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Earth Power Politics

Gas Wants To Kill the Wind 479

Posted by Soulskill
from the sounds-like-a-friend-of-mine dept.
RABarnes writes "Scientific American has posted an article about the political efforts of natural gas and electric utilities to limit the growth of wind-generated electricity. Although several of the points raised by the utilities and carbon-based generators are valid, the basic driver behind their efforts is that wind-generation has now successfully penetrated the wholesale electricity market. Wind was okay until it became a meaningful competitor to the carbon dioxide-producing entities. Among the valid points raised by the carbon-based generators are concerns about how the cost of electricity transmission are allocated and how power quality can be improved (wind generation — from individual sites — is hopelessly variable). But there are fixes for all of the concerns raised by the carbon-based entities and in almost all cases they have been on the other side of the question in the past."
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Gas Wants To Kill the Wind

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  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:52PM (#31405962)
    When the general attitude of the phone companies was "It's scary, make it go away"
    • by ottothecow (600101) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:01PM (#31406156) Homepage
      And you would think it would be a good opportunity for them to leverage their existing contracts, resources, and brand name to push into wind power.

      Buying out a small startup player and giving them your established name and relationships with other power companies seems like a big win

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by RedEars (1622495)
        They don't embrace new technology early for business reasons. They let those small startups burn through development cash, let them do the innovating while "fighting" the new technology. The fighting serves to motivate the innovators. Then once the startups have innovated enough to where it's actually profitable technology, that's when they buy out. They're not fighting new technology, they're motivating it.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:41PM (#31406896) Journal

        The problem is the high voltage transmission infrastructure that no one wants to build. FTFA:

        Reaching a goal of 20 percent wind generation in 2024 would require construction of 10 inter-regional high-voltage lines spanning a total of nearly 22,700 miles, at a cost of $93 billion. Such an ambitious goal won't be achieved under a business-as-usual approach, the study concluded.

        Not only will it cost an enormous amount of money, but it will have to cross State lines, meaning it will take multiple
        regulators, multiple special interests, and multiples of everything else you can think of in order to become reality.

        Infrastructure is one of America's top 5 problems for the 21st Century.
        Not only do we require trillions in new infrastructure,
        there are still trillions in repairs we've been putting off.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          Infrastructure is one of America's top 5 problems for the 21st Century.

          Sounds like a reasonable expenditure for the federal government, to me. And a proven effect economic stimulus.

          But we'll have to wait until half the country grows up or at least until they're not so scared of there being a black man in the White House.

        • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:04PM (#31407230)

          Not only do we require trillions in new infrastructure, there are still trillions in repairs we've been putting off.

          Don't forget how many trillions in debt you are.

        • by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:23PM (#31407464) Journal

          Gee, if only there were a bunch of people who needed jobs who could do this for us.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Palshife (60519)

            Haven't you heard? The stimulus is socialism.

          • by zippthorne (748122) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:23PM (#31408658) Journal

            And that's why so many people "need jobs." There is "stuff that needs to get done" so that's not the problem, the problem is that "stuff that needs to get done" is being held up for reasons other than, "not enough benefit for the effort of the stuff that needs doing."

            One of those things is financing, to be sure, but one of those things is the regulatory quagmire you have to wade through before you can even break ground on any new project of substantial size. Hell, it'll take you a year to get through all the hurdles (disclaimer:not all of which are regulatory) to renovate an unoccupied building into a restaurant where the former use of said building was also a restaurant.

            I don't know what the answer is. One possible answer in this case to go full-federal and dissolve the states as independent bodies, so at least you'd only have to deal with a single monolithic federal morass instead of that plus forty-eight smaller but in aggregate hugely complex systems, but that comes with its own attendant issues.

        • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:37PM (#31407626)

          Infrastructure is one of America's top 5 problems for the 21st Century.

          Why should the public pay for moving electricity from the Midwest to the East coast? Let the East coast electricity get more expensive, and the Midwest electricity get cheaper. People and business will naturally migrate from expensive areas to less expensive areas, not requiring any expenditure at all. Remove the subsidies and tax credits on building anything but pilot projects and research. Provide loans for valid business plans that show a reasonable chance of success to help give a leg up to an industry.

