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Power Earth

US Becomes Top Wind Producer; Solar Next 388

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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  • 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...

  • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FriendlyLurker ( 50431 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:09AM (#26706643)

    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): []

  • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:16AM (#26706685) Journal

    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?

  • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:33AM (#26706783) Journal

    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.

  • Audit (Score:1, Interesting)

    by F34nor ( 321515 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:44AM (#26706831)

    A friend of mine who is a mathematician told me he rad an article that showed that the total amount of energy required to create a windmill would never be recovered by the device. So a couple of questions. First, does anyone know of where he speaks? Second, should we have a label on devices that audit how much power was used to create the device, not just how much it takes to use it? Third WTF happened to gyromills?

  • Re:Audit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:50AM (#26706857)

    He's totally wrong. the 'energy pay-back time' or EPBT of big windmills ranges from 6 months to a year.

  • 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, Interesting)

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

    it is not, really, combined with this technology []

  • Re:Efficiency (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eastlight_jim ( 1070084 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:50AM (#26707207)
    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 []. 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 tackle before getting all exited about a few windmills.
  • by WheelDweller ( 108946 ) <WheelDweller AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:58AM (#26707247)

    Yeah, as one of the older Slashdotters here, I clearly remember the first ecology movement in America. Everything about it was "green" (why I'm sick of it, now).

    Back then they pushed wind, solar, nuclear....but those same liberals that wanted to uproot people and put in a solar or wind farm can't be bothered to consider nuclear any more. FCOL, FRANCE leads us in nuclear power generation, getting something like 70% of their power from it. We get 60% of ours from coal, and now Obama wants to 'bankrupt the coal industry'. (So which way is the price gonna go?)

    And I concur- the venerable Teddy Kennedy was the one that chased that windfarm outta HIS back yard.

    The sad truth is, solar power will *never* be more than 50% effecient in the atmo. It's really not worth it.

    Bring on the nukes!

  • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by the_one(2) ( 1117139 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:24AM (#26707361)

    Yeah and Denmark gets pissy about Sweden's nuclear power plant and we have to shut it down.:(

  • Re:Audit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ChienAndalu ( 1293930 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:10AM (#26707643)

    Then why is it being subsidized?

  • 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.
  • 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:Per capita (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:22AM (#26708787)

    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 that they eat up. Make a trip over to China and ask how many people and how much has needed to be relocated due to one massive dam project.

    Hydro-electric seems like the most land wasteful way for us to generate electricity. It has worked for the US because we built most of our really big ones before many were out there to move. They all have dis advantages. At least with wind power, you can still make use of much of the land for farming and such. Solar power can be mounted on top of existing structures or in existing yards. (Doing that wouldn't take up "additional" land area. It would only cut the need for other sources of energy.)

    Nuclear or oil generally comes out way ahead when "land area" is your yard stick for energy use.

    It's all in where we place our priorities

  • Re:Makes you wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by polebridge ( 517983 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:39AM (#26709075)
    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.
  • 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.

  • 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?

  • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @11:54AM (#26710521) Homepage Journal

    Somehow, I doubt seriously we'd need 1000% of our current electrical generation capacity to replace oil alone....

    We use oil for some stuff like lubrication that, assuming we insist on using nuclear power to provide it, wouldn't be too efficient. ;)

    I haven't seen an estimate either on how many kwh a year it'd take if we went to 100% EVs. Don't feel like building one at the moment either - though .3kwh a mile is one figure I've seen. You'd have to get trucks and trains as well. []

    3 Trillion highway miles a year - 900 Billion kwh required - a Gigawatt plant can be expected to produce ~7.8 Billion kwh a year.

    We have just over a hundred reactors now, to supply 20% of our power. Call it 500 to supply all of our electricity, and another 100-200 to provide the power for vehicles. 700 reactors in total, for relatively carbon-free transportation and electricity. Utilize cogeneration and we'd be able to eliminate a lot of heating bills as well. Reactors by the ocean could use the ocean for cooling and desalinate water while they're at it.

    We'd burn through our uranium reserves pretty quickly doing it that way with traditional reactors, but using breeders and such we'd be good for thousands of years before we'd need to start filtering the stuff from ocean water or switching to Thorium. Still, I'd definitely use wind/solar where it makes sense.

    It's also suspected that with increased use of nuclear fuel and the depletion of fuel coming from weapons stockpiles that a price spike would result in more exploration ala oil and find lots more of the stuff.

  • by dbcad7 ( 771464 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:37PM (#26712925)
    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 Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:53PM (#26716687) Homepage Journal

    Thing is, they aren't even being hit. They're being sucked into the low pressure zone behind the blade and having the blood vessels in their lungs burst.

    Still, same principal; evolution will favor bats that either avoid the turbines or can survive the passage...

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan