Archive | Energy

Block Island Wind farm. U.S. first offshore wind


The Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island nears completion and will be the first ever offshore wind farm in the U.S. Essentially, it’s a test site, just 30 MW. However, if all goes well – and let’s hope it does – developer Deepwater Wind plans a South Fork, a 90 MW wind farm 30 miles from Long Island and Deepwater One, a 1,000 MW wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard. (Presuming of course that squealing NIMBYs like the Kennedy clan, proud environmentalists all, don’t again succeed in killing offshore wind anywhere they can possibly see it.)

Wired details the engineering challenges:

The blades on Deepwater Wind’s turbines will be almost 250 feet long. That means the top and the bottom of the rotors will be separated by 500 feet or more. Anything covering that much area will have to deal with widely variable wind conditions. Sometimes the wind will be the same speed across the whole turbine, but that speed will change dramatically over the course of the day. Other times, the winds can be steadily 10 miles per hour faster at the top than at the bottom.

To help protect the turbines’ machinery and electronics, engineers can lock their rotors to keep them from spinning too fast or chaotically. “If we reach some level of wind which is not acceptable, then we stop the machine and the machine is put in standby.” The same happens if it gets too cold.

But stopping the rotors doesn’t stop the wind. The surface area of each blade is about the same as a football field, so there’s a lot of air hitting the turbine and trying to topple it. To stay steady, turbines are anchored to the seafloor and to a narrow foundation dug 200 feet underground.

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California may get floating offshore wind farm

floating offshore wind, California

The US, despite its bleating about the wonderfulness of its renewable energy, still has no offshore wind farms. A little dinky 30 MW wind farm off Rhode Island may be operational next year. Meanwhile, Britain and Europe have huge offshore wind projects with more coming.

Trident Winds proposes installing a ginormous floating wind farm 25 miles offshore from Cambria CA. I wish them luck. NIMBYs and Very Concerned Citizens will no doubt wallpaper them with lawsuits while a ponderous state regulatory system requires endless EIR reports. Yes, it’s a good thing that everyone can can involved and yes, regulations need to be tough. However, offshore wind has a tiny environmental impact compared to other sources of energy and somehow Britain has managed to produce 10% of its power (5 GW) from offshore wind without, y’know, the oceans dying or something catastrophic happening. Just saying. Any source of power will have environmental impacts. Wind and solar are about as benign as it gets.

The Carlsbad CA desalination plant near San Diego is finally operational. It took them years to get the necessary permits and get past the NIMBYs. That’s just too long.

The Trident project calls for mounting 100 turbines on floating foundations in water that’s roughly half a mile deep. Floating foundations, which are kept in place with anchors and cables, have so far been used only in small pilot projects in places such as Portugal, Norway and Scotland. The anchors themselves may be giant concrete blocks or huge steel structures with hooks that grab the sea floor, not unlike a ship’s anchor.

Floating wind is more expensive than fixed wind. So that may impact whether the wind farm is built.

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Biomass plants using dead trees could lessen forest fires

Dead trees. Pine bark beetle

The pine bark beetle has killed millions of trees in California. These dead trees are now a fire hazard. Hauling the trees to biomass plants to be burned to produce electricity will lessen the fire hazard. However, transporting the trees uses diesel fuel, and thus is polluting, plus biomass plants can be a bit messy themselves.

But still, imagine a fire facing down a mountain and hitting thousands of dead trees. The pollution into the air from such a conflagration would be way more than biomass plants produce. Unfortunately, biomass plants in California are closing because they don’t get subsidies like solar and wind do. This is short-sighted and counter-productive.

It’s truly a no-brainer because there are a number of well-located (biomass) facilities that are underutilized,” Malinowski Ball said. “It means millions of tons of organic material diverted from the least favorable environmental outcomes, such as landfilling and burning.”

Meanwhile, a large supply of organic material looms in the Sierra.

There are an estimated 66 million dead trees in California’s forests.

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Nevada says no public bonds for Faraday due to shaky finances

Faraday Future FFzero1 concept car

Faraday Future plans to build a $1 bn electric car plant in North Las Vegas. However, Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz says the state will not issue $120 mn in bonds to pay for supporting power lines, water mains, and roads until he is convinced Faraday owner Jia Yueting has the money to build the plant.

The crux of Schwartz’s concern is Jia’s reliance on equity-backed loans, a financing strategy that could leave Nevada taxpayers vulnerable to the whims of China’s volatile stock market. Jia has pledged 87 percent of his holdings in Leshi Internet Information & Technology — his flagship firm — for cash he then plowed back into his companies, regulatory filings show.

The stock, whose trading was halted in Shenzhen for the first five months of 2016, has dropped 11 percent since it resumed trading June 3, a move that heightens Schwartz’s fear that a margin call could prevent Jia from funding the plant.

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Las Vegas solar power booms for business, not so much for homes

Mandalay Bay solar power

Mandalay Bay solar power

Cox Communication in Las Vegas now powers much of their downtown data center with solar power, ditto for an auto auction subsidiary. In addition, MGM has 20 acres of solar photovoltaic panels of the roof of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With the obvious advantages of rooftop solar, you’d think residential solar would be booming too, but no. NV Energy, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has at least temporarily poleaxed that, because profits. You know Warren, right? He’s that supposedly kindly old folksy gent from Nebraska who unaccountably has a reputation for being different from the rest of the exploitative hedge fund pirates. Hopefully a ballot initiative will poleaxe him back.

An initiative petition to amend the state constitution to end the monopoly of NV Power is being circulated. Matt Griffin, attorney for Nevadans for Affordable Clean Energy Choices, said Friday he did not know how many signatures had been collected but he was confident the question would qualify for the ballot.

If passed during this election and again in 2018, the measure would permit other electric companies to apply to serve Nevadans.

Back to the business solar installations and upgrades.

The two arrays actually went online several months ago. They have been shouldering about 65 percent of the power load for Cox Communication’s downtown data center and about 62 percent of the load for Manheim Nevada’s operation, project engineers said. On a long day of intense sun like Monday, that output jumps to more like 80 percent at the Cox data center.

Meanwhile across town, MGM Resorts is getting ready to power up an expansion of its solar array atop the Mandalay Bay convention center, which is being touted as the largest rooftop solar field in the nation.

With the addition of about 5,000 photovoltaic panels set to go online by the end of the month, the entire project covers about 20 acres of roof and can produce up to 8.3 megawatts of electricity when the sun shines.

“That’s about as much as you need to power Monte Carlo at full peak,”

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