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Power Earth

Offshore Windpower To Potentially Exceed US Demand 679

SpuriousLogic writes to mention that a new Interior Department report suggests that wind turbines off US coastlines could supply enough electricity to meet, or exceed, the nation's current demand. While a good portion of this is easily accessible through shallow water sites, the majority of strong wind resources appear to be in deep water which represents a significant technological hurdle. "Salazar told attendees at the 25x'25 Summit in Virginia, a gathering of agriculture and energy representatives exploring ways to cut carbon dioxide emissions, that "we are only beginning to tap the potential" of offshore renewable energy. The report is a step in the Obama administration's mission to chart a course for offshore energy development, an issue that gained urgency last year amid high oil prices and chants of 'Drill, baby, drill' at the Republican National Convention."
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Offshore Windpower To Potentially Exceed US Demand

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  • by Hoyty1 ( 1502645 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:15PM (#27449535) Homepage Journal
    So when can I purchase my chunk of the ocean to erect my power plant?
    • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:20PM (#27449633) Journal

      I'm sure there are laws about international waters, but does the closest state own the rights to waters offshore? Could they issue "property taxes" to windmills offshore? And how to they determine who has first dibs to build things at sea?

      • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:23PM (#27449677) Homepage Journal
        Not only that...I'd hope we'd NOT try to put all our country's energy eggs in this one basket.

        talk about single point of failure. If another country (or terrorist) wanted to seriously hurt the US, they'd just have to target a broad swath of these offshore windmills. A pretty easy target I'd think?

        Much like computer systems...I'd like to see a heterogeneous solution....windmills, nukes...and perhaps some legacy fossil fuel plants and a backup.

        • by tripdizzle ( 1386273 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:45PM (#27450119)
          Hopefully our politicians are as forward thinking as you. One of the reasons we need to do this is so that we can save our fossil fuels for when they are absolutely necessary. I don't think we will ever be able to run a tank or a fighter jet off of electricity alone.
          • by nasch ( 598556 )

            Why not? You don't think electricity storage technology will ever be adequate for such tasks? That seems pretty pessimistic.

            • by buswolley ( 591500 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @04:35PM (#27450971) Journal
              I want to hear a little about whether mass tapping of wind power would alter climate by sapping winds of their energy?

              No flames or trolls please, just a straight forward question.

              • by Gibbs-Duhem ( 1058152 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @04:51PM (#27451171)

                Yes, but the effect is not readily noticeable. Around very large wind farms they seem temperature increases of ~1C due to the air not circulating as well as in the surrounding area. This is equivalent to the effect of a city on the local climate.

                As far as removing energy from the overall climate, the scales are not even close to what would seem to cause a problem (although who knows, right?). Plus, global warming is injecting lots of energy into the weather system right now... so at least the change is in a good direction.

                • by buswolley ( 591500 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @05:00PM (#27451291) Journal
                  Thanks for the thoughtful answer. I wouldn't expect a huge problem either, except that extra cheap energy could lead to massive heat pollution from inefficient electronics, toasters, and manufacturing plants.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by CubicleView ( 910143 )
                    Surely all the craptronic devices would just generate heat that would have been released by the wind anyway, albeit a lot more diffusely? The wind is mostly just another sink for solar energy, tapping into that can't release more energy into the system then was there to begin with.
                • by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @06:15PM (#27452071)
                  global warming is injecting lots of energy into the weather system right now...

                  What about the actual act of generating electricity/energy. All of the waste goes to heat. The Earth's electrical generation capacity is currently a little more than 3.5 TW. Imagine 3 billion space heaters. That's a lot of heat. Include waste heat in the generation process (which according to National Geograhic last month appx 2 units of electricity are lost for every unit delivered) and you have ~10TW of heat FROM ELECTRICITY ALONE. Include planes, trains and automobiles, and you might get an idea on how much heat humans contribute to the earth.

                  I wonder if that has a noticeable impact on the Earth's climate. I really don't know, but noone ever talks about this in the climate change models. Just like water vapor gets overlooked so often.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by relguj9 ( 1313593 )

                Not trolling.. but all 6.7 billion people on the planet just breathing alters the climate.

