Taller Is Better: A Race for Windmills

I saw this today in my newsfeed and I remembered a family member (used to work as H&S officer for a windmill company) telling me there is a real race to make ever-higher, ever-bigger mills. He couldn't tell me if it was based on practical considerations or just, you know, let's see who makes THE biggest one! Thoughts?

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The taller turbines sit higher up off the surface, thus capturing greater wind-speed.  Wind at the surface is slowed by the frictional drag of passing over the stationary surface.  Get higher, and you get more power to the blades. 

As the towers get higher, they can also hang longer, fatter blades on there.  Those blades in turn can capture a broader "sweep", thus you can hang a larger generator on the top.  Note that these new Vestas units are at 8.3 MW, which is stupendous.  This industry started with little 500 KW units made by Northern Power Systems in Vermont.  Today, those are reserved for small remote installations, on isolated islands and research stations. 

But remember that the tip-speed of that blade is near the threshold of the sound barrier; indeed, the reason the power extraction is limited is that if the tip-speed goes supersonic, the blade disintegrates. These giant machines are the Pyramids of our age; glorious monuments to technology, otherwise both dangerous and, in the long term, useless.  Don't be around if one of those blades detach, that's for sure.

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On ‎9‎/‎10‎/‎2018 at 2:27 PM, Marina Schwarz said:

I saw this today in my newsfeed and I remembered a family member (used to work as H&S officer for a windmill company) telling me there is a real race to make ever-higher, ever-bigger mills. He couldn't tell me if it was based on practical considerations or just, you know, let's see who makes THE biggest one! Thoughts?

Big is better as far as wind goes.

Double the diameter of the blade span and this gives a square increase in power output.

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On 9/10/2018 at 3:48 PM, Jan van Eck said:

The taller turbines sit higher up off the surface, thus capturing greater wind-speed.  Wind at the surface is slowed by the frictional drag of passing over the stationary surface.  Get higher, and you get more power to the blades. 

As the towers get higher, they can also hang longer, fatter blades on there.  Those blades in turn can capture a broader "sweep", thus you can hang a larger generator on the top.  Note that these new Vestas units are at 8.3 MW, which is stupendous.  This industry started with little 500 KW units made by Northern Power Systems in Vermont.  Today, those are reserved for small remote installations, on isolated islands and research stations. 

But remember that the tip-speed of that blade is near the threshold of the sound barrier; indeed, the reason the power extraction is limited is that if the tip-speed goes supersonic, the blade disintegrates. These giant machines are the Pyramids of our age; glorious monuments to technology, otherwise both dangerous and, in the long term, useless.  Don't be around if one of those blades detach, that's for sure.

I'm not certain that is the case. Anyway turbines are designed so that the blades can be feathered in a similar way that a sail can be to spill wind if there is too much and the operator wants to limit the speed of rotation. 

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1 hour ago, NickW said:

I'm not certain that is the case. Anyway turbines are designed so that the blades can be feathered in a similar way that a sail can be to spill wind if there is too much and the operator wants to limit the speed of rotation. 

I'm not certain that is the case.  -   I am. 

As to feathering, you are anticipating that those complex mechanisms always work, by remote control, under difficult weather conditions.  You have these giant long blades, now at 400 feet, absorbing vast amounts of horsepower and torque, made of light materials including carbon fibers, exposed to harsh weather, lots of bend stresses, - and it is never, ever, going to fail.  That is unrealistic. As I said, don't be around when those things let loose. Save yourself. 

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(edited)

3 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

I'm not certain that is the case.  -   I am. 

As to feathering, you are anticipating that those complex mechanisms always work, by remote control, under difficult weather conditions.  You have these giant long blades, now at 400 feet, absorbing vast amounts of horsepower and torque, made of light materials including carbon fibers, exposed to harsh weather, lots of bend stresses, - and it is never, ever, going to fail.  That is unrealistic. As I said, don't be around when those things let loose. Save yourself. 

How often does this actually happen? 

Can you find a report on a single incident? 

Edited by NickW

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3 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

I'm not certain that is the case.  -   I am. 

As to feathering, you are anticipating that those complex mechanisms always work, by remote control, under difficult weather conditions.  You have these giant long blades, now at 400 feet, absorbing vast amounts of horsepower and torque, made of light materials including carbon fibers, exposed to harsh weather, lots of bend stresses, - and it is never, ever, going to fail.  That is unrealistic. As I said, don't be around when those things let loose. Save yourself. 

This is for UK offshore (2014) during major construction phase. 

33 lost work days. 0 Fatalities.

https://publishing.energyinst.org/__data/assets/file/0008/165662/WEB-VERSION-G9-UK-Statistics-report-08.12.15.pdf

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5 minutes ago, NickW said:

How often does this actually happen? 

Well, there are some 9,000 of those "windmills" in Canada that are abandoned, in various states of decay.  Blown blades, fires in the generators, overspeed wrecking the gearboxes, that sort of thing.  Figure another same quantity in the USA at least.  These are not particularly durable machines, never mind the sales pitches to the investors.  Basically, those machines are a novelty item, there to pick up subsidies from governments with messianistic ideas. 

image.png.d50626d30bfc30453950d1ece2456594.pngimage.png.f847ffdf9f693338dc0be9c272a319f3.png            

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21 minutes ago, NickW said:

How often does this actually happen? 

Can you find a report on a single incident? 

Lots of them - in the thousands. 

Try this one on for size:

image.png.bf3792f63a5278312eb12cf54de01874.png

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfzgIxMEo8g

Enjoy the show.  It is spectacular enough to keep your distance from these machines.  Worse, there is no predicting the failure point, they can fail in perfectly normal operating conditions.  In the video, note the flying blades and the disintegrating tower, falling into a pile of rubble.  Don't be in the vicinity.  This is not a benign power source, not the way these guys do it.  

 

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Industrial wind turbines are a failed ideological effort.  They seek to act as foundation for the proposition that wind can be "harvested" for power production to run industrial plants and communities with nice, even power.  It does not work that way.  the power is uneven and it destabilizes the electric grid, requiring balancing and smoothing with devices knows as "rotary condensers," giant machines that are essentially a big motor-generator on support bearings, turning at the synchronous speed of the grid, and relying on the mass of materiel in the armature to act as a smoothing damper and energy shock-absorber.  These machines can set you back $25 million for a smallish wind farm. 

Chasing this technology, in the form that it is currently promoted, is a space-race to the moon.  It can be done, in some technical sense, but it has no staying power, it will not physically last, and when it falls apart, the remnants are littering the countryside as so much industrial junk. 

This is your future:

image.png.058e2575e898d1bc441600917efe8e9f.png

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Abandoned, busted-up wind "farm" in Hawaii. 

There are now some 15,000 abandoned windmills in the Western USA, nobody knows the exact number.  They cannot be maintained for the price of electricity received, now that the subsidies are gone, so the developers of these wind projects simply walk away.  Somebody else will have to pay to tear them down, figure at least $20,000 per tower, and another $5,000 in disposal costs and trucking. 

image.png.62c53b55d86bb5b411064ec9345c7036.png    Now, who pays to decommission?  The developer took a powder. 

These wind projects are expensive hobby projects.  If you take the 3,500 mills built by developers, all with hefty govt subsidies, in the UK, they would not add up to a single smallish gas generating plant.  They would be laughable against a small molten-salt nuke plant.  Their power is intermittent, perhaps at 24% of nameplate power, funds have to be found for maintenance and overhaul  (not cheap when you hang the generator on the top of a 400-foot pylon, instead of at ground level), and a stand-by power source is necessary to fill in for when those machines are not turning.  And that is before you put a value on the one million eagle and bat kills yearly.  

This is not a good mass generating technology. Neither are solar panels.

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8 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Try this one on for size:

 image.png.bf3792f63a5278312eb12cf54de01874.png

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfzgIxMEo8g

Enjoy the show.  It is spectacular enough to keep your distance from these machines. 

Catastrophic failures.  Quite a video.

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marvellous set of pictures there but I won't be going to the effort of posting dozens of pictures of derelict coal mines, power stations, oil refineries etc ;)

In the context of several hundred GW of installed wind capacity how many people have been killed by blades or other parts flying off wind turbines?

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8 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Abandoned, busted-up wind "farm" in Hawaii. 