          Letting economics drive power sources is a lot more natural than having the government do it and creating tons of regulatory systems that only provide jobs in the legal and political arenas.

          • by jwhitener (198343) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:15PM (#31408572)

            I don't think that the OP you responded to necessarily meant the public when he/she said "America's ...problem". It might very well be American businesses problem, and the free(ish) market might very well drive the change.

            But they are going to need incentive to change, and some guidance during the process. The cheapest solution to power generation right now is the status quo. And it most likely will stay that way for 50 years with oil, and hundreds of years with coal. There has to be an economic motive to change, and that can most easily be created by taxing what we don't like (coal/oil) and giving subs to what we do like (nuclear, wind, sun, etc..).

            And as the OP pointed out, this is going to take multiple states, multi power companies, and significant investment in new infrastructure, that is much larger than any one company can handle. It will almost certainly require a 'smarter' grid, and a heck of a lot more power sharing between companies.

            How do you think that the Federal Highway system would have turned out without central planning on a National level? We don't need a ton of new regulators or new federal jobs created. We need the existing regulatory agencies to step up and start mandating change, helping to plan it and negotiate the overall system between companies and states, and financial incentives to get the ball rolling.

            Cap and Trade, by slowly ratcheting down the allowed carbon in the country, will squeeze companies into action, but I have a feeling that is only going to be passed directly on to customers for as long as humanely possible, until customers are screaming and electric companies are literally forced to start changing.

            I'd rather not let pure profit motives drive the change. Lets get some laws in place with timelines and start getting the infrastructure built.

            • by Genda (560240) <mariet.got@net> on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @03:44AM (#31411144) Journal

              What you say is lovely... and for the most part, I totally agree. Sadly, in this "The best Government Money Can Buy" American reality, do you actually believe there is any way to actually pass anything resembling intelligent, progressive, meaningful legislation, when any bill that hurts someone with deep enough pockets can simply be killed by investing in the right representatives?

              Our nation has just gone through a fiscal melt-down, a financial disaster of epic magnitude. If you look, and have to look, because not a single news source is talking about it, but if you look, you will find that Wall street, the Nations Banks, and all those greedy buggers who almost sunk the country, are now back at it, business as usual, in fact, they're pushing bad paper and derivatives harder and faster than ever before. Making insane bonuses. Taking the hundreds of billions of dollars we gave them to prop up the banks, and spending it on an army of folks in DC, fixing the laws, and ensuring that they won't have to stop playing the games they've become addicted to. Nothing has changed, other than nobody is talking about the new escalation, of the rate at which bankers are now digging the hole we will all eventually have to lay down in.

              If our government can't stop the simplest and most obvious case of fiscal rape from happening, knowing full well, that when the dust settles, and the looting and pillaging is done, there will be nothing left of this country. What makes you think for even a moment, that the men and women who populate our centers of government, have either the will or the moral fortitude required to make a sane energy policy?

              It is time for us to separate Church and State once and for all, and that must include the Church of the All Mighty Dollar. We need to remove the bankers from our system of government. We will support business. We will empower an environment in which business can flourish, but to do so, we must take the power for business to determine the future of being human away once and for all. Just as a child must be managed or it will eat candy until it is sick, business' only purpose is to make profit, and if it has to do that over the bleached bones of the society in which it exists, it will ultimately do just that (and in far too many cases has), it is up to us, to guide and control business, make it perform our bidding and not the other way. We need to eliminate the entity called Corporation. It was an interesting experiment, but if nothing else, it has proven that human beings have neither the requisite intelligence nor dignity as a species to manage such an entities without doing serious harm to the world and the life in it (including ourselves.)

              I'm all for wind power, above and beyond gas and coal. I'm for technology which converts wind into forms of energy that can be stored and used later (perhaps hydrogen.) We need to come up with new ways to power the future without at the same time destroying it. At the same time, we need to overhaul this government, and we need to start by taking back our communication, and keeping the corporations out of our government, or it will not go well for any of us.

