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Wind Farm - Growing 150-ton plants in the sky

By imrdkl in Technology
Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:43:32 PM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

Wind power had a record year in 2002, with 6.8 gigawatts of new power taking the combined worldwide total to 31 gigawatts. Only five years ago, 75% of that capacity was not even built yet, and the generating capacity of individual wind power turbines was a measly 150 kilowatts. Today's standard wind turbines pump out 2-3 megawatts each, and yet more powerful and efficient prototypes are already being tested. Wind power is advancing quickly, that's clear. At a recent alternative energy conference in the US, Christopher Flavin, President of Worldwatch, stated that "Wind Power is breaking into the mainstream," and that it will be "the lowest-cost electricity within the next few years." Today, so-called Wind Farms are "sprouting up" all over the world. Recent innovations have even made it possible to install the first wind power in Antarctica, where the average windspeed is more than 25 mph, and can gust to 150mph. These "fortified" windmills are smaller and shorter than the 2-3 megawatt models, however. A full-sized windmill stands more than 50 meters high, and that makes them quite difficult to construct.

I visited a "growing" wind farm last year, one that was about half-way finished, and was given a tour of the site by the construction manager. What follows is a short pictorial account of my site-tour, and a description of the processes involved in changing a fallow, rocky coastline into a productive wind farm.

Note: The electronic camera that I used to take the pictures for this article cost me $34.95. It's rugged, which was necessary for this excursion, but the pictures leave something to be desired. That's collaborative media for you.

Late last summer, I took a weekend trip up to the northern coast of Norway, to have a look at one of the largest new wind farms in Europe which is being built there. Norwegians have committed to 10% of their countries power from alternative sources by 2010, and they're counting on wind power for a big chunk of it. This large wind farm is being built on a rather small island which lies about 10 kilometers off the northern coast, called Smøla. There's good fishing on Smøla, I even caught a few myself while I was there, but the fishing industry in general on the island just isn't what it used to be, according to local residents. With that in mind, they approved the construction of 150 megawatt Wind Farm to be installed on the southwest (seaward) side of the island.

While it was being considered, the issue of building a wind farm on Smøla was very controversial. In fact it divided the Green movement in the country, with half of the Greens more concerned about the effects of the turbine blades on rare birds and noise, than the non-polluting power. After finally being approved, construction started late in 2001, with installation of the final turbine anticipated this summer (2003).

While visiting the island, I stayed at a gjeste kro (like a bed and breakfast) called Annies, which serves the local tourist industry, as well as a few of the workers who are building the wind farm. The farm's construction manager was among them, and his name was Haakon. Haakon was a friendly Danish fellow who worked for the company which had been tapped to supply and install the wind turbines for this farm. He took me on an unofficial tour of the site, which was a few kilometers down the road from Annies place.

It was a windy morning when my tour began, with a steady 25 mph breeze blowing from the south. Approaching the site, the scale and sprawl of a wind farm is apparent from a long ways away. As we drove towards the current jobsite, Haakon politely answered my questions, and pointed out that there wouldn't be any significant work on the site on this particular day, since the wind was too strong to use the construction cranes safely. The site entrance was marked with a sign, indicating that the operation was owned and financed by Statkraft, a Norwegian power company which intends to build enough wind power in Norway to provide 2 TWh per year by 2010. At the entrance to the farm began a wide dirt road which had been built up across the craggy, but sensitive landscape. The road would eventually be narrowed and paved over, Haakon said, but the width was necessary in the construction phase. He also pointed out that road-building is kept to a minimum in these endeavors.

Driving along the dirt road, we slowly passed by cleared and leveled dirt plots which covered the saged, seaside landscape - each about 40 meters in diameter. The part of the island where the windmills are being constructed consists of low, rocky hills mostly covered with brush and marsh grasses which are tolerant to cold weather and wind. (natch) There were also sensitive marshlands further inland on the island, but the ground was much too soft to build there. Placing a windmill requires a solid foundation, and in this case that meant placing them nearer to the coastline.

Each cleared plot contained a growing windmill. Some had only a small concrete foundation with a bunch of bolts sticking up, others had one or more tower sections laid out on the ground, and there were some which had one or more sections standing upright. Each tower section was roughly 20 meters long, and a finished windmill had three sections beneath it's turbine. The blades for the "fan" for each windmill, each 30 meters long, along with the nose cone were also deployed at some of the plots.

The turbine on a modern windmill is quite a work of engineering. Producing 2 megawatts of power requires a lot of coils to begin with, so much so, that the turbine is about the same size as a double-length tractor trailer. Each one weighed 150 tons, and that's without the fan attached. On a day which was suitable for lifting the crews would show up early to man the heavy construction crane which was brought in to lift the turbine, and the lighter "tender" cranes which lift the men and tools to attach the turbine to the top of the waiting tower, more than 50 meters in the air.

Installing the fan blades, according to the Haakon, was nearly as tricky as installing the heavy turbines, due to their 30-meter length, and natural tendency to catch the wind. Usually, each blade would be installed individually, but if there was enough flat ground in the vicinity of the turbine, they could pre-build the nose cone and blades in the final configuration on the ground, and lift the entire fan in the air in one shot. But, he said with a note of frustration, "that doesn't happen very often". Without filling and leveling much more sensitive coastland, it was difficult to find enough flat ground on the rocky shores of the island to do this.

Ironically, the biggest problem with building a wind farm is the wind itself. It's physically impossible (well, it's against the work and safety laws, anyways) to install the turbine or blades with a breeze above 20mph (10 m/s), which leaves scant few days in a year which are ideal for building a wind turbine on an optimal site. Lifting the 150 ton turbines 60 meters in the air to line them up with dozens of small bolt-holes at the top of the tower is a dangerous and risky business, and requires some pretty strong nerves, according to Haakon and his crew. Even on light-wind days. Standing directly beneath one of the finished windmills might give some perspective of it's size and power, if you keep in mind that there's the equivalent of a loaded semi-truck up on top.

The people who lived on the island that I spoke to seemed to be generally glad to see the wind turbines going up, in spite of the long political battle. The island is rich in natural beauty and wildlife, which nobody wanted to see harmed, but economic benefits to the local economy and the appeal of clean power seemed to sway most opinions towards approval. A wind farm might not be as appealing as the natural coastline, but they're much nicer to look at than the of unused and decaying fish drying racks, which used to be the lifeblood of many of these small islands. What was not forthcoming out of the construction of this power plant, however, was lots of permanent jobs. When complete, according to Haakon, it would take only 3 people to manage the place year-round.


Voxel dot net
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The answer, my friend
o Is blowin' in the wind 78%
o Other 21%

Votes: 37
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o record year
o conference
o Worldwatch
o wind power in Antarctica
o electronic camera
o Smøla
o fishing
o 150 megawatt Wind Farm
o divided the Green movement
o rare birds
o gjeste kro
o scale
o sprawl
o sign
o Statkraft
o 2 TWh per year by 2010
o wide dirt road
o laid out on the ground
o standing upright
o nose cone
o same size as a double-length tractor trailer
o directly beneath
o fish drying racks
o Also by imrdkl

Display: Sort:
Wind Farm - Growing 150-ton plants in the sky | 156 comments (119 topical, 37 editorial, 0 hidden)
wind farms are a terrible idea (3.76 / 13) (#1)
by tps12 on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 08:28:09 PM EST

The idea that we should be harvesting wind for electricity is one that I'm seeing bandied about more and more often as the years breeze by. IMHO, it's incredibly short-sighted to think that we can get the proverbial free lunch.

Wind is an essential part of the global ecosystem; plants and animals rely on it for germination, finding food, and reproduction. Further, all intercontinental trade relies on ships and airplanes to deliver goods, and these both depend on trade winds, jetstreams, and prevailing winds to remain cost effective.

The ecological and economic impact of harvesting wind would be devastating. At a time when we are reconsidering man's consumption of natural resources, the last thing we need is to look around for other resources to deplete.

I LOVE IT! (none / 0) (#5)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 08:42:45 PM EST

next thing you know, we'll hear about equal concern for solar energy, that it warms the ground and stops the earthworms from turning into sludge.

Instead of merely naysaying, propose alternatives, no matter how harebrained. It's one thing to say something is bad. It's an altogether different thing to demonstrate that something else is better.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
Tidal power will stop the moon (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by RyoCokey on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 11:05:57 PM EST

All that stopping the tides, you know. Throw it right out of orbit. ;)

Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
[ Parent ]
LOL! (3.50 / 2) (#84)
by Subtillus on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:48:38 PM EST

I'm sorry, I hate writing "lol" but that literally made me laugh out loud, I was in the library at the time too. The more people looked at me, the more I laughed, just picturing the moon fling off into the asteroid belt because of our damn Tidal Generators!!!!

When Will Man Learn To Stop Playing God!

[ Parent ]

The most environment-friendly source of energy: (none / 0) (#35)
by tkatchev on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 12:41:38 PM EST

Pumping oil from the ground and refining it into gasoline.

I don't think that the ecosystem depends in any significant way on oil; moreover, unlike strip-mining, with oil all you have to do is build a big enough pump.

Just make sure that you don't spill any of it while getting it to the refinery.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

And don't let any fumes/smoke escape (nt) (none / 0) (#94)
by upper on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:53:31 PM EST

[ Parent ]
How about this for an alternative?: (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by oroshana on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:13:45 PM EST

Very weak, underground, uncontrolled nuclear fussion.

Think about it. You just explode a very small amount of fuel. Use that relatively large output to heat water, drive turbines which produce electricity (geeee that's not a new idea). The output of this system is not as smooth as what we have today, but with the right large scale electrical equipement these surges of electricity can be smoothed out to deliver usable current.

Although the ground above the facility would probably shake every few minutes! <;o)

[ Parent ]
hehe (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:48:00 PM EST

and in case the earth's core stops spinning, we're ready to re-start the spin cycle again.

(sorry, poking fun at a bad american movie premise.)

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
I still can't get over that. (none / 0) (#99)
by oroshana on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 12:00:51 AM EST

Such a silly movie. I mean how can a movie investor actually believe that is a good plotline? Goodness.

[ Parent ]
I thought it was parody (4.00 / 1) (#119)
by RyoCokey on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 11:06:14 AM EST

All the way through the trailer. Then I realized it ended without a punchline, and that it was dead serious. Then I screamed.

Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
[ Parent ]
This is also why... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by schwong on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 09:01:40 PM EST

...walls are a bad idea. Any kind of structure that blocks the wind should be torn down and replaced with something made entirely out of chicken wire.

Thinking long-term, we should also really do something about mountian ranges. Italy would be much more bearable in the summer with some light breezes, and we'd have some too if it weren't for those damn Alps.

(Seriously though, wind is an effect of pressure and temperature gradients, which are caused by sunlight, which isn't exactly a depletable natural resource.)

[ Parent ]

That's all good... (none / 0) (#17)
by kwsNI on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 11:38:59 PM EST

Until you invite a girl home from the bar and everyone runs out and sets up bleachers in front of your house.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -<
[ Parent ]
And don't forget the ever-present danger (5.00 / 8) (#9)
by twistedfirestarter on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 10:24:05 PM EST

of terrorists reversing the power flux and routing electricity from the grid into the turbines. They could create devastating cyclones with the flip of a switch.

[ Parent ]
Wind Farms and Ecology (none / 0) (#34)
by MrAcheson on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 12:15:12 PM EST

Wind farms do have some ecological drawbacks.  The big one is that complete decimate any avian populations in the area they are in.  For birds flying through a wind farm is like running a gauntlet of huge killer flails.  This is especially bad because big and often endangered birds like windy areas because its easier for them to fly and so are even more at risk.

Wind farms are like hydroelectric plants or golf courses, they only look kind to the environment on the outside.  In actually they complete destroy much of the previous ecosystem and replace it with a new one.  

These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.

[ Parent ]
At least it's getting better (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by schwong on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 12:58:03 PM EST

This was a bigger problem with the first generation of wind turbines that went up in the early 80's. They needed to rotate much more quickly to generate power, but the newer generations are able to affect a much more leisurely spin rate. Newer models also use solid poles, instead of latticework girding that birds like to nest in. A study done of the Altamont Pass wind farm (near where I live) found that the slight decrease in the bird population was probably due depletion of nesting habitat, rather than the turbines.

This is by no means a pass to develop wind farms recklessly. We still have to make sure they're not situated along major migratory routes and continue to study the situation, but it isn't quite as dire for the bird population as one might think.

[ Parent ]

Not bad... (none / 0) (#42)
by So many idiots So little time on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 02:35:19 PM EST

But it would have been much better if you had agrued for another clean environmentally safe energy source to support your, um, views. Like nuclear power or something.

That way, people skimming it just see down with wind, up with xyz and start shooting off dumb responses.

Not that I want that. Trolling is annoying. All it ever does is increase the noise. So please, try to limit your trolling to throwing out legitimate alternative viewpoints, so there is at least a possibility of boosting the overal signal.

This relatively polite post brought to you by thw wonders of chocolate© brand mood enhancers.

Off wit' yer head!
[ Parent ]

Eh? (none / 0) (#47)
by the on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:25:58 PM EST

I agree there's too much noise. But the trolls are the signal!

The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
No no no (none / 0) (#53)
by So many idiots So little time on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:56:53 PM EST

You're getting k5 mixed up with adequacy.

