Monday, October 30, 2006

Wind Power in Denmark

Newsday sent a reporter to Denmark to take a long look at wind power and to try to relate what he learned to LIPA’s proposal for a wind energy project off Jones Beach. I found the article to be interesting but, if you’re trying to form an opinion about wind power, not terribly helpful.

Most troublesome for me was the reporter’s explanation of a study that showed that because the wind doesn’t blow steadily, wind power needs to be augmented by other power and that in Europe that other power comes from fossil fuels. But if, as alternative energy proponents have argued, wind power is one of several kinds of renewable energy employed, eventually solar or tidal power might be able to replace the fossil fuel power being used now to fill in the wind gaps. And in any case, the problems he highlights seem to my uneducated and biased eye as the kind of problems that will get solved as a young industry matures.

Here’s the main story and the sidebar, both worth looking at.


Anonymous Bryan Brown said...


I found this posting on The Oil Drum and the article on Danish wind power to which it refers article to be very informative. It puts a little different spin on the idea of exporting power to Norway and Sweden, both of which have extensive hydro capacity. This capacity mitigates the intermittent nature of the wind.
I expect those who support the LI offshore project will find things in the Danish experience to bolster their case, while those who oppose it will do the same.
The wind is highly variable. One only need check the real-time data from the wind station installed in Nantucket Sound to support the Cape Wind project. While LI does not have hydro power to supplement the wind, it should be noted that LIPA does have access to pumped storage capacity via the Bear Swamp facility in MA (power from which is available via the Cross Sound Cable).

This facility has a small run-of-the-river component. It's biggest output comes from the release of water stored in the upper reservoir. This water runs down to the lower reservoir and runs the turbines, generating hundreds of MW of power. At night, when demand is lower and electric power is cheaper, the water is pumped back to the upper reservoir. Provided that the wind is blowing hard and steady, LIPA could use the output from the offshore wind farm to power the recharging of the Bear Swamp reservoir; otherwise, fossil-fueled generators will have to be used. {Lest anyone forget the laws of physics, it takes more energy to pump the water back to the upper reservoir than is generated when it is released). I'm not aware of any other local hydro thats available to store or supplement the wind.

There are also lessons to be learned in the experience of the British with Scroby Sands and North Hoyle. Two things to keep in mind. First, you can't run the turbines if the mechanics can't get to them for the necessary maintenance. If the seas are too rough, the turbines may have to be shut down until they can be accessed. The routine maintenance itself reduces the availability from what is theoretical to what is practical. Second, you have to insure them and the costs are high due to the lack of rating experience.

Gordian Raacke rightly acknowledges that wind power alone will not solve our problems. Personally, I think we need to invest in projects with the highest return viz. GHG reduction and increased efficiency. Until someone shows me otherwise, I will believe that our initial focus should be on repowering our existing plants, some of which continue to burn oil. This means switching to natural gas, which means more gas pipelines or even LNG, which is a whole other story.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I find this a fascinating discussion. Bryan's closing comments summed up my view, that wind turbine power is one tool in a diversified kit of solutions. It helps that we can buy Green Mountain wind power here in parts of Texas - and there is no fuel surcharges for oil or natural gas. Nice! I mean, wind turbines are going mainstream.

But they were never intended to be a universal solution to all our problems, with other technologies "filling the gaps."

And please, those wind roses are highly misleading, showing a predominant SW flow under the Bermuda High. Has anyone heard of Northeasters?

Then something really bothered me, like matching electrical demand to energy output from the proposed wind turbines. During much of the summer, the winds can be quite low and becalmed, under world-famous fogs, inversions, and fumigation. But hey, that's exactly when all the crowds come to the Islands for summer recreation!

So in the winter over 80 percent of the people leave the resort areas and ... wow, look at that, some impressive numbers like persistent 18 knot winds, many times gustier (I think we has a few plus-50's last weekend). Perhaps I need to understand things in the Northeast a little better, like seasonal heating days, electrical demand, and peaking. /Sam

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Believe me, if I could tell you all you need to know, I would. Truth is, despite my efforts to get "home-schooled" on the application of alternative and renewable energy in the Northeast, I'm only slightly smarter now compared to when I started out. If you read blogs like The Oil Drum and Energy Outlook, you know that there are as many opinions on the best uses of "green power" and "green attributes" as there are posters.

In essence, wind power will supplant gas-fired peaking units primarily, particularly in the winter, when gas is expensive and more scarce and the wind blow strongests and steadiest. Oil-fired combustion turbines will run preferentially.

Wind power won't supplant baseload generation, as I understand it. We have such a reliability problem in the Northeast, particularly in CT, that there are oil and coal-fired baseload plants that are considered "must run". Until new, cleaner, more efficient baseload plants are built, I don't believe there's enough capacity to take the old ones off line for repowering.

It seems like it's difficult to take best advantage of wind power under the current circumstances. You can't rely on the wind to blow when you need it. That's why having a "battery" for storing it is important (such as pumped storage).

There are some long-term solutions to the storage issue, one of which involves electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. The batteries in these vehicles could soak up the intermittent power available from wind and supplant gas or diesel.

9:51 AM  

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