The True Benefits of Alternative Energy

Ugg

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Apr 7, 2003
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Some might complain about the spindly white towers or the incessant whoosh of the turbine blades, but Carmela Martinez Moratalla looks fondly at the wind farm in her rural Spanish town. It makes her think about buying presents for her grandchildren.
Two years ago, the 68-year-old grain farmer leased part of her property to the multinational Iberdrola, which planted three slender windmills on her land. She is one of roughly 50 residents in tiny Sisante who have let the Spanish utility use their property to harness the wind.

Iberdrola, one of the world's largest wind park operators, pays Martinez Moratalla €3,000 (about £2,000) a year per turbine.

'My only complaint is that instead of three turbines, they didn't give me 30,' she said on leaving the town church, restored in part with the additional revenue the wind blew in.

'The windmills only take up a few metres and you can keep planting around them,' she added. 'You hardly hear any noise. The money doesn't change my life, but I can afford one more luxury, one more present to my grandchildren.'

The goodwill of small-time farmers such as Martinez Moratalla has helped Spain to become one of the world's leaders in the production of wind energy, along with the US, Germany and Denmark. But a €45 million wind farm - the typical price tag, according to Iberdrola - is not built on love alone; employment is an important perk. Building and maintaining those oversized pinwheels creates jobs for between 15,000 and 20,000 Spaniards, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

The government encourages investment by fixing prices, guaranteeing wind energy is given priority status in the overall electricity mix and, most recently, upping targets for renewable energy production beyond European Union goals. By 2010, Spain is expecting to generate 15 per cent of its energy from wind power.

'The wind isn't better in Spain or Germany, but the political climate is,' said Corin Millais, chief executive of the EWEA.

This has been especially beneficial in the arid central La Mancha region, where Don Quixote once tilted against windmills. Four hundred years after Miguel de Cervantes's novel was published, few specimens remain of those squat mills. But the breeze is still big business. Iberdrola alone has 37 wind farms in the region.

'We get petitions daily from city halls wanting wind parks,' said a company spokesman. 'It's like when oil was discovered in the United States, every town wants a well.'

If wind energy is oil for this poor region, then the town of Higueruela, near Sisante, hit a gusher. The 1,300 residents share the land with 244 modern windmills, each more than 45 metres high, perched on the hilltops around the town. But Higueruela's residents are not concerned about the view. They are more interested in the profit they made by selling their fallow land to Iberdrola.

For city hall, the park is also a windfall - roughly €400,000 a year in taxes, licences and rent. Isabel Gotor, mayor of Maranchón, approved the construction of 80 turbines, which she expects will generate enough money to repair the town's water system, street lamps and historic homes.

'All we have here,' she said, 'is air and stone - and now the air is going to benefit us.'
What more could you ask for? Jobs, increased tax base, rental fees go into local pockets, not multinationals, lower current account deficit and energy that doesn't pollute.

Wind is more expensive on the face of it but when the true cost of fossil fuel energy is taken into account, alternative sources are clearly cheaper. It continues to boggle my mind that this country could care less about ALL the above benefits of wind and solar.
 

PlaceofDis

macrumors Core
Jan 6, 2004
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Ugg said:
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What more could you ask for? Jobs, increased tax base, rental fees go into local pockets, not multinationals, lower current account deficit and energy that doesn't pollute.

Wind is more expensive on the face of it but when the true cost of fossil fuel energy is taken into account, alternative sources are clearly cheaper. It continues to boggle my mind that this country could care less about ALL the above benefits of wind and solar.
it doesnt boggle my mind, look at who is running the country, people who care only about money, and the solid proven ways to make it too. they know oil and so they will make their money that way. this country is afraid of change, and that will be our downfall, because everything in life changes
 

takao

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Dec 25, 2003
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actually untill 2001 the US has been the top country with building new ones but since then the numbers of built wind turbines has dropped significatly every year while in other countries the numbers for built per year are still increasing (germany is in front at the moment)

and thats troublesome when a country the size of montana and less 1/3 of inhabitants is building more wind generators than the whole US
and it's not like there is lacking know-how or something the US is leading together with the germans and danish
there are simply political reasons
 

Desertrat

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Jul 4, 2003
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Well, takao, I'd be a bit careful about the raw numbers. I know of over 500 wind generators built in the last three or four years along I-10 in west Texas. While I grant that that part of the world is not among the most aesthetically pleasing, I have found it a bit of a shock in some places of scenic beauty to suddenly find a "farm" of wind generators or of solar panels. Why not stick a few wind generators around the castles of Mad King Ludwig, et al? Think of the attraction for tourism: "The old and the new!" (After all, many castles are on high ground, and upslope winds are common and steady...)