Off wit' yer head!
[ Parent ]
Oh, sorry (none / 0) (#59)
by the on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:13:52 PM EST

But I do so enjoy tps12's trolls. Can't we make an exception for him?

The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Slapped wrist! (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by the on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:14:31 PM EST

tps12 could be female.

The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
really? how? (nt) (none / 0) (#64)
by tps12 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:47:06 PM EST

[ Parent ]
I don't know the details (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by the on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:50:12 PM EST

But I know a couple of people who've done it. In once case the results were pretty good too.

The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
yes (none / 0) (#70)
by tps12 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:58:17 PM EST

You're right. I considered doing something like that, but my motive here wasn't simple trolling.

What I was trying to point out is that things like wind and solar power look like free energy, and the answer to all of our power problems once we can harnass them efficiently. But this is much how the world's then-vast fossil fuel resources must have looked to our predecessors about a century ago.

In the end, we have to realize that any energy we can take out of our environment would have gone someplace else, and done something. We may decide that the effects of building clean power plants are negligible or justified, but we can't forget they're there.

[ Parent ]

Do the math. (4.75 / 4) (#80)
by awgsilyari on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:18:14 PM EST

Earth's atmosphere has a mass of about 5e18 kilograms. It surround the Earth at a radius of 6.4e6 meters. Assume the wind blows at 0.5 m/s (about 1 MPH). This means the atmospheric shell must contain at least 4e17 J of energy (and that's when it's only moving 1 MPH!). Suppose we entirely consumed this energy within one day. We would be consuming at the rate of 4.6 terawatts. This rate of power consumption is pretty close to that of the US today.

However, the wind is powered by the sun, which dumps about 1e17 watts into the atmosphere. In other words, we'd only consume 1/20000th of the total available power.

There are certainly other problems with large wind farms, but messing up the atmosphere by draining its energy is not one of them.

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

THANK YOU for being Quantative, not Speculative (none / 0) (#124)
by BuddasEvilTwin on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 02:15:54 PM EST

I think you should have added this...

When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.
                       -- William Thomson, Lord Kelvin

[ Parent ]

give me a break (none / 0) (#104)
by mikelist on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 05:51:08 AM EST

Wind is caused by solar energy, the movement of the earth and tidal issues caused by the moon's gravitational field. The moment those particular arrays are taken down, everything's back to normal.
I do understand that the effects include hambirdger
and I'm not big on that. Perhaps these towers could be less concentrated geographically yo mitigate the sound and moving parts problems, as well as decreased wind force and stuff caused by it.

[ Parent ]
Indeed (none / 0) (#122)
by Lagged2Death on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 12:15:32 PM EST

In fact, the dangers have been covered here before.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]
Uh, you're wrong... (none / 0) (#154)
by Motekye on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 04:48:52 PM EST

The windmills talked about are only 50 metres tall. I don't think they'd effect winds THAT HIGH UP!

[ Parent ]
Don't forget - solar power is non-renewable (4.37 / 8) (#10)
by Pop Top on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 10:33:48 PM EST

After all, once all the Sun's hydrogen fuses into helium, well there ain't going to be no more H where that came from.

Is the war over? Have we won yet?

If ... IF we are still here then... (none / 0) (#20)
by iasius on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 01:54:39 AM EST

we won't have to worry about our energy economy failing.

the internet troll is the pinnacle of human evolution - circletimessquare
[ Parent ]
Huh? The sun is eating our hydrogen? (none / 0) (#68)
by Gooba42 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:50:57 PM EST

Since when would the sun running out of hydrogen stop the earth from having any? We'll die from the other effects of a helium-sun (red giant) before pretty much anything else it does matters to us.

Besides, last estimate I heard gives us about 4.5 billion years to figure out what to do when the sun stops working for us.

[ Parent ]

Water as energy storage medium? (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by goonie on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 12:28:28 AM EST

One of the biggest problems with wind power is its unpredictability. If you're going to use it for a significant fraction of your grid, you need to be able to store excess energy in high wind conditions and release it in low wind conditions.

There's been lots of talk about the "hydrogen economy", in which environmentally-sustainable power sources are used to electrolyse hydrogen. Nice as that vision is, it seems that electrolysis is quite an inefficient process, and fuel cell technology is still some way off maturity. So the question arises - what else can we use to balance out the energy supply from wind (or for that matter solar) power)?

One simple scheme might be simply install pumps below hydroelectric facilities, and when there's a surplus of wind power use it to pump water upwards. When there's a deficit, spin up the hydro turbines. Obviously not every country has hydro power facilities, but plenty do.

The obvious question in such a scheme is the efficiency of it. Obviously the water turbines aren't 100% efficient, and nor are the pumps that would be used to drive the water back up. Could such a scheme be made efficient enough to be workable?

Pumped Storage Projects (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by schwong on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 01:20:51 AM EST

I think what you're describing are pumped storage projects [example], basically reservoirs that can reverse their flow to conserve power. (The downside, of course, is that building dams and reservoirs is really shitty, environmentally speaking.)

In the ancient past when we were having a power crisis in California (must be 8 months now) I remember hearing about an ingenious way Canada was getting in on the whole deal. The power crunch only hit during working hours, from 9-5. One part of Canada had a whole load of standard power generating facilities that were maxed out during the day but lay dormant at night, and another part had another load of hydroelectric facilities. The Canadians realized that by using the excess power from the standard plants at night to pump water into the reservoirs of the hydroelectric facilities, they could re-run the water back through the turbines at peak hours, and siphon the energy to California for fun and profit. Helped lessen our crisis and made them a pretty penny. Ingenious bastards.

[ Parent ]

Sourced anecdote (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by IEFBR14 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:09:01 AM EST

It's not in Canada. but try this.

[ Parent ]
Pumped Storage (none / 0) (#41)
by duffbeer703 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 02:21:25 PM EST

The New York Power Authority operates a pumped-storage plant in Gilboa, NY that I've been too many times. Its a state park and picnic area as well.

They took a small mountain and dug a crater on top, and run two or three shafts to reservoir below. The turbines are in the shafts and in a small powerhouse at the bottom of the mountain.

The whole area is contained within about 500 acres and was created by flooding an old dairy farm and chopping some trees.

What is so environmentally harmful about that?

[ Parent ]

info (none / 0) (#85)
by coryking on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:52:30 PM EST

here. Cool stuff.

[ Parent ]
Austria is doing that since '57 (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by otmar on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 08:58:10 AM EST

e.g at Kaprun. (German description of the setup)

[ Parent ]
well (none / 0) (#72)
by tps12 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 05:02:24 PM EST

That's a pretty standard way of storing power, as others have commented. It's simple, but as you suggest, not very efficient. I believe you might reclaim something on the order of 25% of the stored energy, once it's gone through the turbines a second time.

[ Parent ]
Bit of a problem (none / 0) (#89)
by malcolm on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:51:09 PM EST

The problem is, flat areas are best for wind farms, while stored hydro requires a large height difference. In fact, finding suitable areas for hydro plants is very difficult.

A fairly new type of storage uses compressed air - large underground caverns are used as reservoirs. Unfortunately I don't have the magazine I saw this in to hand, but they are already used as peaking plants. I don't know how common suitable locations are either.

The other issue is that this changed the nature of the electricity grid. Currently, grids are primarily designed to transmit power from large generating centres to a distributed load. Dealing with distributed and embedded generation is not trivial.

[ Parent ]
This Is Why We Must Secure Our Borders (4.00 / 6) (#21)
by thom2 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:35:38 AM EST

As the world's sources of petroleum dry up, the scramble to secure alternative sources of energy will be on. The advantges of wind power are numerous: it is clean, nearly inexhaustable, and readily available. Welll...it is readily available for certain areas. The United States and Canada, which contain wide, windy geographic regions (e.g., Chicago, Oklahoma), are perfectly situated to implement wind power.

Other nations will of course not be so lucky, and many of them will be left behind, choking on dust and tripping over their shoelaces, in the great national race to dominance as the world's oil slowly but surely runs out.

Naturally, what will follow from this will be a great exodus of refugees from the windless nations to the windy. The US will in the near future be in no position to support millions of newcomers, having her financial hands full with the burden of the Baby Boom retirees. Thus can be seen the potential immigration crisis lying in wait just a few years hence. These foreign hordes will have to be turned away at the border.

The time to develop and implement an effective plan to prevent excess refugees from flooding into our countries is now, when we have the time, money, and capability to spare. Let us not wait until the impoverished masses from windless lands are already streaming across our borders by the thousand.

It's even worse than you realize! (5.00 / 2) (#39)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 01:52:24 PM EST

Since Europe's birth rate is so low that it isn't even replacing their own population, we aren't going to be invaded by, say, millions of buxom young swedish girls, either. Instead, we're going to be invaded by hordes of crotchety old frenchmen and italian grandmothers!

The good news is, boy, italian grandmothers can cook like nobody's business...

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Yes but they drive like maniacs (none / 0) (#98)
by thom2 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 11:51:59 PM EST

Couple this with the fact that those post-petroleum, hydrogen-powered cars will go up like the Hindenburg, and I shudder to think what our highway system will be like in a few decades.

[ Parent ]
heh (none / 0) (#44)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 02:50:38 PM EST

The United States and Canada

actually... mostly Canada... and please keep your grubby yankee hands off our resourses, thank you.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Oh come off it (none / 0) (#102)
by thom2 on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 03:00:44 AM EST

If you are one of those people who is in favor of building a huge wall between Canada and the US to try and keep all the wind resources north of the border, let me just tell you there are several reasons why that will not work. Google around and you'll see.

Our two nations share a common history, language and culture (mostly). We should be allies, not enemies.

[ Parent ]
more immigrants == more soc.securty taxpayers /nt (none / 0) (#90)
by cnicolai on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 08:15:10 PM EST

The ones with the energy and inclination to immigrate will be younger -- exactly what we need to balance our aging population.

[ Parent ]
We've got better luck than most (none / 0) (#118)
by RyoCokey on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 11:04:34 AM EST

First of all, if things get really bad, we've got decades and decades worth of coal. Secondly, we're across oceans from much of the world, making it a lot easier to stem a possible flow of immigration.

Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
[ Parent ]
Ooh, 31 gigawatts? (5.00 / 6) (#22)
by fluffy grue on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:46:34 AM EST

We can power almost 26 flux capacitors with that much!
"Is a hyperlink" is a hyperlink.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.

Cats: Nature's entropy generators


Where we're going (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by imrdkl on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 12:44:52 PM EST

We don't need flux capacitors.

[ Parent ]
All those extra windmills (4.62 / 8) (#28)
by Dphitz on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:45:32 AM EST

Could create sufficient drag on the Earth and slow down the planet's rotation, eventually extending the regular work day to 12 hours.  Well, that's what I heard on the Art Bell show anyways.

God, please save me . . . from your followers

That's pretty funny, (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by bheerssen on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:58:20 PM EST

but before anyone takes this without enough salt, remember that the earth (and particularly it's atmosphere) derives it's enery from the sun. Energy is created by being in close proximity to the sun's gravitational field, and by absorbing it's radiation. This energy is far, far greater than even that of millions of wind farms. And it is continually replenished. Any effect something like wind farms could have would be so minimal that it would be many millions of years before that effect could be felt.

It's not comfortable to think about, but our atmosphere is completely inconsequential when compared to the power of the earth itself, or that of another large celestial body. You can think of it as wearing sheer underwear, while Jupiter enjoys his nice thick coat.

[ Parent ]

fallacy (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by tps12 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 05:07:29 PM EST

The thing is, you can't think of it in simple energy terms. After all, why doesn't the same argument hold true for fossil fuels? Just because the Earth has no net energy loss doesn't mean that we have secured an infinite source of energy in a form we can use.

[ Parent ]
Assuming Superman doesn't come to the rescue... (none / 0) (#131)
by Sessamoid on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 11:31:37 PM EST

Could create sufficient drag on the Earth and slow down the planet's rotation, eventually extending the regular work day to 12 hours. Well, that's what I heard on the Art Bell show anyways.

Too many windfarms slowing down the earth's rotation? The solution is obvious! Cut down an equal number of trees! :)

[ Parent ]

Yep (none / 0) (#136)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 04:00:04 AM EST

It's a conspiracy by the corporations to get more work out of the proletariat!

Actually a longer work day in this fashion would come along with a longer non-work day, and from what I've heard people could adapt easily to a 36 hour day.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

I worry. (3.40 / 5) (#45)
by krek on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 02:56:48 PM EST

You can't beat entropy.

If the entire world becomes, say, 50% dependant on wind turbines for their energy needs, I fear it could spell trouble. I mean, That energy has to come from somewhere, right? I would think that enough turbines could eventually disturb weather patterns by effecting minimal shifts or slowing of stuff like the jet streams.

Right up front I will say that I have no idea how much energy is in the planet's weather system, but I almost have to assume that taking 50% of the worlds energy needs worth out of the global weather patterns would have at least some effect. And disaterous or not, maybe it is something that people should be considering BEFORE we fuck everything up this time.

Entropy is unavoidable.

Bleh, (5.00 / 3) (#48)
by twistedfirestarter on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:30:02 PM EST

There is 6000 times more energy transmitted to the Earth by the Sun each day than is used by the global economy. The amount of energy even in mundane weather events like storms is truly phenomenal.

