Massive wind farm comes online in Oregon – 845 megawatts of clean wind energy

The world’s third largest wind farm just started spinning its turbines in Oregon. Covering more than a thousand acres the 338 wind turbines will create 845 megawatts of clean energy. All of that will be sent down to California for 20 years as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison – who is in need of clean energy to comply with state energy standards, 33% clean energy by 2020.

The name of the project is Caithness Shepherds Flat and it cost $1.9 billion. During construction the project employed more than 400 workers and 45 of those will become permanent full-time positions.

The wind farm will create enough energy to power 235,000 homes. Adding to the growing number of homes powered through clean energy. Recently, wind power in the United States passed the 50 gigawatt milestone, and this project should put that at 51 gigawatts.

A substantial achievement but we still have a long way to go, the United States uses 3,900,000 gigawatts of energy.

 

More information:

Continue reading Massive wind farm comes online in Oregon – 845 megawatts of clean wind energy

American wind power reaches 50-gigawatt milestone

From the AWEA press release:

The 50 gigawatts (GW) online today means that U.S. wind turbines now power the equivalent of nearly 13 million American homes, or as many as in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined. In addition, 50 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity:

  • Represents the generating power of 44 coal-fired power plants, or 11 nuclear power plants.
  • Avoids emitting as much carbon dioxide as taking 14 million cars off the road.
  • Conserves 30 billion gallons of water a year compared to thermal electric generation, since wind energy uses virtually no water.

 

To put this into perspective, it is estimated that the United States used 3.9 million gigawatts in 2011.

Now back to the good news, projects recently connected to the grid:

  • Pattern Energy’s Spring Valley wind farm, 30 miles east of Ely, Nevada (151.8 megawatts, or MW)
  • Enel Green Power North America’s Rocky Ridge wind farm in Oklahoma (148.8 MW)
  • enXco’s Pacific Wind project in Kern County, California (140 MW)
  • Utah Associated Municipal Power’s Horse Butte project in Idaho (57.6 MW)
  • First Wind’s Kaheawa Wind II wind farm in Hawaii (21 MW)
50,000 megawatts = 50 gigawatts

 

It took us a long time to hit 10 MW in 2006, then much less to hit 25 MW in 2008, and now, in 2012, we are at 50 MW. The ramp-up continues all over the country as 39 states now have wind power feeding their grids. There is even good news on the “Made in USA” front with 60% of the sourcing coming from home, compared to 25% in 2005.

 

Continue reading American wind power reaches 50-gigawatt milestone

Wind turbines are going big, real big – latest one is the size of a 747 airplane

Right now wind is leading the renewable energy surge and records for the largest turbines are being set. Just how big is the largest one? Siemens is creating a single blade that is 225 feet long, basically as wide as a 747 airplane.

The manufacturing process is incredible, from Wired UK:

Siemens manufactures the mammoth B75 blades in one, smooth, streamlined piece — with no joints — using its IntegralBlade process. The technique — which requires glass fibre-reinforced epoxy resin and balsa wood to be cast in a mould — renders the blades steadfast and less likely to develop faults while being beaten with 181 tonnes of air energy every second, when wind speeds are ten metres per second (30 mph). The huge strain it is put under means no blade can leave the factory without being carefully inspected for even minor cracks.

 

The size of these things is almost unimaginable, like trying to picture three 747’s spinning around a massive pole. They will also have to shoot up into the sky several hundred meters.

According to Siemens, when fully constructed this mammoth would generate 6-megwatt’s, while another group is looking into 20-megawatt versions!

 

Continue reading Wind turbines are going big, real big – latest one is the size of a 747 airplane

Energy 101: Wind turbines, how those slow moving blades create electricity

“The same wind that used to pump water for cattle is now turning giant wind turbines to power cities and homes.”

“The blades only turn about 18 RPM, not nearly fast enough to create electricity, so the rotor shaft spins a series of gears that increase the rotation up to 1800 RPM. At that speed the generator can produce a lot of electricity.”

Edison delays investigation of San Onofre nuclear leak – local newspapers stop covering completely

March 2, 2012 – Southern California Edison (SCE) continues to perform extensive testing and inspections of the steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

“Nuclear safety is our top priority,” said Pete Dietrich, SCE senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. “Everything we do — from normal plant operations and routine refueling…”

– Edison PR

I don’t want to be controversial, but this is starting to sound like a delay tactic. The leaking nuclear steam turbine was taken offline over two months ago with an investigation to follow. The initial word was that a report would be issued “the following week.”

After that deadline passed a few newspapers reported the delay. Then, Barbara Boxer, California’s Senator, issued a concerned letter and so did the local city council.

Still no results from the investigation.

Even the local newspapers, with readers in the fallout zone, have stopped reporting on it. The issue seems to be sliding into the rear view mirror, and perhaps that’s the way Edison wants it.

The leak has become much more serious than initially reported. Our local journalists (at the LA Times, OC Register, and San Diego UT) did us a disservice by simply reporting what Edison told them: the leak was tiny, no safety issues were posed, and Edison is doing everything right.

A line they still stick to (when they do cover it).

My own investigations turned up something different. First, the report to the NRC said that the first unit leaked up to 82 gallons/day of radioactive steam. Second, the sister unit had upwards of 1,000 pipes showing radiation damage. Third, there was another incident back in November with an ammonia leak.

Yeah, nothing to worry about here, Edison has it all under control. Two reactors turned off, one leaking, radiation damage, and ammonia problems.

