[ RadSafe ] World's Biggest Wind Park -Capacity Factor vs. Nuclear

Flood, John FloodJR at nv.doe.gov
Thu Feb 23 15:25:48 CST 2006

-----Original Message-----
From: James Salsman [mailto:james at bovik.org] 
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2006 12:26 PM

>> It is that maintenance cost that has driven so many wind farm 
>> operations into bankruptcy.  Even the operators that acquired wind 
>> farms from bankruptcy sales at ten cents on the dollar go bankrupt 
>> themselves....

>Do you have a source for that?  The economics have been changing quite
rapidly.  Perhaps you are referring to the 1970s Altamont Pass

Altamont has gone bankrupt many times, as recently as the end of the
1990s (I lived there at the time).  And each new owner acquired the
system from a fraction of the predecessor's cost and still couldn't
survive.  The technology is the oldest and that's a huge factor, but it
is a glaring example of the undesirable realities of wind power as a

>> If the wind system cannot achieve a reasonably steady state output,
>> realistically has to be limited to less than the margin above load
>> the system.  Otherwise it becomes an immediate threat to the
>> of the grid.

>Again, shaping fully addresses this issue.  The technical issues of
modulation, and storage are easily overcome.  The most advanced storage
systems involve stationary hydrogen fuel cell storage with electrolysis.
That recovers about 45% of input, easily modulating output.

Some math - let's use an example of a region that has a 24,000 Mwe max
load.  Most mass production generation has a capacity factor of about
80% - producing about 80% of the maximum amount of power possible each
year.  The combination of maintenance and weather put the capacity
factor for wind at about 30-35% (I'll use 33%).  That will apply to a
diversified system placed of a large region to achieve the shaping
benefits that minijmize the impact of migrating weather systems.

For conventional (traditional, old fashioned) generation, the power
company needs about 10,000 MWe of capacity to meet demand in the
example.  A wind system will need 24,000 MWe of capacity to meet the
same system demand.  That increases the amount land to be leased or
acquired, spreads the maintenance work farther afield, and significantly
increases transmission costs - because of migratory weather systems, the
locations were power is produced keeps changing, but the locations of
use do not, which makes wheeling the power a steady cost instead of
intermittent.  The long-term effectiveness (meaning reliability) of the
storage methods hasn't been learned (we only have projections at the
moment), so that cost to the operator is a gamble.

None of this factors in such topics of how one maintains units floating
on platforms in the North Sea (they'll have an awful time finding people
willing to go out there in winter, and that will be a significant
handicap - either much higher cost from offering too much to refuse or
reduced capacity).  If you've ever seen the North Sea in winter, you'll
understand what I mean.

Birds - turbine design can help this problem, but it won't solve it.
The rotating device is a hazard to a bird, period.  The rest of the
relative importance relies on the birds, not the machines.  The land
where the farm is placed has a certain bird population, but also hosts
migrating birds at varying times, with some locations providing shelter
in some years and not others.  That means that experince so far with
newer designs may not be a representative sample of long-term use (a
gamble for the operator).  And since we're pushing toward wind power to
move away from the warming effects of fossil fuels, we should expect
that climate change (warming) will alter bird migration patterns, but we
don't how.  So some and possibly all decisions about where to place
farms to minimize impact on bird populations will be invalidated by
climate changes.  Another gamble for the operator.

Higher risk projects require higher return to attract investment.  Wind
hasn't reached that yet - it's far closer than 20 years ago, but it has
a way to go yet.

Bob Flood

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