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Power Earth

US Becomes Top Wind Producer; Solar Next 388

Posted by kdawson
from the beneath-our-wings dept.
SpuriousLogic sends along a SciAm piece that begins, "The United States overtook Germany as the biggest producer of wind power last year, new figures showed, and will likely take the lead in solar power this year, analysts said on Monday. Even before an expected 'Obama bounce' from a new President who has vowed to boost clean energy, US wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts — enough to power more than five million homes."
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US Becomes Top Wind Producer; Solar Next

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:47AM (#26706493)

    and always will be.

    Oh, you mean that kind of wind?

  • Makes you wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:51AM (#26706523)
    Kinda makes you wonder if government intervention is really necessary.
    • by chalkyj (927554) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:56AM (#26706551)
      Yes, pat your selves on the back. America (9,161,923 SQ KM) has over taken Germany (357,021 SQ KM). Good work.
      • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

        by davester666 (731373) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:03AM (#26706601) Journal

        Well, locations where these 'wind farms' are both out of eye sight and ear shot (as they can be quite loud) are rather rare.

        But good news, because with the current economic crisis, there are fewer homeowners to do the NIMBY.

        I think there was a story last year, where some rich community in Florida managed to get a off-shore wind farm denied because the towers would just be visible on the horizon...

        • Well, locations where these 'wind farms' are both out of eye sight and ear shot (as they can be quite loud) are rather rare.

          But good news, because with the current economic crisis, there are fewer homeowners to do the NIMBY.

          I think there was a story last year, where some rich community in Florida managed to get a off-shore wind farm denied because the towers would just be visible on the horizon...

          They shouldn't be using huge towers. they should be using the newer helix models. They're more stable in turbulent wind conditions and can be plunked pretty much anywhere.

          • by qc_dk (734452) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:31AM (#26706771)

            The helix towers are also less efficient. And,
            the higher up you go the more wind there is.

            Finally, I like the standard windmills. I think they are a beautiful monument to human ingenuity.

            • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:4, Interesting)

              by plasmacutter (901737) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:57AM (#26706905)

              The helix towers are also less efficient. And,
              the higher up you go the more wind there is.

              Finally, I like the standard windmills. I think they are a beautiful monument to human ingenuity.

              They're also a massive repair bill waiting to happen off the florida coast.

              The helix ones don't have to be as efficient, they can be clustered in phalanxes and placed ANYWHERE.. this means they can be included on skyscrapers, placed on the sides of interstates, put in your back yard, on your roof, etc.

              (not sure how well they'd do in water, but, if you'll allow me to make an arse out of you and me, i'll assume their resilience in turbulent winds would make them fairly resilient in water with minor modifications)

              • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

                by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:45AM (#26707479) Journal
                I don't think it's a binary choice, helio's are good for tacking on to buildings, especially where there isn't enough sun (eg: shady side of a building in an otherwise sunny clime). Large windmills work well in the North Sea and would probably hold up to hurricane strength winds as well as your average oil rig. The drawback is that they need to be built in shallow water, so floating helios may have a place in the deep sea. There is also a lot of research going into floating WM's, ironically most of these projects are consulting the oil industry for their rig building expertise.

                Smart oil and coal companies have been looking at themselves as "energy companies" for a few years now but there are still plenty of ludites.
        • by N1AK (864906)

          But good news, because with the current economic crisis, there are fewer homeowners to do the NIMBY.

          Sadly, the current economic climate isn't having the same effect in the UK. NIMBYism is still rife, and our governments in so much debt I can't see renewables getting any meaningful investment.

          It's times like this that I wish local government was more autonomous, I'd love to see a system where local tax accounted for the number of positive and negative public amenities nearby. Thus if someone wants to li

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TapeCutter (624760)
            For all his fault's Blair deserves credit for spotlighting the problem to people who didn't want to know. It's indeed a pity the cupboard is bare.

            I had the good fourtune to spend 5 weeks driving around the UK staying at B&B's. I don't know if you have driven down the west coast of Scotland but the sceanery is breathtaking, same with the Yorkshire dales (eg: Fountains Abbey), the orkneys, parts of Ireland. Being an Aussie I was amazed at the extent of wide open spaces and postcard views. You need to k
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mcvos (645701)

          Well, locations where these 'wind farms' are both out of eye sight and ear shot (as they can be quite loud) are rather rare.

          Much more so in a relatively densely populated country like Germany, though.