There are now some 15,000 abandoned windmills in the Western USA, nobody knows the exact number.  They cannot be maintained for the price of electricity received, now that the subsidies are gone, so the developers of these wind projects simply walk away.  Somebody else will have to pay to tear them down, figure at least $20,000 per tower, and another $5,000 in disposal costs and trucking. 

image.png.62c53b55d86bb5b411064ec9345c7036.png    Now, who pays to decommission?  The developer took a powder. 

These wind projects are expensive hobby projects.  If you take the 3,500 mills built by developers, all with hefty govt subsidies, in the UK, they would not add up to a single smallish gas generating plant.  They would be laughable against a small molten-salt nuke plant.  Their power is intermittent, perhaps at 24% of nameplate power, funds have to be found for maintenance and overhaul  (not cheap when you hang the generator on the top of a 400-foot pylon, instead of at ground level), and a stand-by power source is necessary to fill in for when those machines are not turning.  And that is before you put a value on the one million eagle and bat kills yearly.  

This is not a good mass generating technology. Neither are solar panels.

We have had the discussion on decommissioning before. If this is a significant issue for local authorities then require the developer to provide a decommissioning bond to cover this in the advent they go bust before the end of the life of the project. Problem solved.

If you want to save birds Jan - ban the domestic cat and the car. They kill 1000x more birds (and bats) than wind turbines.

If a small molten salt nuke plant is so commercially viable get on and build them.

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12 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Well, there are some 9,000 of those "windmills" in Canada that are abandoned, in various states of decay.  Blown blades, fires in the generators, overspeed wrecking the gearboxes, that sort of thing.  Figure another same quantity in the USA at least.  These are not particularly durable machines, never mind the sales pitches to the investors.  Basically, those machines are a novelty item, there to pick up subsidies from governments with messianistic ideas. 

image.png.d50626d30bfc30453950d1ece2456594.pngimage.png.f847ffdf9f693338dc0be9c272a319f3.png            

 

8 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Abandoned, busted-up wind "farm" in Hawaii. 

There are now some 15,000 abandoned windmills in the Western USA, nobody knows the exact number.  They cannot be maintained for the price of electricity received, now that the subsidies are gone, so the developers of these wind projects simply walk away.  Somebody else will have to pay to tear them down, figure at least $20,000 per tower, and another $5,000 in disposal costs and trucking. 

image.png.62c53b55d86bb5b411064ec9345c7036.png    Now, who pays to decommission?  The developer took a powder. 

These wind projects are expensive hobby projects.  If you take the 3,500 mills built by developers, all with hefty govt subsidies, in the UK, they would not add up to a single smallish gas generating plant.  They would be laughable against a small molten-salt nuke plant.  Their power is intermittent, perhaps at 24% of nameplate power, funds have to be found for maintenance and overhaul  (not cheap when you hang the generator on the top of a 400-foot pylon, instead of at ground level), and a stand-by power source is necessary to fill in for when those machines are not turning.  And that is before you put a value on the one million eagle and bat kills yearly.  

This is not a good mass generating technology. Neither are solar panels.

Absolute rubbish

3500 2MW turbines (which is the smaller end of onshore turbines)  operating at 28% would generate the equivalent of a 2GW Gas plant operating 24/7 - 365 days a year. CCGT's  dont operate 24/7-365.

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8 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Industrial wind turbines are a failed ideological effort.  They seek to act as foundation for the proposition that wind can be "harvested" for power production to run industrial plants and communities with nice, even power.  It does not work that way.  the power is uneven and it destabilizes the electric grid, requiring balancing and smoothing with devices knows as "rotary condensers," giant machines that are essentially a big motor-generator on support bearings, turning at the synchronous speed of the grid, and relying on the mass of materiel in the armature to act as a smoothing damper and energy shock-absorber.  These machines can set you back $25 million for a smallish wind farm. 

Chasing this technology, in the form that it is currently promoted, is a space-race to the moon.  It can be done, in some technical sense, but it has no staying power, it will not physically last, and when it falls apart, the remnants are littering the countryside as so much industrial junk. 

This is your future:

image.png.058e2575e898d1bc441600917efe8e9f.png

The UK National Grid (and other large scale operators) have already debunked this hokum but it reappears like a game of whack a mole. xD

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How come windmills are already getting abandoned and in the thousands? I mean, it's not like they've been around for many decades. Or have they?

