More Political Spin On Wind Power

Posted on Sat 01/23/2010 by


[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=offshore+wind+turbines&iid=990549″ src=”f/c/a/0/Burbo_Bank_Wind_b9de.jpg?adImageId=9402536&imageId=990549″ width=”380″ height=”283″ /]
Part of a 25 tower offshore Wind Power Farm in the UK.

Will we ever be told the truth about any of this?

This story was reported yesterday.

For those without any knowledge, this story might actually be encouraging to see, and because the dates translate to almost 14 years away, and with such an immense amount of money being promised, then it actually seems that something like might be able to be achieved.

What however is the absolute failure of this article to even mention is the fact that no one has even bothered to check if, (a) it can be achieved, (b) whether the costings are accurate, and (c) if the claims stand up.

Something like this is easy to say, and then to be reported, but the hard part is doing the research to see if what is being said really does stack up. Just mentioning the fact that it is a Government Report does not make it the verbatim truth. The headline bold statement says:

Wind energy could generate 20 percent of the electricity needed by households and businesses in the eastern half of the United States by 2024, but it would require up to $90 billion in investment, according to a government report released on Wednesday.

For those reading the article, and then reading what I have to say here, the same could be said about veracity. What makes me so right, and the Government Report so wrong, and that is a fair and reasonable thing to ask.

For more than 22 months now, I have been submitting posts on related subjects, and the fallacy that Wind Power can actually be viable is just part of those posts. Intensive and very detailed research has led me to literally hundreds of sites on the subject. For this research, I have not looked for ‘opinion’. I have looked for direct information, and from my background in the Electrical Engineering trade, at each stage, I have carefully worked out everything that there is to be seen on the subject. The strange thing about that is that each step of the way, each new site I visit confirms the others, so that now, I have a stock list of numerous things to call upon whenever I need verification.

The three things that do stand out from that simple quote above are the 20% of all Eastern half of the U.S.A. power, the timeline of 2024, and the $90 Billion cost, so let’s look at them, and to do that I’ll be working backwards from the cost.

For a direct costing, we only need look directly at the Cape Wind Project in Massachusetts, and here is a link to a post on that, with further links within that post. Why I’m using Cape Wind is because it actually is an Offshore Wind Plant, and the intent of this article is that these towers will be in the main ‘Offshore’, as mentioned in the article.

Most of the big wind farms would be concentrated off the Atlantic Coast in federal waters from Massachusetts to North Carolina and on land in Midwest states from North Dakota to Nebraska and into Kansas.

Cape Wind will (if it ever gets done at all) have 130 huge towers, each with a 3.23MW nacelle atop them, that nacelle holding the generator and being driven by the huge three bladed propeller fan out the front of it. That will give a total of 420MW of power. The cost of Cape Wind (now blowing out from the original cost) is $1.1 Billion.

So, effectively using that $90 Billion cost from this Government report, that means we can effectively construct 82 plants the equivalent of Cape Wind, around 10,700 of these huge wind towers. This will give a total power output of 34,000MW of Nameplate Capacity power. However, even though that figure seems high, it is just part of the story, a part that they, er, neglect to mention to you.

Wind power is notoriously fickle, and as shown so graphically in this post, and also in this post, the whole total of the German wind power fleet of nearly 25,000 wind towers is currently running at only 20% efficiency with respect of power delivery to the grids compared to maximum power able to be generated. 20%, and that’s not an isolated figure, but extrapolated out over a whole 12 month period, and even though a couple of months are up around 30%, there are extended periods of months on end where that delivery rate is down around 6%.

Even at that 20% delivery rate, the total power from this $90 billion outlay, (10,700 towers and 34,000MW) will only amount to 60 Billion KiloWattHours (KWH). This, in actual fact amounts to around 2.7% of the total consumed power for that area, the Eastern half of the U.S. and this is calculated from the Government’s own figures at this link. If those turbines were to rotate at their maximum for 24 hours of every day (100%) and not just the expected 20% best estimate of 5 hours a day, then the power delivery is still only around 13% of the total needed for that area, and not even approaching the 20% quoted in this Government report, and that’s with those turbines achieving 100% efficiency rating.

That Government report also states:

Reaching the 20 percent threshold for wind by 2024 in the eastern electric grid would require 225,000 megawatts of wind generation capacity in the region, about a 10-fold increase from current levels, the study said.

As you can see from the above figures, that $90 Billion (in today’s dollars) will provide only 34,000MW of power, nowhere near the 225,000MW they quote in their own report, in fact only 15 percent of that. So for them to actually provide that amount of quoted power, then the cost will be 6.7 times greater, closer to $600 Billion. If the Government proposes to commit  $90 Billion, then at the current costing estimates, the private sector will have to stump up the remaining $510 Billion. That amount of itself is problematic.

Then, consider this. That 225,000MW of power that they quote so sanguinely amounts to 70,000 of those Wind towers. At the 20% power delivery factor, it is still only 17% of the total power being currently consumed in that area, the Eastern half of the U.S. which is close to the stated 20%, but still with figures even this reasonably close, they provide further problems not even considered. That’s 70,000 of those towers. The U.S. is currently building these things like there’s no tomorrow, and there are 33,000 wind towers already in service, and the U.S. has only recently taken over from Germany as the largest producer of wind power on the Planet. This Government report calls for another 70,000 of them. Perhaps it can even be accomplished, but consider this.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=offshore+wind+turbines&iid=990563″ src=”2/5/f/c/Burbo_Bank_Wind_d0db.jpg?adImageId=9402753&imageId=990563″ width=”380″ height=”553″ /]
Maintenance boat at the foot of an offshore wind tower at a Wind Farm in the UK.

The length of Coastline for the  Eastern Seaboard States quoted in the report is around 960 miles. The blades of those huge towers have a swept distance of 364 feet, so you can’t place them any closer than 400 feet apart.

At 960 miles that means you can construct 12,500 of them along that length of Coastline, each one 400 feet from the other.

So for that figure of 70,000 you will need 6 rows of towers. Even considering that not all 70,000 will be offshore, that number of 70,000 will see most of them offshore, so the number to concentrate on here is one every 400 feet, for that 960 mile length. It really doesn’t matter how many rows there are. It’s inconceivable.

From the thought bubble of proposing something like this to the point where they actually start delivering power to the grid is usually around ten years, and that’s provided all the legal hurdles, EPA approvals, case studies, environmental impact statements, public submissions, etc, all fall into place, and that is just taken on what Cape Wind is going through, and that project has had no end of trouble and is still nowhere near even the start of construction process, for a measly 130 towers.

Let’s just say that everything was in place right this very second, and construction was actually starting right now, keeping in mind you will first have to massively gear up to manufacture the towers, the nacelles, the blades, and then transport them to myriad of construction sites, 70,000 of them in all.

To have them built and delivering power to the grids by that stated 2024 timeline, you will need to have one finished every 50 minutes, and that’s if you start right now, working during daylight hours, for all 365 days of each year, from now until 2024. If  it’s only the 250 working days in a year then that figure comes down to one every 35 minutes. Considering there will probably be numerous crews working in different areas, and let’s guess 20 different sites, you’re still looking at one huge tower being constructed each day. Something like this could go on interminably, quoting as many crews at many more sites, but that figure of 70,000 towers in 14 years is ridiculous to even contemplate. The costs would be astronomically larger than what is quoted when you just take in the labor costs alone. Then, the infrastructure to move all this new power from the Wind towers to where it is actually needed will need to be constructed, another problematic task fraught with its own problems, that of transmitting power over the vast distances quoted here. The fact that the Government is only sinking in $90 Billion, no matter how much that sounds, is in fact a tiny amount of what the actual cost will be for the life of this project.

70,000 towers.

Can you see now how one small story about a Government report, something that looks so doable, is in fact nothing but hot air and spin.

The same thing was trucked out in April of last year by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in his wonderful off the cuff statement that Offshore wind could replace all the coal fired power plants in the U.S. and luckily for him, that story has since been pulled, but the post at this link details what he said, and again does the math that he so horribly failed to even find out about.

The same has happened here ….. again.

It’s just so easy to find someone to make conjecture on how something like this can be done, to actually then give it the credence of calling it a Government report, and then to place these figures out there, as if it actually can be achieved.

The hard part is actually finding out the facts, doing the correct math, and then telling it like it really is.

This is something that will never be achieved, and if anyone is actually stupid enough to even attempt to get it off the ground, then it will turn into the hugest white elephant there ever could be. Something like this, if it ever can be achieved, and on this scale, will still only provide minimal amounts of power on a limited basis, and if the truth is to be told, will not result in the closing down of one coal fired power plant, because that coal fired plant will still be required to deliver power all the time, 24 hours of every day, something these huge wind towers will never be able to do.

This is Government spin, flat out, nothing more, and in fact more than just spin. It’s outright insanity.