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Power United States

US Wind Capacity Surpasses Hydro, Overall Generation To Follow (arstechnica.com) 172

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Wind power is now the largest source of renewable energy generating capacity, passing hydroelectric power in 2016. And since the two sources produce electricity at nearly the same rate, we'll soon see wind surpass hydro in terms of electricity produced. Wind power capacity has been growing at an astonishing pace (as shown in the graph above), and 2016 was no exception. As companies rushed to take advantage of tax incentives for renewable power, the U.S. saw 8.7 Gigawatts of new wind capacity installed in 2016. That's the most since 2012, the last time tax incentives were scheduled to expire. This has pushed the U.S.' total wind capacity to over 81 GW, edging it past hydroelectric, which has remained relatively stable at roughly 80 GW. Note that this is only capacity; since generators can't be run non-stop, they only generate a fraction of the electricity that their capacity suggests is possible. That fraction, called a capacity factor, has been in the area of 34 percent for U.S. wind, lower than most traditional sources of electricity. But hydropower's capacity factor isn't that much better, typically sitting at 37-38 percent. As a result, wind won't need to grow much to consistently exceed hydro. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Data Browser
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US Wind Capacity Surpasses Hydro, Overall Generation To Follow

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  • Tax Incentives (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Camel Pilot ( 78781 )

    What will happen though when tax incentives fall away?

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @08:21PM (#53988963)

      Then we'll be left with a lot of wind plants, I wonder how they'll be able to afford to provide fuel for them...

      • Wind generators have a finite lifespan usually in the 20 year range upon which time they need to either be replaced or refurbished in addition to ongoing maintenance, things with moving parts breakdown!
        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          So job creation, then?

        • New Generation wind generators will have double or triple the years that current ones do. Technology moves forward because businesses want More Profits in the name of greed!!
          • by gtall ( 79522 )

            Yeah, yer right. If we could just eliminate greed, then we could eliminate technology's forward progress. What were we thinking?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by donaldm ( 919619 )

          Wind generators have a finite lifespan usually in the 20 year range upon which time they need to either be replaced or refurbished in addition to ongoing maintenance, things with moving parts breakdown!

          What you said is very true but that also applies to all power generating and distribution infrastructure. When considering power generation and distribution you have to consider the overall cost/benefits. In some places wind, hydro, coal, gas, nuclear, solar arrays etc are more viable long term or even short term solutions.

          All energy generating plants require distribution infrastructure be it above ground or underground and there are pros and cons with each, likewise with the energy generation plant thems

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Wind is already cheaper than fossil fuels when all subsidies are removed and externalized costs considered. In 20 years time the cost of the turbines will have fallen even further.

      • Then we'll be left with a lot of wind plants, I wonder how they'll be able to afford to provide fuel for them...

        We'll build a lot of nukes, then run windmills as fans and cool the earth. :)

      • by Yaakov2k ( 34463 )

        Why do the tax incentives have to fall away? That has never happened for the oil industry and it is the main reason why the price of energy is so low. If you remove the wind subsidies, remove the fossil fuel subsidies as well and you will find that the price of generation goes up for all sources and wind will remain competitive.

        Of course this is not likely to happen since Republicans will cut wind while continuing to give huge tax breaks to their buddies at ExxonMobil, etc.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then the coal and oil industries will be in a whole lot of trouble? Or were you talking about the incentives given to renewables?

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      What will happen though when tax incentives fall away?

      Wind can be economically viable in the right location. Hopefully without the incentives people will stop putting them up where they will never pay.

    • Re:Tax Incentives (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @09:34PM (#53989467)

      What will happen though when tax incentives fall away?

      Check with the Oil and Natgas industry and ethanol industry. Cancel that, they're still getting subsidies.

      • by Straif ( 172656 )

        The majority of 'subsidies' given to the oil and natural gas industry are not actually subsidies in any real sense. Most of the 'studies' that like to report such enormous world wide subsides inflate their figures by defining a subsidy in such a way that even if when gas companies themselves don't get any money out of it it's added to their totals.