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I ran the numbers for a 1 megawatt windmill in West Texas. The payout of capital costs without government subsidies was 17 years assuming no maintenance. 

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1 hour ago, Marina Schwarz said:

How come windmills are already getting abandoned and in the thousands? I mean, it's not like they've been around for many decades. Or have they?

Those installations were predicated on an above-market price for the electricity, known as the "feed-in tariff."  Once those subsidies expired, you have a situation where the maintenance costs are way above what the machine can earn.  The problem is that there is this theoretical number, known as the "nameplate capacity," which is what the machine is designed to produce, and the "actual output," which is what you end up with after subtracting out the time when there is no or insufficient wind for the machine to produce capacity (or turn at all).  Typically, that real capacity is about 24% of nameplate capacity.  So the whole exercise is a bit whimsical, maybe it works (if you have lots of wind), maybe not (if you have insufficient or variable wind).  And if your machine is sited in the "not so hot" area, and the results are disappointing, then it gets abandoned.  Nobody is going to spend money to repair and maintain a machine that costs more than what you are getting from the sale of the output. 

The other issue is that these machines got a fat "investment tax credit" check from the government when they were first completed.  That check was for 30% of the costs.  So if your project cost $200 million  (paid for with other peoples' money, remember), then you got a check for $30 million just for putting the deal together, and not risking one thin dime of your own.  At that point, why bother with it?  Go put up another installation and pick up another check for $30 million, makes more sense. 

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On 9/12/2018 at 3:40 PM, Marina Schwarz said:

How come windmills are already getting abandoned and in the thousands? I mean, it's not like they've been around for many decades. Or have they?

The ones that should be taken down but have been abandoned are going to be 1990's models. Look at the pics Jan has posted - they are small turbines of 1990's vintage. They were towards the end of their lives anyway. What should have happened is a bond would have been lodged with the local authority to pay for disposal if the developer went bust. Usually councils take the money as a loan and it accumulates interest at the rates comparable to what the council pays the bank. 

Of course the fossil fuel industry pays no such bond to assure removal at the end of the plants working life so we have countless examples of derelict plant across the World. Take a look at these beauties. 

https://www.google.com/search?q=derelict+power+stations&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiekoW73rrdAhUsDsAKHZCuCUMQ_AUICigB&biw=1920&bih=938

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8 minutes ago, NickW said:

Jan - how are the gas mains fires and explosions going in Boston Today. I hear 1 killed, 12 injured and their have been mass evacuations? 

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/gas-explosion-massachusetts-latest-boston-lawrence-fire-andover-house-evacuate-ma-a8536921.html

the fires are out.  The civil-defense authorities have shut off all electricity and gas to three cities:   Lawrence, Andover, North Andover.  the problem area is all on the South Bank of the Merrimac River, so at this point everyone is camped out on the North Side.  Crews are going through the cities door to door to find problems, and my guess - just my hunch - is that they are shutting off gas valves on each house, and then will restore service house by house after the power is restored.  Basically you have these tens of thousands of internal refugees, apparently moved to school buildings as temporary shelter.  

Because the gas over-pressure hit those towns all at once, you have all these fires breaking out simultaneously, and the city fire services were overwhelmed.  Some houses burned with no fire response, so they were total losses.  Others the crews got there lats so you had extensive damage.  Fortunately trucks and crews raced in from the neighboring towns, lots of volunteers, and that saved the day from total burn-out.  All in all, a very bad day.  

There will be lots of soul-searching over this one, tat is for sure. I anticipate other and more sophisticated gas-preventer valves will get installed.

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On 9/12/2018 at 4:58 AM, NickW said:

 

Absolute rubbish

3500 2MW turbines (which is the smaller end of onshore turbines)  operating at 28% would generate the equivalent of a 2GW Gas plant operating 24/7 - 365 days a year. CCGT's  dont operate 24/7-365.

CCGT's don't operate 24/7-365, but they do operate when you need them.  Wind turbines, on the other hand, operate when it pleases the gods.  So sure, some of that 28% happens at the right times, but some percentage of it happens when you already have a surplus of electricity.  Society ends up paying money to dump the excess electricity, but wind power advocates still count that as "production". 

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