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Power Earth United States

First Town In US To Become 100% Wind Powered 391

gundar99 writes "Rock Port Missouri, population 1,300, is the first 100% wind-powered city in the US. Loess Hill Wind Farm, with four 1.25-MW wind turbines, is estimated to generate 16 gigawatt hours (16 million kilowatt hours) of electricity annually. 13 gigawatt hours of electricity have historically been consumed annually by the residents and businesses of this town."
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First Town In US To Become 100% Wind Powered

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  • Not Really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @09:06PM (#23319398)
    Wind can't supply base load so even if the wind turbines are generating more power than the city consumes over a year, that power is being consumed partially by other cities.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @09:08PM (#23319412)
    I did not RTFA, but there is no need to. Wind is great, but it does not blow 100% of the time in an area the size of a town/city. Therefore they are relying on other power sources some of the time.

    They might be a net generator of power, but they are ultimately using other power sources some of the time.

  • It's a short article, FP isn't all it's cracked up to be:

    "What we're celebrating is that the wind farm in Rock Port can produce more energy each year than what this community uses, and that has never been done before," Chamberlain said.

    And that's why everyone showed up. From the celebration and speeches downtown to the city's power plant, the guy who made it all happen explained what it is all about.

    "What we're showing here is the city is producing 2 megawatts more than they need, so in essence, this meter is running backwards," Chamberlain said.
  • Re:Not Really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tatarize ( 682683 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @09:20PM (#23319512) Homepage
    Not only that but couldn't you argue that because it pours that power onto the grid it might as well be any town? It seems like somebody nearby has a wind farm and therefore that city is thusly powered by wind. Couldn't my town be completely powered by wind out of the Loess Hill Wind Farm if it takes less than 16 gigawatt hours? Local windfarm produces more than local towns power consumption? It isn't like the town owns the wind farm... it's exactly like there's a windfarm near a town!

    This is completely stupid. Well played Slashdot, well played.
  • Re:big catch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cobaltnova ( 1188515 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @09:26PM (#23319554)
    I sure hope you aren't saying this as an argument against wind. Every little bit counts in this energy battle: a mature approach will tap many different sources of power. Also, if there is a suruplus at some times, then energetically intensive industrial operations can be scheduled for those times (for instance, aluminum refining).
  • Congratulations! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @09:32PM (#23319598)
    Good to see that even though the country may be fumbling and lagging behind where it should be from an environmental point of view, individuals and sections of the community are taking up the slack and forging ahead.
  • Re:Not Really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @09:37PM (#23319626)
    You guys are all nattering nabobs of negativity :)

    The town that you claim is powered by the wind can't be TOO far away, or line losses would eat up too much power... in any event, the claim isn't much of a stretch as the city does now produce more wind power than it consumes total power.
  • by MarkEst1973 ( 769601 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:05PM (#23319770)

    At $0.11 on average per kWh, the savings is $1.7m annually, plus another $300k from the energy they sell to the power company. That's 45 years to recoup the investment ($90m), not including maintaining the turbines for 45 years (more info here [])

    Still, I think this should be the new standard for sustainable living and development.

    And to put 16 gigawatt hours into perspective... the average household in America uses around 11,000 kWh annually. See Official Government Website []

    Rock Port, MO needs to add their watts saved [] to the total. It's like they switched out 64,000,000 incandescent bulbs for CFCs!

  • Re:big catch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:12PM (#23319810)

    Indeed, domestic applications are pretty unforgiving of random fluctuations too - sorry kids, we can't have dinner tonight, the wind isn't blowing.
    That's why you need energy stores, like hydro plants. When there's not enough energy going in you open the valve, and when there's an excess you pump stuff up to the top again, they already do this with conventional power sources why would wind be any different.

    And what is the average cost of wind power anyway? Probably a lot higher than coal even with large carbon taxes.
    How? coal power stations have all the initial costs of wind farms and then a fuel cost, a waste cost and an environmental cost.

  • by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:16PM (#23319842)

    Okay, so sea air sucks
    Why not use tidal power along the cost, its more reliable than wind power too.
  • by Blkdeath ( 530393 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:29PM (#23319924) Homepage

    A really quick Google search turned up this article [] which will hopefully put things into a bit of perspective. $2 billion to build a coal plant; while I grant you it'll generate more than 16MWh/year, is still a damn hefty pricetag. How many year (nee: decades) will it take to pay one of those off?

    Also, FYI; 40 year mortgage amortizations are becoming very commonplace while some companies are looking towards the prospect of 50 year ams.

    As for maintainence costs; how much does it cost to maintain a coal fired plant? How much does it cost to maintain a nuclear plant? How much does it cost to handle the waste product from same? How much ongoing environmental impact is there?

    I'm no tree hugger by any stretch, but the fact that a town was able to generate an annual surplus of natural energy with no environmental by-products is a pretty decent little achievement. A small step towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

  • by Domino2020 ( 1274466 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:30PM (#23319934)
    Ever heard of a battery?
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:46PM (#23320016) Homepage

    Wind is not population density friendly.
    Perhaps that says more about our population density than it says about wind.