The cost per mega-watt is still higher than for fossil-fueled plants. The current price of oil means that both coal liquifaction and coal gasification are competitive, and the gasification methodology removes "grunge" before burning it.

And we can borrow from China's new pebble-bed nuke technology. Almost zero problem with either weapons enrichment or with "waste" disposal. Since they're into a program of building some 35 of these plants, we have ample time to learn the pluses and minuses...
 

Desertrat

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Jul 4, 2003
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Well, takao, I'd be a bit careful about the raw numbers. I know of over 500 wind generators built in the last three or four years along I-10 in west Texas. While I grant that that part of the world is not among the most aesthetically pleasing, I have found it a bit of a shock in some places of scenic beauty to suddenly find a "farm" of wind generators or of solar panels. Why not stick a few wind generators around the castles of Mad King Ludwig, et al? Think of the attraction for tourism: "The old and the new!" (After all, many castles are on high ground, and upslope winds are common and steady...)

The cost per mega-watt is still higher than for fossil-fueled plants. The current price of oil means that both coal liquifaction and coal gasification are competitive, and the gasification methodology removes "grunge" before burning it.

From today's NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/22/business/yourmoney/22coal.html?th&emc=th

I disagree somewhat with the author as to the amount of resistance beyond costs. Note this plant got a large tax-dollar subsidy. But, with oil and natural gas costs having risen, the overall economic picture seems to be changing.

And we can borrow from China's new pebble-bed nuke technology. Almost zero problem with either weapons enrichment or with "waste" disposal. Since they're into a program of building some 35 of these plants, we have ample time to learn the pluses and minuses...

In the FWIW department, the International Energy Agency projects that over the next 20 years, the US and China will each spend around $2 TRILLION on energy investment. That's a mix of wind, solar, coal, nukes, nat-gas...The EU, a bit over $1 trillion.

'Rat
 

takao

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Dec 25, 2003
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Desertrat said:
Well, takao, I'd be a bit careful about the raw numbers. I know of over 500 wind generators built in the last three or four years along I-10 in west Texas. While I grant that that part of the world is not among the most aesthetically pleasing, I have found it a bit of a shock in some places of scenic beauty to suddenly find a "farm" of wind generators or of solar panels. Why not stick a few wind generators around the castles of Mad King Ludwig, et al? Think of the attraction for tourism: "The old and the new!" (After all, many castles are on high ground, and upslope winds are common and steady...)
because the increased price to built,maintain them somewhere high in the mountains is simply not the most cost effective way to built them on completle even terrain because i nthe same time you can built 3 times more and the power difference grows slim when close the the windy shores like in germany or in regions where winds are common

http://www.climateark.org/articles/reader.asp?linkid=36020

"U.S. wind energy capacity reached 6,374 megawatts at the beginning of this year, which is the amount of electricity used annually by about 1.6 million average American households.

The Energy Department has announced a goal for the United States to obtain 5 percent of its electricity from wind by 2020, up from less than 1 percent now and consistent with the current rate of growth for wind energy, the trade group said. "

germany 2004 16629 megawatts
austria 2004 606,2 megawatts (support is lousy for wind energy at the moment)

Desertrat said:
The cost per mega-watt is still higher than for fossil-fueled plants. The current price of oil means that both coal liquifaction and coal gasification are competitive, and the gasification methodology removes "grunge" before burning it.
so ? germany produceds around 6+ of it's electricity with wind energy denmark around 20%


