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Thursday, December 27, 2012

ACTUALLY, IT IS GOING TO BE A GOOD YEAR FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY: Part 2--Wind Energy



I'll today only focus on wind power.  Much of the following is from Renewable Energy News.
  • There has been a boom in wind energy activity to get under the wire before the Production Tax Credit (PTC) expires.  A healthy 4,500 megawatts of new wind capacity were added just in the first three quarters of this year, bringing our total up to more than 50 GW (1 GW = 1000 MW), the equivalent of 50 nuclear powerplants (again, though, nuclear and geothermal have a load--or power or capacity-- factor of 90%, while that of wind energy is, optimistically between 20 and 40%, while that of solar photovoltaics is 10-20%).  There will be a wind growth factor of 16% this year.  Coal capacity is today at 339,000 MW, but 27,000 MW will be retired by 2016.  Just wait until the carbon tax is enacted, and this drop might well become a cliff. 
While windmills have been around for centuries, the technology continues to improve, with General Electric (Can you believe they invented the modern wind turbine generator?) expecting to reduce blade costs up to 40% in three years.  That roto to the right from Siemens is being used by a 6 MW wind energy conversion device in Denmark.  Yes, those are real people.  How big is this machine?



That Airbus 380 just happens to be the largest airplane today, capable of carrying from 450 to 800 passengers.  I have a flight scheduled on it in April from Bangkok to Narita.

The largest operating wind mill is in Germany (left), 7 MW from a diameter of 413 feet.  Norway is building a 10 MW (475 feet diameter) monster.  Yes, these wind generators are getting colossal.

Around the world, Europe is up to 100,000 MW:  Germany 30,000 MW, Spain at 22,000 MW, Italy 7,200 MW, France 7,180 MW, UK 6,480 MW and Portugal 4,900 GW.  As a means of comparison, Hawaiian Electric Company averages around 1000 MW (on Oahu).  Offshore installations are picking up, as the London Array Offshore Wind Farm has now installed 630 MW.  These European wind energy farms produce as much electricity as 62 coal power plants, 39 nuclear PP or 52 natural gas PP.  

China added 5,400 MW in the first half of this year, and is now up to 68,000 MW.  Note that the USA has less wind capacity than Europe or China.

So how goes Hawaii?  Well, we just about killed the combined 400 MW wind farms on Lanai and Molokai.  The local people are opposed, plus that undersea cable will cost a billion or two.  A 69 MW field has just begun producing electricity on the North Shore five miles from Haleiwa and the farm at Kaheawa on Maui got up to 51 MW this year:


However, the really bad news is that Vestas has already cut 1500 wind manufacturing jobs in Colorado for fear of the PTC expiring.  There is some mild optimism that an extension will be included in the Fiscal Cliff agreement, but there remains high uncertainty.  Geothermal has till all of next year, and, anyway, there is some higher hope that "something" will be done next year to adjust the language to at least changing the requirements from electricity production to "official planning."  Solar incentives are protected into 2016.

Tomorrow I'll complete this analysis with biomass, ocean energy and hydroelectricity.

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