[ Parent ]
Back that up (2.00 / 4) (#69)
by weirdling on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:51:53 PM EST

Where do you get the 6000 times figure? The US, in particular, could not with current technology produce enough energy through solar means to power the country to its current level even if we papered every single square inch in solar cells. Wind is a horribly inefficient way to make energy and it is hard on birds, not to mention expensive, unreliable, and a maintenance nightmare. As for the awesome power of a storm, the kilowatt-hours represented don't even come close to the comparative output of a large nuclear power plant.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Um, dude? (2.00 / 1) (#82)
by coryking on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:38:38 PM EST

For starters, solar panels are not efficient at all. I'm pretty sure they are like 20% or so. Second - solar panels are only sensitive to a tiny sliver of the full spectrum that hits the earth. You are forgetting infrared, UV, microwave, etc... Visible light is just a small fraction of the energy that hits the earth.

[ Parent ]
Wrong, wrong, wrong. (3.66 / 3) (#86)
by Greyjack on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:05:30 PM EST

Man, I dunno what you're smoking...
The US, in particular, could not with current technology produce enough energy through solar means to power the country to its current level even if we papered every single square inch in solar cells.
Sharp NT-R5E1U size / capacity: 14 sq feet, 175 watts.

Capacity of a square mile of NT-R5E1U's (no link, use a calculator): 350 megawatts

Capacity of, say, Delaware covered in NT-R5E1U's: 868 gigawatts

US power grid capacity: 776 gigawatts

IE, you'd need less than 1% of Texas using off-the-shelf solar cells to equal the power generating capacity of the entire US grid.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

[ Parent ]
but that is expensive stuff (none / 0) (#88)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:40:31 PM EST

I think that photoelectric plastic will make solor ranches feasable. and we will also need enough to hydrolosize enough water to replace fossil fuels in transpertation.

[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#91)
by Greyjack on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 08:50:14 PM EST

I wouldn't even pretend to suggest that slapping a few million commercial solar cells in the desert is actually feasible; rather, I was just observing that the guy claiming that solar cells would need more than the US's current land mass to generate enough power was off by several orders of magnitude.

While I certainly don't pretend to have the answers to the world's energy problems, I can't help but look at the wind, the sun, and the waves and see utterly MASSIVE amounts of energy available for the harnessing.  We just need to figure out how.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

[ Parent ]
I think solor is the way to go (none / 0) (#130)
by modmans2ndcoming on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 07:59:15 PM EST

just need cheep solor cells...should be about 10 years out, then the mojavie desert can provide all the energy we need.

[ Parent ]
wrong (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by fhotg on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 03:12:23 AM EST

The 175 W is max. power. That means you only get that on a sunny day during daytime. Adjust for the existence of night and clouds and you end up covering a larger part of Texas. That's fine tho, I actually would like to see most of Texas covered with panels.

[ Parent ]
Yup (none / 0) (#138)
by Greyjack on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 05:10:45 AM EST

Absolutely.  My analysis wasn't meant to be even remotely feasible; rather, I was refuting the statement that 3.6 million square miles of panels wouldn't be enough.  I suspect it would result in a slight energy surplus :)

(and any of y'all who disagree, if you could be so kind as to provide at least some mildly verifiable numbers, that would be vastly more convincing than reading a comment from some unknown internet yabbo saying "no, you're wrong", with no evidence to back it up)

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

[ Parent ]
Neat job (none / 0) (#113)
by weirdling on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 09:02:25 AM EST

Real engineers, of course, would realise that electricity generation is a small percentage of US energy consumption, with transportation being the largest.  Consider that to remove oil completely, you'd have to convert all vehicles, heating and AC systems, and so on.

Also, someone else already pointed out that that's peak power, which is only about 6 hours a day, so long as it isn't foggy, rainy, snowed upon, or broke.

Then there's the battery inefficiency: high density, high drain batteries have ridiculously low charging efficiencies.

Nah, try a systemic analysis rather than a simplistic one and you will no longer be green...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]

Sure (none / 0) (#137)
by Greyjack on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 05:06:31 AM EST

I'm not claiming that 2500 square miles of consumer-grade solar panes will solve all our energy problems.  That would be naive.

Rather, I was suggesting that the prior claim that 3.6 million square miles of solar panels would be insufficient was, in fact, probably wrong.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

[ Parent ]
Solar electricity is inefficient. (none / 0) (#97)
by mattmcp on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 11:02:35 PM EST

The Sun may very well provide 6000 times the energy the US requires. Solar panels are horribly inefficient, perhaps even less efficient than those crappy wind turbines, and you couldn't hope to get anything more than 12% out of current panels.

Just because you can't generate enough energy by papering every square metre with photovoltaic panels doesn't mean that the Sun doesn't provide the weather system (and Earth as a whole) with way more energy than we'd take out with wind farms and solar.

[ Parent ]

Ok (none / 0) (#112)
by weirdling on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 08:58:57 AM EST

What possible combination of ideas could make wind energy more efficient than direct solar?  The wind gets all its energy through cooling landmass, which is heated by, wait for it, solar radiation.  Now, we only get a tiny percentage of that wind close enough to the surface to care, meaning that we only have access to a tiny percentage of that energy.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Well, for one... (none / 0) (#144)
by CAIMLAS on Sun Mar 23, 2003 at 05:49:33 AM EST

Consider that a the energy released during the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima can be seen in a single bolt of lightning (or is it a single lightning storm? I don't really recall which, but I do know that it doesn't really matter - there are hundreds of storms a day throughout nearly any region of the world.)

If we could only learn how to make some sort of quick-charge capacitor that can hold massive amounts of electricity. We could turn the 'lightning rods' on the roof of every building in the world into a conduit for free electricity.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

I heard something similar (none / 0) (#153)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Tue Mar 25, 2003 at 03:02:53 AM EST

Heard somewhere that one bolt of lightning would be enough to power New York for a year....Or something like that.

[ Parent ]
Using the Suns Energy (none / 0) (#105)
by Afty on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 06:27:59 AM EST

Sadly, much of that energy is required to heat the atmosphere and oceans that the energy strikes... if we used it all we would rapidly find ourselves living on a cold but gadget filled planet.

[ Parent ]
But.. (none / 0) (#110)
by ajduk on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 08:16:40 AM EST

What is the ultimate fate of Solar/Wind electricity?  It ends up as waste heat, however you use it, apart from a tiny percentage emitted as light.

So they have no net energy effect on the planet.  As far as wind goes, we've recently (in geological terms) chopped down a *lot* of forests that used to act as wind breaks.  Replacing these with windmills would, at least from the wind perspective, be restoring natural conditions.