          But they don't need to be out of sight or ear shot, you just put them in a place that's noisier and uglier than windmills. Along motorways, for example. And that's something that Germany has a lot of.

          No idea if they actually put them there, though. Much of Germany is probably too hilly. Along the coast is more efficient, but Germany is rather short on coastline.

          I think there was a story last year, where some rich community in Florida managed to get a off-shore wind farm denied because the towers would just be visible on the horizon...

          So they don't have power lines, highways or railroads in Florida? Or, I

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by polebridge (517983)
          I've stood at the base of the three-blade type in North Dakota and Michigan. They were almost silent, with only a slight whoosh as each blade passed overhead. Are other designs louder? There were no mounds of cuisinarted birds, either, no dead birds at all.
          • Bird kills and such. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @11:20AM (#26709797) Homepage Journal

            That's because dakrats and other carrion eaters drag them away ;)

            I've heard is that some efficiency improvements dramatically decreased the bird kills - the older, smaller, faster, and louder turbines killed far more birds than the bigger slower(quieter) turbines of today - though those edges still end up moving pretty quick, birds evolved to at least try to dodge falcons and such are plenty fast enough to avoid them. A lot easier than they avoid our nice clear windows, at least...

            The latest though, is that they kill more Bats than birds - Personally, while I don't want bats too close to me due to the whole rabies problem, I do love the little mosquitoe eaters a little further away.

            Still, put the turbines up high enough and you should avoid the bats - I don't imagine that skeeters fly that high, after all, there's no prey at that altitude, and why would bats be up there if their food isn't?

        • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:4, Informative)

          by Rasperin (1034758) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:43AM (#26709137)
          I live next to a windmill and I can tell you, I've almost never heard a peep out of that thing, running and all. I hear protests against them all the time in the mid-western part of this state (Kansas) because they think they're loud/etc. No they're not and it's false media like that who are stopping anything real starting up.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Moridineas (213502)

          Rich community in Florida? There are far better examples...try Senator Kennedy and Cape Code

          http://preview.story.news.yahoo.com/s/bloomberg/20090116/pl_bloomberg/aj2z7l9psmeg [yahoo.com]

          NIMBY fake environmentalism knows no partisanship...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:23AM (#26706723)

        Well, but the real shame is that Germany is actually no.1 in solar power and was no.1 in wind power (I say this as a German).
        Given the climate and the size of Germany, it's quite a joke.

        • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dunkelfalke (91624) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:24AM (#26707069)

          it is not, really, combined with this technology [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

          by devonbowen (231626) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:46AM (#26707191) Homepage

          I rode through Germany last weekend and couldn't believe all the solar cells I saw. Balconies, rooftops, entire sides of buildings. It's quite impressive. I'm not surprised that they generate so much power even with their climate.

          Devon

          • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

            by checkup21 (717875) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:53AM (#26707217)
            Most of the "solar stuff" you see at the roof is not solar-power, it's "solar-thermie". To produce warm water while the sun is shining. cheers
            • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:13AM (#26708655)

              Most of the "solar stuff" you see at the roof is not solar-power, it's "solar-thermie". To produce warm water while the sun is shining. cheers

              And your point is? It reduces requirements for traditional power generation just as much as it would if it were enough solar-electric to do the same job.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by LordVader717 (888547)

              Power is the derivative of energy. Heat is energy. Your point?

              They're actually better than Photovoltaic cells because they're more efficient, generate more power per area, don't need batteries and are much cheaper.

          • by mcvos (645701)

            Exactly. For the moment, the political and societal will to do something is a much bigger factor than land area or climate. Germany is the front runner, but as soon as everybody else finally catches up, it'll be overtaken in solar by sunnier countries, and in wind power by windier countries.

            You'd think Netherland (my country) would be quite good at wind power, but apparently we suck.

        • by master_p (608214) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:26AM (#26707373)

          If you want to talk about shame, then here is Greece we are last in solar and wind power...and we have sunshine 2/3 of the year and winds all over the season (because Greece is surrounded by sea)...

          • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:4, Interesting)

            by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @09:09AM (#26708015) Journal
            I'm from Melboure Australia, some say it's the 2nd largest Greek city. :)

            Here's shame: We were the last "friend" the neo-cons had in the international climate "debate".

