Archive | Renewable energy


Small wind turbines are cute and mostly useless

Hi, I'm cute and mostly useless

Little bitty wind turbines appear virtuous, creating green power so everyone can feel good about them. In reality, they generally way underperform their specs due to turbulence on the ground and bad design. For reliable wind power, ginormous turbines, especially offshore where the wind is more reliable, are by far more efficient.

Wind turbulence and inconsistency near the ground makes it difficult to site baby turbines efficiently, make worse by ludicrously optimistic specs and lack of testing by the manufacturer.

Truth is that unless you live in a very windy place, you will be better off putting your money into solar PV. Period.

Wind turbines need wind. Not just any wind, but the nicely flowing, smooth, laminar kind. That cannot be found at 30 feet height. It can usually not be found at 60 feet. Sometimes you find it at 80 feet. More often than not it takes 100 feet of tower to get there. hose towers cost as much or more, installed, as the turbine itself. How much tower you need for a wind turbine to live up to its potential depends on your particular site; on the trees and structures around it etc. Close to the ground the wind is turbulent, and makes a poor fuel for a small wind turbine.

The world of small wind turbines is much like the wild-west of a century ago: Anything goes, and no claim is too bold. Wind turbine manufacturers will even routinely make claims that are not supported by the Laws of Physics. Energy production claims are often exaggerated, as are power curves. In fact, this is the rule, not the exception. Those manufacturers that tell the truth are the exception. Many manufacturers have never tested their wind turbines under real-world conditions. Some have never tested their turbine before selling it to unsuspecting customers. We are not joking! Because we sell grid-tie inverters for small wind turbines we have a front-row seat when it comes to actual operation of turbines of many makes and models. It turns out that some do not work; they self-destruct within days, and sometimes run away and blow their inverter within seconds (clearly nobody at the factory bothered to ever test it).

Also, vertical-axis small turbines are seldom at optimal angles to the wind. They are also installed in close proximity at each other, creating turbulence, and when installed in tandem with solar PV, the south-facing panels creating even more turbulence.

Many of these small turbines are what is called a Savonius design, which looks like two halves or a barrel stuck together. They are cheap but not very efficient, since half the turbine is blocking the wind while the other half scoops it. It barely manages to get 40% efficiency compared to horizontal axis turbines and creates a huge amount of turbulence in its wake.


As for that London skyscraper with the turbines at the top, they hardly move at all.

Then there are the turbines that are put on buildings for no other reason than to advertise “I am green!” The developer of the ugliest building in London that looks like a giant shaver actually wanted to put motors on the turbines so that would turn, because they sure don’t in the wind. Fortunately the architect refused so they just sit there.

Posted in Renewable energy, Wind turbines

This will never be off Nantucket now. The US still has no offshore wind.

Cape Wind off Nantucket dead, killed by wealthy in class war against us

This will never be off Nantucket now. The US still has no offshore wind.

This will never be off Nantucket now. The US still has no offshore wind.

Wealthy, Republicans and Democrats alike in Cape Cod and Nantucket, have succeeded in killing the Cape Wind project, which would have delivered green energy to Massachusetts and been the first offshore wind project in the US. These deep pocket elitists, including the Kennedys, fought Cape Wind for decades, pouring millions into obstructing it. The sight of a wind turbine way offshore is apparently too much for these upper class twits to endure. And, oh the horror, they might actually see a turbine closer up while out on their sailing yachts. Certainly that will never do. So it’s screw everyone else.

In an e-mailed statement, Cape Wind representative Mark Rogers said that the company would “pursue every option available to us” in order to move the project forward. He cited a “Force Majeure” provision in the PPA that extends milestones if an “unusual, unexpected and significant event” occurred outside the control of Cape Wind.

That “event” was the onslaught of litigation from the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a group of local wealthy property owners who spent millions of dollars over the years to stop Cape Wind.

Posted in Renewable energy, Wind turbines


Offshore wind turbines grow in size and power. Still none in U.S.


There are still no offshore wind turbines in the U.S. because of course it’s so much easier to argue for decades about installing them than actually do anything constructive. The rest of the planet though, is happily installing offshore wind turbines, and making us look ridiculous in the process.

Vestas just received orders for 32 ginormous 8.0 MW V164 turbines, the most powerful ever built. They will be installed in Liverpool Bay in the UK, delivering a total of 258 MW of power, enough for 180,000 homes. The blades are 262 feet long. Hub height is 344 feet, longer than a football field.

