A new take on wind power

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Ugg, Jul 26, 2007.

  1. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #1
    Economist article

    The entire article is too long to post but essentially, by creating a massive, Europe wide DC power grid (AC is best for short distances, which is why it gained dominance during the early years of electricity), alternative energy could be continent wide, not just local.

    It wouldn't need to be just wind, but could be solar too, or hydro as well.

    Norway has already begun building DC lines.

    It sounds like this would be an even better project in the US and Canada where distances are even greater.
     
  2. galstaph macrumors 6502a

    galstaph

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    #2
    It's good to hear of something like this happening, about time too.

    Here in Alberta (canada) we have some wind power, but not enough to power the entire grid. You can even pay extra on your bill to say you're buying "green wind power"... it all comes through the same grid though. I'd like to see more invested in renewable energy, but as long as coal is cheap and people don't "care" I think renewable energy will be off to the side.

    I heard that in the US (california iirc) they are working on a wave generator station to provide the power equivalent for 48000 homes.
     
  3. elfin buddy macrumors 6502a

    elfin buddy

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    #3
    Very interesting, but I take issue with your statement that:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Currents#Transmission_loss
     
  4. Ugg thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #4
    I'm no electrician. I'm only going by what the article said and essentially that transmission construction costs are lower because DC towers can be lower to the ground and that long distance transmission is more effective using DC.

    It'll be interesting to see how Norway's project works out.

    I've always been for more local transmission as opposed to a super grid situation. All it takes is for one line to go out and everyone's screwed. However, with increased knowledge of local weather conditions, technology, the internet, etc. I would think that those issues could be addressed.

    The Economist also had another article about using water to store excess energy and pumping compressed air into the ground. I think we've only just begun to see the possibilities that alternative energy promises.
     
  5. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    I have a lot of issues with this article. I am all for wind power (Texas is the largest wind power producing state in the US) and currently all my power is purchased from wind farms similar to the program galstaph mentioned in his post.

    The issue I have with the idea of the DC grid is that DC is hard to work with. Like elfin buddy pointed out, it is extremely difficult (and expensive) to step DC current up to high voltages. Yes it is more efficient to move DC than AC at any given voltage, but it is a lot more efficient to move high voltage AC than low/middle voltage DC. I can't imagine replacing all the existing electrical grid that is in place with a new one. There will also have to be a lot of DC => AC converting stations since everything we own is designed to run on AC.

    Currently, with all the new wind technologies and government subsidies in the US, wind power is about the same price per kilowatt as coal fired power plants (maybe just a little more expensive) but adding a new continental DC grid to the price of creating wind power makes the the project cost prohibitive.

    I guess if the european tax payers or electricity users want to foot the bill for such a major project to reduce their fossil fuel usage, that is great. I pay extra on my electricity for the same thing.
     
  6. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    I really like to future of electrical storage. It isn't the most efficient way to use electricity, but it is a great way to reduce the overal system size instead of overdesigning the system to meet peak demands.
     
  7. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #7
    very intriguing article.
    i always wandered why we didn't have a good part of the north atlantic littered with solar panels and wind generators.

    can alternative transport means be used for energy? I mean, not cable-based? like super-battery ships to substitute super-tankers. they go out at sea, charge, come back to port and be plugged in. we'd just have to paint them half black and half bronze.
     
  8. Ugg thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #8
    Energy storage has always intrigued me. I like the idea of heating water during the day and then using it at night to run turbines. Conceivably, you could have a ship at sea during the day collecting energy, heating water and then bring it into port at night and hook it up to the grid.

    I'm actually waiting for Desertrat to weigh in on this discussion. He's always been sort of anti, large scale alternative energy! This article seems to think it's actually possible and given the extremely conservative bent of the Economist, it lends it more weight, IMO.
     
  9. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #9
    Hiyuh! Just now back online after most of five days on the road. Visiting some on-line gun buddies. Made it across Terlingua Creek ahead of what looks like some serious wet weather. :)

    Europe's a good candidate for such as the article describes. The distances there are nowhere nearly as great as here in the U.S.

