What’s Holding Back Windpower?

wind8883.jpgEvery time I see a major windfarm in California, regardless of the wind conditions it seems that half of the turbines are not spinning. I attribute this to the age of the windfarms around here (30 years or more) and an apparent lack of maintenance budget. But it’s still puzzling that we’re not doing more with windpower – Popular Mechanics notes that we’re using 2 million times *less* that our potential output of wind energy in the United States. They also outline three main reasons for the setback along with solutions:
1) Cost of transmission lines from relatively remote locations where wind is best. Solution: Small, local turbines, including personal sized ones that augment the grid with diffuse power generation and negligible transmission costs.
2) The inevitable windless day. Solution: Hook up generators to batteries that store electricity for peak demand and low wind conditions.
3) Difficulty of offshore construction. Solution: This is a tricky one, involving technology that’s not yet here at as-yet unknown costs.
Check out the whole article here.
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Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

7 responses

  1. New High Voltage DC lines are being developed that can transfer power thousands of miles at a cost that is far less per mile than existing AC lines. Keep an eye on these as they make remote windfarms (offshore as well) much more feasible.
    Thanks for the link to the great article!

  2. If the wind farms you’re seeing are Altamont pass, then they are not turning because they are required to shut down at certain times to prevent bird kill. The operators lost a lawsuit to some environmental groups and now they only run some turbines at certain times of the year.

  3. Thanks, Nick, nice summary and I enjoyed the article, which I think is a definite cut above average. With respect to the obstacles, a few comments:

    1) Transmission certainly is a major issue that has to be sorted out in the U.S., not only for wind, but for other electricity sources and to strengthen reliability of the entire utility system. This is a long-standing problem for the electricity industry that is gradually making its way higher on the U.S. energy policy agenda.

    2) Storage is tempting as a panacea. However, most utility systems in the U.S. have little need for specific storage dedicated to wind, and such dedication would dramatically increase the cost of wind. A simpler answer is already provided in 1)–more transmission lines and linkages. This boosts overall reliability while making balancing problems easier all round.

    3) Offshore construction is definitely something that needs to be addressed. America’s onshore wind resource is huge and we can do a lot with it, but to take clean energy to the maximum, offshore wind must be a component. Here’s more info on a great recent study on offshore wind in the mid-Atlantic states.

    Regards,
    Thomas O. Gray,
    American Wind Energy Association
    http://www.awea.org
    risingwind.blogspot.com

  4. It is the time of the year, in summer they r generating at their peak
    In winter there is very little wind so u might have seen it then,
    the old machines r being replaced as they have lived their lives
    and sometimes for maintaince

  5. It is the time of the year, in summer they r generating at their peak
    In winter there is very little wind so u might have seen it then,
    the old machines r being replaced as they have lived their lives
    and sometimes for maintaince

  6. Has there been any discussion of placing wind turbines on the abandoned oil rigs along the Channel Islands, Santa Barbara coast?

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