[ Parent ]

Something to keep an eye on (2.50 / 2) (#61)
by Tatarigami on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:23:00 PM EST

Wind energy I think is just the most easily-utilised alternative energy source with our current technology and experience at tapping it. It should be possible to transfer what is learned from running wind farms over to other means.

So while I think you're right, tapping the Earth's air currents on a massive scale would probably be as destructive in its own way as burning massive amounts of fossil fuels, I don't think that's the way we're going.

[ Parent ]

don't worry... (5.00 / 1) (#127)
by Kintanon on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 05:00:40 PM EST

Of course the energy comes from somewhere, it comes from the SUN you ignorant wanker.
Hell, damn near every source of energy on our planet originates in some fashion with the sun.
We're just looking for more efficient ways to liberate that energy.
So we slow down the wind and fuck up the weather, big deal. The solution to a problem caused by technology is more technology! We need to start hollowing out the planet to increase the livable space we have, we need to start throwing solar power plants into orbit and beaming the power down. We need to attach giant nuclear rockets to asteroids and use them as spaceships! We need to bring every piece of hackneyed sci-fi lunacy to life! And the sooner the better.


[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#156)
by montjoy on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 08:47:59 PM EST

I think you are aware of this, but I'd like to reference our old friend, the Law of Conservation of Energy. That is, while you are taking energy of the weather system you are also most of it back in (except light and objects other objects that leave the earth). True, you might affect the weather, but to say you're taking it "out of the global weather patterns" isn't exactly true. Most waste energy ends up as heat, and that's precisely what the sunlight that drives the wind is. Personally, and without any figures to back myself up, I feel that the effect would be in the "little-to-none" catagory. It would be interesting to see a study, though.

Also, I'd like to point out that we are currently taking a stored energy and releasing it as entropy now via fossil and nuclear fuels. It seems to me that there would be less envirnmental impact by temporarily taking energy out of an active system and releasing it than to add additional entropy from a traditional source (nuclear, fossil).

[ Parent ]

31 gigawatts (3.66 / 3) (#57)
by StrifeZ on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:11:12 PM EST

Is that enough energy to power a time hopping Delorian?

No (none / 0) (#78)
by awgsilyari on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:01:51 PM EST

Is that enough energy to power a time hopping Delorian?

No. Doc was talking about "Jiggawatts" not "Gigawatts."

I always thought that pronunciation sounded wrong...

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Actually it is (none / 0) (#96)
by Nikau on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 10:37:04 PM EST

No. Doc was talking about "Jiggawatts" not "Gigawatts."

From IMDB's entry for Back To The Future trivia:
In the films script the word "gigawatt" is spelt "jigowatt". Gale and Zemeckis had been to a science seminar and the speaker had pronounced it "jigowatt".

So... Yeah, 31 gigawatts is enough.

I have a zero-tolerance policy for zero-tolerance policies, and this policy itself is the exception to itself which allows me to have it without being contradictory. - Happy Monkey
[ Parent ]

Wind Farms in California... (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by weave on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 05:52:26 PM EST

There are some fairly large wind farms in south central california. I saw one on I-10 near Palm Springs and another north of it on I-40.

I noticed that many of them were not turning, so it got me wondering. Were they seized up somehow, shut down for maintenance?

Also, many of them were HUGE. I can't imagine one chopping up a bird as slow as they were turning.

Mmm... (none / 0) (#152)
by laotic on Mon Mar 24, 2003 at 04:35:31 PM EST

...how fast does a truck seem to be moving when looked upon from a landing plane? Not too fast - it's rather crawling. My god, how could it ever kill anybody? :)

Sig? Sigh.
[ Parent ]
Wind power costs versus other alternatives (none / 0) (#79)
by Merlinson on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:15:18 PM EST

Here is a related article from EVWorld I stumbled upon while searching for more information after reading last week's hydrogen fuel cell story. Can't vouch for the accuracy since the author has a definite point of view, but I thought it was interesting. http://www.evworld.com/databases/printit.cfm?storyid=502

link (none / 0) (#81)
by Merlinson on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:30:06 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Some calculations... (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by jmzero on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:44:39 PM EST

Let's say they each produce 2 megawatts.  So that's about 117 to reach their 2 TWh per year goal.  Not too shabby.

Let's say we wanted enough to replace all the nuclear power plants in the states - which currently produce 385 billion kWh (about 20% of total US electricity requirements).  I think that comes out 22647.  Just to be silly, 100% of US electricity needs could be met by about 113 thousand of these windmills.

I think wind power definitely makes sense (moreso than solar right now), and has the potential for really low costs.  I'd be interested to hear an estimate of how many of this class of windmills could be sited reasonably in the US.

On the other hand, I also wish they'd spend some money on working out Tokamak style fusion.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

actualy (none / 0) (#87)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:34:39 PM EST

Solar power will become very inexpensive and easy to make now that they have invented photo-electric plastics.

[ Parent ]
Combine them, maybe? (none / 0) (#133)
by Fountain Pen Converter on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 02:09:07 AM EST

It seems like if you have photo-electric plastics, they might not weigh that much, so you could just mount them to the generator coil casing. I would suggest the fans, too, but I don't know how the plastics would hold up to the angular acceleration. Of course, it would probably be a hassle to get to the top and clean them all the time.

Always striving to have a point.
[ Parent ]
That's not... (none / 0) (#151)
by laotic on Mon Mar 24, 2003 at 04:32:39 PM EST

...a bad idea at all. Cleaning could be done by simple spray-washers, like those for car headlights.

Oh, another idea. They could use disused military helicopters. Mount them upright, could be several of them on top of each other. Could be a sort of a monument. On a second thought - if perfected, those with kerosene turbines could produce kerosene in reversed process ;-)

Sig? Sigh.
[ Parent ]
numbers (4.50 / 2) (#92)
by adiffer on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:00:26 PM EST

On my last trip to west Texas, I got to see that many of the ranchers in the area were putting in similar systems.  I'm not sure if they are 1 MW or 2 MW turbines, but they were similarly impressive when you drive underneath them and try to comprehend their scale.

What I really liked is that the ranchers were economically motivated to put them in themselves.  Oil and Ranching has proven to be too unstable for thier economy, so some of them are diversifying.  Much of their land contains mesas and gets whipped by moderate and high winds for long periods, so it should be interesting to see how the economics works out.

One thing to remember, though, is that 1 KW class systems can be placed on or near many private residences.  With a few of those in cooperative neighborhoods, you can come up with outputs similar to the larger systems.  One advantage of the smaller, more distributed systems is the reduction of line losses, so you won't need a full 2000 of them to get to the 2 MW supply you need if you calculate things based on the utility 'farm' concept.  When you are figuring the number of larger systems that can be deployed and the acreage they would occupy, don't forget to consider the contributions the smaller systems could make if residential acreage is used.
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]

Can this really be true? (none / 0) (#123)
by smithmc on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 02:01:22 PM EST

2 TWh per year? According to the CIA World Factbook, the US consumes about 3.6 TWh per year. Are we really saying that a bunch of windmills in Norway could produce more than half of the US's electric consumption? Are we sure someone doesn't have a mega/giga/tera mixed up somewhere?