          • "Why should the public pay for moving electricity from the Midwest to the East coast?"

            Because Utilities are a textbook market failure. Left to the market, water, power, waste and communication services thrive in the cities, but don't exist in rural areas. If you want power and telecom capabilities in the sticks, you need a government program like the TVA [wikipedia.org] to get it done.

            Why should the government pay to get Midwest power to the Big Cities on the East Coast? Because the government paid to get East Coast power

      • by plopez (54068)

        Yep. The play of buying up smaller companies which take the risk is done by oil and gas companies all the time.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:17PM (#31406426) Homepage Journal

      Actually I know someone that works in the Wind Power part of a major utility company.
      He spelled out the problem with wind for me very clearly.
      "Companies don't care about carbon offsets because they don't believe that there will be a carbon tax".
      "Followed by "Natural gas is dirt cheap right now."
      Natural Gas is cheaper and more reliable than wind right now.
      Trust me this utility has spent a bundle on wind and my friend is on the road many days a month trying to set up wind power and make deals for people to buy the power. In this case I wouldn't blame the utilities.
      What it comes down to is dollars and cents. Gas is cheaper and works better than wind.
      Of course I love this comment.
      " Among the valid points raised by the carbon-based generators are concerns about how the cost of electricity transmission are allocated and how power quality can be improved (wind generation — from individual sites — is hopelessly variable). But there are fixes for all of the concerns raised by the carbon-based entities and in almost all cases they have been on the other side of the question in the past.""
      Notice how in the summary the poster says that they have some valid concerns and then says that there are fixes for them.
      Yea sure... But at what price? Read some of the "fixes" and then ask who is going to pay for them? Should the government keep subsidizing wind and the infrastructure.
      Don't bother saying that they can just take the money from the Military since we know that will not happen. Are you willing to pay more in taxes and pay more for goods produced in the US by US companies? China and India will not pass a dime of the costs on manufacturing so if you increase the cost to make goods in the US you will be pushing more manufacturing to China and India so in effect you will be shifting the carbon production from US plants burning natural gas to Chinese power plants burning Coal.
      Oh and Window power in China? Unless forced to that is just for export. They will produce a few token sites and then sell Windmills to western countries until it becomes economical to replace coal with wind.
      So the west will subsidize even more manufacturing jobs going overseas.
      I fear this isn't as simple as the summary or what most people on slashdot think it is.

      What it all comes down to is that Natural gas is cheap, efficient, and thankfully pretty clean.
      While not carbon free it has the lowest carbon foot print of all the fossil fuels. It is MUCH lower in carbon output than coal so it isn't terrible that it is displacing wind. It could be worse, they could be building coal plants instead of wind.

      • by toastar (573882) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:36PM (#31406828)

        The thing is Wind is Flaky, Personally I like to have power all the time, even when there is no wind.

        There are two solutions to this problems:

        1. Giant Batteries/ Flywheels/ Water storage hills
        2. Gas Supplement.

        The Reason you use gas is it's easier to turn on and off the Coal/Nuclear.

        IMHO Nuclear>Gas+wind>coal

        Granted this is a simplistic approach, But Gas is coming either way. There is going to be a ton of it on the market soon.

        Standard Disclaimer: the company i work for would benefit by me making these statements.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by plopez (54068)

        Should the government keep subsidizing wind and the infrastructure.

        While I agree with gas as a "bridge" fuel, that makes me laugh. Why don't we stop subsidizing nukes, oil, gas and coal? We can start by forcing them to pay market prices for the mineral leases on Gov't. lands.

        Let's just end all subsidies, let market forces come into play, and then see what the real winner would be.