    The earth has managed to power every population that has been on it so far. Now, a population exists where the Earth's current resources can't meet their needs.
  • by Coolhand2120 ( 1001761 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:46PM (#23320018)
    So if we wanted to power say, California, which as of 2006 has 36,457,549 [] people we would need something around (36,457,549/4=28044 so 28044*4=) 112,177 wind turbines. That is stupid ridiculous!

    Why would we not have 2 or 3 nuke plants and achieve the same goal with way less environmental impact, better impact on the tax payers wallets and we wouldn't kill all the birds in the state!

    Wind power 'feels good' but when you start running the numbers it gets dumb real quick.
  • by MadUndergrad ( 950779 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @10:57PM (#23320074)
    Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Of course, cats (also bad rubbish, btw) kill over a billion birds and small animals in this country each year, so the few killed by turbines (see sibling post) are pretty insignificant.
  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2008 @11:27PM (#23320286)

    The pillar that the turbine is mounted to doesn't take up that much room. I imagine a company would pay a farmer to give them a small chunk (probably 0.01 acres) of land for a turbine. If low-altitude (0-500ft~) sky were prime real-estate then we'd have problems, but luckily no one really wants to build anything there.
    Because, it's not like low-flying planes have to criss-cross all over those farmers' fields to apply various pesticides and herbicides or anything.

    I'm not saying that it's a bad idea necessarily (this sort of thing should definitely be explored and encouraged), but nothing is ever as simple as it seems when that mental light bulb first turns on.
  • by shbazjinkens ( 776313 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:38AM (#23321136)

    Apart from being ugly and noisy and vibrating and dangerous, they also don't provide any power worth mentioning. Some of them even have trouble making back what it took to manufacture them -- and THAT is a feat in the wind industry.
    Ugly is subjective, noisy/vibrating/dangerous are engineering problems that we've long ago overcome with far more than just windmills, and no power worth mentioning? That's also highly subjective and depends on the system. As far as I'm concerned any power at all is better than no power. In the past five years I've spent a total of 1.5 months without electricity due to weather and rural location (last priority). Having a small system that's easy to fix (obviously not for everyone, but it would be for me) is a major plus.

    So far as cost goes no one can disagree with you. Being green isn't cheap. I think we'll find that as coal prices rise and further solutions continue to fail to come to fruition it becomes increasingly economical though.
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:13AM (#23321230) Journal
    There's a reason it always comes up, and namely because it actually matters.

    Yes, they _could_ use peak storage, but they don't. They're on the grid. It does matter.

    So they produce 5 MW all the time (wind non-stop). If yearly production is barely above their yearly usage, let's say they use, say, 8 MW peak and buggerall at night. So someone else has to build the extra capacity to produce the extra 3 MW for them.

    But wait, they may have a calm day, or a _storm_. During storms you don't make more power, you align the blades so the turbine doesn't spin. So someone else has to have the capacity to produce an extra 8 MW for them, for those cases.

    The point is that someone still has to be able to cover the peak power, so just as many power plants have to be built as before. Only now you have to keep some of them idle at peak time, so you don't recoup your investment as quickly.

    The total power produced maths are also a bit mis-leading. They use more power at peak, they give some power back when noone needs it. The problem isn't producing enough energy at 1 AM, the problem is producing enough energy at peak times. That's when those brownouts some years ago happened. The rush to build more power plants, and dealing with NIMBY syndrome, is to be able to supply the whole use at peak hours, not at night.

    Because wind can and will occasionally fail you, someone has to build the same capacity again as some other kind of power. Only, again, keep it idle a bunch of the time so they won't get their money back as fast.

    Essentially, they just passed someone else the cost of building the peak storage for them. They get their peak storage (and more importantly: backup power) all right, only now "Town B" from your example is the one who gets the bill for it.

    Now I'm not saying it should be a hanging offense or anything, but it _is_ a problem worth mentioning. If you want to willy-wave about being all green, then actually be all green on your own money.

    Otherwise it's a bit like Liechtenstein not having an army or military budget, because their big neighbours get to deal with defending it. Or about how they do great with a lean government and low taxes... by being a tax heaven for guys who made their riches in other countries' economies. It's just passing the bill to someone else, not being the perfect example of a smart conservative government.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:36AM (#23321328)
    The point is that someone still has to be able to cover the peak power, so just as many power plants have to be built as before. Only now you have to keep some of them idle at peak time, so you don't recoup your investment as quickly.

    Why do 'just as many' power plants have to be built if more communities can supply a greater percentage (perhaps greater than 100%, perhaps less) of their peak-time-load themselves ?

    Wouldn't *fewer* power plants would have to be built - as noted, the system still has to handle fluctuations in the 'natural power' supply (cloudy weather, no wind, etc.), as well as providing a *shared* (and that's the key term) power-storage mechanism for larger use.