[ Parent ]
Indeed, something's wrong. (5.00 / 1) (#125)
by jmzero on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 02:46:57 PM EST

It's very easy to get the prefixes messed up.  

According to the CIA World Factbook, the US consumes about 3.6 TWh per year

Also, NEI.org says that nuclear plants in the states produce 385 billion kWh.

--3 600 000 000 000 watt hours for the US
385 000 000 000 000 watt hours by nuclear power alone

So yes, someone has screwed up with something - very possibly me.  And it's hard to think about because the scale is not real comprehensible.  The NEI numbers certainly make more sense when compared to this article.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

MegaGigaTeraScrewup (none / 0) (#129)
by smithmc on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 05:47:57 PM EST

D'oh! It was me that screwed up - the US's electirc consumption is not 3.6 TWh, but 3.6 trillion KWh - i.e. 3.6 quadrillion watt-hours per year. So 2 TWh is a tiny drop in the bucket, which is more along the lines of what one would expect (IMO anyway). Sorry 'bout that!

[ Parent ]
Tokamak? (5.00 / 2) (#126)
by randyk on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 03:51:41 PM EST

Nah, inertial electrostatic fusion is the way:

Read here for more.


I love diaries like this. It's like a man who comes home to a burning house and asks the smoldering remains of his wife what he's missed. - rmg
[ Parent ]
That's an entertaining read. (none / 0) (#128)
by jmzero on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 05:40:04 PM EST

I know the useful equivalent of nothing as to the physics involved - but it would be great if Mr. Bussard's project turns out.  I'd be real interested to hear anyone who could comment with some background.

"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Am I the only one who finds wind farms horrifying? (4.50 / 4) (#93)
by sphealey on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:05:26 PM EST

What follows is a short pictorial account of my site-tour, and a description of the processes involved in changing a fallow, rocky coastline into a productive wind farm.
Perhaps I am too much of an engineer to be objective, but am I the only one who finds wind farms horrifying? Horrifyingly ugly, horrifyingly damaging to the visual and audible environment? One of those things will destroy 10s of kilometers of coastline, wrecking the view, generating enormous amounts of noise at frequencies earth creatures aren't designed to handle, and chopping hundreds of thousands of birds to mincemeat every year.

And that is better than a few nuclear power plants? Why exactly (and yes, I am including waste disposal in that question)?


Unintended Consequences (none / 0) (#95)
by turtleshadow on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 10:35:40 PM EST

People living on the Great Plains have found that migrating birds are being killed due to birdstrikes against towers with beacon lights and guy wires.

I've seen it with the towers when going on hikes. Sometimes you see enough dead ones after a moonless night to make two or three live flocks.
The towers cited are well within the 200 ft limit for lights on towers in the U.S.
While I'd hope birds are more instinctful than that I know that they are not.

Noise pollution is also a potential problem as a bunch of these I've been told give a mechanical quality of "humm" into the surrounding area.

There is also the asthetic problems with shadows both visible light and more powerful wavelenghs that may prevent them from utilizing large parts of unused land, worldwide, aka Airports, Highways and ridge lines.
Why companies insist on painting them white I dont understand. But then it is very hard to conceal a smaller structures

A few municipalities are restricting by ordinances the asthetic and structural limits for personal wind machines as well to preserve the town's look and historical authenticity.

[ Parent ]
Maybe (5.00 / 2) (#100)
by Josh A on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 01:42:09 AM EST

I think windmills are beautiful. <shrug>

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Ugly? (1.00 / 2) (#116)
by TheSleeper on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 09:26:34 AM EST

Horrifyingly ugly, horrifyingly damaging to the visual and audible environment?

Funny, I read this story specifically because I wanted to post a comment on the appearance of the wind farms I've seen through train and bus windows over the past couple of days. Dozens of large, white, spare windmills, all spinning roughly in unison -- I found them eerily beautiful, like the remnants of some alien civilization.

[ Parent ]
Compared to the Alternatives? (4.00 / 1) (#120)
by Lagged2Death on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 12:04:00 PM EST

...am I the only one who finds wind farms horrifying? Horrifyingly ugly, horrifyingly damaging to the visual and audible environment? One of those things will destroy 10s of kilometers of coastline...
I live near the shore of one of the US's Great Lakes. When I stand on the beach and look down the coastline to the east, I see a huge coal-fired power plant, including an extremely tall and strobe-light-spangled smokestack, complete with a massive smoke plume. It's 10 miles away. Frequently, the smoke plume is visible from quite a bit further away - perhaps 20 miles.

My point, basically, is that our current power systems are already fairly offensive, as far as spoiling the view goes. I happen to like the way some of these windmills look, but even if you don't, is it worse than the miles-long brown stain of soot from a coal plant on a hot summer day?

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]
Whoops (none / 0) (#121)
by Lagged2Death on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 12:10:35 PM EST

OK, you're specifically comparing a wind farm to nuclear plants, which I didn't address in my earlier post. Duh.

In coastal areas, though, nuke plants do tend to get sited on the coast for easy access to cooling water. And they're not exactly invisible. Further to the east, beyond the coal plant in my home town, there is a nuke plant whose plume is sometimes visible for even greater distances than the coal plant's.

Anyhow, I think peoeple will get used to them. Lighthouses, for example, are now considered scenic and historic landmarks, not blights on the coastline.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]
Nuclear (3.00 / 1) (#101)
by emmons on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 02:56:08 AM EST

Whenever people talk about new alternative, environmentally-friendly sources of electric power, I always have to wonder: what's wrong with nuclear? Besides some thermal pollution and the tiny amount of radioactive waste, why is it so horrible? Why can't we just replace everything with nuclear?

In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

Because supply is limited. (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 06:34:34 AM EST

At current consumption rates, there is about a 41-year supply of uranium reserves to fuel these reactors (18). Proved reserves of uranium have declined in recent years, primarily because of mine closures after an excess supply caused uranium prices to collapse (19).
(World Resources Institute 1997)

See also executive summary (p20-21) (pdf) from World energy outlook 2001

"... to preserve freedomocracy and kittens ... " - Rogerborg
[ Parent ]
Depends.. (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by ajduk on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 07:04:10 AM EST

First, if the extraction of uranium from seawater proves viable (no energetic reason why not) then supply is effectively unlimited, and Second, new technologies using U-238 would multiply the amount of fuel by a factor of a hundred or so.