Desertrat said:
And we can borrow from China's new pebble-bed nuke technology. Almost zero problem with either weapons enrichment or with "waste" disposal. Since they're into a program of building some 35 of these plants, we have ample time to learn the pluses and minuses...
nuclear powerplants are on the way out too dangerous, too political too much long time pollution and if count in the costs for cleaning everything up it's even more expensive then some alternative ones



wind energy can only one part of producing energy in the future together with other sources (sun energy, water, earth thermal energy etc.) but it's very reasonable to say that 10% or even more by wind energy only _is_ do able germany nearly doubled their output within the last 4 years

it could be very easy for the US to increase the amount of wind energy up to 10 percent untill 2020
sure windfarms don't look pleasing but you know what is the alternative ? coal and oil burning plants who are blowing smoke in the air ? or nuclear plants who after 30 years are a pain in the a.. to remove


anybody has link of all the energy producing branches in the US like ? 1% wind energy x percent waterplants etc. ?
 

pseudobrit

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Jul 23, 2002
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Desertrat said:
While I grant that that part of the world is not among the most aesthetically pleasing, I have found it a bit of a shock in some places of scenic beauty to suddenly find a "farm" of wind generators or of solar panels.
Amazing. Didn't you use the exact opposite argument when we were discussing oil drilling in ANWR?

[edit]Yeah, you did: here.

Why is it okay to ugly up the countryside if it's in Alaska but if it's in Texas it gives you pause?

And we can borrow from China's new pebble-bed nuke technology.
China's new PB technology? Pebble bed reactor design has been around for quite some time.

Almost zero problem with either weapons enrichment or with "waste" disposal.
Bull. They produce a lot of high level waste. Their design precludes a containment structure, and each pebble is covered in inflammable graphite. Safety is not guaranteed; a German plant had a significant accident in 1986.

We'd be better off persuing CANDU designs. Or better yet, none at all. Nuclear energy is not cost effective and survives on subsidies and optimistic accounting practices.
 

Ugg

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Desertrat said:
Well, takao, I'd be a bit careful about the raw numbers. I know of over 500 wind generators built in the last three or four years along I-10 in west Texas. While I grant that that part of the world is not among the most aesthetically pleasing, I have found it a bit of a shock in some places of scenic beauty to suddenly find a "farm" of wind generators or of solar panels. Why not stick a few wind generators around the castles of Mad King Ludwig, et al? Think of the attraction for tourism: "The old and the new!" (After all, many castles are on high ground, and upslope winds are common and steady...)

The cost per mega-watt is still higher than for fossil-fueled plants. The current price of oil means that both coal liquifaction and coal gasification are competitive, and the gasification methodology removes "grunge" before burning it.

'Rat
Oil refineries don't despoil the coast in Texas? That's news to me. Just as refineries need to be located near the oil or a pipeline or a shipping route, so do wind farms need to be located where the wind is. That's a pretty lame excuse if you ask me.

The short term cost is less, but the long term costs are much, much higher. It would be interesting to see how much higher health care costs are in Houston due to all the refineries belching out pollution.
 

Xtremehkr

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Jul 4, 2004
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I was going to say exactly the same thing about ANWR. Better to defile that environment than stick a few windmills in the desert I guess.

There is a huge wind farm on the I10 between LA and Phoenix. It's quite a sight to see and the land under it is still usable.

I think that resistance to alternative forms of energy has more to do with the cartel running the country.

It's baffling why these people get such unquestioning loyalty.
 

takao

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just found the numbers for the installed turbines of 2004
http://www.igwindkraft.at/index.php?mdoc_id=1000959
in german

1. Spain: 2.065 MW
2. Germany: 2.037
3. India: 875 MW
4. USA: 389 MW
...
9. China: 197 MW
10. Austria: 192 MW

in total numbers Spain finnaly overhauled the US is now more than 2000 mw ahead (with 1.500 MW still in construction and further things in planning)

edit: in the germany bureau responsible for allowing the building of offshore wind turbines plans for turbines with a complete capacy for over 70.000 (!) MW have been sent an already turbines with more than 2.200 MW have been signed and are now entering planning /constructing etc.
similar in the Uk with 1.116 confirmed out of 7.500 , spain etc.

untill 2013 the world wide isntallations are estimated to have a maximum capacy of 194.000 megawatts (47.317 in the end of 2004)
 

Sayhey

macrumors 68000
May 22, 2003
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Xtremehkr said:
There is a huge wind farm on the I10 between LA and Phoenix. It's quite a site to see and the land under it is still usable.
That's only because we have been lucky enough to, so far, avoid the inevitable toxic wind spill! Just wait, when it happens you all be sorry for putting up those environmental hazards!
 

