Tag Archives: wind

European Union leads the world in renewable energy – achieves 100 GW of wind power

Renewable energy continues to surge in the European Union (EU). The latest achievement is 100 GW of wind power, the equivalent of 62 coal power plants. The growth has been fast, “it took twenty years to get the first 10 GW grid connected…only 13 years to add 90 GW.” And half of that was added in the last six years.

To produce the same amount of electricity with coal – in one year – would require the mining, transport and burning of 72 million tons of coal, at a cost of $6.48 billion.

For a broader perspective, the United States is also booming having recently achieved 50 GW of installed wind power. But the most important number is the total electricity used in the EU – 3.6 million GW. And this wind milestone only represents 0.003% of that. Like an ant standing at the foot of the mountain.

The good news is that growth is continuing at a rapid pace – 13-16% in each of the past 5 years – and only a tiny fraction of “Europe’s vast domestic wind energy resources” have been put to use. Follow the curve of this graph and you can see where the future is headed:

 

source: European Wind Energy Association

 

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Global solar power surged in 2011 – 73% growth

2011 was a great year for solar power with an increase of 73.3% in generating power – the fastest growth since reporting began. Germany and Italy led that charge by installing 57.1% of the new power. Worldwide there is now 63.4 gigwatts (GW) of solar power – of which 29.3 GW were brought online in 2011.

In graphical terms that is exponential growth:

 

source: Smart Planet

 

Of course, Europe is leading the charge into solar having recently passed the 50GW milestone. Which makes the United States look tiny in comparison, having only recently surpassed the 4GW mark. We are just as far behind in wind power with Europe having 100GW and the United States at 50GW.

The good news is that both are rapidly constructing new installations – both solar and wind – and growing at an exponential pace.

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For more details and a graph of the United States’ exponential growth, visit Solar’s Dramatic Rise.

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:

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The future of street lights – hybrid power with mini-wind turbines & solar panels

A friend recommended these to me after her company installed them. From UGE, they are streetlights combining solar panels with mini-wind turbines. They are quite amazing:

From the brochure (pdf):

  • Our hybrid model operates entirely off-grid.
  • Can be installed in remote locations which are inaccessible to the electric grids.
  • Lower utility costs – avoid the high cost of wiring grid-connected lighting

 

 

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How old are U.S. power plants?

We have an aging fleet of power plants:
  • 51% of all generating capacity is 30+ years old.
  • 73% of all coal plants are 30+ years old
  • 24 out of 25 oldest plants (60+ years) are hydropower
  • Nearly all nuclear plants are 20+ years old

Here is a graphic from EIA with more detail. The pie chart shows how much generating capacity comes from each fuel type. The graph shows capacity by year the plant was built.

Notice that hydropower was the first energy source built, the creation of coal plants dominated from 1950 to the mid-80s, and it’s been all natural gas since then.

 

 

But, age may not matter when it comes to operating power plants, from Wiki Answers:
In a nutshell, it is not correct to assign human attributes (e.g., lifetimes) to inanimate objects. Consequently, the operating span of a coal fired power plant can be unlimited since any degraded or failed component can be replaced with a new one. The decision on whether to make a refurbishment, or to build a new plant, is merely a question of relative economics and investment risk. For example, the cost of a single replacement part is almost always less than the cost of replacing the plant. However, in an old plant, there is a risk that many additionally worn parts also will need replacement soon. Plant owners evaluate these tradeoffs each time a major component fails and make the decision whether or not to retire the plant.

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.

 

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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!

 

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Wind is cheaper than coal? — Fact checking this statement

The other day I heard in passing, “wind is now cheaper than coal.” If true, this symbolizes the holy grail of renewable energy. It would mean that a turning point for not only cleaner energy, but global warming, climate change, pollution, foreign oil dependence, and more.

To fact check this, I pulled up the top 20 results from Google and narrowed them down to the below articles (most were duplicates pointing at these 5 stories).

Not at all definitive but it does give you an idea of the state of the industry. Just keep in mind that the prices may or may not include subsidies or tax breaks, which can drastically change the costs quoted below.

