Tag Archives: Wind Power

The Best US Electricity Generation Graphic Ever, No Kidding

Carbon Brief has produced a US based (sorry, rest of the world) interactive graphic that accesses an extensive underlying database that shows everything about the electricity generation that there is to know. Each generation plant, each type of electricty, capacity, etc. and you can view the information by state, by type of energy, and with some other toggles.

Here is an example. Continue reading The Best US Electricity Generation Graphic Ever, No Kidding

Rebecca Otto’s Clean Energy Plan for Minnesota

Earlier today, Minnesota Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto released her energy transition plan. It an ambitious plan that puts together several elements widely considered necessary to make any such plan work, then puts them on steroids to make it work faster. To my knowledge, this is the first major plan to be proposed since the recent dual revelations that a) the world is going to have to act faster than we had previously assumed* and b) the US Federal government will not be helping.

Here’s the elevator speech version: Minnesota residents get around five thousand dollars cash (over several years), monetary incentives to upgrade all their energy using devices from furnaces to cars, some 80,000 new, high paying jobs, and in the end, the state is essentially fossil fuel free.

About half of that fossil fuel free goal comes directly from Continue reading Rebecca Otto’s Clean Energy Plan for Minnesota

It is time to stop punching the hippies

The Republican line is this: Bring back coal, shut down development, subsidies, any encouragement at all, for solar and wind energy.

There is absolutely no logic to this policy, but it is in fact the policy. The reason for it is generally thought to be that the big rich corporations and individuals that control coal and petroleum resources, and that are fully engaged in delivery of those energy sources (and other materials, such as plastic bags made of petroleum) pay off the politicians to support their businesses. And that is true, they do this. But that does not explain why regular voters or grassroots “populist” supporters go along with it. Every other thing about how such folks think and act should turn them away from the big corporate donors. These grass-rooted populs should be putting up their own energy generators and cutting themselves off from the grid, telling Big Electricity to tread no more upon them. But they don’t do this. Rather, they go along with the Republican plan to repress the development of renewable independent energy production, which I like to refer to as the making of Freedom Volts, and this is entirely inexplicable.

In the broader context it makes sense, in the context in which the populs vote for the faux populist against their own interests. Voting for coal and against solar is voting against one’s own interests, by and large, even if you are a coal miner. But then, while we have explained the bone-headed approach to energy that most Republican voters embrace we’ve only explained one illogical process by saying that it looks and feels like a larger illogical process.

The reason the leaders and politicians that run the Republican party vote against the planet and in favor of the Koch Brothers is because the Koch Brothers and their ilk own them.

But, the reason the people who support those politicians, against their own interest, act like they do, is a matter of punching hippies. Some call it identity politics. That’s a fancy term, “identity politics.” Translation: “hippie punching.”

But recently, it seems like there is a move to stop punching the hippies quite so much. Consider the following quote, from a recent piece in Bloomberg News:

“Seventy five percent of Trump supporters like renewables and want to advance renewables. The conversation has changed. You have to have the right message. Talk about energy freedom and choice. The light bulb will go off.”

Those words were uttered by Tea Party organizer Debbie Dooley at a recent energy finance conference.

Indeed, we are seeing a pro-energy transition shift among the right wing generally. It is not at all clear that the current Republican White House, assuming they ever manage to do something that isn’t based on a night time drunken tweet storm by the leader of the free world, will go in one direction or the other on energy, climate change generally, or Paris in particular. Subsidies for renewable energy may be left alone. Promises to renew coal have already been broken. Paris may be kept intact.

(Make no mistake: Big oil owns the state department, science is fully under attack and research will be curtailed. These things are very real and very bad. But at the same time, there is strong evidence of waffling on just how much the Trump White House well end up hating on clean energy in the private sector.)

Congress is less uncertain. The Republicans in Congress are bigly owned by Big Energy and they will not change their stance at all. Or, more exactly, the only way the hoax huxters in the House and Senate are going to drop their love affair with coal and oil is if they are replaced.

I would predict a fight between Congress and the White House over this, but there won’t be. The Congress owns the White House and will own the White House until actual arrests are made. (Never wonder again why both the House and Senate investigations of the White House are stalled.) So there won’t be any real fighting, just a lot of counter productive and destructive confusion.

But long term, the hippie punching is becoming a thing of the past, with respect to energy.

Don’t worry, though, there are still plenty of reasons to punch the hippies. No one on the right wing need be worried that their favorite past time is going anywhere any time soon.

The Energy Transition and the Question of Perfection

I just read an interesting piece on the widely influential VOX, by David Roberts, called “A beginner’s guide to the debate over 100% renewable energy.” It is worth a read, but I have some problems with it, and felt compelled to rant. No offense intended to David Roberts, but I run into certain malconstructed arguments so often that I feel compelled to promote a more careful thinking out of them, or at least, how they are presented. Roberts’ argument is not malconstructed, but the assumptions leading up to his key points include falsehoods.