  • by MrTripps (1306469) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:54PM (#31406008)
    Gas Seeking to Break Wind
  • by spidercoz (947220) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:55PM (#31406036) Journal
    they'd embrace the new tech and get in on it, rather than trying to fight it
    • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:02PM (#31406176) Journal
      agreed. Especially considering that gas is a finite resource and we need to use is for MATERIALS not energy, as its value in fertiliser, plastics and other materials FAR outweighs its value as an energy source. We need gas to build the wind farms, and as many as possible as quickly as possible. (As well as solar thermal and other energy production systems). Because there will come a day, and it's not that far off, when fossil fuels will not be energetically profitable to mine, at which point we will leave them in the ground except to extract them as materials, not as energy.

      This isn't a question of IF, it merely a matter of when and how, and IF the gas companies had half an ounce of sense in their heads, they'd be "Springfield Energy" not just "Springfield Gas".

      RS

    • It's easy to say, but if you had just spent millions for a new power-plant that wasn't expected to make profit until 20 years into the future, you wouldn't want to change quickly either.

      They make a valid point: wind power is nice, but who is the backup when the wind doesn't blow? The summary tries to put its own slant on the issue, but it really is a hidden cost in the wind power solution.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        It's easy to say, but if you had just spent millions for a new power-plant that wasn't expected to make profit until 20 years into the future, you wouldn't want to change quickly either.

        I assure you there are dozens of us shedding tears with sympathy over the unfair plight of the downtrodden Coal and Oil Industries.

    • No, they would NOT (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rickb928 (945187)

      The incumbent suppliers, gas/coal/oil-fueled generating utilities, have NO, repeat NO incentive to encourage a competitor. And every incentive to prevent the entry to market of viable competitors such as wind, solar, etc.

      I'm not trolling, nor am I just trying to be contrary. This is a business fact. Show me a business that has a good case for encouraging their competition. I have one, too, the exception that proves the rule; retail. Clustering retail outlets together, such as clothing or even convenie

  • Successful???? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArsonSmith (13997) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:55PM (#31406044) Journal

    I'd only call it mildly successful when it can run at least 50% without government subsidies. and fully successful when it is >99%

    I don't belive we'll ever be able to get back a US where there isn't government subsidies in everything.

    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:57PM (#31406072)

      Without subsidies, there is no political influence. And without political influence, lobbying wouldn't work and you are exposed to market forces... That's just bad business.

       

    • Re:Successful???? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ldconfig (1339877) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:02PM (#31406166)
      So its bad for the government to help support clean energy. I notice you don't bring up all the tax breaks and corporate welfare the oil gas and coal co's get and how huge it is compared to what green energy gets.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wesley Felter (138342)

        So its bad for the government to help support clean energy.

        A fairer way to do that would be a carbon tax instead of a ton of special cases.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Aranykai (1053846)

        electricity from coal - 0.44 dollars/MWh (the vast majority of US power is produced with this method)
        refined coal - 29.81 dollars/MWh
        solar - 24.34 dollars/MWh
        wind - 23.37 dollars/MWh

        Some of these things are not like the other. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_subsidies [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by skids (119237)

      "I don't belive we'll ever be able to get back a US where there isn't government subsidies in everything." ...You mean, like, including fossil fuels, right, because they pull in tons of subsidies? You do know that, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You mean, like, including fossil fuels, right, because they pull in tons of subsidies?

        But they shouldn't be subsidized. That's just wasteful pork-barrel corruption.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by c++0xFF (1758032)

        It used to be that fossil fuel production was subsidized because encouraging development would improve the local economy.

        Now we won't remove the subsidies because the producers will leave and favor other locations, hurting the local economy.

        At least, that's what the ads say on TV whenever the issue comes around. True or not, it's a vicious cycle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NoseBag (243097)

      Exactly. I don't think there's a single wind-power installation anywhere in the world that is anywhere close to truly self-supporting. They are a great idea but just don't cut it commercially.

      Even the Danes - major investors in (and sellers of) the technology haven't been able to make it pay - except by exporting the technology to other countries. That's why they've tried hushing the economic reports about their w-farms; they don't want to scare away customers with the facts.

      That's a pity: I always liked th

    • by MBCook (132727)

      Wouldn't wind do better if the turbines were closer together? I remember reading that the way wind turbines are placed (axis parallel to the ground) they had to be placed something like 10 rotor lengths apart to get full efficiency, while vertical orientations can be packed much more densely, getting more electricity out of the same land area.