            We have just had a week of ~40deg celisus, three days in a row at 43deg+. Footpaths slabs pop out of the ground due to expansion, rail lines buckle and damage points. Our coastline is a shallow straight in the "roaring fourties" of the southern ocean, it has tremendously powerfull tides and huge swells.

            Last weekend everyone was hoping the bushfires and heat would not cut off a major power line from the coal mines to the city, another major line was out because a sub-station exploded in the heat. No air-con literally kills people (as it has also done in Greek heat waves).

            Our electricity is centralised and more or less all coal with gas/hydro backup, (same with most of Australia). Where we have the most hydro capacity it's screwed because of the "permenant drought" (accelerating shift in rainfall patterns for last 50yrs). But coal? The stuff everywhere, we even sold "coals to Newcastle" in the Thatcher era. The disinformation in this country over the last decade is only rivalled by that of the US. To overcome the water shortage we are now contemplating building another coal plant to power the humungous desal plant we are building on the coast of said roaring fourties.
        • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @09:02AM (#26707983)

          I have a relative who is an executive for a solar company. It turns out that, for now, it's not about climate or size - it's about the subsidies.

          Germany started giving *crazy* subsidies each year to renewable energy source, enough to make producing them viable. Each year, the amount of power delivered went up (kicking in economies of scale) and the subsidies went down.

          The Germans built the seeds of the solar industry by subsidizing them get up to the scale needed where they can stand on their own (almost: right now, there's an over-capacity, so the makers have to take their product to other countries or shrink. The Germans still have a small subsidy, but the companies might even be able to live without right now).

          It's the only "personal" example I have of public-private partnerships working out well. (The other "personal" example is the US ethanol industry, and it's kind of an example of what not to do).

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by blind biker (1066130)

        Yes, pat your selves on the back. America (9,161,923 SQ KM) has over taken Germany (357,021 SQ KM). Good work.

        I guess the US-haters are having a field day (+4 Informative? WTF?), but could you tell me what the heck does your comment have to to with the GP? In what way was the GP "patting itself"?

        If you want to make cheap shots at the US, why not do it in your own thread - at least it's somewhat logical. This way you seem like a retard.

        • by cheetah_spottycat (106624) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:03AM (#26706935)

          It puts the achievement into the right perspective. Outperforming a country with less than 4% surface (and similarly smaller number of citizens) is not quite as relevant as the headline wants to pretend. Whats next? "Russia outperforms Principality of Monaco in natural gas production! Film at 11!"?

          • by mcvos (645701) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:22AM (#26707349)

            It puts the achievement into the right perspective. Outperforming a country with less than 4% surface (and similarly smaller number of citizens)

            Number of citizens isn't quite that much smaller. I think Germany has about 30% the population size of the US.

            But Germany is quite clearly a front runner in clean energy. It's inevitable that larger countries will eventually overtake it in absolute numbers. And I'm glad the US is already doing that. Good job!

          • It puts the achievement into the right perspective. Outperforming a country with less than 4% surface (and similarly smaller number of citizens) is not quite as relevant as the headline wants to pretend. Whats next? "Russia outperforms Principality of Monaco in natural gas production! Film at 11!"?

            The headline, huh? Well then, as I said, why don't you have your own thread for that? I still don't understand what your post had to do with the one you answered to. [slashdot.org] This still makes you look retarded, no matter how many US-haters with mod points roam around here.

      • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

        by spectrokid (660550) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:40AM (#26706811) Homepage
        It would be more fair to calculate per inhabitant, not per square meter. A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that the US has 82 Watts installed capacity per inhabitant. Spain has 3.5 times as much, Germany 4.4 and little Denmark outperforms the US by 7 to 1. Denmark would like to get 50% of its electricity from wind power in the future. Denmark uses cross-border trading with Norway to balance supply/demand. The Norwegians have a lot of hydro which they can turn on/off rather quickly. So denmark sells power to Norway when there is wind, and buys it back when there isn't.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Mattsson (105422)

          The fun thing about Denmark as a wind-power user, is that most of what they don't produce with wind are produced with coal, which is just about the worst energy-source there is. =)

        • by jrumney (197329)

          It would be more fair to calculate per inhabitant, not per square meter.

          Or as a percentage of overall energy use. The US is the worlds largest consumer of energy, so it shouldn't be surprising to see it becoming the world's largest producer of clean energy.

