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Earth Power Technology

How Viable Is Large Scale Wind Energy? 345

Posted by samzenpus
from the blowing-in-the-wind dept.
New submitter notscientific writes "Renewable sources of energy are obviously a hit but they have as yet failed to live up to the hype. A new study in Nature Climate Change shows however that there is more than enough power to be harnessed from the wind to sustain Earth's entire population... x200! To generate energy from the wind, we may however need to set up wind farms at altitudes of 200-20,000 metres. To be fair, the study is purely theoretical and does not look at the feasibility of such potential wind farms. Regardless, the paper does provide a major boost to backers of wind-generated energy. Science has confirmed that the sky's the limit."
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How Viable Is Large Scale Wind Energy?

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  • by thesandbender (911391) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:23AM (#41333301)
    The overriding problem with wind power is that, for large parts of the world, it is not constant or predictable. So while your wind farm may meet your energy demands for one day, it might not the next... and there is no way to predict or plan for these boom/bust periods. The only way to address this is:
    1. Build backup power sources which can meet all your energy demands (for when there is no wind)
    2. Overbuild the wind farms and build massive battery backups to store and distribute excess power (expensive and still no reliable)
    3. Rebuild the electric distribution infrastructure to share power across much larger regions (to do effectively require tech we haven't perfected).
    No matter how you cut it, building an adequate wind power infrastructure is prohibitively expensive because you have to plan for periods of your total output being zero. No matter how much technology improves, this will always be the case (well, until we can control weather).
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:28AM (#41333331) Journal

    Theoretically there's plenty of wind power.
    Theoretically there's plenty of solar power.
    Theoretically there's plenty of geothermal power.
    Theoretically there's plenty of power in the vacuum of space.

    It's that niggling practicality of GETTING and USING that energy that confounds us.

    Arguably, I'd say the only one that's really proven itself over the long term is solar; as the Earth is essentially a closed system with only solar energy as an input, it's proven that there is amply "enough" input solar energy falling on half of the globe at any given time to drive that system.

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neyla (2455118) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:29AM (#41333335)

    True. But luckily we neither need, nor want, one single answer that solves everything. We're better off in a multitude of ways from havign a healthy mix of different energy-sources, rather than being subject to the whims of a single one.

    It's better to have some hydropower, some wind, some sun, some nuclear, some hydrocarbons, some tides, some biomass instead of putting all our eggs in one basket. As such, "can we cover our entire energy-needs *only* with wind?" is the wrong questions. The right question is if wind can be one part of the overall solution, it seems pretty clear to me that the answer to that is "yes".

    As for NIMBY, there's solutions to that. Fewer people are bothered by wind-farms being installed a few miles offshore, such as those in the UK and Denmark currently, for example.

  • Climate Damage? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Spinlock_1977 (777598) <Spinlock_1977&yahoo,com> on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:31AM (#41333355) Journal

    Is anyone going to study what happens when you suck a bazillion joules of energy out of the the wind? Why don't we convert the entire gulf stream to energy? We don't need that pesky gulf stream that bad, do we?

  • by stms (1132653) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:33AM (#41333365)

    ....No one has actually _built_ a wind power turbine setup that operates at well above the ground. I mean, consider the issues involved:

    1. How are we going to keep those turbines up at altitude?
    2. What are the costs of tethering these high-flying wind turbine installations?
    3. Will these installations become hazards to migratory birds flying at high altitude, let alone passing airplanes of all sizes?
    4. How much damage will these things do if they start shedding parts.

    I'd rather build hundreds of nuclear reactors based on the safe liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) technology instead in the short to medium term, and in the longer term build space-based solar power arrays parked in geosynchronous or near-geosynchronous orvbit.

  • by spectrokid (660550) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:36AM (#41333387) Homepage
    just because oranges are healthy, you shouldn't have a diet based SOLELY on oranges. What you want is a good mix of different clean energy sources because:
    + they will compete and advance technologically
    + they won't all fail at once
    + they will all pollute in a different way, diluting the total footprint

    No energy form is safe, no energy form is (totally) clean.
  • Re:Climate Damage? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:02AM (#41333605)

    Compare the amount of energy available to the amount we are using. Then reply to yourself telling the idiots that modded you up to stop doing that.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:09AM (#41333705) Homepage

    It's funny how you come up with a laundry list of criticisms of these wind farms - but pronounce an unbuilt theoretical reactor to be "safe".

    It's even funnier that you think space based solar will ever be economical.

  • Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:13AM (#41333741) Journal

    You can get nuclear powerplant, a solar array, a coal burner, a gas burner, a wind farm. But something is going to have to generate that electricity you keep on consuming.

    Make a choice. Oh wait, I forgot. Democracy, power without accountability. You can vote to have your cake and eat it to.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:30AM (#41333897) Homepage Journal

    And you're confident that will still be the case if enough wind farms were to be deployed at altitude to provide all the power we need?