                With the knowledge that common sense isn't always so common, the obvious decision isn't always the right one and that we should question everything... I think it's obvious that using wind energy is better than using coal energy due to cost, sustainability and reduced negative impact on our environment.

                As for putting all of our eggs in one basket, I think we should keep existing fossil fuel plants as backups.

                What I REAL

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Miseph ( 979059 )

                  Why is it that nukes are believed to be some sort of energy panacea? There is an extremely limited supply of efficiently fissionable fuels, controlled fusion is still pretty much a pipe dream, the waste precipitates are extremely toxic with no safe disposal options, there is virtually unrivaled and potential for large scale disaster to occur, power output per plant is so massive that trying claim it will decentralize energy production is laughable, and every dollar we sink into it is another dollar we won't

                  • 1970 called, they want there Nuclear complaints back.

                    "he waste precipitates are extremely toxic with no safe disposal options"
                    Actually the plants like LFR produce little waste and the wast they do ahve has a half life of about 90 years. Meaning in 200 years it is at background radiation level.
                    Yes, it is toxic, but then so is coal. And we can manage something like 200 years.

                    "there is virtually unrivaled and potential for large scale disaster to occur, "

                    You mean besides a coal fire?

                    "power output per plant is so massive that trying claim it will decentralize energy production is laughable, "

                    I don't even know what you are saying there.

                    "and every dollar we sink into it is another dollar we won't be putting into more long-term solutions with lower associated risks."

                    and that makes no sense. No one is saying Nuclear is the only way to go, but right now it is a very good way t go. It gives us breathing room while we continue to roll out things like Industrial SOlar Thermal.
                    That is a long term solution. BUt it will take a complete rewiring of the grid to get that power to soome places in the US.

                    "I'm also wondering how a large number of autonomously operating off-shore wind farms can possibly be considered an "easy target" for terrorist attack... do you have any idea just how much coastline the US has?"
                    they don't do well in hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons. Plus there will need to be a lot of underwater cabling..a whole lot. Which have it's own toxic disadvantages.
                    Do you realize the cost to maintain those thing? the cost to bring out new blades? Off shore wind is not practical on a large scale.

                    Wind power for alrge scale will be freaking expensive.
                    Solar Thermal is the long term solution. Seriously cost effective, easy to maintain, and the cost goes down.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by dbIII ( 701233 )
                      The 1970s called and asked why has a huge amount of money been put in PR and almost nothing in R&D since then. The US civilian nuclear program is twenty years behind South Africa! The operating plants you see ARE 1970s technology and the Gen XXXXXXXI reactors are just a scam where the number gets bumped up with a shift of bolt position or another coat of green paint. I would say wait until pebble bed is a commercial enough proposition that private enterprise will do it - the alternative will be a vas
                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by 5pp000 ( 873881 ) *

                      Okay, I looked the thing up. What I learned is that the radioisotopes in the waste have half-lives that are either less than 90 years or over 211,000 years, so that after 200 years the combination is about as radioactive as natural uranium ore. The latter, of course, is well above background level.

              • It's certainly a possibility. The question is: what will the effects actually be?

                Winds are driven largely by energy from the sun, and the (gravitational pull of the) moon, and the rotation of the earth. Those are three sources of almost unimaginable power.

                It's certain that windmills will pull some energy out of the system, but it's unlikely that they'll pull enough to cause anything more than a small local disruption.

                Now, with hydropower, we have the same troubles, but the system is much more limited. Single rivers, single dams, etc. The big problems we have there are all things dealing with suspended particulates: silt drops out of the system, makes the rivers shallower. I don't see a real comparison, barring a big "Dust Bowl" type situation.

                CO2 is a bit different because it's (according to the prevailing wisdom) screwing with one of the inputs, to wit, it's increasing the retention of heat energy from the sun. That's got the potential to cause more long range problems than something that moves around energy in the existing system.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by raddan ( 519638 )
                We know that energy must be leaving the system, because we're capturing it with a turbine. We know that the amount of energy we remove from the system (we can define the system here as "the Earth", I suppose) is [energy harnessed] + [conversion loss]. Conversion losses probably happen in the mechanical linkages, transmission losses on the power lines due to impedance, and so on. These things generate heat. I don't know what the net effect of reducing wind speed would be. Maybe it increases the local te
              • The windmills take out energy by providing resistance against the wind and converting that energy into motion.