        • by grimJester (890090) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:30AM (#26707387)
          I'd argue that wind power per inhabitant is also wrong, since it doesn't take into account that the average American uses 1,460W while the average German uses only 753W. As a fraction of consumption, Germany has about eight times more wind power. Link [wikipedia.org]
      • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:45AM (#26706839) Journal
        Yes, to get close to Germany the US needs five million homes / 25 gigawatts = 5kwh / home.
        I live alone in a 3 bedroom home in Australia and use ~1.2Kwh (yes I have a dishwasher, dryer, ect. gas heating, cooking, hot water. )
        Germany is more energy efficient than Oz (who are up near the top of the least efficient list along with the US), so say each 5kwh mansion has 5 people = 100% for 25 million people.
        That's just under 1/3 of their population getting 100% of their residential power from wind alone.
        I don't know how many buildings are powered by solar in Germany but I do know they were pumping almost a gigawatt of excess solar back on to the grid last summer.
      • The U.S. is coming closer to pulling its weight on new capacity: in 2008, it installed 8.3 GW, while Germany installed 1.7 GW, or about a 5x factor. Not quite the 30x factor of land area, but hey, 1.7 million of those sq km are in Alaska, which is kind of inconvenient for electric transmission (same reason Canada's wind power is fairly low, despite massive land area).

      • Aww, it sounds like you are bitter that your right to be morally self-righteous has been taken away. Seriously America is damned as hydro-carbon chugging, global glutton on one hand and on the other is shit upon when it shows a modicum of success when weaning itself off of them. Admittedly it didn't need to be positioned as a competition, but in case you hadn't noticed Americans are motivated by competition.

        All of the being said, it is only a modest success with a lot of work still to be done. There are

    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:02AM (#26706589)

      Kinda makes you wonder if government intervention is really necessary.

      We have roughly 4x the population of germany, which means, per capita, we are far behind the rest of the industrialized world in development of renewable energy.

      If the disposition described in this article were applied to housing, it would be like declaring the wealth gap had closed because everyone who worked minimum wage pooled their resources and lived 4 families to a single family house.

      In other words: our renewable energy production is not up to pace with the rest of the world, which various international organizations say is STILL not enough.

      • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

        by Hal_Porter (817932) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:30AM (#26706761)

        The German model of subsidising renewables is not without its problems

        http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10961890 [economist.com]

        Most of Germany's electricity comes from coal-fired and nuclear plants. But the former are unpopular because of their relatively high greenhouse-gas emissions, and the latter because of the fear of a catastrophic accident. So in 1991 Germany adopted a renewable-energy law, now known as the EEG, which encourages investment by cross-subsidising renewable electricity fed into the grid. The law is popular with those who support the rapid introduction of new clean technology. Stefan Schurig of the World Future Council, a green think-tank in Hamburg, calls it "the best law of its kind worldwide".

        The law says electricity produced from renewable sources must be purchased by utilities according to a generous "feed-in tariff" that sets higher-than-market rates and fixes them for 20 years. Roof-mounted photovoltaic systems installed in 2007, for example, can sell power at €0.49 per kilowatt-hour, or about seven times today's wholesale price, until 2027. The fixed rate allows investors to calculate returns and removes uncertainty over financing.

        The utilities that buy power at these higher rates pass the extra costs back to their customers in the form of higher electricity bills. This added an average of 1 euro cent per kilowatt-hour to the price of electricity last year, increasing the typical household electricity bill by 5%, or €3 a month. For the country as a whole, the cost was €7.7 billion in 2007, up 38% on the year before. Enthusiasts consider that a small price to jump-start a new industry and start decarbonising the power supply.

        Clouds on the horizon

        But the government is not so sure. It has proposed a revision to the EEG, which calls for a shift away from solar and towards other forms of renewable energy, and offshore wind in particular. As things stand, the feed-in tariff for solar goes down by 5% every year. But new proposals call for a cut of 9.2% next year, and 7-8% thereafter.

        The problem is not just the expense of the existing law. Cheerleaders for solar had hoped that the increased demand for panels would help manufacturers reduce unit costs, and thus make solar more competitive in the long run. Instead, the rush into solar has led to a shortage of the high-grade silicon used to make the cells, which has soared in price from $25 per kilogram in 2003 to around $400 today.

        Indeed, such is the demand for solar panels in Germany that it has kept prices high globally. This is wonderful for manufacturers, but makes it more expensive to install solar capacity in sunnier parts of the world, where it would generate more electricity. The EEG's generous rates for solar amounted to "picking winners on a grand scale", says Dieter Helm, an expert on energy policy at the University of Oxford. A euro in cross-subsidies spent on wind power, rather than solar, produces more generating capacity and a larger reduction in carbon emissions.