 

Jul 2012 - In India, wind is cheaper than coal in Indi (w/out subsidies) (Bloomberg Business)

The cost of wind power has dropped below the price of coal-fired energy in parts of India for the first time as improved turbine technology (from GE) and rising fossil-fuel prices boost its competitiveness, Greenko Group Plc (GKO) said.

 

Mar 2012 – In Michigan wind is cheaper than coal (American Wind Energy Assoc.)

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) recently issued a report that finds that electricity generated from renewable energy sources, at an average cost of $91 per megawatt-hour (9.1 cents/kilowatt-hour), is almost one-third cheaper than the cost of electricity from a new coal-fired power plant ($133 per MWh, or 13.3 cents/kWh).

Further, the report notes, “The actual cost of renewable energy contracts submitted to the Commission to date shows a downward pricing trend.

 

Feb 2012 – In California, prices doubled in the first decade of 21st century, since 2011 are dropping to parity with natural gas (SF Gate)

The price of renewable power contracts signed by California utilities more than doubled from 2003 through 2011 but has now started to plunge…

The cost of buying electricity from a new natural gas power plant…(in 2011) ranged from 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on the length of the contract…The cost of renewable power from wind and solar facilities averaged between 8 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour.

 

Nov 2011 – Investigation of Bill Clinton’s claim that wind/solar are cheaper than nuclear (Politifact)

  • Conventional Coal – 94.8 (dollars/MWh)
  • Wind – Onshore – 97
  • Nuclear – 113.9
  • Solar – Photovoltaic – 210.7
  • Wind – Offshore – 243.2
  • Solar – Thermal – 311.8

Source: DOE’s Energy Information Administration

 

Nov 2011 – Google retires its initiative RE

It’s not clear here if Google feels this is already won and moving on, or if they have had enough and are quitting. One thing is certain, Google invested nearly a billion dollars ($850 million) in renewable energy last year.

This initiative was developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an RE<C engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology. At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts.

 

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8 clean energy predictions from a decade ago…that were way wrong

From the Fresh Energy blog and a good reminder that most experts have trouble thinking exponentially.

 

WIND

  • In 2000, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its World Energy Outlook, predicting that non-hydro renewable energy would comprise 3 percent of global energy by 2020. That benchmark was reached in 2008.
  • In 2000, IEA projected that there would be 30 gigawatts of wind power worldwide by 2010, but the estimate was off by a factor of 7. Wind power produced 200 gigawatts in 2010, an investment of approximately $400 billion.
  • In 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that total U.S. wind power capacity could reach 10 gigawatts by 2010. The country reached that amount in 2006 and quadrupled between 2006 and 2010.
  • In 2000, the European Wind Energy Association predicted Europe would have 50 gigawatts of wind by 2010 and boosted that estimate to 75 two years later. Actually, 84 gigawatts of wind power were feeding into the European electric grid by 2012.
  • In 2000, IEA estimated that China would have 2 gigwatts of wind power installed by 2010. China reached 45 gigawatts by the end of 2010. The IEA projected that China wind power in 2020 would be 3.7 gigawatts, but most projections now exceed 150 gigawatts, or 40 times more.

SOLAR

  • In 2000, total installed global photovoltaic solar capacity was 1.5 gigawatts, and most of it was off-the-grid, like solar on NASA satellites or on cabins in the mountains or woods.
  • In 2002, a top industry analyst predicted an additional 1 gigawatt annual market by 2010. The annual market in 2010 was 17 times that at 17 gigawatts.
  • In 1996, the World Bank estimated 0.5 gigwatts of solar photovoltaic in China by 2020, but China reached almost double that mark—900 megawatts by 2010.

 

 

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A refreshing look at climate change in America – what are we doing about it?

A refreshing, well-balanced look at climate change in America.

 

You don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside.

The United States is now enduring its warmest year on record…Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate.

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

 

Keep reading: N.Y. Times - There’s Still Hope for the Planet

 

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