                Think of how many acres of rainforest are destroyed every year (or day), and how much has been destroyed overall in the last hundred years or so. Those trees cut the wind also and transferred that energy into movement of leaves, branches, or entire trees.

                I think even if we got all the world's energy from wind, it wouldn't even be close to the number of trees which have been cut.

              • Matters of scale. (Score:3, Insightful)

                by C10H14N2 ( 640033 )

                The problem here is that the scale involved is enormous. One day of an average hurricane releases roughly the energy equivalent of an entire year of electrical consumption...for the entire planet.


                ...and that energy is being constantly replenished by a source [] that is not likely to run out any time soon.

          • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @04:16PM (#27450659) Journal

            Of course, these offshore windmills mustn't be within eyesight of any rich people's homes...

  ,0,5450016.story []

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by roystgnr ( 4015 )

            I don't think we will ever be able to run a tank or a fighter jet off of electricity alone.

            We could do so right now, if we really had to. For example, electrolysis of water produces hydrogen, the Sabatier process adds carbon dioxide and gives you methane, steam reforming gets you back to carbon monoxide and hydrogen, Fischer-Tropsch gives you alkanes, and then you just pour your synthetic diesel and kerosene into the same tanks and jets that you were fueling with fossil fuels before. All the technology is

        • by INeededALogin ( 771371 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:47PM (#27450157) Journal
          If another country (or terrorist) wanted to seriously hurt the US, they'd just have to target a broad swath of these offshore windmills. A pretty easy target I'd think?

          This is a pretty weak argument when you consider that we have the Coast Guard, the largest Navy in the world, and the most advanced monitoring of our coasts. Not to mention the sheer size of the United States and the fact that these windmills could be deployed on two different oceans. We are not talking 100 Windmills here. Also, I am sure the military will find a way to make these Windmills useful to our national defense. I doubt missiles, but those poor whales are probably gonna have more sonar pollution.
          • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @05:21PM (#27451539) Homepage
            Also, even if there is enough wind out there to meet our energy needs in the most technical sense (something like the same kWhs in wind per year as the US uses in a year), it doesn't account for daytime peak and seasonal usage changes.

            We need a mix of power plant types in order to function. Nuclear and coal take a long time to come online (if you try to cold start one to meet short term demand, that demand will be gone before the plant is at full power). Wind and hydro are not particularily controllable--hydro can be smoothed over time but ultimately you can't make more power than flows into the resovoir over a long period of time. Things like natural gas and pumped hydro give you the fast control you need to meet fluctuations and peak load...a gas turbine can go from cold to full power in seconds and pumped hydro can be stopped/started/modulted as fast as you can open a valve. They don't make sense for meeting stable base load though because natural gas is expensive and can be inefficient and pumped hydro requires input power to fill the resovoir (and there are very few "great" locations to install pumped hydro plants).

            The only way wind could power everything is if we had enough energy storage capacity to provide for the country when the wind isn't blowing (many sites die down at night) and to suck up excess when the wind is blowing hard and nobody is using power.
        • Terrorist FUD. Google up maps of oil, gasoline, and NG pipelines. Small bombs, big boom, no energy, no economy, no transportation, no food once the supermarkets run dry.

          With Windmills, terrorism would be harder to perform and easier to fix. Either you have to attack thousands of windmills over hundreds of square miles, or the trunk lines transporting power. I suspect it is much easier to put out the fires associated with blowing up an electrical line than it is for pipelines, and much easier to lay cable than pipe. Plus, with electricity, the "pipe" fills immediately -- with liquids and gasses, even once repaired, flow is much slower. Oh, and undersea cables are much harder to get to than pipes running on or close to the surface of the ground, i.e., no fancy submersible required -- a 4wd Subaru Wagon would be about all you need to get bomb materials to pipelines. And some shovels perhaps.

          Anyway, the last 8 years of terrorism talk seem to have you unduly paranoid. A terrorist could totally cripple the US right now by targeting pipelines.