I’m not going to explicitly disagree with the various elements of the solutions part of this article (the last parts). But the run-up to that discussion, in my opinion, reifies and supports a number of falsehoods, mainly the dramatic (and untrue) dichotomy between the perfect and wonderful large-plant mostly coal and petroleum sources of energy on one hand with alternatives fraught with All The Problems on the other. Since this VOX piece is a “beginner’s guide” I would hope we can stick a little more nuance into beginner’s thinking.

I choose to Fisk. Thusly:

“Doing that — using electricity to get around, heat our buildings, and run our factories — will increase demand for power. “

It decreases the demand for power, overall. Internal combustion engines are inefficient compared to electric, to such a degree that burning huge amounts of petroleum or coal in one place to ultimately power electric vehicles in a reasonable size region is more efficient than distributing burnable material to all those vehicles to run them. Electrification is inherently more efficient and lower maintenance.

“That means the electricity grid will have to get bigger,”

Our grid, in the US and generally, in the west, is fully embiggened. Globally, maybe. That depends on if a “big grid” is the best way to deliver power everywhere. It probably isn’t.

[The grid must become] “more sophisticated, more efficient, and more reliable — while it is decarbonizing. ”

This contrasts the improvement of the grid with decarbonizing as though they were opposites, but for most of the expected improvements of the grid, improvements of the grid and decarbonizing are the same actions. They are not in opposition to each other.

“On the other side are those who say that the primary goal should be zero carbon, not 100 percent renewables. They say that, in addition to wind, solar, and the rest of the technologies beloved by climate hawks, we’re also going to need a substantial amount of nuclear power and fossil fuel power with CCS.”

This is a false dichotomy in my opinion. There is uncertainty here, of course. But let’s try this. Let’s try decarbonizing 50% of our current power without nuclear. At that point we will know whether or not to invest trillions into an unpopular solution (and nuclear is unpopular). If we need to, we’ll do it. If we don’t, we won’t. Maybe something in between. But worrying about this now, and using uncertainty to argue one way or another, is a waste of conversational energy.

“(If you shrug and say, “it’s too early to know,” you’re correct, but you’re no fun to dispute with.)”

LOL. But no. Rather, I’m thinking that it is too early to know and, in contrast, you are hiding a pro-nuclear argument in a blanket of uncertainty! Maybe you are not, but this is what such arguments almost always look like. Beware the nuclear argument wearing sheep’s clothing. A greenish tinged sheep, yes, but still a sheep.

“The sun is not always shining; the wind is not always blowing.”

Another falsehood. Technically the sun is not always shining on us, true, but as sure as the Earth is spinning, the wind is always blowing. People who say this have never been to the Dakotas.

It does vary in intensity and by region. So does nuclear, by the way. Nuclear plants have to be shut down or slowed down regularly for refueling. When severe storms threaten, nuclear plants are often shut down, and that is not on a schedule. When any big power plant suffers a catastrophe there is a long term and catastrophic break in the grid, as compared to a cloudy day, or even, a broken windmill.

The sun is up during the day, and in may places and for many times, generally everywhere, the demand for power is greater during the day.

Overall, this is a falsehood because it attributes perfection to the traditional sources, especially to Nuclear, and great imperfection to the non-Carbon and non-Nuclear alternatives. That distinction is not nearly as clear and complete as generally stated.

“The fact that they are variable means that they are not dispatchable — the folks operating the power grid cannot turn them on and off as needed.”

Another falsehood. First, you can’t turn a major traditional power plant on or off as needed. Indeed, there are already major storage technologies and variation methodologies at work. There are high demand industries that are asked to increase or decrease their use, on the fly, to meet production variation on large grids. There are pumped storage systems. Etc. The fact is that there is variation and unpredictability in the current big-plant system, it is a problem, and it is a problem that has been quietly addressed. Quietly to the extent that people making comparisons between traditional big-plant electricity and clean energy systems often don’t even know about it.

“As VRE capacity increases, grid operators increasingly have to deal with large spikes in power (say, on a sunny, windy day), sometimes well above 100 percent of demand. “

Yes indeed, and this is the challenge being addressed as we speak. Enlarging grid balancing systems, increasing storage, developing tunable high energy industries, and so on. This is the challenge, it is being met as we speak.

“They also have to deal with large dips in VRE. It happens every day when the sun sets, but variations in VRE supply can also take place over weekly, monthly, seasonal, and even decadal time frames.”

Yes indeed, and this is the challenge being addressed as we speak. Enlarging grid balancing systems, increasing storage, developing tunable high energy industries, and so on. This is the challenge, it is being met as we speak.

“And finally, grid operators have to deal with rapid ramps, i.e., VRE going from producing almost no energy to producing a ton, or vice versa, over a short period of time. That requires rapid, flexible short-term resources that can ramp up or down in response.”