      I like wind power, because I think it's kind of neat, but unless we get a good temporary storage mechanism (new battery type, compressed something-or-other, flywheels

    • and fully successful when it is >99%

      In America at least there are zero successful industries by your definition.

    • by copponex (13876) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:24PM (#31406596) Homepage

      1) Cover our eyes and let companies do whatever they want.
      2) Suffer from energy spikes, speculative bubbles, piss poor infrastructure and a ruined environment.
      3) Shovel billions into corporate coffers so they can sock the money away in offshore accounts while simultaneously failing to develop energy alternatives
      4) Failure!

      You have to subsidize new technologies because corporations cannot justify R&D to their shareholders. BP and Exxon cannot manufacture solar panels unless they can demonstrate higher profits, which one can't do until the technology is sufficiently developed, which one can't do without huge investments.

      Technology has thrown the entire paradigm of free market economics for a loop. The amount of technology and science that go into an average product make information asymmetry astronomical. This requires more government regulation, not less.

      • by Restil (31903)

        R&D can and is a justified business expense. The problem is that most of the "green" energy is currently more expensive to produce than through conventional methods, and is likely to remain that way no matter how much money you throw at it, at least until the conventional methods become more expensive. Of course, when that happens, there will be a sudden surge in the development and deployment of green technologies, until the lack of demand results in cheaper fuel sources again, which means we'll be b

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sedmonds (94908)
        Once upon a time, big successful companies had no trouble justifying R&D to shareholders. Then MBAs started being given out like candy, with teaching that the only thing that matters is the next quarter stock price. Cutting R&D frees up a bunch of money in the next few quarters. That makes short term investors and managers happy. But it comes at the cost of mountains of FUTURE revenue from the fruits of R&D. So you have companies like DEC and HP that went from research and development power
    • by hey! (33014)

      I don't believe we'll ever be able to get back a US where there isn't government subsidies in everything.

      In electricity, there's isn't a historical free market Utopia to return to, unless you're talking about Edison wiring a few neighborhoods in New York City with DC. Right from the get-go, we started to do the most un-free market thing possible by granting monopolies on electricity generation and distribution.

      Why?

      In order to attract more rapid investment. Oh, we'd have got to almost universal electrification, but it wouldn't have happened over fifteen or twenty years. It might have taken twice as long. In

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The only real problem with wind power is a land use vs generated power issue. The largest wind farm in the us produces less than 800 MW of energy (and remember this is potential generation, wind generation is still inefficient compared to other sources), and takes up 47000 acres of land. You can't just drop one of those everywhere the wind is good.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      It doesn't quite 'take up' all that land.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        There's been plenty of articles published on the amount of land that wind takes up in the terms of power generation. The current round are inefficient, they're good as a stop-gap filler but that's it. Speaking of wind, we haven't had more then a slight breeze where I live for over a week. Or sun until today. Very good for wind I think. Personally we just need to move forward get nukes back on track and make the big push towards fusion.

    • According to google 47,000 acres = 73.4375 square miles, with a US population density average of 86.2 people per square mile (wikipedia) generating 800MW of energy would displace ~7000 people in the right areas (less in some areas). Just because you live on the more densely populated east or west coast doesn't mean there isn't plenty of land here in the midwest.
  • LED Light Bulbs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SloWave (52801) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:58PM (#31406092) Journal

    Just wait until LED light bulbs start hitting the fan. Watch the coal lobbiests and their pet politicians scramble then. I was recently allowed to try some 100W LED floodlights that were indistinguishable from the incandescent version, except no heat and a lot less power.

    • Re:LED Light Bulbs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Spazmania (174582) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:04PM (#31406200) Homepage

      Last I checked, LEDs were roughly as power-efficient as fluorescent. The shift from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent and now LED bulbs is more than offset by the increase in draw from computers and other electronics.

