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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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  • Hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RevDisk (740008) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:08AM (#41333215) Journal
    Yea, I'll wait for more wind farms to actually be build.

    I know folks that build those giant wind turbines. They think they build a good product (and they do), but not a single one thinks it'll be more than a supplemental. If for nothing else... Not In My Back Yard.
    • Well, some other folks are building storage facilities to store the electricity. It seems that the people running the infrastructure really believe in this wind energy... and they expect it to be big, together with solar energy.

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by alexander_686 (957440) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:48AM (#41333487)

        I know people who work with both the turbines and the energy grid.

        Wind power is ready for prime time. Gas is cheaper, but if you factor in a reasonable cost for it's carbon footprint Wind is right there.

        Storage, on the other hand, is not ready for prime time. Without storage it's going to be hard to break 20%. I understand that some parts of the country have maxed out how much wind they can have. They have to turn on / off the gas turbines to make up for sudden power surges / drops that it's not worth it anymore. There are a lot of interesting ideas but they have yet to prove themselves.

        Give it a few years and then we can see if wind can break the 20% mark.

        • by mcvos (645701)

          The big advantage of gas turbines is that they can very rapidly adjust their output based on demand (unlike coal and nuclear, for example). It makes gas ideal for the transition while we move towards more renewable energy.

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

        by daem0n1x (748565) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:35AM (#41334621)

        I checked my energy bill the other day and I was amazed by discovering that HALF of my electricity comes from wind turbines! And I live in the most populated area in my country, just a few Km from the capital, not in some little village in the mountains. If they're supplying me like this, they must be doing the same to millions of people. Count in hydro and only one quarter of my electricity is polluting. Also, we don't have coal or gas, but we have plenty of free wind and sun. Less imports, good for the economy.

        So, it's possible. What's the big deal?

        About the NIMBY argument in GP: We have a shitload of mountains and hills, It's not like the turbines must be installed on your roof! Or you prefer a coal plant in your backyard? Always the same old and tired arguments...

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

        by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday September 14, 2012 @10:34AM (#41335281)

        It seems that the people running the infrastructure really believe in this wind energy.

        The big government grants they're getting to build said infrastructure probably contributes significantly to their enthusiasm.

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by neyla (2455118) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:29AM (#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.

    • It needs an effective smart grid to work well. Some way for the turbines to shout 'Wind dropped, brace for shortage!' and air conditioning units and water heaters to take notice and postpone their duties for a little while until the wind picks up again.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:05AM (#41333653)

        Water heaters should not be running at all unless someone is taking a shower. It is called on demand hot water, tank style heaters need to go. Normally this is gas fueled, not electric.

        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gtbritishskull (1435843) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:38AM (#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, Interesting)

            by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:43AM (#41334047)

            A little more? We are talking about 25% more.

            You would have to boil the water at 2am and insulate the heck out of the tank if you wanted to have hot water at 10am
            .
            I would imagine more likely we will use a large thermos style bottle connected to an on demand system. At night it would fill the thermos and only then run again if needed.

            Old style thin tank heaters are going away.

            • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

              by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday September 14, 2012 @10:38AM (#41335335) Homepage

              Old style thin tank heaters are going away

              Not any time soon. Price out 'on demand' systems. Then look at the upkeep costs. They have quite a bit to go before they're ready for main street. They don't save all that much power when compared to a modern tanked system. They require large electric feeds.

              Now, solar hot water boosters might make inroads in parts of the US where it's appropriate (just like the rest of the world, sigh) but I don't see the tankless systems as really taking off.

            • by rhakka (224319)

              storing hot water for domestic use is a trivial engineering problem. your 25% is wrong... it's more like 10% for a standard tank... and slightly better insulation would fix even that. there are tanks now with 3" of insulation that lose very little heat. also bear in mind that 10% number is only as big as it is because the amount of energy most people use for Domestic hot water is very small, like 40-50 gallons a day. it's not objectively very much energy in any case.

              on demands don't make any sense for a

            • What are you talking about?
              My hot water tank is set to 60 degrees, and is heated between 3am and 6am. at 11am (when I often shower at weekend) it's still hot enough to burn yourself so can't have lost much, and stays warm enough to be washing things right up until I go to bed.
              And it's not like I use some magic, it's just got an extra layer of insulation over the standard (giving about 6" of insulation in total). No thermostat needed just an extra £8 cylinder jacket.

          • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

            It is the pipe losses that make tank water heaters inefficient. What does make sense is tempering systems for hot water to warm up inlet water 10-20 degrees, ideally as heat pumps using the refrigeration for something else like a freezer or air conditioning.

            • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

              by shugah (881805) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:51AM (#41334835)
              I recently spent a couple of months in Australia. In condo developments, it is pretty common to have your electric water heater connected to a special circuit that is on a timer so that the water heater is off during peak usage hours.
        • by Medievalist (16032) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:59AM (#41334269)

          My basement is almost a museum of water heater technology - when we moved in, there was a huge multi-fuel (coal or oil) Victorian segmented iron boiler sitting right next to a 1970s style uninsulated storage water heater.

          I ripped out both (I broke a 1-ton come-along pulling the boiler up and out) and installed a state-of-the-art Aquastar on-demand gas water heater and lived with it for four years. Then I ripped that out and replaced it with a heavily insulated storage water heater.

          Want to guess which one was cheapest and most efficient in real world use? Hints: I have two teenagers in the house these days, and I have my own well.

          Don't make on-demand water heating a golden hammer. [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Water heaters should not be running at all unless someone is taking a shower. It is called on demand hot water, tank style heaters need to go. Normally this is gas fueled, not electric.

          actually, on demand water is only slightly more efficient than a well insulated water tank heater, and i think the tradeoffs make it not worth the switch. effectively, the tank acts as an energy storage system, which means that you can use a much slower flow of energy over a longer time to heat the water.
          this instantaneous demand requirement means that the equipment is much more complicated and expensive to make, needs regular servicing, and has a shorter lifetime, meaning even more manufactured costs, not

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            On demand water heaters have 20-25 year servicelives. cost about 1.5 times as much but are 25% more efficient.

            The rest of what you said is more or less correct.

            • On demand water heaters have 20-25 year servicelives.

              Not necessarily. I looked at these things carefully. Talked to a couple of contractor friends and my local electrician (or someone like him). COMMERCIAL units are often rated at 20 years - and priced accordingly. Residential units are pretty junky. Just look at the forums on the things. The elements corrode unless your fanatic about water quality (which can be expensive in and of itself). Unlike my tanked system where I can get an element for ten dollars at the local hardware store, the tankless elem

        • by Ichijo (607641)

          If you're using electricity, heat pumps are two to three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance heaters [energy.gov], at least in warmer climates. And as a bonus, you can use even the waste cold to cool your home in the summer.

          No, it isn't the tank style heaters that need to go, but any heaters that use electric resistance to create heat, unless you're in a very cold climate.

    • Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:13AM (#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 kiwimate (458274)

      Fair [pjm.com] enough [caiso.com].

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Not In My Back Yard

      If course not! Put it on my roof, not in my yard.

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:13AM (#41333245)

    ....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?

    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 stms (1132653) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:33AM (#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 MtViewGuy (197597)

        You are absolutely correct. If the installation starts shedding parts, they will becoming back to the ground at pretty high velocity, as we all know from the "blue ice" dropping from airplanes and punching holes through the roofs of houses below.

      • by rgbatduke (1231380) <rgb@NospAM.phy.duke.edu> on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#41334527) Homepage
        space-based solar power arrays parked in geosynchronous or near-geosynchronous orvbit.

        Ah, I once thought as you do, but then a measure of common sense asserted itself. Consider the fact that the cost of getting to geosynchronous orbit is, per kilogram, larger than the energy output of a kilogram's worth of cells over a lifetime of "forever" (or damn near). Consider further that a gigawatt's worth of space array, beaming its energy back to the ground (at some cost in efficiency, transmission losses) is more or less a gigawatt-scale space weapon if it is aimed somewhere other than whatever patch of ground set aside as a receiver. What can go wrong? Consider that you can avoid this problem, sure, by using a very weak beam, but then you have to use a very large piece of ground as a receiver, one that increases in size with the geometry of latitude giving you a second trade-off between area of receiver and atmospheric loss at higher latitudes versus the difficulty of very long distance power transmission from the equator to the temperate zone. Consider that TOA insolation is only a factor of two or so larger than BOA insolation (so it's not like you get a lot more power by being out of the atmosphere) and land is cheap in the desert, and there is plenty of desert. Finally consider that land is REALLY cheap on your own rooftop, which very likely contains ALMOST enough area to completely supply your own house's energy needs and can "store" energy by simply dumping surplus back into the grid during the day at reverse cost to be drawn out again at night "for free", even without an ever-improving local storage option.