    Effects of wind farm, known: mixes the air so that temperature readings just downwind are higher, then the air thermally stratifies and things are back to normal not far from there.

    Effects of multiple wind farms: since the net result of one is zero, the net result of many will be zero. However, putting up sufficient wind power means we can reduce the use of other kinds of power which actually do have a negative effect on climate (from our POV.)

    Zero times any number is zero. HTH!

    . I think your overreaction to a simple question paints you as a pro-wind power shill/troll.

    My posting history proves otherwise. You are welcome to peruse it.

    There is nothing about calling a troll a troll that results in it being an overreaction.

    At best the question was a stupid one that would have better been answered by asking google than asking slashdot. In the old days, I would have been moderated up for pointing that out. Unfortunately, whoever moderated that comment voted for stupidity. Luckily, some more discerning and/or intelligent people seem to have moderated my comment in between that one and this one. Unfortunately, you have also left a comment here. (Amusingly, there is an even lower-quality anonymous and cowardly comment next to yours.)

    Slashdotters, let's stand up for quality comments. If I say something stupid, I expect to be downmodded. Let's extend that courtesy to others as well.

  • by loneDreamer (1502073) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:35AM (#41333961)
    What happened with the tone in slashdot? Can we share our clearly non-universal knowledge by answering questions politely instead of demeaning people for no apparent reason? I'm guessing most people here are adults, and an adult tone of conversation should be expected. I do like the core of your answer though.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gtbritishskull (1435843) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:38AM (#41333993)

    The big problem we have now is not energy production. It is energy storage. We need to shift energy consumption to when we have a surplus of production. If you can have your electric water heater (there are electric tank water heaters) only heat up at night when electricity is cheap, then you are shifting energy consumption and making the system more efficient. It would be worthwhile loss in efficiency (heat loss from the tank). On demand water heaters cannot shift energy consumption, so while they may be a little more energy efficient, they would be much less grid efficient.

    So, once the "smart grid" has been deployed, we might move AWAY from on demand water heaters and back to tanks.

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by postbigbang (761081) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:43AM (#41334059)

    To avoid NIMBY, there are lots of turbines in NW Indiana-- out in the corn and soybean fields. At night, there is this weird horizon of blinking red aviation warning lights as the props turn from horizon to horizon in seeming unison. Better than the coal-fired plants with plumes you can see for a hundred miles.

    Multiple sources, as you cite, are a great idea.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:46AM (#41334097) Homepage Journal

    What happened with the tone in slashdot?

    People stopped givingup on chasing away stupid people, with the result that there are more stupid people.

    Can we share our clearly non-universal knowledge by answering questions politely instead of demeaning people for no apparent reason?

    The knowledge might as well be universal, because you can ask google (via keywords or plain English) what effect windmills have on weather, and it will tell you that the effect is negligible. This is actually easier and takes less time than posting a comment on slashdot, let alone waiting for the response. Therefore, it is either trolling (either for money or not) or a very stupid thing to do. I would call it incredibly stupid were it not for the ample evidence of how very credible it is, since many people seem to think it's a better idea to ask their trivial questions in a slashdot comment and attempt to get an answer via crowdsourcing than to ask a software agent designed specifically for the purpose and stocked with the bulk of human knowledge.

    I'm guessing most people here are adults, and an adult tone of conversation should be expected.

    Even if I couldn't tell from your UID that you haven't been here long, I would be able to tell from this sentence.

  • Re:Climate Damage? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Friday September 14, 2012 @10:44AM (#41334739) Homepage

    People have studied it, and nothing significant happens because you don't stop the wind, just slow it down very slightly like all the trees you chopped down and terrain you flattened used to.

    I really can't believe this got modded up even by one point. It is on about the same level as people who worry that Britain will be blown away by all the windmills, sailing off into the Atlantic.

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NatasRevol (731260) on Friday September 14, 2012 @11:45AM (#41335415) Journal

    I think CEOs (and their families) of companies should be required to live downwind/downstream from their plants. Would make them think twice about cost vs pollution issues.

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Loughla (2531696) on Friday September 14, 2012 @12:05PM (#41335635)

    HOW DARE YOU TRY TO MAKE THE AC CITE A VERY POSSIBLY FAKE CONVERSATION. You obviously know nothing, NOTHING I SAY!

    Everyone knows there's layers of proof - starting from the most credible to least (yes, that's accurate): (1) A conversation my friend had with a guy who talked to this guy who works with those things, (2) A conversation I had with a guy who works with those things, (3) Research based on what my mom told me to do, (4) peer-reviewed science and statistics.

    Only FOOLS, VIRGINS and the CLINICALLY INSANE need anything more than second-hand anecdotal evidence.

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