Transterrestrial Musings

Defend Free Speech!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type 4.0
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« The High-Water Mark | Main | Space Carnival Time »

Killing The Planet

...with wind mills:

...the only feasible backup for the planned 25-gig wind base will be good old gas turbines. These would have to be built even if pumped storage existed, to deal with long-duration calms; and the expense of a triplefold wind, gas and pumped storage solution would be ridiculous. At present, gas turbine installations provide much of the grid's ability to deal with demand changes through the day.

The trouble is, according to Oswald, that human demand variance is predictable and smooth compared to wind output variance. Coping with the sudden ups and downs of wind is going to mean a lot more gas turbines - ones which will be thrashed especially hard as wind output surges up and down, and which will be fired up for less of the time.

The fiends.


0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Killing The Planet.

TrackBack URL for this entry:


TJ wrote:

Maybe we can build huge wind-generating turbines and place them in front of the wind mills! Then there would always be wind-generated electricity even when there is no wind.

Of course, the turbines would run off oil and burn at least as much energy as the wind generates, but then again, that hasn't stopped the production of ethanol..

AJDiseker wrote:

I've been posting this idea here and there, and no one ever responds (which isn't surprising, lots of words in the blogosphere) but I'm feeling Quixotic today, so let me tilt at windmills some more.

Since Bob Zubrin has been so vocal (and persuasive, to me)
about using Martian atmospheric CO2 and H20 to generate fuel
for a return from Mars, why not use the same generators powered
by windmills and solar panels to generate methanol or some
hydrocarbon here? Granted the loss of energy due to
inefficiency would keep them from generating a lot of fuel, and
if it's volatile enough you'd lose to evaporation, but if you
have a few thousand installations each generating (WAG) a
gallon of methanol every week, seems like you'd accumulate a
useful amount after a while. If nothing else, it could be used
locally to make up for the slow wind/cloudy days by powering

At any rate, I doubt anyone will care, but at least I got it
out of my system.

Jason wrote:

Gee, it's a pity we don't have some carbon-free power source that produces electricity reliably, doesn't depend on foreign fuels, doesn't chop up birds or cover immense swaths of the landscape with panels or water and which produces waste that stays where you put it, and which can even be re-processed and used to produce *more* power.

But that's just a silly fantasy. No power source could do all that...

Karl Hallowell wrote:

Hmmm, wind, gas, and pumped storage? Doesn't sound that bad. Looks to me like you can use pumped storage to remove the variability that he claims cripples the high efficiency gas turbines.

Alfred Differ wrote:

Hi folks,

For wind to work without this trap you have to overbuild your generation capacity by enough to deal with the predictability issues. This isn't all that new for the industry since they have to overbuild other generation sources to deal with peak demands.

The first line of defense for rapid demand changes usually doesn't involve the gas turbines. Hydro ramps up and down quickly. Grid controllers often keep some of it in reserve for that ability even though it makes them buy slightly more expensive power for the base loads. Where gas turbines come into the picture is when you run out of that reserve, hit high peaks, or need reactive power on the grid. Hydro is cheap (if you have it) while gas turbines are expensive, but quick to build since they are often co-located with other facilities.

To answer AJDiseker, there are a number of options, but none are considered economically viable yet. One could use excess wind power to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen. If we had a hydrogen distribution system it might make sense assuming water was available at the generation site. One might also consider desalinization of sea water. Do you pay for your water where you live? If you do it through a municipal 'monopoly' then you have to look at their pricing rules to determine if it is worth the investment risk.

There are many uses for the electricity, but the most important question is whether or not the utility/generator is _allowed_ to do it at a profit. Many utilities are regulated monopolies with business lines limited by PUC's. Armies of lawyers get involved when changes are proposed. Many neat ideas do not pass muster in this real and gritty world. Independent generators stand a better chance, but they still face significant regulatory challenges when it comes time to sell the electricity on the grid.

We may buy kW-hr's on our bill, but we really pay for reliability.

ken anthony wrote:

But Jason, if we don't regulate all that scary stuff away electricity would be so cheap nobody could charge for it!

It works for me, but not for thee wrote:

“Green” Power Provides Electricity to Caterpillar’s Northern Ireland Facilities

In support of strategic initiatives to use alternative or renewable sources to meet 20 percent of its energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing facilities by 25 percent by 2020, Caterpillar recently transitioned the power for the Northern Ireland facilities to “green” electricity.

As of May of this year, all electric power for FG Wilson manufacturing plants in Northern Ireland is supplied by Airtricity, a fully integrated renewable electricity utility specializing in the development and long term ownership of onshore and offshore wind farms and selling the electricity generated.

“Transferring our consumption from traditional energy sources to more renewable sources is an important step in reaching our 2020 goals and being recognized as a sustainable company,” said Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar Group President.

Through the agreement, the facilities will reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 11,000 tons per year – the equivalent weight of CO2 produced by powering 6,000 homes.

“Airtricity supplies FG Wilson with electricity produced by wind farms,” said Bill Rohner, vice-president of Caterpillar’s Electric Power Division. “Sustainability is a key element of our corporate strategy and switching to green electricity is central to that. Transferring our NI facilities to wind generated electricity supplied by Airtricity will facilitate Caterpillar’s 2020 goals to utilize renewable energy sources and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.”

This is Caterpillar’s first production site to be 100 percent supplied by renewable electricity.

More information about 2020 goals and sustainable development efforts can be found in the annual sustainability report at

Leave a comment

Note: The comment system is functional, but timing out when returning a response page. If you have submitted a comment, DON'T RESUBMIT IT IF/WHEN IT HANGS UP AND GIVES YOU A "500" PAGE. Simply click your browser "Back" button to the post page, and then refresh to see your comment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 3, 2008 6:57 AM.

The High-Water Mark was the previous entry in this blog.

Space Carnival Time is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.1