        Consider that the cost of actually putting 5 kW of solar cells on your roof NOW is more than break even on a 20 year amortization or less (in many parts of the country) with the amortization schedule dropping with the cost of solar cells and other improvements in the technology. The cost of solar cells per delivered watt has been dropping exponentially with a halving time of around a decade for the last three or four decades. It is currently between $1 and $2 per watt, plus installation and hardware costs. At $1/watt -- already available to large commercial buyers -- the amortization time for a 5 kW rooftop installation is order of a decade: it will generate order of $1000 worth of electricity per year, enough to pay off a $7000-8000 loan and even make a profit over that time. I've spent more than that on high efficiency furnace/AC for my house -- several times over, sadly -- with an even longer amortization. And, of course, anything that is "profitable" on the scale of individual rooftops is far MORE profitable on an industrial scale with industrial economies of scale. $1/watt retail is $0.50/watt wholesale in volume, and even allowing for installation and operation and maintenance costs, POWER COMPANIES will be GIVING you units to put on your roof -- as long as they can sell you slightly discounted power from those units. Or building large arrays themselves, but then they have the pesky problem of buying kilometer-square chunks of land here and there.

        So the real problem with putting solar cells in space is that if the price drops, as one can very reasonably expect, to under $1/watt full retail over the next decade, solar generation will proliferate like a weed all over the world not to save the whales or lower carbon footprint but because it is the cheapest or second cheapest way to make electricity. This will happen even if there ARE no breakthroughs in gigawatt-scale 24 hour plus storage, although I personally think that physicists and engineers will beat the storage problem too within the next decade -- the payoff for doing so is huge. Sure, we'll still need bridge power -- nuclear and probably coal or natural gas -- but the actual draw on those facilities will decrease to a fraction of what it is today. Whence, then, the incentive to put a massive Dr. Evil prequalified space maser up there at a cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars per watt, vulnerable
    • by slim (1652)

      ....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?

      One mechanism that's been investigated is kites at high altitude, steered by robots. They'd be pretty simple devices, but big. Fly them in a power position to reel out line, powering a generator on the ground. Move them to a parked position to reel them back in, using less power than they supplied on the way up. Repeat.

      Another option, previously a /. story, is to have kites pull around an enormous "wheel". ISTR researchers concluding that an arrangement like this on the site of a decommissioned nuclear plan

    • by Buchenskjoll (762354) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:49AM (#41333491)
      Let's build turbine with solar cells on them, then we can exploit the solar wind...
    • > I'd rather build hundreds of nuclear reactors

      Uhm, no. We *already* have plenty of safe "free" energy.

      * wave (Why do you think our planet even has a moon in the first place!)
      * geothermal
      * solar

      The problem with wind and most energy solutions is NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

      Plus if we were really smart we could launch small low-weight satellites that were fitted with solar cells to capture energy 24-7.

      Nuclear is too high-maintenance and the negative risks FAR out weight ALL the other alternatives. How ma

      • by CaptSlaq (1491233)
        While I understand your sentiment, I don't necessarily agree with it:
        • The Sun's at the center (Galileo)
        • The Earth is flat (Columus)
        • AC electricity is dangerous (Tesla)
        • That thing will never fly (Wright Bros)
        • Going faster than the speed of sound is impossible (Yeager, et. al.)
        • No one can survive in space (Gagarin)

        There's a lot of things that many naysayers said weren't possible. The human mind is a powerful thing. The written and spoken word lets us hand down the knowledge we gain from our mistakes to our succ

      • by Alioth (221270)

        Chernobyl and Fukushima are bad examples because:

        - The RMBK reactor design of Chernobyl was inherently "fail dangerous". Only the Soviets were insane enough to build reactors like this. Not even the Chinese are interested in fail dangerous designs. It had a positive void coefficient so when the coolant (water) boiled, the reaction rate went up, meaning it could get into a positive feedback loop and explode (and this is what it indeed did).
        - Fukushima was built in an area subject to tsunamis. If we keep reac

      • Uhm, no. We *already* have plenty of safe "free" energy.

        * wave (Why do you think our planet even has a moon in the first place!)
        * geothermal
        * solar

        The problem is collecting that energy, which invariably requires massive amounts of land and resources.

        The problem with wind and most energy solutions is NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

        Yes, and so it would be far preferable to use technologies which have a very small environmental footprint, and which can be placed anywhere. Conventional nuclear has the same problem, though arguably on a smaller scale, and it is still intractable.

        Nuclear is too high-maintenance and the negative risks FAR out weight ALL the other alternatives. How many more Chernobyl and Fukushima "incidents" before we learn that we are not smart enough to safely run nuclear reactors.