        For instance the top 3 'subsidies' in the US, making up half +/- a few percentage points every year are, the strategic oil reserve, farm fuel tax credit and the

        • The majority of 'subsidies' given to the oil and natural gas industry are not actually subsidies in any real sense.

          I don't look at it the same way some people do. Let me illustrate.

          In Pennsylvania, the Republican Governer made certain that there was no state extraction fee for the Gas companies who were fracking here. Pennsylvania was teh only state in the union that didn't have one.

          According to his expressed logic, if Pennsylvania had any extraction fee whatsoever, the companies wouldn't drill here. The logic is compelling, since all other states had fees, it didn't stop the companies from drilling there. That pr

    • What will happen though when tax incentives fall away?

      Then coal will come back to polute you and to shorten miner's lives due to cancer.

  • You know it going to happen.... we're harvesting the natural flow of energy around the globe and hence harming nature... changing weather patterns... blah blah blah

    • Won't someone please think of the birds! [thehill.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, I've given this some thought. We should treat the potential bird mortality like we do carbon release and sequestration. There's a ready solution that actually solves another large problem, unwanted kittens. Cats kill birds. Domestic cats, if allowed to roam the neighborhood kill hundreds of birds throughout their lifetime. If we were to provide bird life credits for euthanizing kittens (has to be kittens, before they start their life of serial killing), we solve two problems at once. We'd have to come

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        NP - those ground up birds are just part of making America grate again.
      • Bird problem? Not here! Stop looking at the ancient, out of date, "fans" they are putting up, and do some research on helical wind generators. That's only One type of configuration!! Things are going to change - special interest groups that make these dinosaurs will get mowed down eventually.
        • Things are going to change - special interest groups that make these dinosaurs will get mowed down eventually.

          Wait... I thought that the moving down of flying dinosaurs WAS the problem with windmills?

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      Eco nuts already hate wind turbines because they kill birds that fly into them.

      Just like buildings, trees and mountains.

      Birds are stupid.

  • With a title starting "US Wind Capacity Surpasses Hydro..."
    I would think this is a Taco Tuesday story...
  • BFD wind just surpassed the measly 6% generated by hydro... Call me when it surpasses natural gas. We are stuck with fossil fuels or nuclear until we can commercialize the technology to store large amounts of electricity (real efficient storage, not compressed air).

    • Re:BFD (Score:4, Informative)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @10:50PM (#53989865)

      commercialize the technology to store large amounts of electricity

      I did some work at one of those places you appear to think don't exist in 1996, and that pump storage plant was not new at the time. We certainly have the technology but you are looking at things the wrong way around. Since all storage methods are lossy the answer that has already happened is having a lot of little distributed generators (since gas is currently cheap that's where that huge percentage of gas has come from) that can be switched in as required by demand. The problem you are going on about has really already been solved at both ends.

      What I see in a lot of posts here is one dimensional thinking of single windmills (what do you do if there is no wind people cry - the blatantly obvious answer, already done, is build in more than one place!) or similar that ignore the existence of grids and interconnections between grids so assume that their single generator from their 1D thinking should have it's stuff stored when there is no demand for it. That's a very limited way of looking at things and it's almost always going to lead to very unrealistic conclusions. For a start, the low hydro number ignores the vast amount of power coming into the grid from Canada.

      • With hydro you often have to get permission to drill a long tunnel through a mountain. Some governments are ok with this, but as seen in La Esperanza, Honduras where environmentalist Berta Cáceres was executed, sometimes the locals are not too happy about seeing their rivers and resources taken and other environmental impacts that a hydro can cause. You end up with big companies taking the law into their own hands. Wind, especially offshore is easier because it's a bit more out of the way and doesn't
      • LOL, I will not go into my qualifications to discuss the issue, but they are significant, I will allow my arguments to stand on their own.

        The problem with wind is that even if you build a shit ton of wind turbines all over the place, you can still have slack times where there is not enough wind on enough turbines to meet demand. You reference using gas turbines as backup, and while it is true that that is what takes up the slack now, it highlights the fact that wind/solar are not viable without fossil fuel

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )

          The problem with wind

          I mentioned gas as well (not as a backup but as it's actually used, as a peaking power source) to avoid smug little rants like yours. What's with all the charging at windmills?

