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Switch to Forum Live View The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind
7 years ago  ::  Mar 06, 2008 - 5:08PM #1
catboxer
Posts: 14,012
In an appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday, the Earth Policy Institute's founder and president, Lester Brown (http://www.washingtonflyer.com/article/ … %20Warning), was talking about how the much-heralded hydrogen fuel cell car keeps receding into the distance, like a mirage in the desert. Detroit's auto makers recently moved the much-anticipated arrival of this automotive unicorn back another five years, Brown observed.

But he also noted that the solution to America's petroleum dependency and the myriad problems arising from it is at hand. There is no energy question that can't be answered by electricity, and the cleanest, safest, and cheapest way to produce abundant electrical power has been with us for some time; we simply haven't recognized it.

Back in 2004, Brown described the two steps to energy independence: 1) replacing gasoline-powered passenger vehicles with gas-electric hybrids, and 2)generating the electricity to power this new generation of cars with wind turbines. This would cut our oil consumption in half, freeing us from the tyranny of our addiction to foreign oil. That article (http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update43.htm) is as timely and pertinent today as it was then, since it chronicles the new, radically lower costs of wind-generated electricity as well as describing the benefits of combining wind power with hybrid technology.

In addition, Brown now reports that all of Europe and North America, whose populations use the lion's share of all energy produced in the world, are finally, slowly waking up to this new reality.

In an article published on the Earth Policy Institute's website on Tuesday, Brown reports that "At its current growth rate, global installed wind power capacity will top 100,000 megawatts in March 2008. In 2007, wind power capacity increased by a record-breaking 20,000 megawatts, bringing the world total to 94,100 megawatts—enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of 150 million people."

Clearly, the world is discovering "the life that maketh all things new" (Longfellow) in spite of resistance from corporate giants such as the oil companies and auto makers, who remain heavily invested in the old, dirty, destructive, and inefficient methods of energy conversion and application. But there's good news even in the corporate-dominated United States. While Germany still leads the world in wind-generated electricity production, Brown notes that "For the third consecutive year, the United States led the world in new installations, with its 5,240 megawatts accounting for one-quarter of global installations in 2007. Installations in the fourth quarter of 2007 alone exceeded the figure for all of 2006, and the United States is on track to overtake Germany as the leader in installed wind power by the end of 2009. Wind farms are now found in 34 states and total 16,800 megawatts. The electrical output from these farms is equivalent to that from 16 coal-fired power plants and is enough to power 4.5 million U.S. homes. The recent exceptional growth in the United States is largely due to an extension of the wind production tax credit under the 2005 Energy Policy Act."

The whole article (http://www.earth-policy.org/Indicators/Wind/2008.htm) makes great reading, and it's nice to share some good news for a change.

I'm still wondering how Congress managed to slip that wind production tax credit past Dubya. He must not have known what he was signing.
Adepto vestri stercore simul.ttr
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 06, 2008 - 6:03PM #2
PrHaug
Posts: 230
Dave,

Great idea: only one problem.  Here in Texas last week, THE WIND STOPPED BLOWING, and as a result, mayhem ensued.  (Well, not really, but large sections of the grid failed because of a lack of power.)  Wind would be great if we found a place where it blows all the time, but there is no place on earth where you have wind blowing 24/7/52.
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 06, 2008 - 8:04PM #3
eadler
Posts: 4,449
Catboxer,
The important thing to remember about replacement of fossil fuels is that there is no single answer.
The availability of wind power is a big drawback. It requires a backup for when the wind doesn't blow. Texas is the leading wind power producer.

Nuclear energy will have to be an important component, and fossil fuel will have to continue as a backup for wind power, and peak load generation when hydro power is unavailable.

By the way, the Hydrogen fuel cell car is a dumb idea whose time will never come. It is about 1/3- to 1/2 the efficiency of an electric car. HIgher capacity and fast recharging storage batteries are a better bet.
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 06, 2008 - 8:20PM #4
PrHaug
Posts: 230
Yes, it did.  Eadler posted something that I completely agree with.
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 07, 2008 - 9:40AM #5
catboxer
Posts: 14,012
Eadler, I also agree with everything you wrote. However, allow me to point out that wind reliability is not as much of a problem as it used to be with earlier generations of wind turbines. Lester Brown wrote in 2004:

"Advances in design...enable turbines to operate at lower wind speeds, to convert wind into electricity more efficiently, and to harness a much larger wind regime.