        Basically if you subsidise the wrong thing, you can potentially hurt more than you help. Picking the right things to subsidise is non trivial.

        Hell if planned economies worked, India and the UK would have grown faster than free market places like the US in the 50's and 60's. Actually, despite being poorer, they grew more slowly until they implemented free market reforms.

        Now traditionally greens seem to see economic growth as some kind of problem because it usually leads to more pollution, but in the case of the renewable energy industry, more growth actually means less pollution.

        And actually the EEG is a fairly lightweight piece of government intervention, adding only 5% to bills.

        To misquote Socrates "True knowledge exists in knowing that the Government knows nothing."

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by plasmacutter (901737)

          Hell if planned economies worked, India and the UK would have grown faster than free market places like the US in the 50's and 60's. Actually, despite being poorer, they grew more slowly until they implemented free market reforms.

          And yet everyone who lives there has adequate healthcare and the same standard of living without massive national debt.

          Go figure!

          As for subsidies, the US subsidizes a lot, and the US manufacturing sector has died because of a LACK of subsidies: specifically, the insistence that the government should not be providing healthcare, leaving it to businesses to pick up the slack.

          • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:5, Informative)

            by phantomcircuit (938963) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:43AM (#26707467) Homepage

            That's funny last I checked Indians had terrible health care and in general are ridiculously poor.

          • And yet everyone who lives there has adequate healthcare and the same standard of living without massive national debt.

            Really? I wonder who payed the BRDs 1.527.863.662.684 Euros in debt.

            See our clock: (German, obviously) [steuerzahler.de].

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Hal_Porter (817932)

            And yet everyone who lives there has adequate healthcare and the same standard of living without massive national debt.

            The US has a high debt at the moment it's true. I think it's partly due to Bush's spendthrift policies and partly a structural thing. Most US Federal Debt is owned domestically which makes it seem less threatening, almost like a voluntary tax system. There is a long term risk of Federal debts spiralling out of control admittedly, but that risk is exacerbated by increased government spending. If you want low debts, free market policies are the way to go.

            In fact in the UK social security would have bankrupted

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FriendlyLurker (50431)

      Kinda makes you wonder if government intervention is really necessary.

      The summary uses words like "Surged", and "biggest" which is more than a little misleading for the overall renewable situation, given the tiny fraction renewable energy makes up of the total energy market (7% in 2006, wind 1% of that):
      http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/prelim_trends/rea_prereport.html [doe.gov]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anspen (673098)
      Yes it is, since this increase is the *result* of government intervention. The guarantees a minimum feed-in tariff which makes building wind installations commercially viable (not just because of the subsidy but also because it makes the large up front investment predictable). What's more, the past has shown what happens when it's left to the free market. Since the law has to be renewed every two years political wrangling means it's sometimes in place and sometimes not. When it's not, investment immediately
    • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:55AM (#26707559)

      Kinda makes you wonder if government intervention is really necessary.

      It's vital. Regardless of one's political preferences, a couple of things are clear:

      1. Although the gap is closing, most forms of 'sustainable' energy production, such as wind and solar, are still more expensive then burning fossil fuel. Demand, (which drives innovation in both R&D and production technology) is closely linked to Gov. subsidy - for both installation cost and 'buy-back' of the power generated. That's why you've got so much solar in Germany & Japan - homeowners got massive subsidies.

      2. Transmission infrastructure investment is required, since solar, wind and tidal generation locations are typically located a long way away from demand for the juice. These investments are massively expensive and difficult to do, for many reasons including NIMBY, hence the reluctance of the private sector to 'go it alone'.

      The current situation is that:
      * The private sector is starved of cash,
      * The recent fall in oil & gas prices has once again opened the gap between fossil generation and sustainable,
      * Few Govs have coherent long-term plans that the private sector can use to base investments on.

      So, yes, Gov intervention is really necessary.

      The cash is there - few people realise that massive amounts (billions) are given away in subsidies to the oil, and now ethanol industries. If some of this money was diverted to renewables then we'd see a big difference.