About the V164-8.0 MW
• 8MW rated power, with an optimal rotor to generator ratio
• 80m blades, the equivalent of nine double decker London buses
• Swept area of 21.124m2 , larger than the London Eye
• The nacelle is 20m long, 8m wide and 8m high, weighing approximately 390 tonnes including the hub
• Approximate hub height of 105m
• Approximate tip height of 187m
• Reduces operational and maintenance costs by enabling customers to run fewer, larger turbines
• World record production by a single wind turbine of 192 MWh in 24 hour period (October 2014)

Siemens makes assembling offshore wind turbines look like assembling Legos…

Posted in Renewable energy, Wind turbines


WaveNET. Renewable energy from ocean waves


WaveNET has created a new way to generate electricity from waves and is testing it in the rugged waters off Scotland. The arrays have a low profile, are easy to install, and developer Albetern says they can generate far more power per km2 than offshore wind and other types of wave energy. Possible applications are for remote villages, offshore drilling rigs, and salmon farms.

WaveNET is an offshore array-based wave energy converter that uses the motion of waves to generate electricity. The floating structure of the WaveNET is flexible in all directions, and capable of capturing power from the ocean regardless of wave direction and array orientation.


Jetson Green explains how it works.


The units use a standard hydrostatic transmission system to gather the generated hydraulic energy at a central point, and convert it into electrical energy through a “power take-off” module, from where the generated electricity can be transmitted to shore.

Posted in Renewable energy

pig lipstick

Lima Accord a continuation of previous do-nothing evasion

pig lipstick

Yet again, a supposed climate accord produces little if anything of substance. Countries can now decide what they want to do about climate change and when to implement the changes. If they do anything at all. Which they don’t have to. Basically, the Lima Accord is PR fluff, a bedraggled attempt to put a happy face on a failed climate change conference where nothing much was accomplished.

The split between developed and developing countries remains huge. Developed countries want developing countries to have comprehensive climate change remediation too. Developing countries say, with some justification, that developed countries have air conditioning and electricity for all and we want and need that, even if it does mean more carbon.

Climate negotiators forged a new climate agreement this past weekend. It’s been named the Lima Accord, and it relies on countries to individually decide if and by how much they want to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. In other words, the Lima Accord sets out to solve a problem that was caused by countries doing whatever they wanted by letting countries do whatever they want. So maybe they didn’t nail it.

Posted in Renewable energy

underpants gnomes

New England holds out for renewable energy, energy costs soar, hurts the poor

underpants gnomes

The South Park underpants gnomes have come to New England. Their business plan is 1) Stop fossil fuel energy. 2) Something happens. 3) Renewable energy for all!

Electricity prices are New England are already extremely expensive yet winter has barely started. A 2 room print shop in New Hampshire paid $788 for power in November, says the NYT. Much of New England’s power (and some home heating) comes from natural gas.  Even though there is a glut of natural gas naytionwide, a dearth of pipelines is throttling supply in New England. Idiotic NIMBYs have ferociously blocked new pipelines and sources of energy because they want the area to transition to renewable energy. A regional plan to bring more energy in was killed by the Massachusetts legislature because it might slow the growth of renewable energy. These elitist NIMBYs have no clue about what to do in the meantime except to let the poor (and increasingly the middle class) freeze in the dark so our Glorious Renewable Energy Future can somehow emerge years from now. Good luck with that.

Here we see the clear tradeoff in action. Reducing carbon emissions has a clear human and economic cost. High electricity costs wallop household budgets in a region with many communities that are struggling or even outright impoverished (as recently as last year, for example, a third of the residents of Woonsocket, RI were on food stamps). This particularly harms poor and minority residents. What’s more, it helps contribute to the region’s low ranking as a place to do business and its anemic job creation.

Given that gas itself is dirt cheap and will be for the foreseeable future thanks to fracking, hurting residents through high electricity prices designed to drive energy transition is clearly a deliberate policy choice.

Posted in Renewable energy

Prison can certainly be considered to be "change"

Greenpeace blows up their credibility by damaging Nazca site

Prison can certainly be considered to be "change"

Prison can certainly be considered to be “change”

It’s difficult to comprehend the arrogant stupidity behind Greenpeace putting advertising for themselves on an ecologically delicate World Heritage site. Even worse, they’ve not even bothered to put their legalistic apology on their home page. I’m guessing Greenpeace is now facing a financial crisis since contributions during the important holiday season are now sharply down. And they have no one to blame but their condescending selves. Because of course Peru has no clue about climate change and renewable energy and needs Exceptional Anglo-Americans swooping in to explain things to their befuddled brains. And if laws were broken and historical sites damaged, well, that’s just the price of spreading the Gospel According to Greenpeace.

The Nazca site is clearly and unmistakably protected. Greenpeace deliberately broke laws to install their advertising. And make no mistake, the message was all about advertising and branding for Greenpeace, with faux pretensions about it being a ‘message of hope.’

The area is so fragile, and so very sacred, that presidents and high-ranking officials have been forbidden from setting foot anywhere near it – so one can only imagine the public outcry about the disrespect that Greenpeace has shown by trespassing here.

Their “apology” was clearly written by lawyers and is numbingly stupid, as well as evasive and sleazy.