Xtremehkr

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Jul 4, 2004
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Sayhey said:
That's only because we have been lucky enough to, so far, avoid the inevitable toxic wind spill! Just wait, when it happens you all be sorry for putting up those environmental hazards!
I was kinda worried about one of those blade breaking loose and cutting my car in two, with all of the dangers involved, it's a wonder they get away with it.
 

Desertrat

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Jul 4, 2003
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I dunno as how the actual drill-area of ANWR is any more "scenic" than the wind-farm areas I've seen. The area to be used is a helluva lot smaller. And after the expected life-span of the field, the approval law requires removal of the equipment. Part of the reason I don't object to certain projects is that I can take you to several places and say, "There was a strip mine here." and "There was an oil well here." If I didn't tell you of these things I myself had seen, you'd never know the activity had occurred. (Same thing for a lot of clearcut forests, although I object to replacement of a mixed species forest with pine forest mono-culture.)

Refineries? Well, one way or another, there will continue to be petro-chemical plants for production of fuels and for production of those raw materials which go into consumer products. They're point-source problems which can and have been controlled as to pollution. We could get rid of them all, of course, if you don't want plastic or have some alternate means of fuelling transportation.

There's no such thing as a totally pristine country, if you want anything remotely near the lifestyle that we at this forum enjoy. That's why the concept of zoning exists. Ya wanna flush a toilet, ya gotta have a sewage plant--but you don't put it downtown. Same for industrial areas.

Pristine? Hey, drive I-20 or I-40 across west Texas, or I-70 across Kansas. Notice the mesquite? It's there because we ran off the Indians who used to use deliberately set grass fires to drive game. The fires also kept mesquite and cactus south of what's now I-10. Then came those romantic trail herd days from south Texas to Kansas. Cows eat mesquite beans; they then leave evidence of their passage and the seeds do their thing.

IOW, people change the environment and then a couple of generations later somebody says, "Aw, ain't that Natural!"

What I'd run across about China's pebble-bed nukes indicated it's a relatively new setup. Damfino. Regardless, they plan on 35 of them, so we'll learn about problems, I reckon.

The CANDU project, IIRC, is a 400-MW, CO2-cooled system. Its successful operation has always had me wondering if that general size-range isn't inherently more manageable than these 1,200-MW systems. Dunno. (The size and thus the wall thickness of the larger pressure vessels creates problems with quality control and thus reliability/longevity. Stainless steel that's 8" thick is not the most easily-welded stuff around.)

Storage of spent fuel is always gonna be "hot stuff". It's more of a political, NIMBY, problem than an engineering/geology problem. I still believe that in 20 or 50 years, what's now called "nuclear waste" is gonna be raw material for something. Dunno what, but something...

takao, I don't know if the wind generators I've seen are 1.2 or 3.2 MW units. Regardless, given what are already built in Altamont Pass and near Palm Springs (I'm assuming they're operable), there are at least another 600 MW to be added to the US total, if not 1,600 MW. :) Plus, I see articles here and there about other areas for WG besides west Texas.
 

takao

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Desertrat said:
takao, I don't know if the wind generators I've seen are 1.2 or 3.2 MW units. Regardless, given what are already built in Altamont Pass and near Palm Springs (I'm assuming they're operable), there are at least another 600 MW to be added to the US total, if not 1,600 MW. :) Plus, I see articles here and there about other areas for WG besides west Texas.
i think the US government somwhow managed to make certain tax reducion thing in last november after they somehow did nothing the years before for further development

i thik it's good news i read something along 3.000 MW (untill end of 2006 i think not sure)... that's definatly better than those 3hundred something before .. at least on one front the bush administration seemed to have changed their mind after the election and recognized that something has to be done