Yes indeed, and this is the challenge being addressed as we speak. Enlarging grid balancing systems, increasing storage, developing tunable high energy industries, and so on. This is the challenge, it is being met as we speak.

The article mentions the economic problems. I don’t see those as difficult to solve but they are important, but I’ve got no comments on that at the moment. Read the article.

“The last 10 to 20 percent of decarbonization is the hardest”

Absolutely. And, know what? The first 25% will be the easiest. Do that now, and we’ll know a LOT more about the next 25% and maybe it won’t seem so hard after all. Maybe a major technological solution will come along before we get to that last 10%, maybe society will change enough that people will simply agree to having occasional reductions in energy availability. But certainly, the greatest difficulty and uncertainty is linked to that last 10%.

Our goal should be to have that problem soon.

“A great deal can be accomplished just by substituting natural gas combined cycle power plants for coal plants.”

Yes, if by “a great deal” you mean the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Before extolling the virtues of methane, do check into it further. I once thought methane as a bridge was a good idea too, until I learned about what it involves, about leaking methane, etc. No, not really a good idea for the most part.

“Natural gas is cleaner than coal (by roughly half, depending on how you measure methane leakage), but it’s still a fossil fuel.”

My impression is that every time we learn something new about leakage, it is that the leakage is worse than we previously thought.

“If you build out a bunch of natural gas plants to get to 60 percent, then you’re stuck shutting them down to get past 60 percent.”

Well put.

Do read the article, but please, keep in mind that it is unfair (in the context of an argument) to attribute undue perfection to one option while emphasizing uncertain problems with the other. We need to forge ahead into that uncertainty and speed up this whole process. Everybody get to work on this please!

Harvesting clean energy in cities

There is a new technology that can convert both solar and wind energy into electricity in such a way that it is suitable for use on urban rooftops.

Here’s the abstract from the paper describing this work:

To realize the sustainable energy supply in a smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors. Although the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be effectively utilized since conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to their large volumes and safety issues. Here, we rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenge solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm × 22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest output power of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG. This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.

The paper is “Efficient Scavenging of Solar and Wind Energies in a Smart City” by Wang, Wang, Wang and Yang. You can see the abstract and download a PDF file here.

Giant Batteries in Chicago

An example of Clean Energy marching forward:

Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., better known as RES Americas, said Tuesday it will build two of the largest commercial-sized energy storage projects in North America.

RES, a wind farm developer based in Broomfield, Colorado, said the two projects will be built outside of Chicago, and once completed in 2015, will be capable of storing a total of 19.8 megawatts of power to support the local Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) electricity grid.

These batteries will be on line, or should I say, inserted into the back of Chicago behind a giant plastic plate held in by a huge screw (I assume). by August 2015, and they will operate for ten years.

Details here.

Ford Is Installing Green Energy Facilities

Ford is going to put the state of Michigan’s largest solar array at their headquarters in Dearborn Michigan, in cooperation with DTE Energy. This will provide 360 covered parking spaces with 30 spots for plug-in electric vehicles. I will be a 1.038 mW plant and will offset nearly 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. That’s actually a very small amount of solar power considering what could be done, but it is a start.

Meanwhile, Ford is also installing wind turbines at four US dealerships. This is a wind sail type turbine, which is fairly efficient and should be relatively bird friendly. Each installation will be accompanied by a 7 kW solar array. Each system will produce 20,000 kW of electricity each year, offsetting 14 tons of GHG annually per installation. The electricity will be used to provide electricity to the dealerships and power a few plug-in chargers for cars.

Helium-filled, high-altitude wind turbine prototype unveiled

An American company, Altaeros Energies, recently launched a prototype helium-shelled wind turbine that can be used at high altitudes. While the test run took place at 350ft above ground, the ultimate goal is a height of 1,000ft. Tethers send the converted power back to the ground. Compared with traditional wind turbines, the prototype garners twice as much energy, as wind is stronger at higher altitudes.

Sources: Green Tech Media, Smart Planet

The predictability of and variation in wind energy

Wind power is like Ginger Rogers. You know what I mean. It isn’t judged by the same standards as other kinds of electricity generation.

I’m speaking specifically of the reliability of, or variation in, wind over time. Many people live in places where they personally experience highly variable wind, or at least, think they do, so it is easy to assume that wind generators would be sometimes running on full, sometimes standing still, in a more or less random and unpredictable way, but this is not necessarily true. There are regions where wind is much more consistent than people might imagine, though of course it is always somewhat variable. In fact, a bigger problem with wind may be not so much the variation, but the fact that in some regions it is out of sync with energy demands. In some temperate zones, wind may be weak during the day but stronger at night when electricity demands are low (but this can vary from region to region, and seasonally; there are places where winds tend to come up during the day and calm down at night)
Continue reading The predictability of and variation in wind energy