"The average turbine in 1991 was roughly 120 feet tall, whereas new ones are 300 feet tall—the height of a 30-story building. Not only does this more than double the harvestable wind regime, but winds at the higher elevation are stronger and more reliable." (Article cited above.)

Wind power will not be the sole replacement for petroleum power, but it will be the most important one.

Here, as elsewhere, there's really no debate. What we're seeing is resistance from forces committed to empowering and propping up a dying economic regime as long as possible. Why they're doing this, only they know (or maybe they don't; they seem to reflexively cling to the past). They keep carping incessantly about the defects in proposed ways of dealing with the growing crisis, and endlessly telling us why these proposed innovations won't work.

What's needed, of course, is to devote more resources to finding ways of making the methods of energy production that are obviously where the future lies work better. For example, Ken Deffeyes wrote in "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak," that the new nuclear reactors built for electrical generation in France are "idiot proof."

We don't know for certain exactly how energy production will be done even ten years from now. All we know for sure is that oil is past peak and past affordable, and it ain't coming back.
Adepto vestri stercore simul.ttr
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 07, 2008 - 11:57AM #6
eadler
Posts: 4,449
I haven't read this, but it seems to be relevant to this discussion.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/07/books … nvironment

"In “Gusher of Lies,” Mr. Bryce, a freelance journalist specializing in energy issues, mounts a savage attack on the concept of energy independence and the most popular technologies currently being promoted to achieve it. Ethanol? A scam. Wind power? Sheer fantasy. Solar power? Think again. For the foreseeable future, which is to say the next 30 to 50 years, fossil fuels will reign supreme, as they have for the last century. Deal with it..."

The taller towers are more efficient but there is still a problem with reliability of wind power.
In the green state of Vermont, we are struggling with what to do about wind energy. The developers are looking at our beautiful mountain ridges and want to put 300 foot high towers on them. People who don't like it want them to put shorter less obtrusive towers up because they are less of an eyesore.

Then on the other hand there is the struggle over an additional 20 years for the Vernon nuclear plant which provides us so much "clean" energy. Some people want to kill it because of safety concerns.

Then there is the question of long term contracts with Hydro Quebec.

The politics and tradeoffs of all these things is difficult.
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 09, 2008 - 4:58AM #7
Karma_yeshe_dorje
Posts: 12,587
eadler:

[QUOTE]replacement of fossil fuels... Nuclear energy will have to be an important component[/QUOTE][QUOTE]The Ford Nucleon was a nuclear-powered concept car developed by Ford Motor Company in 1958. No operational models were built. The design did not include an internal-combustion engine, rather, a vehicle was to be powered by a small nuclear reactor in the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle featured a power capsule suspended between twin booms at the rear. The capsule, which would contain radioactive core for motive power, was designed to be easily interchangeable, according to performance needs and the distances to be traveled.[/QUOTE]~Wikipedia~
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 09, 2008 - 2:46PM #8
chazcjr
Posts: 1
[QUOTE=eadler;339069]

Then on the other hand there is the struggle over an additional 20 years for the Vernon nuclear plant which provides us so much "clean" energy. Some people want to kill it because of safety concerns.

[/QUOTE]

Hi Eadler,

Do we know what the "safety concerns" are exactly?
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 09, 2008 - 3:55PM #9
eadler
Posts: 4,449
[QUOTE=chazcjr;343779]Hi Eadler,

Do we know what the "safety concerns" are exactly?[/QUOTE]

There is concern with metal fatigue in the plant. A cooling tower collapsed due to metal fatigue about 1 year ago, but no radiation leaked from the plant. The are also concerned about the spent fuel rods  stored in the vicinity of the plant.
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps … 1009/RSS01
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 09, 2008 - 3:58PM #10
eadler
Posts: 4,449
Karma,

The Ford Nucleon was a nuclear-powered concept car developed by Ford Motor Company in 1958. No operational models were built. The design did not include an internal-combustion engine, rather, a vehicle was to be powered by a small nuclear reactor in the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle featured a power capsule suspended between twin booms at the rear. The capsule, which would contain radioactive core for motive power, was designed to be easily interchangeable, according to performance needs and the distances to be traveled.


Seems like a crazy idea. I couldn't imagine allowing billions of cars cruising around with radio active materials in them. What were they thinking?

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