A little while back, Jon Boone wrote a letter to the Cumberland (Maryland) Times-News which we happily posted here under the title, Industrial windplants in Western Maryland? Jon Boone says Garrett Countians “deserve far better.”
Seems Mr. Boone, and an increasing number of citizens, question the actions of politicians at all levels in enabling a wind “farm” comprised of 28 747 size bird and bat chopping turbines to be placed near Eagle Rock, in Western Maryland. The irony is obvious to any with concerns for the habitat of our feathered friends:
Some probably thought Mr. Boone was being a little sarcastic when he wrote, “Their (politicians’) trollish support for this daffy, environmentally treacherous technology is a shameful commentary about how poorly led this beautiful county is. Both their pretentious words and harmful actions join with the Obama Administration as it attempts to make people believe, across many issues, that pigs can fly.”
Well, at least as far as the promotion of industrial wind as a viable energy source is concerned, making pigs fly seems the order of the day. Take, for example, the report linked in the New York Times Science Fiction section titled: “A Grid of Wind Turbines to Pick Up the Slack.” Mr. Henry Fountain points out the intermittent nature of wind as an introduction to a report titled, “Electric power from offshore wind via synoptic-scale interconnection” by Willett Kempton, Felipe M. Pimenta, Dana E. Veron, and Brian A. Colle. The study was conducted over a 5 year period, measuring wind along “the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, a span of nearly 2,500 km in northeast–southwest direction.”
As Mr. Fountain suggests, industrial wind’s unreliability is not much of an issue at present, since it represents such a small fraction of the energy equation. Seems there are plenty of reliable, on-demand sources available to “pick up the slack when wind output falls.” I always like the way the wind industry advocates put that … “conventional power sources will pick up the slack for wind,” as though wind is the driving force. Actually, a more accurate portrayal might be a 4 x 100 swimming relay in which one team has a duck as a member. “What are the chances your team will win, Coach? Well, it all depends on how well the three men support our duck.”
Mr. Fountain then suggests that, should the level of wind reach 20%, “it would become increasingly difficult to handle the fluctuations in output.” He suggests that “one proposed solution to the intermittency problem is to tie many wind farms together with a transmission line — making an electric grid, as it were, consisting of wind turbines.” I guess there is some agreement that, unlike a true power generator, regardless of where you place industrial wind plants, they don’t perform very well on their own.
Enter Dr. Willett Kempton. Seems he and his “colleagues have shown how this “all-for-one” approach (mentioned by Mr. Fountain above) might work with offshore wind farms along the Eastern Seaboard.”
Their report states that “The world’s wind resource for electric power is larger than the total energy need of humanity. For surface winds over land globally, Archer and Jacobson (1) estimate the wind resource at 72 terawatt (TW), nearly five times the 13 TW world’s demand for all energy. In a more detailed regional estimate, Kempton et al. (2) calculated that two-thirds of the offshore wind power off the U.S. Northeast is sufficient to provide all electricity, all lightvehicle transportation fuel, and all building heat for the adjacent states from Massachusetts to North Carolina.”
Well, there you have it! It’s all there waiting for the 2,500 kilometer flotilla of whirlybirds to simply gather it up and send it to your house. And, the best part – the wind is free … sorta!
So, how much will it cost … really? From the report (with table references removed for ease of reading): “As an approximate cost comparison, a total of 2,500MWof offshore wind generation has been approved or requested by states from Delaware to Massachusetts… Connecting them by a 3 gigawatt (GW)HVDC submarine cable would require 350 miles of cable. At early European offshore wind capital costs of $4,200/kWand submarine cable capital costs of $4,000,000/mile, the installed costs of planned offshore wind generation would be approximately $10.5 billion; the connecting transmission would add $1.4 billion. They are matched in capacity, each approximately 3 GW, yet the transmission adds less than 15% to the capital cost of generation. This is in line with the market cost of leveling wind via existing generation, currently estimated to add about 10% to the cost of energy (10% cost adder for wind penetrations up to 20%, then a higher percentage cost added at higher penetration of wind).”
Wow! And what do we get for all that extra money? “In the study region, using our meteorologically designed scale and orientation, we find that transmission affects output by reducing variance, slowing the rate of change, and, during the study period, eliminating hours of zero production. The result is that electric power from wind would become easier to manage, higher in market value, and capable of becoming a higher fraction of electric generation (thus more CO2 displacement).”
Well, I’m not so sure I’d be putting any of my money in this little adventure. Of course, there’s little I can do about the Washington crowd tossing my money at this misadventure if they continue to be duped by wind’s fairy tale promise of happily ever after.
Oh, yeah … there’s one more thing. “Today, generation of electricity is primarily a state matter, decided by state public utility commissions, whereas the Independent System Operators (ISOs) manage wholesale power markets and plan transmission. An ISO is the type of organization that might plan and operate the electric system we envision, probably with a mix of owners—private firms, existing electric utilities, and/or public power authorities. Because of the unique characteristics of building and operating offshore, and because our proposed Atlantic Transmission Grid would exist primarily in federal waters and bridge many jurisdictions on land, it may make sense to create a unique ISO, here dubbed the “Atlantic Independent System Operator.” Like existing ISOs, the Atlantic ISO would be responsible for managing and regulating the bulk power market along the offshore transmission cable, but with jurisdiction matched to the synoptic scale of the resource.”
Yep! The perfect solution. We’ll turn it over to the same inept crew who can’t seem to get mail to your house on Saturday.
All in all, my argument is not with the technical portion of the report. I’m just an average citizen with concerns that my tax money be spent on things that actually return a benefit. So far, industrial wind hasn’t made it to my list. It instead continues to eat away at my tax dollars in trade for higher utility rates, huge tax subsidies and no significant, measurable contribution to emission reduction or the the grid.
And while I’m not an engineer or technical expert, a number of folks routinely stopping by Allegheny Treasures are very knowledgeable. Perhaps they will run through the charts and graphs in this very comprehensive report and tell me I’ll all wet and this is the perfect solution for an imperfect energy source.
Maybe then pigs will fly, a mallard will be on the Gold Medal podium at the next Olympics quacking the Star Spangled banner along with Michael Phelps and I’ll be eating crow – the one’s whacked by the turbine blades, of course.
Here’s the full report for your convenience:
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