Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Is wind energy really ready for prime time?

Asked by ETpro (34469points) February 10th, 2010

Previously enthusiastic MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown doesn’t seem to think so, Halfway through a 1-year free trial, they decided not only to forego buying turbine, but to have it removed early. Read more here.

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16 Answers

CMaz's avatar

Sounds like a poor engineering problem. Someone did not do their homework.

Snarp's avatar

It sounds like this particular type of turbine was unsuitable for this particular installation. Wind is ready for prime time, has been for some time, and has been in wide and productive use in Europe for well over a decade.

john65pennington's avatar

Turbines will only generate electricity if there is wind. no wind. no electricity. mother nature can be very stingy when she wants to. wind turbines are not a sure thing to depend on. the same almost applies to solar energy…......no sun. no electricity.

marinelife's avatar

I think that it was the fault of the project not wind energy.

phoebusg's avatar

Damn aeollus, I told him to use a bigger bag of winds.

No, I don’t think so. Let’s consider this for a moment. Energy is everywhere – it’s not about ‘it’ being ready, but us knowing how to change it into something we can use.

High enough off the ground there’s always wind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airborne_wind_turbine

Snarp's avatar

@john65pennington Reliability (that’s industry speak for what you’re talking about) is indeed the major issue with solar and wind energy. It’s actually a bigger problem with solar because wind can be fairly constant in well chosen locations and solar is guaranteed to be producing less than peak energy at the time of peak load on the electrical grid. But it does mean that for the time being we need other energy sources to bridge the gap. Energy storage is the big technological hurdle right now in terms of alternative energy. Some options include improved batteries, hydrogen (as a storage medium for energy), the use of the batteries in electric cars to offset household energy consumption at certain times, and the use of solar systems that heat a salt for storage and use the heated salt to generate electricity. Smart grid technology, time of use billing, and appliance switching (the smart grid can turn on and off high energy appliances like AC and water heating to reduce consumption peaks) will also help to alleviate reliability problems.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Wind turbines have been generating electric power for almost 90 years now. I have 4 of them. They will always be part of a green power “mix”. They have to be suitably located and balanced with other power sources such as solar photovoltaic, tidal, ocean temperature gradiant, geothermal, nuclear, etc. Whatever is appropriate to the location. Using hydrogen as a storage medium addresses concerns such as @john65pennington raises.
My cabin in Maine is entirely off-grid with one wind turbine, 700W of photovoltaics and a diesel backup. Storage by lead acid batterries. The farm in NH is about 80% self sufficient electrically: 3 wind turbines of 1500W each, 5000W of PV, a small hydroelectric setup, diesel backup and storage via lead -acid and nickel-iron battery banks. Planning on adding another wind turbine and experimenting with hydrogen and fuel cells when practical. The diesel generator runs on B100 biodiesel, as do most of my vehicles. Heating is by wood (sustainably harvested) and solar hot water heaters.

killerbees's avatar

Wind energy is already “prime time”

Europes largest onshore windfarm is near my home and is set to provide 452Mw of power,
if that isn’t prime time I don’t know what is!
read this http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8057198.stm

liminal's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land I want your cabin.

I am thinking like chazman. Does anybody know if ocean current energy may have been a more viable option to test?

killerbees's avatar

yes! sea power (tidal currents and waves) is more predictable, therfore more useful see this http://www.seageneration.co.uk/
and this
http://theirearth.com/index.php/news/pelamis-wave-power-pelamis-wave-energy-converter

but it isn’t as well developed

mattbrowne's avatar

It is in Europe.

killerbees's avatar

I am in europe :-)
Anyhow I believe that the wind and the sea no no borders.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, here in our area, people are banding together to build a generator for their whole neighborhood. They are forming miniature power companies.

ETpro's avatar

@Snarp I read today that there are plans afoot to dig caves in Utah and fill them with compressed air when wind or solar energy is available as a way of having an energy storage system. The compressed air will power turbines when the system needs energy.

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Sounds like you have enough experience to give a definitive answer here. Thanks.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@ETpro There are already many “Pumped Hydroelectric Storage” systems operating now. The compressed air scheme might offer greater total power cycle efficiency. This could be an advantage in power grid balancing; a problem that has occurred in Europe with large scale wind generation.
The other major “green” storage medium is hydrogen. This will require a lot of infrastructure investment to allow hydrogen to compete as an automotive fuel. (I’m starting to get off-topic here) Right now biodiesel and second-generation alcohol fuels are the most practical medium-term options for internal combustion automobile use.

mattbrowne's avatar

Here are two interesting articles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_European_Union

http://www.planetark.com/enviro-news/item/54695

“Germany’s cabinet on Wednesday adopted a plan to speed along the construction of offshore wind parks in the North Sea, paving the way for a targeted 25,000 megawatts of capacity to come on line by 2030. Germany, one of the leading onshore wind power nations, aims to move turbines out to sea in order to help them meet national climate protection targets which in a first step envisage renewable energies contributing 30 percent of all power by 2020.

Wind supplies six percent of German power and this is meant to double to 12 percent under the 2020 scenario. Wednesday’s plan involves creating zones suited to the construction of wind parks in coordination with the interests of environmental protection and the shipping industry. Tiefensee said that offshore wind technologies could provide 30,000 jobs.”

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