        • by Cube Steak ( 1520237 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:53PM (#27450263)
          You mean like how we've seen all those terrorist attacks on our outshore oil drilling platforms? Oh wait...
      • by johnsonav ( 1098915 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:24PM (#27449703) Journal

        I'm sure there are laws about international waters, but does the closest state own the rights to waters offshore?

        Yep, they're called Territorial Waters []. And a country's Exclusive Economic Zone [] ends 200 nautical miles from shore (with some exceptions).

    • No so much when as where? "Certainly not in my backyard! What an eyesore..."
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) < minus berry> on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:17PM (#27449585) Homepage Journal

    Undersea cables are a notoriously problematic thing, and a wind farm is going to be running lots of live power back to shore. Would cut cables endanger sea life? If so, to what extent? It may not sound like a big deal on a one-off basis, but if you have thousands of these things surrounding the continental shelf, this could seriously impact the viability of our coastal wildlife populations, no?

    • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:24PM (#27449725)

      And here, the parent illustrates why this will never happen.

      Years and years in environmental impact studies, many more years of court battles, then the legislatures and Congress stepping in to support the NIMBY positions of their constituents.

      To make this happen, Barry will have to wield near dictatorial powers and sweep aside most of the legal avenues people have to fight against something like this if they disagree.

      Hmmm...Barry? Dictatorial powers?

      Maybe we will have wind farms after all.

    • Will there even be enough copper available to distribute it? These aren't data cables, they're power cables.

    • eh? there are many high voltage undersea cables more than a hundred miles long all over the world. done deal, mature technology. and also, you do realize all those nifty fiber optic lines we're using here on the global internet have HVDC cables in them too?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sycodon ( 149926 )

      I almost forgot. They have these nifty little things called CIRCUT BREAKERS that can deal with cut cables.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rev_sanchez ( 691443 )
      The threats shouldn't be weighed in a vacuum, they should be compared on the basis of the impact on the environment with other forms of energy production per gigawatt or something similar. On a project like this I'd expect some redundancy in transmission lines and reasonable safety measures. It may be a completely different situation but I'm pretty sure lightening hits the ocean all the time and we're probably able to engineer a cable that would ground safely when cut and notify the transmission system to
    • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @04:02PM (#27450423)

      Every undersea fiber cable has repeater boxes built into the cable every X miles to regenerate the signal. They are powered by electrical cables embedded in the line. Every undersea fiber cut also technically cuts a power line. Not to mention, the technology is pretty darn easy. You should have a GFCI outlet near your sinks and in your bathroom. They keep you from dying when you drop the blow dryer in the tub...

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:18PM (#27449613) Homepage Journal
    Does it seem premature to declare this the savior of our energy troubles before you have even put up a single test/prototype site? What are the technical hurdles? How do you transmit the power from the middle of the ocean to Kansas efficiently? What happens in rough seas? Land based wind power has been hamstrung by NIMBY folks blocking all attempts to build high tension transmission wires from the windmills to the population centers already, and the land there is mostly large commercial farms. I can't imagine how much worse it would be over the highly populated coastlines.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rob1980 ( 941751 )
      Kansas is right in the middle of tornado alley, along with Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, and parts of other surrounding states. There'd be no need to send wind power from the coast all the way to the middle of the country because it's plenty windy enough out here in the midwest as it is.
    • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @04:17PM (#27450679) Journal

      Does it seem premature to declare this the savior of our energy troubles before you have even put up a single test/prototype site? What are the technical hurdles?

      A company [] called SWAY [] has all of the details worked out, they just need funding for a prototype.

  • It seems to me that floating platforms would be cheaper and easier to make and maintain than anything anchored to the sea floor. I wouldn't know where to begin, but I find it hard to believe engineers haven't already got it worked out.
  • Floating Cities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anenome ( 1250374 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:19PM (#27449621)

    I would love to see a future where rich libertarians build floating cities free of the governmental restraints and constraints of the pandering politicians. Live free on the water! No taxes. Everything accomplished by contract. It's like a paradise *sigh*

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:23PM (#27449685) Journal

      I would love to see a future where rich libertarians build floating cities free of the governmental restraints and constraints of the pandering politicians. Live free on the water! No taxes. Everything accomplished by contract. It's like a paradise *sigh*

      That is until you're voted off the island.

    • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:23PM (#27449687) Homepage Journal

      We can make up for the lost tax revenue by selling them toilet paper at a 1000% mark up.

    • Like this []?
    • by Rycross ( 836649 )
      They should name it "Rapture."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tthomas48 ( 180798 )

      Well except the fact you're completely isolated and have to pay massive amounts of money to get anything you want. I personally don't find politicians more onerous than having no easy access to a grocery or hardware store. But I'm also not an idio... errr... libertarian.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Courageous ( 228506 )

      Essentially what you propose is a form of government where all the laws are case law instead of black letter law. Technically, I think the name of your government is "kritocracy". An additional difficulty of government by contract is that lawsuit must precede legal action.

      For example, under current law, a police officer can come and disperse a noisy party after 11PM in many neighborhoods. If it were merely a contract, you'd have to suit to get the party to disperse. Is this what you envision?


    • Shit (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shivetya ( 243324 )

      They would just make their own government and find themselves within a few dozen years or two crisis right back where we are.

      Never under estimate the people to give up their freedom if someone else offers to make it all better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hansamurai ( 907719 )

      There's some actual variations on this, whether it's Gulching or trying to form a Minarchist nation, it has been attempted. I'm sure there actually are gulching communities out there...

      Not sure if you're sarcastic, but it actually does sound like paradise to me.

    • by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @04:07PM (#27450519)

      It *does* sound like paradise... but do you think we could really get rid of them that easily?

      [attn humor-impaired: the preceding was a joke]

  • "The biggest wind potential lies off the nation's Atlantic coast, which the Interior report estimates could produce 1,000 gigawatts of electricity ..." ...when the wind's blowing. Unfortunately being somewhat fickle it doesn't always do that and when it doesn't you need backup generators. In fact you'd need to backup ALL the wind power generators with equal rating backup systems and since these would probably coal and/or nuclear which can't be started up and shut down on a whim and so need to run 24/7 anywa

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nschubach ( 922175 )

      That's why I don't buy the idea of one centralized generation facility. I like the idea of home based generation. A small wind turbine, solar cells, etc. on each home that generates enough electricity for the home and feeds excess to a national grid. Of course, the grid would need some changes to make it "safe" to transport electricity from homes in California to Kansas if it were needed for some reason.

      • by EaglemanBSA ( 950534 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:44PM (#27450085)
        The congressional budget office studied exactly this (distributed generation) in 2003 after the blackout, and determined that there would be significant economic and infrastructural benefits from such a system - it would, however, require a significant overhaul of our existing grid to control all the variable power being added. In the end, it's been largely ignored, Heaven knows why. There are a lot of merits to a system like this, among them energy independence, as well as infrastructure security. If each city block or even city for that matter is generating its own power, how can you attack that infrastructure on a national scale?
    • If you have a decent HVDC network the short term variability evens out. A new HVDC grid is a requirement for all new energy schemes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by idiotnot ( 302133 )

      Except the Southern half of that coast for a good four months of the year.

      Bermuda High []

      I live in Southeastern Virginia. In the summertime, there isn't much wind unless there's a storm. Yes, right along the coast, you get morning and evening breeziness due to temperature differences between the air over the water and over the land. Once you get a few miles off shore it's, as the locals say, "slickcalm." The same is true a few miles inland.

      I often can see the harbor in Norfolk looking like a mirror at nigh

  • No Problem! (Score:3, Informative)

    by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:20PM (#27449635)
    We can just build our wind turbines on that conveniently located plastic garbage island floating around in the middle of the pacific! I'll be auctioning off parcels next week on eBay. Be sure to bid early and bid often!
  • We've seen a number of these farms out there already elsewhere. I'm just wondering what the realistic lifespan of a windmill of this nature is and how many are normally down for any number of reasons at a time?
  • it works in any depth.

  • That is just awful.

  • Wind power has a severe problem - uncontrolled availability.

    Don't get me wrong - there are lots of things "right" about wind power. It's perhaps the cheapest form of "alternative" electrical power. Windmills are easy to design, and don't require expensive, polluting labs to build. Parts are readily available, and they are the only form of electrical power that's profitable today without strong tax subsidies.