          What we need is something like the liquid metal battery

          You have a fucking enormous grid spread over a lot of timezones with HVDC links all over the place reducing the losses to the point where storage looks incredibly stupid unless there is some other way around it. Storage is very lossy, even liquid metal batte

          • In power generation, you must always be able to generate the entire load of the grid, or you have brown outs or forced blackouts to balance the load with the supply. This means that things like wind must be backstopped with 100% capacity gas/coal/storage, not peak load gas as you assert. It may only happen a few times a year, but if you EVER have a moment when wind generation drops to zero (and you will), your gas turbines have to generate 100% of that load (not peak load) or bad things happen. The only

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @10:29PM (#53989775)
    OK kids - here's the rundown on power generation given to seventh graders visiting power stations on field trips.
    Base load is the minimum demand and it's handy having stuff running 24/7/365 to produce it. Thermal power (coal/nukes/gas when gas is cheap) and hydro are good for that.
    Peak loads are when demand is higher and you switch in other generators as needed.
    If you only need something for a few hours a day it has a low capacity factor no matter whether it's capable of running 24/7/365 or not.
    It's that simple.
    Think of that when somebody uses "capacity factor" to push an agenda and pretends it's an indication of downtime due to mechanical failure or a lack of wind/sun/gas/water. It appears to be the term of choice for political opposition to various sources of electricity generation and the misuse probably came from some pimply Washington intern who thought he was being deviously clever instead of a manipulative prick.
    • Capacity factor absolutely matters when it comes to solar and wind because they are not dispatchable. The power they generate is at the mercy of the conditions, they generate when THEY want to generate, not when you want them to. The other types of generation you mentioned (hydro, coal, gas, nukes) are dispatchable so capacity factor is related to business needs and technical needs, not the weather conditions. A certain amount of solar and wind can be incorporated into the grid with good forecasting and

      • Capacity factor absolutely matters when it comes to solar and wind because they are not dispatchable
        Are you sure you wanted to write that? This makes no sense.
        CF is completely irrelevant regarding dispatchability.

        • Absolutely dispatchability is relevant when discussing capacity factor. For example, the reason that hydro's capacity factor isn't near 100% is that it can be dispatched to load follow [wikipedia.org] so it's not running all the time, decreasing its capacity factor. When building a hydro installation they size the generators for a higher load than the inputs can provide. If CF wasn't related to dispatchability the generators would just be sized to generate the amount of power the input river generates on average and run

          • Absolutely dispatchability is relevant when discussing capacity factor.
            Discussing? No idea what you want to discuss there.

            For example, the reason that hydro's capacity factor isn't near 100% is that it can be dispatched to load follow [wikipedia.org] so it's not running all the time

            Depends on the plant. Dams are usually load following and river flow crafts are usually base load.

            The CF is a result how you run the plant.

            Dispatchability is related to the load factor in all three types of generation that I m

            • Depends on the plant. Dams are usually load following and river flow crafts are usually base load.

              Yes, because run of the river plants have limited dispatchability (no dispatchability if they have no impoundment at all) so they are run as base load. Which point are you arguing? Originally you said that CF has nothing to do with dispatchability but then you post an example where the capacity factor is directly related to how dispatchable the plant is (RotR vs dams). Which it it?

              The CF is a result how you run the plant.

              Exactly. And how you run the plant is predicated on its dispatchability.

              • Originally you said that CF has nothing to do with dispatchability
                Because they have not? They are orthogonal concepts? I can have a non dispatchable solar plant with 12% CF and a highly dispatchable bio mass plant which I use for balancing power with 12% CF ...

                Why don't you simply go back in the chain of posts and check the post I answered to?

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Why not just come out and say you don't believe me or don't want others to believe me?

        People who honestly doubt what I've written should just look it up.

        they generate when THEY want to generate, not when you want them to

        I really can't understand why some people today have such a naive idea about capitalism and also state run generators. In the former, they have to generate when wanted or they don't make money, in the latter they have to do what they are told or people get fired. There's no magic independ

        • The GP statement about generating when they want to generate has nothing to do with capitalism. It has to do with the fact that they generate only when there is wind or sufficient light. You have a peak event and need more power in the winter at night you can't turn to your solar sources for power.