It doesn’t help that Edison is purposely ambiguous in their statements. The only significant piece of information in the latest press release (linked above) is that some of the 1,000 pipes have been “plugged”. Which begs the question, were they leaking?

I understand these things are complicated but the longer the issue drags on the worse it seems to get. Edison isn’t becoming any more honest in their dealings with the public. The newspapers are continuing their anti-journalistic approach.

I have to wonder if the approach is to delay, wait until any public interest dies down, and then handle it their own way.

Stay tuned and remember that the nuclear industry has a very poor track record and may have no regulatory control.

Future of wind power? I vote for Dutch Windmills and small pinwheels

I recently encountered a state-of-the-art wind tower on the freeway. The base was separated into three parts and the turbine into another three. Carried by six trailers flagged with “wide load” and trailed by escort cars. Yeah, it was big.

The current trend in wind power is to go bigger and bigger with more complex features. Including mag-lev, upper-atmosphere turbines, helicals, loopwings, skyscrapers, and highways (21 different types) .

But, none are more interesting (to me) than the Dutch Windmill and the tiny pinwheels. I really hope our future is a landscape dotted with structural beauties and childhood toys, rather than industrial aluminum.

Doug Selsam’s Sky Serpent uses an array of small rotors to catch more wind for less money. The key to increasing efficiency is to make sure each rotor catches its own fresh flow of wind and not just the wake from the one next to it, as previous multi-rotor turbines have done.

That requires figuring out the optimal angle for the shaft in relation to the wind and the ideal spacing between the rotors. The payoff is machines that use one tenth the blade material of today’s mega-turbines yet produce the same wattage. A wonderful and controversial design of which the inventor says:

“This is a 1,000 year-old design” of the single-bladed turbine, “I knew if I could get more rotors, I could get more power.”

AES power plant in Huntington Beach

If you drive down PCH in Huntington Beach you will pass the only power plant in Orange County. Located at Newland and PCH, across the street from the beach.

The natural gas plant is owned by AES a leading global power company with 132 plants in 32 countries with $17 billion in revenue. It is currently listed at #150 on the Fortune 500 (pdf).

In California, it operates 2 other natural gas plants in Los Alamitos and Redondo Beach. As well as 5 wind stations. Although, the largest section of its portfolio are coal powered plants located elsewhere in the USA.

The plant in Huntington Beach was purchased from Southern California Edison in 1998 and has been in operation since 1958. It uses conventional GM steam turbines among others.

In 2001, the company petitioned to upgrade and then turn on gas burners 3 and 4 (additional source), which would bring the capacity up to 904 MW. They were successful and, in 2002, the city valued the plant at $325 million.

Continue reading AES power plant in Huntington Beach

Are cars causing Global Warming?

I often hear folks complain about cars and the pollution they cause. This seemed a little off so I did some investigating.

Out of all the ways to go green, including reducing energy use, buying green products, and driving less…

 

Which one is the best for the environment?

 

The EPA keeps a tally of these things on their Climate Change page and in an Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions (pdf).

The results are astounding. Cars account for only 17% of all emissions. While 80% comes from home use, business, and food.

 

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2009 US Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Business — 35.6%
  • Electricity — 33%
  • Personal vehicles — 17.8%
  • Agriculture — 7%
  • Residential — 5%
  • US territories — 1%

* Business = factories, business vehicles, office buildings
** Residential = gas heating
*** Includes CO2 and all other gasses 

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To put it another way. If you buy a recycled product or reduce your energy use, that has 2x greater impact than driving less does.

This means things like hang drying your clothes, buying recycled toilet paper, reusing floss, and turning off the A/C, are much more important than biking to work.

I know, I know, this just doesn’t seem right.

The numbers don’t lie…so next time you get in the car think, instead, about how you can reduce your energy use or buy a sustainably created product.

 

More on the Numbers

 

If you think about driving, most of the recommendations are for health concerns instead of pollution problems. Things like biking to work and reducing traffic congestion. Or, it is about geopolitics and our reliance on other countries for oil.

The thing is, most of the car industry is green and even innovative. There are smog checks, 40 mpg cars, engine filters galore, a huge used car industries (i.e. reuse), and awesome junkyards (recycle).

From the top, where the rich subsidize the innovations like electric cars. To the bottom, where the middle and poor buy used to save money. The entire industry appears to have itself aligned in an environmental way.

Compare that to the energy industry and green product market where that alignment isn’t quite there yet. Buying a used car saves money and helps the entire industry, and it is considered cool/smart. Whereas, buying recycled or hang drying your clothes makes you kind of extreme, and not all locations offer products.

Not to mention the incentives are tiny. The pennies and dimes I save in electricity use make me to question the extra effort. The only thing that keeps me going is “think of the kids”, lol.

This may be a good place for smart government. A good example would be the car industry, where those who drive a lot or purchase low MPG cars pay much more at the pump. They also pay more taxes and if you look at how much tax is loaded into each gallon, it’s a lot.

Perhaps there could be an extra tax on those who use more electricity. Make those who own big houses or a million appliances pay more. Use that money to fund clean energy projects.

I’m seeing this happen in a few regions but not at the scale where it needs to be. I say tax the hell out of wasters and over-users otherwise it makes all my reductions inconsequential.

Plus, it sure would be nice to get rid of these coal and gas power plants…

 

Which one would you rather have in your backyard?