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Monday, August 2, 2010


Two interesting items have been accumulating on my desk worthy of sharing:

1.  I've been railing for years that our Congress won't pass a useful energy/climate package until either oil prices skyrocket again or tens of millions die one hot summer.  I'm more and more inclined to believe that the latter will not occur, for global warming is a slow process, maybe up 3 F by the year 2100.  There is that danger of a cascade effect as precipitated by THE VENUS SYNDROME, of course, but chances are, we will just become a lot more uncomfortable.  Let's take Baghdad, for example.  Today, the temperature only went up to 116 F, will dip down to 113 as the high tomorrow, but will rise again to 116 on Thursday.  The U.S. opened a swimming pool a couple of years ago in Zawra Park, which was a hit.  However, picture being at these temperatures in the middle of the afternoon, as I was in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and there is a blackout.  No problem, we just went to a casino, which had their own power facility.  A small child or very elderly person just would not have survived if there was no option...I think.  Well, maybe they can get used to this condition because Baghdad is noted for spotty electricity.  They too have young and old people and you can see what some them wear on the streets of Baghadad:

They just find a way to continue living.  So, if the Greenhouse Effect descends with a vengeance this month, first, very few population locations will experience 100 F + temperatures.  Even those at 116 F will find a way to cope.  I don't think tens of millions will ever perish from a truly hot summer.

2.  The 10 MW Brittania offshore wind turbine above will be turning in 2013.  The current largest windmill is located at Emden, Germany, 413 feet tip to tip blades and rated at 7 MW.  This system would power close to 2000 homes in the USA.  The Arup/Rolls Royce/Shell/BP "Aerogenerator" scheduled to be built along the northeast coast of England will have blades 900 feet across--three football fields.  I still remember that it was in 1987 when Hawaiian Electric (the $58 million largely paid for by the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) dedicated their 3.2 MW MOD 5B Boeing wind machine with a propeller diameter of 420 feet.  I felt that my life was being threatened by the whoosh of the rotation. It was frightening.  This was Boeing's last wind system.  The technology and materials were not good enough and the relative low cost of oil ($20/barrel in 1987, which dropped even further into the late 1990's)  killed the field for more than a decade.  Note that the Emden and Hawaii wind energy conversion devices are similar, except the former has three blades and latter had two.  The rated power means nothing, for this all depends on what wind speed you are talking about, as the power varies with the cube of the velocity.  Thus, the same wind mill that can generate 1 MW at 10 MPH would produce 8 MW at 20 MPH.  I expect the German system to get, maybe, at best, half, and probably average only a third (because a two-bladed machine is more efficient than one with 3 blades) the announced 7 MW when the wind is blowing. 

Where is General Electric, which "invented" the modern wind mill?  Well, in June they announced their intent to build four 4MW wind Scandinavia!  An investment of nearly half a billion dollars!  Finally we are exporting wind mills to Europe (that photo on the left shows these turbines operating in Germany), plus, last year GE committed to 368 2.5 MW wind energy conversion systems for a $2 billion Oregon wind farm.

The latest world's largest wind project has been initiated (as opposed to "only" announced) at Tehachapi Pass in California.  Terra-Gen Power and the Alta Wind Energy Center will install 300 turbines at a cost of $1.2 billion...pending action by Congress.

Aside from hydroelectric power (which will not expand much anymore), WIND and GEOTHERMAL POWER ARE THE ONLY RENEWABLES COMPETITIVE WITH COAL AND NUCLEAR ELECTRICITY.  Solar photovoltaics reman two to three times those costs, and solar thermal, maybe about double.

Well, all the above reads well.  The reality is that wind power is in the doldrums, for the American Wind Energy Association reports that 1239 MW of wind systems were installed in the first half of the year, and this is 71% below that of 2009.  The prognosis for next year is worse, as there is huge uncertainty on Congressional policy for incentives, plus the continuing economic downturn, which seems not to be improving much.

Governments the world over provided around $45 billion to renewable energy technologies in 2009.  Terrific?  Well, no.  Fossil fuel subsidies got $557 billion in 2008, reported the International Energy Agency.  (You might want to click on Green Scissors to gain some details on misplaced priorities, courtesy of Madeleine Austin.)
The Dow Jones Industrials surged 208 to 10,674, with world markets, save for Canada, also up.  Something to do with strong manufacturing and bank numbers.  Gold was up a buck per troy ounce to $1182 and crude oil is up to $81/barrel.

That disturbance in the Atlantic is now taking shape, and continues to head for the Eastern Seaboard, while that spot below Hawaii seems to be dissipating.


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