    But the wind blows when it wants to, not just when you need the power. For this reason, you can't sup

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Courageous ( 228506 )

      Wind power has a severe problem - uncontrolled availability

      Well, yah. But as you point out, converting wind power by pushing it into a durable sink is of no particular challenge. There are many places that simply push water up hill to do this. They later let the water through a sluice and convert THAT to electricity.

      And as you point out, hydrogen is a fine durable sink.


    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by KidPix ( 1512501 )

      Then you get hit by a strong gust, and you're blowing fuses left and right.

      Wait, really?

  • About birds. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:31PM (#27449839)

    Just to cut off this dead birds argument before it starts... I know a guy that runs some wind farms in Cali here (the livermore ones) and as a test they decided to shut off one half of their farm for a month and see the difference in birds killed.

    They found like 4 dead birds in the field where they were off and around 8 dead birds where they were on. So each half of the farm might kill an extra 4 birds a month versus having standing towers. That's 96 birds a year for a very large windfarm.

    You know what kills WAY more birds than that per year? Housecats. Example quote from some government study in the UK:

    "In 1990, researchers estimated that "outdoor" house cats and feral cats were responsible for killing nearly 78 million small mammals and birds annually in the United Kingdom."

    full link: []

    My mom's house also has a large window that kills a few birds a year, I'm sure for every house and building that adds up.

    Point being, winds farms have effectively NO impact on birds! Thanks


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ericrost ( 1049312 )

      Since when is double == none?

    • by sampson7 ( 536545 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @05:48PM (#27451833)
      The original poster is simply incorrect that turbines pose a negligible threat to birds (and to bats, which potentially is just as serious a problem). Bird kills are very real and have to be managed just like any other environmental cost. The key to acceptable bird/bat kills is: (1) proper siting of the facility; and (2) proper operations of the facility.

      Nobody in the industry takes a cavelier attitude towards bird and bat kills. The Altamont Wind Project and it's well-documented bird problems probably set this industry back 10 years. It was an example of a very poorly sited facility. From Wikipedia:

      Considered largely obsolete, these numerous small turbines are being gradually replaced with much larger and more cost-effective units. The small turbines are dangerous to various raptors that hunt California Ground Squirrels in the area. 1300 raptors are killed annually. Among them are 70 golden eagles that are federally protected. In total, 4700 birds are killed annually.[2] The larger units turn more slowly and, being elevated higher, are less hazardous to the local wildlife.

      This idea that we in the industry discount bird and bat issues is false. The American Wind Energy Association, the leading trade association for wind developers, has sponsored a number of studies of the issue. This 132 page report from 2004 is just one resource discussing recent research: . This report from the American Academy of Science's presents a similarly scientific look at bird and bat fatalities: []. The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative ( has fascinating video of bats encountering turbines:, and has detailed discussions of proper siting and operation of facilities.

      The better operations come in two ways -- (1) shut down the turbines during local migratory and breeding seasons; and (2) shut the turbines down at night when bat activity is at a maximum and power prices are at a minimum. By combining these two operating parameters, the bird and bat kills can be reduced to an acceptable level, while revenues to the wind mills decrease only slightly. This is particularly true since electricity demand is at its lowest during the spring and fall -- when animals are most likely to come into contact with the turbines. It's common for fossil units to shut down during this period for maintenance too, because the revenues do not justify the costs.

      As usual, things are rarely as simple as we would wish. Generating power is not environmentally friendly. It just isn't. It's all about minimizing the bad parts.

  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:31PM (#27449847)
    For just the US: [] For the world: []
  • off-shore power (Score:4, Interesting)