We fully understand that this looks bad. Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass.

This doesn’t “look bad”. It is bad. Greenpeace didn’t come across as “careless and crass”, it was careless and crass, as well as being criminally reckless.

We have now met with the Peruvian Culture Ministry responsible for the site to offer an apology. We welcome any independent review of the consequences of our activity. We will cooperate fully with any investigation.

We take personal responsibility for actions, and are committed to nonviolence. Greenpeace is accountable for its activities and willing to face fair and reasonable consequences.

Again, Greenpeace arrogance shines through. Greenpeace will face what penalties Peru deems fit and it matters not if Greenpeace is willing to face them.

Posted in News, Renewable energy


Google says renewable energy on its own cannot reduce carbon emissions

Google has tried long and hard to reduce the cost of renewable energy to that of coal. They now say this is not possible and further, entirely new methods of generating energy are needed because renewable energy, even in a best-case scenario, can’t do it all in reducing carbon emissions. Renewable energy is too variable and too location-specific. Further, the cost of replacing coal and natural gas with new energy sources needs to include the cost of shutting down the old plants, building new ones, then producing power at 4-6 cents per kWh with the power company making a profit (or at least paying for expenses and debt, if it’s a public utility.)

Google engineers explain their conclusions.

Suppose for a moment that it had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change. This realization was frankly shocking: Not only had RE

Read that again. This needs to be understood. Google says entire new methods of producing energy need to happen, and fast.

What’s needed are zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over within the next 40 years.

Google doesn’t know how this will be done, only that is needs to be, and suggests governments and business focus on energy R&D.

To reverse climate change, our society requires something beyond today’s renewable energy technologies. Fortunately, new discoveries are changing the way we think about physics, nanotechnology, and biology all the time. While humanity is currently on a trajectory to severe climate change, this disaster can be averted if researchers aim for goals that seem nearly impossible.

Oddly, Google doesn’t even mention nuclear. One of the comments does.

China has 28 reactors under construction today and plans to build 100 more by 2030. In addition, China has hundreds of engineers and scientists working on molten salt reactor (MSR) technology, and plans to have a prototype working by decade’s end. MSRs are Generation IV reactors and can provide high-heat for industrial processes, such as making cement and steel and producing hydrogen (for those clean fuel cell cars) without releasing CO2. MSRs are incredibly safe. They can’t melt down (they’re molten by design).

Posted in Renewable energy


I don’t care how much I pay, gonna ride my poo-powered bus every day

The Bio-Bus will go into service in Britain next next, shutting people to an airport. It runs on biomethane derived from food waste and human poop.

The company says that by using the alternative energy source, its new bus will also put out less carbon emissions than those powered by traditional diesel engines.

The biomethane is being produced at a sewage treatment plant; the BBC says it “takes the annual waste of about five people to produce” a full tank.

No shit, this is the best headline: All aboard the poop bus, now farting around the UK

Inquiring minds want to know if the bus has a bathroom in it, and thus could contribute to its own biomethans power.

Posted in Renewable energy


Ivanpah solar power plant generating way less power than expected



The Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant in the California Mojave desert near Primm Nevada is not producing nearly as much electricity as predicted. Natural gas, not the heat of the sun, is being used more than originally projected to power the turbines. CSP works by reflecting the heat of the sun from heliostat mirrors to a central tower to run the turbines. Ivanpah has produced a mere 25% of expected electricity since December 2013 when it began production, a dismal result indeed.

The scale of Ivanpah is much larger than any other CSP plant. The plant operator says the weather wasn’t as sunny as expected. This seems a bogus excuse. Was there really 75% less sunshine than projected?

[Second quarter] sales totaled 133,807 MWh and at an average price of $167.85/MWh that generated $22.46 million in revenue.

That relatively small output, combined with the project’s $2 billion price tag, could no doubt hurt all three Ivanpah owners

Increasingly, CSP is having trouble competing with solar PV. If Ivanpah continues to under-perform, then future CSP plants may not get funded. . Ivanpah was funded by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy primarily by using a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee. If Ivanpah continues to falter and the federal government get stuck with the loan, it’ll seriously affect renewable energy funding going forward.

Another sign of the plant’s early operating woes: In March, the owners sought permission (PDF) to use 60 percent more natural gas in auxiliary boilers than was allowed under the plant’s certification, a request that was approved in August.

Using much more natural gas to produce energy rather than using solar heat as planned could, if it continues, might make Ivanpah not able to qualify as being renewable energy under the California plan for 33% in-state renewable energy by 2020. Plus, it’ll make foes of renewable energy chortle with laughter.

Some CSP plants store excess heat in underground molten salt caverns and thus can product energy when the sun isn’t shining. Inexplicably, Ivanpah doesn’t do this, a decision probably made to save money. In retrospect, this seems short-sighted and may imperil the entire project.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power


Bob Morris


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