      I haven't been impressed with the current batch of LED light bulbs. They're pitching an MBTF of 15,000 and 25,000 hours when LEDs have classically exhibited lifetimes closer to 60,000 hours. That means they're doing something wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Andy Dodd (701)

      Not likely to happen. We've already got legislation going the exact opposite way of what you predict, trying to ban incandescents.

      The problem is that the favored technology (CFLs) contains mercury, so there is valid opposition to fighting such legislation. Plus fluorescents are bad news for epileptics... A friend of mine suffered a minor stroke and has since been prone to seizures. He is unable to spend more than a few minutes in any place with fluorescent lighting, and since nearly everywhere has such

    • try some 100W LED floodlights ... and a lot less power.

      ObFuturama: "Each pound of [dark matter] weighs more than 10,000 pounds".

      • Re:LED Light Bulbs (Score:4, Informative)

        by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:30PM (#31406704)
        We know he meant it produced the equivalent light output of a 100W bulb, while consuming a lot less power. Unfortunately, the typical consumer is used to measuring light in Watts instead of Lumens, hence every compact florescent is marked as "60W bulb equvalent" or something simular, and hides the fact that actual power consumption is much less. The 100W equivalent LED floodlights typically use 10W to 15W of power. Unfortunately, LEDs are highly directional, thus they make a better replacement for a spotlight than for a standard bulb (diffusers waste power, lowering efficiency).
  • Costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:59PM (#31406100) Homepage

    region's wind power too cheap for its members to compete with, unless developers there are made to pay the costs of moving wind power eastward.

    To whatever extent the generation companies pay to move the power, I fail to see why wind shouldn't pay its fair share.

    demanding that the state's wind developers share the costs of backup natural gas generators

    That's stupid. The correct solution is: raise the price of natural gas generation to compensate for the efficiency of scale difference.

    proposed to deny federal clean energy grants to wind developers that buy blades, turbines and other components from abroad.

    Hey, if you want money from Uncle Sam, you gotta play the game the way it's played. You're always welcome to secure private financing and build it any way you please.

    • demanding that the state's wind developers share the costs of backup natural gas generators

      Electric markets already handle this.

      For a number of reasons there are times when load serving utilities buy power but not capacity from a generator (called non-firm in industry jargon IIRC).

      One of those reasons would be because a generator knew they were unreliable such as with wind (other examples abound).

      In that case it works out one of two ways:

      a> the load serving utility buys the needed backup capaci

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ted Kennedy and anyone with a backyard.

  • by odin84gk (1162545) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:07PM (#31406246)

    Summary:

    Wind was okay until it became a meaningful competitor to the carbon dioxide-producing entities

    Article:

    And last week, four senators representing New York, Ohio, Montana and Pennsylvania proposed to deny federal clean energy grants to wind developers that buy blades, turbines and other components from abroad.

    "It is a no-brainer that stimulus funds should only go to projects that create jobs in the United States rather than overseas," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, pointing at a proposed Texas wind farm whose backers include a Chinese power company.

    They had one paragraph about the natural gas generators complaining about being used as a backup for the unreliable wind farms and wanting to charge more money to act as a backup service.
    The majority of the article is focused on international and stimulus politics: Should stimulus funds be spent on foreign technologies, or should they only be used on local (US) companies. How much of the company must be in the US before it is considered a local technology?

    Another misleading summary intended to promote controversy.

  • There was an article here or on Yahoo about a gas company that is setting up a solar plant. Seems like it could also set up a wind plant.

    When the wind is blowing, use less gas.

    Seems like they were starting with about 90mw solar + 3800 mwatt gas plant. Add a 90mw wind plant to that and there will be times when you are using 5% less natural gas.

  • Join forces! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KDN (3283) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:29PM (#31406678)

    The answer is easy: the gas and wind groups should join forces. When they have enough wind, switch the gas systems to standby. When there is not enough wind, then crank up the gas systems. In addition, they should look into energy storage such as flywheel and/or compressed air. These will help fill in the gap between when the wind dies down and the gas turbines spin up.