    I've commented before about the hundreds of wind units along I-10. Yesterday, I was able to see quite a few along I-20, west of Abilene, and there may well have been more behind the ridgelines.

    I disremember exactly, but DC transmission is more efficient up around 400KV to 500KV. AC does better down in the 69KV to 138KV range. I read some about it back when PG&E started getting electricity from Columbia River generation.

    While the Chinese have some exotic designs for higher output wind units (magnetic bearings, e.g.), they're not off-the-shelf. SFAIK, the current designs generate a max of 3.2MW per unit. I've not seen data as to the volatage.

    A cost factor to be considered is the "gathering" to a central transformer at the beginning of a transmission line. When wind units are strung out for over fifty miles, and they're fifty and more miles from use-points, it ain't cheap to get everything hooked up.

    There is no really cost effective way that I know of to make batteries such as envisioned by Don't panic. I'm sorta waiting to see just how well, long-term, that the total battery costs for the Prius work out. I've read too much negative data about the bad environmental impacts at the nickel mine in Canada and at the processing plants in China. What good is it if we're Simon Purity here in the US, if our "clean" imports screw up the environment elsewhere?

    Battery research has been going on hot and heavy for some thirty years that I can recall, and the efficiency vs. cost has always seemed to be a serious problem. When I built my house in 1993, I looked into a solar system. $16,000 FOB, plus shipping and installation labor. About half in the rectifier, and about a fourth in batteries. And batteries must be maintained, and periodically replaced. Not cost effective in most places. Great if you're wanting to be off the grid, or way off in the outback away from power lines. (Rio Grande Electric Co-op charges $9/foot to extend a single-phase primary line.)

    Get out your pencil and paper: A million watts is a bunch. One hundred volts at one ampere = one watt. So, some combination of voltage and amperage multiplies to the mega-wattage of a wind unit. For instance, a thousand volts at one-thousand amps. Any way you hack it, that's some serious conducting wires. Hundreds of miles thereof...

    'Rat
     
  10. elfin buddy macrumors 6502a

    elfin buddy

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    #10
    Power equals current times voltage, so one hundred volts at one ampere equals one hundred watts.

    P = IV --> 100W = 100V * 1A
     
  11. Ugg thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #11
    Hope the creek doesn't have you trapped.

    There's a company in Arizona that's promoting a mag lev turbine that's supposedly capable of powering 750,000 homes. China's standard mag lev mills also have a lot of promise.

    I guess I never thought of the logistics of linking a few hundred windmills together. Perhaps some of these larger ones will make it less expensive.

    I still think that maximizing our use of wind and solar and water is the best way forward at this point. If we could generate 20% of our electricity this way, it would have a huge impact all around. With the cost of gas and oil continuing to rise the cost difference is slowly disappearing. Moreover, wind and solar have fixed costs and aren't subject to oil drunk dictators.
     
  12. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

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    I agree completely. Alternative energy is only going to get more and more competitive as the price of technology goes down and the price of oil goes up.
     
  13. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #13
    Sorry about the math goof. Got my tongue wrapped around my eye-toopth, didn't see what I was sayin'. Fatigue, I guess.

    Drawing on memory from long ago, in the FWIW department: For a coal-fired plant, fuel and maintenance are 40% of the cost of electricity at the buss-bar. Then comes transmission, or "wheeling". If the buss-bar cost is (for example) ten cents per kw-hr, the cost of wheeling to a use-point is about 2¢ or 20%.

    My point is that the collection/transmission cost of a "wind farm" is another two cents, roughly, on top of the unit's production cost, due to that collection wiring. And then, "plus profit".

    The dang things are still uglification on their miles and miles of skyline, though. A pebble-bed nuke plant works on a calm day. :)

    Regardless, it's gonna take a conglomeration of various types of generation. I've said before that oil and gas as raw materials for the chemical/petro-chemical world are way too valuable to piddle away on electricity.

    'Rat
     

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