  • Per capita (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:59AM (#26706573)

    So that comes down to 300W of solar power per capita in Germany, 83.3W of solar power in the US and 20.2W of solar power per capita worldwide. Just about enough to drive a netbook. ;)

    • Re:Per capita (Score:5, Informative)

      by feyhunde (700477) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:24AM (#26706727)
      I prefer looking at Hydro electric. 317,686 million Kilowatt-hours for the US versus 26,944 million Kilowatt-hours. Or about 4 times as much per person. I live in the Northwest though, and 82% of the power for the region is from Hydroelectric. The rest is either natural gas or nuclear and mostly for Seattle.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kabocox (199019)

        I prefer looking at Hydro electric. 317,686 million Kilowatt-hours for the US versus 26,944 million Kilowatt-hours. Or about 4 times as much per person. I live in the Northwest though, and 82% of the power for the region is from Hydroelectric. The rest is either natural gas or nuclear and mostly for Seattle.

        I get very mixed when I think of hydro electric. Most of those really big dams in the US that we make use of have been around seen before our living memory. So we don't really realize how much land area

  • by SwabTheDeck (1030520) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:02AM (#26706587)

    US wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts

    ...that's 20.66116 flux capacitors and at least as many Libraries of Congress.

  • Is it the theoretical maximum you could get from the installed generators (i.e. when the wind blows optimally, you get 25 GW)? Or is it the average power? The minimum power continuously produced under normal conditions (i.e. under non-exceptional circumstances, you won't expect the power generation fall beyond that value)? Or what?

    • Scientific American (or, rather Reuters) don't seem to know the difference between production and capacity. The article says:

      The United States overtook Germany as the biggest producer of wind power last year

      implying it's production, but GW is a measure of capacity. Later in the article they say

      U.S. wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts (GW)

      There is no indication of exactly how much power was generated from this capacity.

  • Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jez9999 (618189) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:33AM (#26706781) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, the US is infamous for using vast quantities of energy and using pretty inefficient devices (as a whole, not saying it applies to everyone). So some pretty serious energy efficiency measures are also called for.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      The startling statistic is that 25GW is enough to power "more than five million homes" or around 5kW per home. A story a couple of days ago from Scotland said that 7.2MW is enough to power 9000 homes [slashdot.org]. This is only 800 watts per home; the American home is consuming 6.25x as much power as the Scottish one. It would have to be a *lot* more than five million homes from 25GW to come close to the Scottish requirements. I think it is this extragavant electric consumption that is one of the cruicial things to ta
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CubicleView (910143)
        Not sure if it's really fair to compair to just Scotland, it's too small. It wouldn't account for all the difference of course, but for example, unlike several states in America, Scotland would be more concerned about heating its homes than cooling them. To do that they burn oil and gas which wouldn't consume much electricity.
  • US wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts - enough to power more than five million homes.

    Or...
    Hmm.. 25 / 2.21 = 11.31
    About enough energy to travel through time 11 times, right?

  • I would like to thank the mods for not upmodding the MANY bean- and politics-related "wind" puns that appear to be dominating the posts so far.

    Stand fast, men. I fear it is only going to get worse.

  • 25 gigawatts? Maybe this car analogy can help:

    With last year's US wind power capacity, Marty McFly was able to drive back and forth to 1955 a total of 20.661 times, but since this capacity wasn't available in 1985 yet, you'll have to wait until 2013 to find out what really happened when Part IV will get filmed.

  • And per capita? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kitgerrits (1034262) * on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:09AM (#26706981)

    Wow, a country with over 300 million people, 9,629,091 square kilometers and sea on the east and west side
    managed to produce more wind power
    than a country with 80 million people, 57,022 square kilometers and sea on the (mostly useless) north side.

    Call me when they reach 90 GW...

  • Original article (Score:5, Informative)

    by pieleric (917714) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:09AM (#26706987) Homepage

    The original article can be found here [gwec.net]. It has more figures, including some on China, and an interesting remark that Europe in total generates 66GW, which is another way to the per capita computation to moderate this first rank of US...

    • 66GW / 500M inhabitants gives about 130W/capita. US has 25GW / 300M inhabitants, which is about 80W/capita. According to this list [wikipedia.org] the US consumes 1460W/capita and the EU 700.

      EU 18,5%, the US 5,4%.

      Which is completely wrong because "The wind power capacity installed by end 2008 will, in a normal wind year, produce 142 TWh of electricity, equal to about 4.2% of the EU's electricity demand". Sigh. What did I get wrong here?
      • Sigh. What did I get wrong here?