          GP's comment had nothing to do with human choices or desires but all about the variability of nature and the direct impact it has on wind and solar.
          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            How convenient it is that you overlooked wind, gas, thermal co-generation and other non-solar generating sources with low capacity factor.

            Most of the time the stuff is offline because the are not needed at that moment FFS - hence the low capacity factor that manipulative folks pretend means the generating source is no good.

            GP's comment had nothing to do with human choices

            The GP's comment was really just pushing a political party line and was somewhat orthogonal to reality. I didn't point it out because is

            • What the fuck are you talking about? I didn't say anything at all about politics. As dwilden stated, I only pointed out capacity factor is relevant when discussing wind or solar. You partisan fucks that can't even discuss a technical issue without determining which "team" the other poster is on make me sick.

              The GP's comment was really just pushing a political party line

              Nope

              and was somewhat orthogonal to reality. I didn't point it out because is should have been obvious.

              What did I say that is "orthogonal to reality"? It's not obvious to ME (the person who actually posted the comment) so please point out where you think I erred, but please provide your sources and

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                You deliberately equated capacity factor with unavoidable downtime. You are obviously doing it to manipulate for partisan political reasons. It's annoying as fuck that power generation has been chosen as a point of difference between parties and that I get exposed to people like you.
                It's even more annoying that you cannot work that out from a more polite post.
                • Nope, sorry no political agenda. The fact that you see a political opponent any time someone disagrees with you might point to you being the problem, not everyone else.

                  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                    Considering you are arguing against reality there's got to be some strong motive such as politics in such madness - plus it's all out of a worn party playbook, you're something like the 20th partisan prick that's attempted this misinformation here this year and it's only March. How about thinking for yourself instead of following some bullshit "talking points" dreamed up by a political intern much dumber and younger than you?
    • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

      Try running a hydroelectrical power plant 24/7/365 and see what happens.

      • by bazorg ( 911295 )

        I don't have a hydroelectrical power plant handy to find out. What happens?

        • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

          The reservoir gets empty.

          • I wrote the software to monitor water levels and and generation for a 13.5MW hydro. Here's what happens when the water levels are low, at least in our place. The operator in the control room presses a button* which causes less water to go through the turbines. This creates less kW but means you can save water. If there are multiple generators (we had four) then you can also disable one or more of those. That also saves water. We were pretty much running all the time, but sometimes had to manage the outpu
          • by dbIII ( 701233 )

            The reservoir gets empty.

            Cool - so with that Niagara plant running all the time that means you'll be able to walk from Cleveland to Canada across the bed of Lake Erie? Or does it mean you are incorrect?
            Hoover would have thought?
            How about those Canadians running hydro all the time - dam nation!

            • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

              There is no point in replying to you, since you are just playing dumb.

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                My point unfortunately is that you were not playing at being dumb. Best comment on something you know about if you do not wish to be laughed at. Most hydro around the world uses something close to the normal flow of whatever body of water they are located on. Most hydro around the world is base load power.
                • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

                  I was simply not expecting you to deliberately misunderstand me, so I didn't write precisely enough. Sigh. It's much easier to have a constructive discussion when there is a minimal amount of goodwill.

                  What I meant is that you cannot run a hydroelectric power plant at full power all the time, as this would quickly drain the reservoir. And it is not even useful to do that, as you would just waste the energy produced at night. So lacking water for producing energy is actually a thing, unlike for example a nuc

                  • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                    What I meant is that you cannot run a hydroelectric power plant at full power all the time

                    Many do.
                    It's best not to just make things up on a site like this where others actually know something about the topic.

    • The subsidy farmers have issued a new press release and of course the media picks it up and runs with it without asking any real questions because SavingThePlanet.
  • That's the most important part, to me.
  • I think hydro at least in cases where water is available, can be used for peaking. I think equating the cap factor of wind and water is somewhat misleading. I know locally the generation is targeted to meet demand for the hydro. Its hard to store up a big gust of wind for later use.

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