[ Parent ]
Yes, (none / 0) (#109)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 07:13:25 AM EST

but these sources have to be cheap. Nuclear power still has a big political problem in that nobody wants the nuclear waste in their backyard. AFAIK, this problem remains in eg Sweden (40-45% of electricity comes from nuclear reactors)

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

True (none / 0) (#111)
by ajduk on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 08:22:30 AM EST

Although the scare stories about nuclear waste have been somewhat overblown.

Fuel costs for nuclear reactors are typically a small to trivial part of operating cost, so doubling or more has little effect on the economics.

It's by no means a perfect power source; it's just that it's better economically and environmentally then Natural gas and Coal, and better for baseline generation than wind/solar.

[ Parent ]

Economic? (none / 0) (#143)
by dclinton on Sun Mar 23, 2003 at 03:35:18 AM EST

Here in the UK the nuclear industry has to be heavily subsidised by the government just to stay in the running competitively.

[ Parent ]
Not for that long.. (none / 0) (#147)
by ajduk on Mon Mar 24, 2003 at 05:40:37 AM EST

I think the government has just woken up to the fact that North Sea does not contain an unlimited amount of gas, and that closing down the coal mines in favour of gas fired stations was not the winning plan it was thought to be..  this could possably be brought into sharper relief this summer; a long hot summer in the US could easily lead to severe shortages of natural gas over there.

Shutting down the nuclear plants would give us serious problems right now.  This is why the government is not ruling out building more plants.

Of course, I'd like to see the offshore wind farms ramped up far more quickly as well.

[ Parent ]

Bullshit. (none / 0) (#145)
by twistedfirestarter on Sun Mar 23, 2003 at 07:37:07 AM EST

There is 1 part per billion Uranium in seawater. This would require more energy to extract than it would release by fission. Energetically useless.

[ Parent ]
Better tell the Japanese that. (none / 0) (#148)
by ajduk on Mon Mar 24, 2003 at 08:43:29 AM EST

Because they are doing it..

[ Parent ]

Bleh (none / 0) (#149)
by twistedfirestarter on Mon Mar 24, 2003 at 08:46:04 AM EST

this is research. And the Japanese are known to be keen on Cold Fusion too. So I suppose that's right to is it?

[ Parent ]
THat doesnt mention... (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by twickham on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 09:02:27 AM EST

Fast Breeder reactors(like described here http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/fasbre.html) or thorium reactors that can add another energy cycle to the waste from existing fission reactors(and at the same time generally reduce the waste products to ones that are less dangerous than originally)

[ Parent ]
Read the quote, it'll take you... (none / 0) (#139)
by jeremyn on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 09:08:01 PM EST

5 seconds to realise that mine closures due to excess supply does not equal mines running out. Mines can be reopened, no?

[ Parent ]
here is why not (none / 0) (#107)
by gr00vey on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 06:55:44 AM EST


[ Parent ]
However... (5.00 / 1) (#115)
by twickham on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 09:10:11 AM EST

Radiation is generally not leaked from Nulclear power plants unless something goes wrong.

We do currently live with the seemlingly little know concern of radiation in coal ash.

Coal Combustion : Nuclear Resource or Danger

A nice quote is...
All studies of potential health hazards associated with the release of radioactive elements from coal combustion conclude that the perturbation of natural background dose levels is almost negligible. However, because the half-lives of radioactive potassium-40, uranium, and thorium are practically infinite in terms of human lifetimes, the accumulation of these species in the biosphere is directly proportional to the length of time that a quantity of coal is burned.

[ Parent ]
Waste (5.00 / 1) (#117)
by anno1602 on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 10:34:51 AM EST

The waste is a bigger problem than it might seem. Nobody wants a permanent nuclear waste store in their backyard. Since Europe is pretty densly populated for the most part, you end up being in someone's backyard no matter where you go.

Second, it is very difficult to guarantee safe storage for several ten thousand years, and we don't want to pollute the environment of generations to come, don't we? (We are good enough at that without nuclear waste, mind you)
"Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit." - Murphy
[ Parent ]

10,000 years??? (none / 0) (#134)
by tilly on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 03:49:13 AM EST

It seems to me we only have to have the stuff safe for 300-500 years. If we are still around then and not already vaporized - in which case the whole issue is moot anyway -, science and techology will have advanced to a point where a solution will present itself. Perhaps it will be possible then to neutralize the radioactivity somehow or shoot the stuff cheaply into the sun ... Certain problems can be left for future generations to solve with the confidence that the technology of the future will be their equal.

[ Parent ]
300 to 500 years??? (5.00 / 2) (#142)
by dclinton on Sun Mar 23, 2003 at 03:32:08 AM EST

That's an easy bet to take when there's no chance you'll be around if to lose it.

It's not acceptable to go around creating problems that we then hand to future generations to deal with. Instead, why don't we concentrate on fixing the problems we create in our own lifetime.

Consider the logical extension of your approach. If every generation created some problem that they bet could be fixed in 300 to 500 years, that would put us constantly 300 to 500 years behind the curve, each generation desparately trying to fix the problems of the past and deferring the problems of their own making.

Finally, let me draw an analogy that may be closer to home. Imagine if someone built some software, say an operating system, that always relied on future advances in hardware to make it run acceptably and thus forced people to continuously upgrade their tin to just stay in the same place. How would you feel about that?


[ Parent ]

They have that, it's called Windows. (4.50 / 2) (#155)
by Motekye on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 04:59:22 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Dude (none / 0) (#135)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 03:56:56 AM EST

For a negotiable rate I will gladly allow nuclear waste to be stored in appropriate containers in my backyard.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Because (none / 0) (#132)
by mindstrm on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 11:59:35 PM EST

THe Mob is scared of anything with the words "Nuclear" on it.

They think "Hiroshima" "Cold War" "Meltdown" "Nuclear Waste" and "CHUD"

Yes, there is some really ugly waste from these things. not, it's not that simple.. but, unlike coal, the waste doesn't go into the atmosphere.. we can stick it in barrles and at least keep track of it.

[ Parent ]

I hear Nuclear I think Yucca (none / 0) (#146)
by Theranthrope on Sun Mar 23, 2003 at 08:20:10 PM EST

Yucca Mountain, by the way, is a actually a volcano that sits on several major earthquake faults. Where the DOE, in it's infinite wisdom, is trying to stuff those barrles of mid- and high-level nuclear waste. Clean energy, my ass!

"Turmeric applied as a suppository will increase intelligence." -- HidingMyName
Parent ]
'Extinct', not 'Active' (none / 0) (#150)
by ajduk on Mon Mar 24, 2003 at 08:49:50 AM EST

Last went off 9.5 million years ago; that means 'Extinct'.

[ Parent ]
Wind Farm - Growing 150-ton plants in the sky | 156 comments (119 topical, 37 editorial, 0 hidden)
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