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Power Lines

Distributed generation increases electrical grid security

Power Lines

A few well-placed attacks could paralyze the existing US electrical grid, says former FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghof. The best way to defend against such attacks, he says, is with distributed generation, not bigger walls and increased security. This is precisely where renewable energy, especially rooftop solar, can help.

Wellinghoff believes the true answer to grid security is to fundamentally realign the system from one that relies on a few nodes (probably less than a dozen), which are all critical for the grid to operate, to a national system of ‘distributed grids’; hundreds of smaller ones, which of course could be attacked individually through conventional or nuclear or cyber means, but none of which could topple the entire system if it went down.

Wellinghof focuses on substations as being particularly vulnerable, and they are. However, another area of concern is ginormous transmission towers sited in remote areas, as often happens in the American West. Presumably taking down a couple of those towers would create chaos. However, those towers generally come from huge power plants so again, distributed energy lessens the threat because power can be generated everywhere.

Distributed generation is about moving power generation to within the load centers as opposed to power sources being remotely located from the load centers. This breaks up the centralized node architecture currently in place and disperses the generation across the grid forming micro and sub-regional grids. So if there is an attack on a node it won’t take down that whole area of the grid because there would be those sub-regional and micro-grids that could island themselves within those areas.

If everyone had solar panels on their respective roofs then we could adequately disperse power generation in such a way that it makes nodes practically irrelevant. It is easy to hack into a node and cause it to malfunction but it is basically impossible to hack 10 million solar power systems.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

EU installed offshore wind 2014. The US still has none.

Well done America, you’ve just about killed offshore wind

EU installed offshore wind 2014. The US still has none.

EU installed offshore wind 2014. The US still has none.

The usual motley assortment of rich NIMBYs, traditional energy companies, and regulatory hurdles have mostly managed to stop offshore wind farms here in the US. Considering all the bleating from DC and Important People about how we need to go renewable energy, I’d say it was ridiculous we still have no offshore wind. Other countries are racing ahead of us on this. We talk a good game yet do little.

A recent auction of parcels off Martha’s Vineyard went for a paltry $2 an acre Some parcels had no bids at all. In previous auctions, parcels went for $100 an acre. On this the ruling class stands united. Both the Kennedy’s and Bill Koch have spent millions to defeat offshore wind in that area.

After nearly 15 years of planning, two utilities dropped their power purchase agreement (PPA) contracts with the project, citing missed finance and construction deadlines. Just last week, the Boston Globe reported that Cape Wind dropped contracts that were meant to provide assembly areas for workers and turbine components. Cape Wind officials say that these missed deadlines stem from years of heavy legal burdens brought on by protest groups, particularly the Alliance for Nantucket Sound, which is supported by the vocal Bill Koch [and the Kennedys.]

Offshore wind turbines can be much bigger than on land, and thus generate more power. Plus., they are actually easier to install because there are no worries about trucking immense turbine blades to remote locations. You might think it would be a good thing to have locally-generated power. But swarms of NIMBYs fight offshore wind relentlessly elsewhere too. A New Jersey project is now uncertain, to to regulatory fights. A Delaware wind farm is on hold. It is possible a Rhode Island project may actually start this summer. Let’s hope so.

The image (PDF) show offshore wind development in the EU. It makes us look pathetic, doesn’t it?

Why is it we have to argue about everything?

Posted in Renewable energy, Wind turbines


Kansas farm extracts, reuses water from cow milk, saves on trucking costs too.


McCarty Family Farms in Kansas extracts substantial amount of water from processing cow milk, which is purified then used a drinking water for the cows and for irrigation. They now support more cows and processing while using less water. They also condense milk being shipped to Texas, which hugely reduces trucking costs.

The four dairies combined produces nearly 640,000 pounds of raw milk daily, which then flows into an advanced evaporative condensing milk processing plant located at the Rexford site. That plant reclaims and reuses roughly 50,000-60,000 gallons of freshwater daily—which over the course of a year can approach 20 million gallons, or about 61 acre-feet. This process separates the cream from the milk, and then the cream is pasteurized, stored, and shipped to a Daisy brand sour cream facility in Texas. The skim milk is condensed through evaporation, pasteurized, and shipped to a Dannon yogurt facility in Dallas, Texas. In the evaporative condensing milk processing plant, the water is either (1) filtered and purified and reused in the plant, (2) diverted to the dairy as drinking water for cows, or (3) dumped to lagoons where it is used as irrigation water for crops. The irrigation water can provide nearly 2 inches of irrigation on 1,200 acres.

Not only does reclaiming the water decrease their dependence on groundwater, it also reduces the number of trucks needed to ship their products to Texas. Their style of reclaiming the water and condensing the milk reduces their freight by an astonishing 75 percent. Lowering the number of trucks taking the 670-mile trip to Texas results in substantial diesel savings—while also reducing the McCarty Family Farm’s fossil fuel reliance and greenhouse gas emissions.

Posted in 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


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