    Heck, wanna really have fun? Have surplus wind energy electrolize water into hydrogen and and oxygen, and store the hydrogen to feed the gas turbines. Or, use plasma incinerators to convert garbage into syngas and burn that instead of natural gas. If you did that you would not even need the natural gas people. Heck you could sell the excess back to the natural gas people!

    • by diegocg (1680514)

      That's how we are doing it in Spain. In the last decade, we have built gas power plants and closed almost all our coal power plants. We use as much wind/hydroeletric power as we can (also nuclear), and gas power to get the rest.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:35PM (#31406814) Journal

    The WSJ ran an article about this within the last week or two. The only gripe that traditional power companies had that seemed valid in my opinion is that wind producers get an exemption if they don't meet their production quotas. In a nutshell, this is how it works in Texas (and presumably other states): At the beginning of the day the department responsible for buying power for the state purchases power from utilities. The utilities bid based on how much power they are going to provide, and what the cost will be. Wind power comes in cheaper than gas or goal and gets purchased first. Gas and coal get penalized for not producing as much power as they promise to produce. So if they say they will deliver XXX megawatts, but due to facilities problems or whatever only deliver xxx-y megawatts, they have to pay a fine. If wind fails to deliver their promised megawatts, they are exempted from the fine.

    On one hand wind is variable and not easy to predict (although wind based power companies claim that their models are become more accurate and reliable). On the other, wind is easy to come in inexpensively in part because there are incentives in place to make it cost competitive and they also don't have to pay fines for failing to deliver.

    I'm of the opinion that the system is fine. Everyone agrees that wind can't provide baseline power. I think the government should reach some sort of compromise between the two. Wind can continue to be cheap and by all means we should be using it when it's available. When it isn't, wind based utilities should have to offset the cost of falling back to gas or coal. It takes hours to bring a plant online and doing so incurs operating costs. If the plant sits idle because the wind stays constant then that's great. The plant operator still needs to be compensated for spooling up the turbines, even if they aren't selling the output. The trick is pricing things in such a way that there is still an incentive to use wind when it's available. Maybe they can trend it, and say over the last five years, wind under-delivered by xx%. Therefore wind needs to adjust their rates upward by xx-y% to offset the irregularity. Y would be an agreed upon value to acknowledge the fact that man can't control the weather, but that when conditions are good, it is in everyone's best interests to tap the wind as a resource.

    • From the WSJ article, it seems that the beef that the natural gas electric generators have is that they're cleaner than coal, especially CO2 wise, and thus gas wants to displace coal-powered units and is seen as a very good mid-term solution until the pure green technologies come about, but in the near term, any gains that wind makes comes out of the share that the gas producers make and coal is not seeing its portion diminshed.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:38PM (#31406848)
    Unless you have an effective way of storing the energy generated by wind turbines, wind power does nothing to reduce your peak demand for traditional power plants. However, it does reduce the average demand, making traditional plants less economically rewarding. Pretty much the same argument applies to solar. This might be the rationale behind desire for a hydrogen economy; use any excess wind and solar power to separate H20 into hydrogen and oxygen, then use fuel cells for power when it is dark and still (turning the H and O back into good ol' H20).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When you can make wind blow when you need electricity, then it will be able to compete. Do a little work on google and you will find the problems associated with wind blowing when you don't need electricity and not blowing when you do. Storage is in its infancy at this scale. If you want more technical terms, search for the correlation of wind generation with utility demand. You will find it is poor. Any time a large wind farm is planned, a huge engineering study must be done to find out what additiona

  • by Nexzus (673421) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:57PM (#31407134)

    There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.

      - Robert A. Heinlein, Life-Line (1939)

  • by Fishbulb (32296) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @02:20AM (#31410792)

    (wind generation — from individual sites — is hopelessly variable)

    And easily solved with the use of Vanadium batteries [discovermagazine.com]. I'll continue to signal boost this as long as there are people who think there is no solution to variable renewable energy generation.

  • by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel&bcgreen,com> on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @06:39AM (#31411812) Homepage Journal
    Gas companies whine to keep wind from passing them.

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

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