes the current expensive immobile anchors work.

        I'm not so sure that the windmills can't retain generating efficiency while bobbing up and down, so long as they're facing the wind and remaining perpendicular to its direction. If anything, it's just more engineering to accommodate the extra degrees of freedom of motion for capturing its energy.

        As for relocation energy, they ca
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      From what I've heard, the sea is too aggressive an environment to build windmills in. Well, you can build them, but you'll have to repair and replace them so often that it's, effectively, not a good idea.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I bet geodesic construction, tensile strength rather than compressional, is seaworthy. If Buckminster Fuller designed these today, he'd use nanotube fiber composites, and maybe synthetic diamond bearings/joints. The diamonds are still power-hungry manufacturing, but the fibers can be made fairly cheaply. And the investment would reduce the costs even further.
  • Tides (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Monday December 18, 2006 @11:55AM (#17286728)
    I've never understood why the power of tides is not exploited more. In a short streach of coast around the UK, hundreds of millions of tons of water must be moved every 24 hours. I'm sure there must be a lot more energy in that than in the wind in the same area. Why isn't that exploited? Anyone know?
    • by simm1701 (835424)
      iirc it is. In scotland

      However I also beleive that there is a huge engineering challenge in order to anchor the generators effectively and economically
    • Re:Tides (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CmdrGravy (645153) on Monday December 18, 2006 @12:01PM (#17286820) Homepage
      The best place to harness tidal power is in river estuaries which tend to support large eco-systems dependant on the tides.

      Unfortunately I think most devices capabale of turning tidal energy into electricity tend to need to be built on a pretty large scale to worth while and this tends to totally destroy the eco systems in the immediate vicinity.

      At least that is what I learned in Geograpgy lessons 15 years ago so things may have moved on since then !
      • by pubjames (468013)
        But tides also act off shore (i.e. the depth of water changes), so I see no reason why the energy shouldn't be harnessed their. Of course, it might be easier to do it on a rive, but of course there are the problems you mention.

        • by CmdrGravy (645153)
          I'm not sure but I suspect most of the energy is created from tidal currents rather than the simple height difference of the water at high and low tide so there are some areas which have much stronger currents than others based on their geography which make it far more economical to site generators where nature has naturally concetrated a lot of power than build a massive generator over a wider area to capture a similar amount of power.

    • Re:Tides (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mad Dog Manley (93208) on Monday December 18, 2006 @12:09PM (#17286962)
      Most of the water that is being moved by tides isn't moving very fast, or very far. Tidal power is most efficient where the world's largest tides can be found, such as the Bay of Fundy in Canada.

      There is tidal power being generated in the Bay of Fundy, there has been a 20MW generator operating for the last 20 years. However, it is expensive (operating in salt water isn't the most friendly enviromnent), and expanding it would put a large strain on the ecosystem.

      This isn't a lot of power though. 20 large windmills could produce the same or more power, for much less cost. Incidentally, Nova Scotia, which borders half of the Bay of Fundy, has some of the world's strongest and most consistent winds.
      • by pubjames (468013)
        Most of the water that is being moved by tides isn't moving very fast, or very far.

        No, but there is a lot of it.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      I'm sure there must be a lot more energy in that than in the wind in the same area.

      Maybe that's part of the problem. Building a structure that can withstand tidal forces for 30+ years, including watertight compartments for the electrical parts, isn't cheap.
  • Um. (Score:2, Informative)

    by neimon (713907)
    Gee. Take that much power out of a surface wind? Makes you kinda wonder what happens when you take that much energy out of a system that determines a lot of weather and water temperature and moves it inland to, say, make toast.

    Doh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      Gee. Take that much power out of a surface wind?

      Don't worry - the windmills aren't actually that efficient, nor do they cover a large percentage of vertical cross-section. They're spaced quite a bit apart and aren't that tall, vertically speaking. Chances are they don't end up being more disruptive to air currents than, say, the skyscrapers in NYC. And the weather in Brooklyn isn't *that* different than in the rest of the region.

      -b.

  • Will we be getting hundreds of horror movies from this, like they do with nuclear power plants?

    "Sheltered from the destroying wind by the turbine farm, the flesh eating larva thrived in the darkness created by the solar panels, coming out at night to feast on human flesh...."
  • Uhhhh... Run that by me again.
  • ... made by people who refuse to think clearly!

    Talk about immediate environmental impact. WAKE UP people - wind farms take energy directly out of a very complex self-regulating system. Let's see how long it takes the greenies to realise this is NOT a long term solution,

    As I have repeated said, energy efficiency is the only soultion to our energy problems. Until manufacturers are required to produce more efficient products, we are on the wrong path.
    • Basically, this boils down to giving up your air conditioning. Mankind evolved without HVAC...seems like a silly waste of energy IMHO.
  • will power this green light?
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday December 18, 2006 @12:25PM (#17287274) Homepage Journal
    The problem with wind energy is that it's output is unreliable and unlikely to match demand. For electricity, it is essential that supply match demand very strictly. Essentially, this means that wind farms have to be backed up with other, reliable, fast-switching power sources. This, of course, means you've still not solved the energy problem - what do these other plants run on? Also, it adds to the cost of electricity from wind - which is already very high.
    • by cyfer2000 (548592)
      I think they will store energy when the wind is strong and get the stored energy out when the wind is weak. There are many ways to store energy, my question is which one do they use and why?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pkulak (815640)
      You're right. If it doesn't completely solve the problem, it's not worth doing. I was going to buy a pellet stove so that I would save thousands of dollars a year on my electric bill, but then I realized that I couldn't even plug my microwave into it! What a sham!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by legirons (809082)
      The problem with wind energy is that it's output is unreliable

      Not when the wind turbines are in different places

      and unlikely to match demand

      Cold winds -> lots of electricity to heat houses. Plus, UK houses can turn their heating on and off when the electricity company sends them a radio signal, which means you can modify the demand whenever you want.

      Essentially, this means that wind farms have to be backed up with other, reliable, fast-switching power sources.

      Like Dinorwig power station? (hydroelectric,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 18, 2006 @12:34PM (#17287408)
    Birds don't really often get killed by wind turbines, the blades move quite slowly and predictably and are clearly visible so the birds can avoid them. Some birds even have nests on top of turbines.

    Rather birds tend to fly into ordinary power lines and die. Climate change and pollution are also big threats to birds as other wildlife too, and their effect is often global.

    Furthermore, bird enthusiasts even in America are supporting wind power, here is a link to a statement from the Audubon Society:
    http://personals.salon.com/blog/1976/post_32241.ht ml?dcb=personals.salon.com [salon.com]

    It's one of the perpetual myths against wind power that surface every time the public discusses about it, I was sure it'd pop up here on slashdot...
    Now just waiting about the "will the turbines ever recoup their construction energy cost?" (They will in a few months.)

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