    by secPM_MS ( 1081961 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:40PM (#27450005)
    While the near-shore environment is reasonably suited to cables, the cost of long distance power transmission in the deep ocean environment may be problematic. This suggests that the power be stored into some transmissible fuel that can be picked up intermittently. One possibility would be Ammonia, NH3, which could be made by electrolysis of water to get the Hydrogen and nitrogen from the atmosphere. The heat of formation of NH3 is ~ 10% of the available energy in the Hydrogen (liquefying Hydrogen requires ~ 30%). Anhydrous ammonia is easily handled at moderate pressures in steel vessels, has a higher volumetric density than liquid Hydrogen, could be easily handled by tankers, and the Hydrogen can be easily released at moderate temperatures by catalytic reforming. Spills of NH3 are limited by its high solubility in water and lack of persistence - plants metabolize it rapidly.
  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Friday April 03, 2009 @03:47PM (#27450155) Homepage Journal
    I don't see anything wrong with building enough wind infrastructure to exceed demand. My understanding is that you can turn off a turbine if you don't need it, or if conditions aren't right, or if you need to work on it. It really isn't that often that we have a foresight in the US to build something robust enough to have some redundancy available for those types of situations.
  • by Samschnooks ( 1415697 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @04:09PM (#27450539)
    With ALL those windmills going, taking the energy out of the wind, eventually, there won't be any more wind. See, the wind hits one set of windmills and slows down; then hits another and slows down further until eventually, no more wind! Then we'll have to set up windmills in the Middle East and we'll be right back to where we are today! It COULD happen!
  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @07:07PM (#27452609)

    The reasons wind power is not a good idea for a large fraction of the baseline power supply has nothing to do with the amount of power needed, and everything to do with other economic and technical concerns that this does nothing to address. In particular:

    1)Part of the reason wind power is not even more expensive is that other power plants can adjust their output according to changes in wind pattern and demand. As the fractional wind-power output increases so does the amount of backup power or energy storage schemes you need to compensate for the variations. This problem is often misunderstood by many. It is not that 100% cannot be done. Using hydroelectric pumped storage, it would be very possible to cover an entire country's energy demand from wind, the problem is that it gets expensive. Denmark, which gets a sizable fraction of its power from wind kinda manages because they exchange power with its neighbors, effectively using Swedish and German nuclear plants as backup, but this obviously won't work if everybody did it.

    2)Wwind power is still multiple times the cost of coal or nuclear. Yes, in many countries nuclear is subsidized, and there's decommissioning costs of nuclear plants and waste handling costs. There have been delays, Finland's new reactor is estimated to cost twice what originally planned. EVEN SO, the cost of wind power ends up being higher for on-shore wind farms, and higher still for off-shore ones. Don't believe me ? Go check out the UK's royal academy of engineering report on the cost of electric power production. If you've ever been to England you know it can get quite windy, and they still see more than twice the costs for wind than for nuclear. I've seen many proponents of wind power claim randomly that wind would be cheaper when you remove subsidies and include life-cycle costs and decommissioning. Turns out that even if you allow for a doubling of estimated nuclear prices ( including decommissioning ) this is simply not true. There's of course also the questionable logic in basing the decision of what energy source to use on "best case" prices for wind and "worst case" prices for nuclear, but even if you do so you have to bend the numbers a bit for wind to come out in favor.

    3)Much of the speculation of improved wind turbine efficiency is downright impossible due to physical constraints. Because you need an airflow through the turbine to extract energy, a wind turbine can never extract all the energy ( as that would leave the air stationary ). It turns out that the laws of fluid dynamics puts an upper limit on the conversion efficiency (which is related to how much teh airstream expands as it moves through the turbine), and as a consequence the hoped for dramatic improvements in efficiency simply cannot happen. At the very best a wind turbine that today gets 40% conversion efficiency could get 59% ( the theoretical maximum ) , meaning a 50% improvement in energy output. This is not alone enough to put it on par with nuclear and fossils. Any other improvement would have to come from either stronger off-shore winds or reduced material costs. Unfortunately the extra cost off of-shore construction and maintenance makes off-shore wind farms more expensive than land based ones, and since capital production costs is also the main cost in nuclear energy, changes in material prices are likely to benefit or hamper nuclear as well as wind, without altering the relative price between the two.

    4)Many of the claimed benefits of wind power over nuclear are dubious. As with Nuclear power stations, wind farms are only "carbon-free" if you ignore the CO2 output associated with creating the steel and concrete used in their construction, yet the emissions from producing steel for nuclear plants is often used as an argument for why wind would be better than nuclear. It is true that wind power does not produce radioactive waste, but in practice even the overly-cautious deep geological repositories planned in Sweden and Finland contribute only a fraction (less than 10% ) of the cost of the