Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More Wind Power!

Globally, wind power generation more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2006. But while wind power is making steady progress in Europe, the U.S. gets less than 1% of its electricity from wind power,

Spain now gets 9% percent of its electricity from wind power, with turbines generating 44% of electricity in the province of Navarra. In Germany turbines generate 7% of electricity, 36% in the coastal state of Sleswig-Holstein. In Denmark, wind turbines produced an average of 18.5% of electricity in 2004. Denmark aims to have 50% of its electricity demand supplied by wind turbines in 2025.

So, are the Danes wrong, or is the US public being fed the wrong ideas? Those with vested interests in the status quo have gone to extraordinary lengths to fabricate arguments against clean technologies such as hydrogen and wind power. They claim that wind power was unreliable as the wind does not blow continuously. Indeed, the contribution of wind power fluctuates with the wind, so when it is windy, the contribution of wind power can increase. On September 15th, a particularly windy day, wind turbines accounted for 70% of Denmark's electricity measured around midday. On windy nights, Denmark transfers excess electricity along interconnected grids into Germany and Sweden.

Wind power works best in combination with other technologies, such as solar and hydro-power. Furthermore, electricity can be stored in many ways, such as by pumping water back uphill. Do wind turbines make too much noise? Virtually noiseless systems can be installed in your backyard. Storage of water, heat and electricity can result in huge savings. For household hot water usage, there are low-tech thermal solar systems that heat up domestic water tanks, requiring no electricity. Many other 'low-tech' alternatives are being tested for use in developing countries, such as flywheels, springs and weights. Mobile phone and other electronic devices can be powered by hand cranks.

Using more advanced technologies, electricity from wind turbines can be stored by compressing or heating substances in tanks. One of the most promising ways to store surplus wind power is by producing hydrogen. Hydrogen can be stored under pressure in tanks, to provide fuel for industrial or domestic use or in cars, all without creating pollution. As discussed in more detail in an earlier article, electric vehicles can also run on Lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged from the solar panels on top of the roofs under which they are parked.

Anyway, more electric cars means that we need to generate more electricity, and wind power is one of the easiest and cleanest ways to do so. We can choose the times when best to recharge the batteries or produce the necessary hydrogen, so we can do so when it's windy and when there's little further demand, so it will take little or no electricity away from other usage. Look at it this way and claims that wind power was unreliable and that hydrogen was inefficient do not hold.

Once you look at the wider picture of a mix of technologies, the 'problems' that opponents of wind energy and hydrogen like to bring up will quickly evaporate. Similarly, many perceived problems are purely the result of the way the power grid is currently organized. A more distributed and intelligent system will allow a multitude of points to act as suppliers, with net-metering allowing households to earn money for feeding surplus electricity from their wind turbines back into the grid.

Oh, and do wind turbines kill birds? Does nuclear radiation kill birds? A recently completed Danish study using infrared monitoring found that seabirds steer clear of offshore wind turbines and are remarkably adept at avoiding the rotors.

Wind power does deserve more attention and should get more marketshare, while the share of fossil fuel should be reduced. The quickest and most effective way to achieve this is by taxing fossil fuel and using the proceeds to subsidize supply of wind power and other clean and renewable alternatives.


- 50% Wind Power in Denmark in 2025
- On a windy night, Denmark exports elctricity
- European wind power companies grow in U.S.
- Wind power
- Massive Offshore Wind Turbines Safe for Birds
- Solar power and electric cars, a winning combination!
- Tax greenhouse gas emissions!

No comments: