Sheeesh, stupid windmills don’t even know when to fail

When the nuclear went down, Japan turned to its wind farms. Stupid Japanese, don’t even know that wind has no role in any serious energy policy. We know, cuz Dick Cheney told us.

Even the country’s totally badass Kamisu offshore wind farm, with its giant 2 MW turbines with blades big as the wings on a jumbo jet, and only 186 miles from the epicenter of the largest quake ever recorded in Japan, survived without a hiccup thanks to its “battle proof design.” As a result, the nation’s electric companies have asked all of its wind farms to increase power production to maximum, in order to make up for the shortfalls brought about by the failure of certain other aging, non-resilient 20th-century technologies

16 responses to “Sheeesh, stupid windmills don’t even know when to fail

  1. Moe,

    I apologize in advance, but the left constantly makes this mistake and it drives me insane. Unfortunately, most conservatives just ignore the problem all together, so no one on the right can challenge these misconceptions. I already smacked down a blogger on HuffPo for making this mistake (See <a href="http://reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com/2011/03/18/a-surefire-sign-the-right-has-ceded-the-clean-energy-debate-to-the-left/&quot; title="A Surefire Sign the Right Has Ceded the Clean Energy Debate to the Left"). I will be more polite with you.

    What mistake you ask? They assume that wind and solar energy are direct substitutes for nuclear, hydro, coal, and geothermal power.

    Wind and solar should play a role in America's energy solution, but because they are intermittent power sources (sun only shines during the day and wind typically blows the strongest in the very early hours of the morning) they are currently only good for peak, not baseload generation. Baseload generation provides a predictable and guaranteed generation capacity 24/7, while peak generation is employed on a variable basis when there are spikes in demand (like on a hot summer day when people turn on their air-conditioners).

    Everyone's heart is in the right place, but even some very smart policy folks keep making this mistake (I think the head of Greenpeace posted something on the New York Times making a similar argument) and it drives me nuts.

    Probably almost as much as conservatives who deny evidence (NASA convinced me) for global warming may drive you batty. 😉

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    • Sean – I freely admit to a only smattering of knowledge about wind and/or solar, but let me be clear – no way do I see either of them as replacing fossil fuels. Note that above I spoke of a ‘role in an energy policy’.

      I hardly blame you for assuming my post suggested I thought an outright trade of one for the other was possible. This is something I see and hear a lot though – the assumption that those who support alternatives see them as a replacement. I suppose some do. Greenpeace are of course radicals and I would urge no one mistake their positions for those of the larger left. But I guess we all need our radicals – how else are things brought to public attention? They play a role for sure.

      What I beleive is that we have been irresponsible in refusing to pursue alternatives and in disincentivizing research into things like storage cells to make solar more useful – not to mention affordable! I’m always reminded (I repeat myself probably) of Reagan tearing the solar panels off the roof of the White House. The message was sadly clear and government grants for research pretty much screeched to a halt.

      Perhaps the one thing that could make the most difference is the thing we simply ignore. Conservation. It can make a huge difference – just look at what’s happened with energy efficient appliances over the last 30 years. I suppose it’s essential to freedom that all our big box stores light up their acres of empty parking lots every night. 🙂

      By the way I am supportive of nuclear – not enthusiastic, but supportive – as something we simply have to do. Now Japan may stall things again. We may have to get aggresive about adding clean energy and looking at conservation.

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      • Moe – I’m sorry for misinterpreting your position. As you can tell, I am very passionate about clean energy! 😉

        For me, it is a national security issue. Our economy is so leveraged to fossil fuels, I don’t think that people realize the impact a sudden and severe supply shortage might have on American society. When the North Koreans had a fuel supply shock in the mid-nineties because the Soviet Union collapsed, millions died from starvation (long story, but I’ve blogged about it).

        Your point on energy storage is spot on. It is clean energy’s Holy Grail. If someone figures out how to make energy storage more affordable, wind and solar might suddenly become direct substitutes for nuclear and coal.

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        • I’m sure the Pentagon sees it as a national security issue too – and I don’t mean they see the need to go to war – they are realists. I shouldn’t be surprised if they were funding research.

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          • They do.

            In fact, they just created a new billet for that purpose called the Director of Operational Energy.

            They recently did a back-of-the-envelope calculation for the cost to bring fuel into Afghanistan. This “fully-burdened cost of fuel” is something like $400 / gallon. And no, that is not a typo.