    I suppose if you assume the worst (all 'natural power' sources go dark at once), then yes, you will need just as many power plants as if you didn't use 'natural power' at all. But that's a silly argument, for example, what would we do if all nuke/coal/etc. plants went dark at once ? ... what backs that system up ? ... it seems to me that a system composed of some 'natural power' elements backed by 'traditional power' is more resilient than 'traditional' alone .. ?

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:31AM (#23322272)
    Of course, if 100% of North America was wind powered .. well, I'd consider it staggeringly unlikely that the entire place suffered from a sudden loss of wind simultaneously. If you build enough overcapacity to cover the average generation capacity of calm spots, and make sure your wind farms are tied into the grid, you have a solution that can maintain power for everyone. Which is one of the reasons you have an electricity grid anyway.

    So yes, you could have 100% wind power across the nation, without blackouts.

    Any meteorologists want to point out any gaping flaws in my assertion?
  • by jimdread ( 1089853 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:05AM (#23322450)

    So yes, you could have 100% wind power across the nation, without blackouts.

    Sure, if you ignore the effects of transmission loss in the power lines. Imagine what would happen if California was hot and calm, but the east coast was all gale-force winds. Everybody in California turns on their air-conditioners and plugs in their electric cars at the same time, because it's hot and sunny, so they want to drive their electric cars down to the beach.

    Will the gales over on the east coast supply enough wind powered electricity to supply all of California without blackouts? I don't think so. That's why sensible people wouldn't make their country 100% wind powered.

  • Re:Not Really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:45AM (#23322690) Homepage Journal
    Alternatively, you can think of it as being stored in the most highly efficient storage medium yet devised by man.

    Unburned fossil fuels.

    As long as we have significant fossil fuel generation capacity, nobody's lights are going dark when the wind slackens. And we aren't likely to hit the point where wind power generates more power than coal, natural gas and oil any time soon. In the long run we'll need to have other ways of storing and reusing energy that don't rely on fossil fuels, but if we did this sort of thing everywhere we could, the world could conserve its limited supplies of petroleum and coal and reduce its emissions of CO2 and other pollutants.

    Also, you might consider why famine is rare in developed countries. That is because our food supply is, in effect. A network with many suppliers. If beef suppliers are having mad cow problems and can't supply the market with enough beef, money flows to poultry and pork producers instead. Any individual food supplier is subject to short term shortage, the network as a whole has diverse sources of food it can draw upon.

    A geographically large superconducting grid would smooth over local variations in wind, solar, tidal and other intermittent power sources.

    The "use it or lose it" nature of some renewable power sources means that it's may be financially efficient to store any excess production, even if that storage medium is not very efficient itself. If your windmills are going full (err...) tilt in the dead of the night when power is cheap, why not use them to pump water upstream across a dam? Then you can sell that energy in the middle of the day when market prices are higher. Or you could sell an energy contract to an energy intensive factory that can run in the off-hours.

    Suppose if your photovoltaic farm is generating power in the middle of the winter, why not put it into a reversible chemical reactor that converts it back into electricity during the summer to run people's air conditioning?

    A superconducting grid itself could be a short term storage mechanism; you could pump liquid hydrogen in when demand is low, and extract it when demand is higher.

    I see no real short term or long term barriers to the utility of renewable energy as a way of reducing pollution and reliance on politically unstable regimes overseas. The midterm -- well that could get economically tricky. But then, declining oil production will be even more tricky.
  • Other Costs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stabiesoft ( 733417 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:12AM (#23322898) Homepage
    While alternative energy is expensive, I have to wonder what happens to conventional energy costs when you start factoring in trillion dollar wars to keep the fuel sources available. Imagine how many solar panels, hydro plants and wind turbines could have been purchased with one iraq?
  • Re:Moving Air (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C_L_Lk ( 1049846 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:18AM (#23322958) Homepage
    12 million watt-hours per year is not THAT much electricity per person per year when you consider that includes all the electricity the town uses - for service industry, workplaces, and homes. That 12 million watt hours is 12,000 kilowatt hours per year - approximately 1000 kilowatt hours per month - around 33 kilowatt hours per day - approximately 1.5kilowatt hours per hour - or a "ongoing continuous consumption" of around 1500 watts per person. If you have an electric water heater, electric refrigerator, one computer, some CFL and LED lighting, a TV that's on a few hours a day, an electric stove, and an electric clothes dryer in your house, as well as a computer and lighting at your work place, add in some street lights, parking lot lighting, etc. that seems to be a very reasonable number.

    In this case it's preferable to move your house to an "all electric" footprint as well - as any electricity you use has 0 carbon footprint. There's no benefit to using propane or natural gas for any of your household needs - heating should be 100% electric as well - any sort of furnace will have a CO2 footprint - where electric will not. Now, the 1500 watts of continuous consumption per person seems very reasonable. Get all these people to drive plug-in hybrid cars for their daily commute and their demand may go up a bit more again - but the carbon footprint of the town would virtually disappear. Very good progress in my opinion.

The other line moves faster.