Monday, January 21, 2013

Windpower still on a roll

As a son of the prairie, I love it whenever I see wind turbines turning against the horizon.  But wind power is not being chosen for its superior aesthetics but because in many ways, it is the most reliable way to generate electricity that doesn't involve boiling water.  Even the Japanese are getting in on the act and Japan is not noted for its wide open spaces.

Japan to start building world's biggest offshore wind farm this summer

19 January, 2013

Japan is to start building its ambitious wind farm project off the Fukushima coast in July. The farm is expected to become the world’s largest and produce 1GW of power once completed in 2020.
The power-generating facility will be built 16 kilometers off the coast of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was critically damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The 143 wind turbines, which are to be 200 meters in height, will be built on buoyant steel frames stabilized with ballast and anchored to the continental shelf.

Once completed in 2020, the project will generate 1 gigawatt of renewable electrical power.

The project is part of Japan’s national plan to increase renewable energy resources following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. After the quake, Japan shut down its 54 nuclear reactors, but due to energy shortages it has had to restart two reactors.

“This project is important. I think it is impossible to use nuclear power in Fukushima again,” project manager Takeshi Ishihara of the University of Tokyo told New Scientist weekly magazine.

Ishihara believes the area's seismic activity won't be a problem for the turbines. His team has carried out lots of computer simulations and water tank tests in order to verify the safety of the turbines in all possible extreme events, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons.

"All extreme conditions have been taken into consideration in the design," he added.

There were some objections to the project by local people, who expressed concerns, in particular, over possible impact on the fishing industry, which was also hit by the nuclear disaster. But Ishihara is sure it’s possible to turn the farm into a ‘marine pasture’ that would attract fish.

The project is also part of the prefecture’s plan to become completely energy self-sufficient by 2040, using only renewable sources.

The Fukushima wind farm will produce double the amount of energy of the Greater Gabbard array, currently the world’s biggest, off the coast of Suffolk in the United Kingdom, which generates 504 megawatts from its 140 turbines. Although the title of biggest will soon pass to the London Array in the Thames Estuary, where 175 turbines will produce 630 megawatts of power when it becomes operational later this year.

Scientists and researchers believe Japan’s wind capacity could reach 7.6 gigawatts over the next three years. more
And yet another attempt at storing wind generated electricity.  I'll be very interested to see how this actually works in practice.

Belgium to build 'battery island' to store wind farm energy

19 January, 2013

Reuters / Bob Strong

Belgium plants to build a horseshoe-shaped artificial island off its North Sea coast to store energy generated by its wind farms. The project will also double as attraction for sea birds (and possibly flocks of tourists).

The ambitious undertaking was unveiled this week by Belgian North Sea Minister Johan Vande Lanotte, as he reported on the implementation of marine special planning.

The island is planned to be built over the course of five years about three to four kilometers off the coast near the village of Wenduine in the province of West Flanders. It will be about three kilometers in diameter, and will have a giant water reservoir occupying most of its territory.

Energy will be stored by pumping seawater inside the reservoir. It is then recovered when needed by guiding the water back into the sea through a hydropower plant at the heel of the 'horseshoe.'

Storing excess energy is a common problem for electric grid management. Consumption of electricity varies greatly between daytime and nighttime, so balancing the load often requires generating and storing extra energy overnight and releasing those reserves during peak hours. This is a particular issue for many forms of green energy; for example, the output of a wind farm depends on whether there is enough wind to spin its turbines.

Pumping water uphill is the most widely used approach to storing this energy, and is a technique that has been used since the late 19th century. However, those reservoirs are usually built inland in a mountainous areas and store freshwater. The Yanbaru Seawater Pumped Storage Power Station – launched in 1999 in Okinawa, Japan – was the first facility to use seawater for this purpose.

A notable exception is tidal power plants, where extra seawater may be pumped up during the high tide and released during the low tide to boost the plant’s efficiency.

The Belgian island project is part of the country’s phase-out of nuclear energy and shift towards renewables. The country, which has for years received more than half of its electricity from its two nuclear power plants, Doel and Tihange, wants to shut down all its reactors by 2025; wind farms on the North Sea are an essential part of this strategy.

The country had just 1,078 megawatts of wind power connected to the grid in 2011, but the output is expected to expand to more than 4,000 megawatts by 2020, according to a European Wind Energy Association report.

The island will also double as a resting place for gulls and other sea birds, Minister Lanotte said. They will be fed there, and will be less inclined to bother people on the mainland, he explained.

Belgium is currently seeking potential members for a consortium that would operate the battery island. No detailed project has been penned yet, but the government estimates that its cost would be about the same as a wind farm, Lanotte said. more
PBS has discovered that Germany is serious about renewables.  A bit late but then, when was PBS ever on the cutting edge of the news?

Germany Plans To Virtually Eliminate Fossil Fuel Use By 2050

Lucas Kawa | Jan. 19, 2013

PBS correspondent Rick Karr reports on Germany’s plan to generate nearly all of its electricity from renewable sources and virtually eliminate its use of fossil fuels by 2050.

Support for this idea is widespread, and crosses party lines. Over two-thirds of Germans approve of the plan, which is also backed by the German Green Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Free Democratic Party, and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
This plan is known as the Energiewende; wende, which means turn, referring to the peaceful revolution that culminated with the end of the Cold War.

Germany’s green revolution was characterized by private development of renewables.

The government did not attempt to finance green energy, rather, it incentivized these alternative power sources by way of a feed-in-tariff. This means the government pays producers of renewable energy and allows them to purchase their electricity at a discount.

Rainer Baake, director of Agora Energiewende, believes Germany is unique in that “about 50 percent of the installed capacity of renewables is in the hands of normal citizens and farmers.”

However, Germany’s development of green energy led to rising costs for consumers. The overall price of electricity has surged by over 66 percent after the passage of the German Renewable Energy Act in 2000.

In addition, Germany faces the same problem that plagues California: how to provide energy during windless or sunless days. The unreliability is the reason why a study by Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH indicates that coal and gas power plants will still have to provide 60 percent of the stable energy sources for days when the weather doesn’t cooperate with the production of renewables.

In order to integrate renewable energy sources onto the power grid, Germany’s best bet would be to invest in a $25+ billion smart grid. As Reuters reports, “The crucial solution that smart grids provide is the means to control the fluctuating voltage supplied due to daily and seasonal weather variability.” more

Watch Germany's green revolution on PBS. See more from Need To Know.
USA has literally thousands of untapped prime wind sites.  If we had a real smart grid, the following story would be routine.

Wind Beat Natural Gas As America's Fastest-Growing Source Of Power In 2012

Rob Wile | Jan. 17, 2013

We've talked about why, long term, green energy faces tremendous obstacles in making a substantial market impact it's too expensive, and too far behind fossil fuels' existing infrastructure.

But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's wrap up of 2012's electric power trends capacity actually shows green energy — especially wind — made some very impressive gains last year.

The U.S. installed a total of 10,700 megawatts of wind power capacity last year.

That was 23 percent more than natural gas (8,700 mw) and more than twice as much as coal (4,500 mw).

Solar came in fifth (behind nuclear) with 1,500 mw in new facilities.

American-based wind manufacturers remain undercapitalized — with the exception of towermaker Trinity Energy, which saw an explosive +60% 2H2012 — so it's a bit difficult to trade on the trend.

The big gust in new wind capacity was partially attributable accelerated installation ahead of the "wind cliff" manufacturers were facing — the government's tax credit was set to expire.

But it has been renewed for at least year, which could mean the trend will continue to sail along.  more

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