Wind 2 – Renewable Energy Solution of the Month

May 13, 2010

I couldn’t fit nearly enough into my first wind video, and many of the unused clips address questions that viewers have since asked.


Alright, it’s time to stand the gaff. That Black president’s talking about spending a bunch of our money on somethin’s called wind farms.

That hard case is tryin’ his best to tell you and me that they’re gonna catch the wind so’s they can use it later…

If you missed my first video on wind energy, go watch that one now.

I finished that project with many unused clips, some of which address  questions that viewers have raised.  So let’s take a closer look.

I think I showed why wind turbines’ effects on bird populations will probably be minimal, with good siting standards.  But turbines do kill bats as well, and that needs to be addressed.

Researchers are looking at several approaches to mitigating these impacts.

One is, the recognition that bats are most active under the lowest wind conditions, times when wind turbines can be shut down.

In a study conducted for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, researchers conducted trials of this technique, and “…demonstrated reductions in average nightly bat fatality ranging from 56 to 92% with minimal annual power loss.”

Further research is ongoing, including inquiries into the types of sound that attract bats to unsafe sites, or could be used to warn or repel them.

Other viewers insist I’m wrong about wind turbine noise, and visual impacts.  It’s hard to measure one person’s tastes against another, but there is a bottom line we can look at.

What does wind do to property values?

A recent economic study by Lawrence Berkeley Labs found no impact from wind turbine arrays on prices of homes nearby.

The researchers found:

“…no evidence..that home prices surrounding wind facilities are consistently, measurably, and significantly affected by either the view of wind facilities or the distance of the home to those facilities.”

And history suggests that Rembrandt wasn’t offended by the advanced technology of his day, either.

All energy sources need a back up, and we’ve been doing that for decades.

I’ve heard an objection that pumped storage power stations are insufficient to firm up intermittent wind, or that building them will have negative impacts.

A quick search found 15 large facilities like this across the US, and it seems likely that we have not exhausted all possible sites, but the main point is that energy storage is real, and exists now.

Newer designs, like this one, avoid surface impacts by building reservoirs and turbines underground, where water is stored, and pumped to the surface in times of low demand, then falls to turn turbines when extra power is needed.

It’s just one of many variations on old technologies that you’ll be hearing more about in the future.

Compressed air storage underground is an off-the-shelf technology with huge potential..

But an important point is that an efficient, well connected grid is the best backup facility.

The wind is always blowing somewhere, and recent studies from Stanford University show that wind turbines connected over a wide enough area will always be capturing a steady and predictable amount of power.

According to the researchers, when wind farms operate over large areas, average of 33%,  and a  maximum of 47% of yearly averaged wind power from interconnected farms can be used as reliable, baseload electric power.”

According to the Department of Energy,

Modern wind plants can be added to a power grid without degrading system performance. In fact, they can contribute to improvements in system performance.

An obsolete, fragile power grid is unacceptable in the age of terrorism. An updated grid will contribute to national security, distributing power more widely, and making accidents like the blackout of August 2003 much less likely.

Dan Kammen is the Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Technology lab at the University of California at Berkeley, and was an adviser to president Obama’s transition team.


Basically, anyone who learned electrical engineering, learned power analysis, learned energy analysis, before about 1999, which is almost everyone doing anything, thinks that renewables are cute, bit players on the side.

In fact I was taught at a pretty good engineering department, that if you get more than a few percent renewables on the grid, and renewable didn’t mean some wonderful, clean technology – it meant things that go on and off, solar that goes on and off, wind that goes on and off, the grid will blow up… and it will have shortages, and you’ll see sparks flying out of towers, and it will look like, you know, some horrible nightmare of electrical engineering disaster, like the northeast blackout.

Well, in fact, northern Germany, installed wind power, and they installed it and they discovered, “this is pretty easy”.. and northern Germany over the course of 6 or 8 years, went from no wind power, to 25 percent of their energy from wind alone, on a reasonable month, and 50 percent on the good months..

The few places on earth that have actually tried to expand the renewable sector in a dramatic way, the places that have really tried, have actually discovered, that it was actually very easy, and frequently, hugely cost effective, to invest in these so-called “more expensive renewable technologies..”

One place where renewable energy and wind have been tried, is the state of Colorado, which voted on a 10 percent renewable energy minimum in 2004.

The state’s main utility, Excel, fought the proposal, but in the end, the citizen’s initiative won the popular vote.

Then a funny thing happened. Excel proceeded to meet the requirement, 8 years ahead of schedule.

Utility executives have since admitted the renewables were “good for the system, and good for the customer.”

The moral of the story is, thousands of new manufacturing jobs have been drawn to the state, and the experience has been so positive that Colorado recently tripled the requirement, to 30 percent.

Denmark is the country that is best known for promoting an economy based on  low carbon, renewable energy.

How’s it working out? Well, for two years in a row, conservative Forbes business magazine has named Denmark the number one country on earth for doing business, ahead of the United States.

No energy system is without impacts, and it’s a good sign that in deploying these technologies, we’re thinking hard about impacts on future generations.

In coming videos, I’ll be talking about the pros and cons of all the energy alternatives, including biomass, geothermal, and solar.

I hope you’ll keep sending me questions and comments, and I’ll do my best to be informed, and informative, at Renewable Energy Solution of the Month.


Interconnecting wind farms

Denmark number one

No impact on property values

US DOE Wind 20% by 2030

Mitigating Bat impacts


2 Responses to “Wind 2 – Renewable Energy Solution of the Month”

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