            They are currently looking for ways to reduce fuel consumption while simultaneously improving military capabilities.

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          • That’s great. Our military has frequently taken the lead on important social issues. Maybe they’ll be the catalyst again.

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    • By the way, when you speak of variables due to sun/wind vagaries – is the problem there our inability to store that energy? Is that even possible?

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      • Moe,

        That is precisely the problem for all energy generation. Even nuclear and coal cannot store energy affordably. The reason they provide baseload power is that they burn fuel all day, every day. Something like 60-80% of the energy they generate is lost either as waste heat or in electricity distribution.

        If someone figures this out, then wind and solar become potential substitutes for coal and nuclear.

        Energy can be stored, it is just REALLY expensive. Companies like VISA pay top dollar for things like flywheels to store energy over small periods of time for power disruptions. It is worth the expense for them because their business collapses if they lose their customer records.

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        • Fund research or fight the occassional war – hmmmm.

          My neighbor, a 40-something father of four is right now taking himself (almost) off the grid. Uses cisterns and is now covering his roof with solar panels to power his house – he’ll lean on the electric utility co as a back up only. Since he’s an electrical contractor, I figure he’ll be able to maintain the equipment. Come the revoltuion, I plan to simply move across the street.

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          • I would love to do the same thing, but it is still too expensive for me at this point.

            There are ways to bring down the cost via a Solar lease. However, I know how these business models work, and it would drive me crazy that they were making money at my expense.

            I’ll get there, but it will take something like five years. Insolation hours are more favorable in California though, so solar will eventually make sense here.

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          • What’s a solar lease?

            I think we agree that once we make some progress with storage and costs, solar will become a very important and big deal. That will take money and lots of it.

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  2. A solar lease is an agreement, in which a company will install solar panels on your home for nothing or for a nominal fee in exchange for you paying them a monthly fee of something like 17 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    The solar company then pays your power bill for you, while you pay them for the number of kilowatt-hours you use each month. They then collect the difference between your lower power bill (because of solar panels) and the higher monthly rate.

    A brilliant business model. However, if power prices were to drop suddenly, you are stuck paying 17 cents for 25-30 years.

    Also, what happens if you sell your house in the interim?

    Well, you get the picture…

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  3. Ms. Holland ,

    ” As a result, the nation’s electric companies have asked all of its wind farms to increase power production to maximum, in order to make up for the shortfalls brought about by the failure of certain other aging, non-resilient 20th-century technologies ”

    You know, I believe you just posted a very misleading article . It gives the impression that clean energy stepped up to the plate and hit a home run . The good ole windmills filled the gap in the power grid left by those evil, evil nukes . True the article did not flat out say so, but just like our fearless leader does all of the time, a false impression has been put out there .

    Now I could be wrong, so I give you the opportunity to correct the record . Just how much of the power shortfall are the green wonderful polar bear loving windmills replacing ?

    Last I read, Japan is still experiencing rolling black outs . Last I read people are still running out of gasoline because the gasoline pumps don’t work at the filling stations . Isn’t it hilarious that what the Japanese people need right now is dirty evil non green diesel fuel and gasoline ?? Trucks and cars need to run . Wonder where all the leafs and Chevy volts are ? Hooked up to windmills, no doubt .

    If Japan had spent the money it wasted on these offshore wind farms, on Tsunami proofing the back up diesel generators at the nuclear plants, they might have power restored by now . At least they would not have any radiation problems . Or they could have had a second set of emergency batteries available that had the right freaking connectors, after the first of emergency batteries were expended .

    Now if those offshore wind farms were natural gas electric turbines, they may have been knocked off line for awhile, but by now they might be doing some good .

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    • Alan – if you read your way down the ocmments, it would put a lie to everything you insinuated in your comment about what I believe.

      In any case, windmills (no, I never ever said they’d replace oil or solve anything – they are ‘part of the solution’) in Japan are a very big deal – they’ve taken it much more seriously than most – here’s an article from 2006 but you can google up dozens of them – they’re just full of facts and truthiness.
      http://web-japan.org/trends/business/bus060329.html

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  4. Ms. Holland ,

    I suppose that the difference between a liberal and a conservative is reading comprehension . I read the article you linked to and I am not any more informed . They give the maximum potential that each windmill can produce . That does not say how much they do produce, how reliable its , or really how much it averages on line in a 24 hour day . I sure hope that during this crisis the wind was blowing steady besides blowing the radiation out towards California and away from Japan . .

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