        The EU has 66GW of capacity. It doesn't generate 66GWh per hour however - sometimes the wind doesn't blow.

        If 66GW gives you 142TWh then you're generating 100% for 2151 hours - about 89 days a year, i.e. only 24% of your "capacity".

  • Surely it's better to measure the amount of electricity generated by a particular method per head of population or total consumption of electricity or similar?

    The US is a bigger country with a bigger population than Germany, it is therefore surely not that spectacular if it has overtaken a vastly smaller country in wind power generation. What matters is when it overtakes it in proportion to some other relevant statistic.

    With the vast amounts of open land the US has it's more of a surprise it can't generate

  • That's enough to power the province of Ontario at peak times in the summer...can we please have your energy?
  • I though MSI, were the top Wind producer, and they're based in Taiwan??...er.....

  • That's enough to power *20* deLoreans!

  • Moving those blades (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @09:20AM (#26708089)

    I know that wind-powered energy generation is growing in the U.S. because I see it every day (in season; see below). I don't know if they're manufactured near here or just shipping in via our port, but those gi-normous wind turbine blades are a common sight on the freeways of Houston, traveling up I-45 headed for who knows where. There's a small cottage industry in escort vehicles. I've seen every manner of tiny, broken-down car, truck, and minivan festooned with flags and feeler poles, in packs, leading and following each individual blade as it makes its way through town. You don't realize it until you're driving right next to one, but those blades are *HUGE*; I'd estimate as long as 4 or 5 tractor-trailer rigs. I'm sure someone will pop up with an accurate number. Whatever the correct size, it's just amazing to watch something that long and odd-looking moving through midday traffic, dwarfing everything around it. Up until a few months ago (I assume winter brings a slowdown to construction), I'd see at least one every day. Sometimes I'd see three at a time. I expect for the freeways to be lousy with 'em again as soon as the weather gets warm.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dbcad7 (771464)
      I "was" driving truck for a few months (Nov,Dec,Jan), and I saw those trucks in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Oregon (off the top of my head) and I saw them so frequently that I wondered about the company making them.. they have got to be doing quite well whoever or wherever they are. Those are huge blades, and whoever is molding them at such a rate must be working their butts off.
  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:48AM (#26709211) Homepage Journal
    At this time in wind's growth curve, the most interesting question is: who is producing the turbines? They are likely to hold market share into the future. My impression is that Europe and the US are doing pretty well with China beginning to ramp up production. This means that the money invested in wind will often stay within a country. This makes some sense because the equipment is bulky and may pose difficulties with long supply chains.

    The situation is different with solar panels. China is becoming the largest producer this year while the US is becoming the largest consumer. Solar panels can be shipped at a weight advantage of 200 times over coal or oil and fit well in containers. The US is leading in production in the small market segment of thin film solar however.

    The eventual size of the solar market may be five times that of wind given cost projections so the bulk of the money to be made in renewable energy will be in solar. The present market shares for solar production look to disadvantage the US.
  • Hmm.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kabocox (199019) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:58AM (#26709397)

    When are we to stop comparing the US with EU states? If we were going to compare EU states to the US, then we should do it to individual US states.
    I actually don't care if we are "behind" EU in general or "ahead" since no one apparently considers the EU a practical entity for comparison purposes.

    Do you realize the fastest growing energy sector in the US? It's pretty much wind. Why? Because it's a pain in for the big boys to get oil, coal, gas, or nuclear approved and funded. Getting funding for wind power now is easy. The other thing is that wind power can be bought in very small slices. So if I as a big boy energy company had only a few million to spend on new production this quarter, well I can build a few wind power plants somewhere.

    Heck the Perkins Plan was basically that the big energy boys have long since woken up and realized that the time is ripe to really leech the US to fund our grand energy change over. I haven't seen any real details of the Perkins Plan, but that it's been introduced by "the right players." Means that it'll reappear in certain lobby groups and the given states involved could in theory fund it themselves. (They'd want federal money, but sure 5-10 states could do it themselves.) Wind has issues just like everything else, but they are just as solvable as anything else.

    I'm actually not that surprised to hear how much wind power we are building. Every few day or so it seems like I'm behind either a house on a semi or giant parts of a wind mill on a trailer. Wind will happen despite the government not because of it.

  • by operagost (62405) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @11:50AM (#26710441) Homepage Journal
    Or one of Al Gore's.

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