i just read that water power electricity plants account for 7%, nuclear palnts for 20%, gas for 18% coal: 50%, 1 % wind and the rest for all others .... so i think water power plants have still a lot of possibly gorth rate ..we've around 55-60% from water in austria, sweden even more

add a few thousands megawatts here and there and it quickly sums up to real numbers right ? ;)
 

pseudobrit

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Jul 23, 2002
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Desertrat said:
I dunno as how the actual drill-area of ANWR is any more "scenic" than the wind-farm areas I've seen. The area to be used is a helluva lot smaller.
According to whom? If we're counting the "land use" the same way the ANWR drilling proponents are, the only area used is the footprint where the tower touches the ground. Thus a 100 acre windfarm would "use" less land than a modern gas station.

You are applying quite a double standard in terms of how you value Texas scenery and Alaskan scenery.

And after the expected life-span of the field, the approval law requires removal of the equipment. Part of the reason I don't object to certain projects is that I can take you to several places and say, "There was a strip mine here." and "There was an oil well here." If I didn't tell you of these things I myself had seen, you'd never know the activity had occurred.
And how do wind farms not meet this requirement? We've already been over how your experiences in the warm climate of Texas cannot compare to the treeless tundra of Alaska.
 

Xtremehkr

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Jul 4, 2004
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You can't often see the toxic residue that is polluting soil and the underlying water tables. More of than not though, the residue is there and does not fully disappear for indeterminable periods of time. Appearances are often misleading. I'll see if I can dredge up an article outlining how wind farms have actually raised real estate values in some areas because they area quite a spectacle.

Much nicer to look at than a smoke spewing coal factory.
 

Ugg

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IJ Reilly said:
They have scenery in Texas? :p

Now, now, 'Rat's neck of the woods is actually quite beautiful. Can't remember what the name of the mountains on the border between TX and Mexico, but they're very pristine and spectacular. I drove through the area about 5 years ago and was quite impressed. Reminded me somewhat of the Trinity Alps in N. California. Of course, my leisurely drive was slowed even more by all the INS roadblocks, but that probably belongs in another thread :D
 

Ugg

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takao said:
i just read that water power electricity plants account for 7%, nuclear palnts for 20%, gas for 18% coal: 50%, 1 % wind and the rest for all others .... so i think water power plants have still a lot of possibly gorth rate ..we've around 55-60% from water in austria, sweden even more

add a few thousands megawatts here and there and it quickly sums up to real numbers right ? ;)
Water power is pretty big in the west, especially in Washington and Oregon, although it has a pretty bad reputation these days, what with salmon dying out and all. A few smaller dams have even been removed so I doubt there's a future for hydro in the US. But, in Canada, especially in Ontario and Quebec, hydro power is huge. I think the power companies are actually called Ontario Hydro and Quebec Hydro.

Huge strides have been made though in mini water generators and in rural areas they are pretty popular for those who live off the grid. Water flows are much greater in the winter when solar isn't as efficient. I think there's a huge future in small scale local solutions like mini water turbines, solar, and wind. When fuel cells take off, the potential for eliminating massively expensive and inefficient transmission lines is huge.

I agree that the combined effect of all forms of alternative energy are pretty impressive. Wind turbines are a huge growth market right now and the potential for export is huge. To bad bushco isn't interested in creating jobs and reducing the current account deficit.
 

Ugg

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According to this article in Wired there is enough wind power to generate 5 times the world's electricity needs.

Wind power could generate enough electricity to support the world's energy needs several times over, according to a new map of global wind speeds that scientists say is the first of its kind.

The map, compiled by researchers at Stanford University, shows wind speeds at more than 8,000 sites around the world. The researchers found that at least 13 percent of those sites experience winds fast enough to power a modern wind turbine. If turbines were set up in all these regions, they would generate 72 terawatts of electricity, according to the researchers.
 

mischief

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I've often wondered, after driving across it, why Mexico doesn't cover a significant portion of northern Baja in solar arrays. It'd be great for their economy, create jobs in an incredibly poor area and improve their international image. Lots of room there for Wind farms too....