        An objective view does not support this conclusion. That aside, conventional nuclear does have scalability and cost issues. Our failing is not in designing s

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

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

      Nobody has built a setup that's able to deliver grid power yet, but there has been considerable work done on the problem. There are flying wind harvester prototypes such as KiteGen [youtube.com].

      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?

      The wind keeps them flying as long as the wind is blowing and when it's not blowing there's no need for the harvester to be at altitude because there's nothing to harvest. The costs involved with building and installing a device are likely to be considerable, but the labor costs involved in running the thing could potentially be

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      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.

    • by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:14AM (#41333761) Journal

      1. How are we going to keep those turbines up at altitude?

      It's obvious. We need to get a bunch of cobblestone blocks and make a huge spire. Then we place the wind turbines at the top and build out. Once we are done, we pull out our diamond pickaxe and get rid of the cobblestone stairs up to the wind farm. Oh wait.... Too much Minecraft last night....

  • by thesandbender (911391) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:23AM (#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 gl4ss (559668) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:30AM (#41333343) Homepage Journal

      the real reason it's expensive is that the parts cost and take energy to make.

      now, something that might be feasible could be covering for example entire alps in small http://www.windside.com/ [windside.com] installations. if only for the reason that such installations don't depend on massive 50 meter blades.

      of course, nature freaks would freak from that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Look at your turbine, now look at me, look back at your turbine, your turbine is now a diamond!

      • ...pretty little things, the turbines at Windside. Do you notice how they provide all sorts of figures, except the generating capacity? There's a reason for having long honking blades - you gather power from a larger area. These generators aren't much wider than the post they sit on, and they aren't going to generate much power at all. The best you can get are these quotes:

        "The core of our business is based on small turbines charging battery banks that power small DC systems"

        And this incredibly misleading q

        • It's not their fault if you don't look around their site for a link as obvious as Power Production [windside.com]

          We at Windside belive that the energy production should be informed in kWh/year basis and this production figure should be based on measurements done in real life circumstances.

          Commonly used maximum rated power has very little to do with real life results and therefore it is important to find out how many kWh the turbine is like to produce on annual basis at different wind speeds.

          Followed by a chart of KwH mapped against turbine size and average wind speed.

    • by slim (1652)

      The overriding problem with wind power is that, for large parts of the world, it is not constant or predictable.

      I get the impression (though I have no source) that at higher altitudes, wind is not only faster, but more constant.

    • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:02AM (#41333607) Homepage Journal

      1. Build backup power sources which can meet all your energy demands (for when there is no wind)

      That's not hard to solve. That's why we have politicians.

    • One major potential source of battery backup is electric vehicles. Even after their batteries are no longer usable in the cars (about 75% of capacity) they can be used as backup for wind and solar. That also requires either the vehicles or the charging stations to include inverters that can feed power to the grid.

      Geographic diversity can do some mitigation of wind variability, but storage is better. Not all storage needs to be in batteries. For example, compressed air and flywheels are other storage tec

    • by olau (314197)

      You're oversimplifying this.

      If you try "baseload wind power" there's plenty of more info, here's one quote [theconversation.edu.au]:

      Addressing Intermittency from Wind and Solar Photovoltaics

      Wind power already supplies over 21% of Denmark’s electricity and 15% of Spain and Portugal’s.

      Although the output of a single wind farm fluctuates greatly, the fluctuations in the total output from a number of wind farms geographically distributed in different wind regimes are much smaller and partially predictable.

      Modelling has also shown that it’s relatively inexpensive to increase the reliability of the total wind output to a level equivalent to a coal-fired power station by adding a few low-cost peak-load gas turbines that are run on renewable biofuels and are operated infrequently, to fill in the gaps when the wind farm production is low.

      Current power grid systems are already built to handle fluctuations in supply and demand with peak-load plants such as hydroelectric and gas turbines which can be switched on and off quickly, and by reserve baseload plants that are kept hot.

      [Recent studies] (http://www.nrel.gov/wind/systemsintegration/wwsis.html) by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that wind could supply 20-30% of electricity, given improved transmission links and a little low-cost flexible back-up.

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      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).

      Well, no. The actual figure used by planning is 13% of nameplate for peak hour 6 to peak hour 9. (Solar is planned at 38% of nameplate.) Lots of studies are on-going to understand how to forecast wind power much more accurately based on wind plant telemetry and other meterological data. Right now day ahead accuracy has a mean error of around 15%. Hour ahead is much better - about 2%.

      That said, yes, it's still a challenge. But batteries aren't the only solution - storage comes in many forms, e.g. CAES, flywh

    • Liquid-metal batteries [cnn.com] are reliable and inexpensive (or so their inventor claims). It will be a while yet before they're widely available, but Khosla Ventures has invested in a startup to bring them to market. It may not be the silver bullet, but it will help.

    • The overriding problem with wind power is that, for large parts of the world, it is not constant or predictable.

      True, but for SOME parts of the world the wind is both strong and predictable, or when it fluctuates it's on a timescale of hours which is adequate to increase or decrease output from conventional power plants to balance. Let's get these areas harnessed first and see where we're at instead of acting like it's fundamentally flawed because it doesn't work so nice "for large parts of the world". Oh

  • This study is at best incomplete. Reading through this, I am not sure they understand the true limitations to wind power. Air density and strenght of textiles are the limiting factors. As we increase altitude, we lower air density. Using our current technology at a lower air density will result in less efficiency. In order to maintain output would requrie either a much larger aparatis or far more of current technologies. We can't go much larger as very quickly we run into the similar problem that the

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:28AM (#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.

    • by khallow (566160)

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

      It's not even that hard. Those approaches have to compete with established means of power generation. If current power generation was more expensive, the alternatives you mention would be used more than they are now.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:34AM (#41333369) Homepage

    He knew that: ''The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind''

  • by spectrokid (660550) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:36AM (#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.
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:36AM (#41333389)

    We need to really diversify our energy.
    That included using Wind, Solar, Tidal, Hydro, Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear...

    We need to stop focusing on Green Energy but focus on diverse energy, so we can hedge the trade-offs each offer.

    Even coal. While coal has the biggest environmental impact. It is currently the most plentiful in the United States, and shouldn't be discounted.

    • by higuita (129722)

      Ok, right, you can still use coal... but add the post-combustion treatment to reduce pollution and ways to grab the CO2 (if everything else fails, plant enough trees)

      coal is cheap because there is no output treatment as it should, they just vent it to the atmosphere and is someones else problem. It shouldn't! they must take care of their pollution treatment. that way, the coal isnt that cheap (so bigger change for the other alternatives) and coal can finally became a little cleaner and not one of the worst.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Ok, right, you can still use coal... but add the post-combustion treatment to reduce pollution and ways to grab the CO2

        I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, or at least to take a look back at the USDOE's Aquatic Species Program [nrel.gov], in which the gas output of coal plants is filtered through algae ponds, sequestering up to 80% of the CO2 output while improving algal growth rates. There are probably hundreds of opportunities of this type out there, like collecting methane from sewage ponds [go2watersolutions.com], which using AIWPS [ponce.tv] simultaneously offers extremely low-cost and high-effectiveness sewage treatment while using "traditional

    • Or combine things. In a flat area, you could combine wind and hydro, and use water as your buffer to generate dependable energy.
  • Ugh, sure its a great idea, but I'd be more interested in something that actually did address the logistics. In North Iowa near my hometown, there is a field that they keep the parts for some of the wind turbines, those tings are massive, the field is right next to the railroad tracks because these things are so massive. There's a whole slew of parts just waiting to be assembled into a productive turbine (or 20). But what about the power lines being run to these things? The cost to put one up? legislation t
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:05AM (#41334329) Journal

    If you're going to invent 20,000ft windmills, then you might as well invent a magical creature who defecates some super-fuel, like Lord Nibbler.

    Really you only get a fraction out of the theoretical power stated in the paper. You're looking at about 1/3 to 1/5 of what they state for output, realistically. And how would you have a wind farm near an airport? To me, I read this as the absurd stunts that wind would have to pull off to be viable. The fact that it ignores the practical application means this is nothing than fiction, and should be treated as such, because no one except Charlie Sheen gets to live in a fictitious world. So there you have it wind adherents: you're all Charlie Sheens!

    Meanwhile, Sharp has a solar panel that is 43% efficient. Lets contrast that with the theoretical maximum of 59% for wind mills. there's a 16 percent advantage... but unlike solar cells, windmills can never be more efficient than 59%. Also, windmills need regular service being a mechanical apparatus. Solar cells, even the ones that move, don't have the same ear and tear as a a windmill.

    In the end, wind doesn't work, even when you have subsidies.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Meanwhile, Sharp has a solar panel that is 43% efficient. Lets contrast that with the theoretical maximum of 59% for wind mills. there's a 16 percent advantage.

      Once you factor in night, that 43% efficiency drops to 21.5%. The wind turbine still works at night. The solar panel doesn't.

      You need to take into account capacity factor [wikipedia.org]. Overall average capacity factor for solar in the U.S. is 0.14. That is, if your solar panels have a nominal generating capacity of 100 Watts, their output averaged over a y

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