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The Almighty Buck Technology Science

Wind Power Falls Under $0.01/kwh 1064

js7a writes "Colorado State University's Rocky Mountain Collegian reports that, "as of June [the price of wind power] dropped to 1 cent per kWh." Even without further expected improvements in turbine technology, the U.S. would now need to use less than 3% of its farmland to get 95% of its electricity demand satisfied by wind power. Plus, wind power is the only mitigation of global warming, because if the whole world converted to wind power in 15 years, the amount of power being extracted from the atmosphere would be more than the increase in greenhouse gas atmospheric energy forcing since 1600. Don't say goodbye to coal and oil, yet, though; unless cell technology increases substantially, when we run out of oil we will convert coal to synthetic fuel." Update: 09/15 13:40 GMT by T : Note: the "1 cent" figure refers to the premium paid for the power over conventionally supplied electricity, rather than the final per-kWh price.
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Wind Power Falls Under $0.01/kwh

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  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:41PM (#10251980)
    I went to the Platte River Power Authority site and found a table entitled Monthly Wind Speed and Performance Data 2004. It is interesting to see the variations, which are not small, from month-to-month. For example, January saw two millon kWh of energy produced and an average wind speed of 27.8 mph versus July which showed about 820,000 kWh and 13 mph.

    The wind energy is not exactly bought directly, though:

    Platte River is a community-owned, wholesale power supplier to the cities of Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, and the Town of Estes Park. You can sign up for the wind program in any of these communities, and the wind energy you receive will come from Platte River's Medicine Bow Wind Project.

    As regarding fulfilling a great deal of energy needs from wind their website has this to say:

    While it is theoretically possible to produce enough energy from wind turbines to supply all our needs, it's not technically feasible at present. This is because wind is an "intermittent" resource, i.e., the wind doesn't blow all the time. Since electricity can't be stored in large amounts, we still need other resources to ensure that energy is available when people need to use it. Research continues on the effect of wind generation on electric system reliability. A recent study of California wind farms found that wind can make up as much as 10% of total electricity capacity without significantly impacting the reliability of the electric grid.

    I found the web site for the energy company to be a pretty interesting place to get a fair amount of detail about how an energy company harnesses energy from the wind and blends into their grid.



  • Re:The Problem Is... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:48PM (#10252031)
    Well the theory is that with global warming, weather becomes more severe. That is, with more energy being dumped into the atmosphere, more water evaporates from the ocean at a faster rate which results in more circulation, etc etc. Wind power will *slightly* decrease the severity of the weather, just like the hairs on your arm keep a strong wind from making you too cold.
  • by Jettamann ( 25050 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:49PM (#10252043)
    ... Watch this the next time it is broadcast on your local PBS station.

    I wathced this last night..

    Oil is going to be arround a lot longer then you think...
  • Re:I've actually... (Score:2, Informative)

    by niktesla ( 761443 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:52PM (#10252067) Homepage
    You can find a lot of useful information about homebuilt wind generators here []. I'm also thinking of doing something similar to this someday when I get the time for it.
  • by 1984 ( 56406 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:53PM (#10252082)

    From the CIA World Factbook, USA:

    Land Area: 9,161,923 sq km
    Arable Land: 19.3%

    So that's 1,768,251 sq km of farmland, 3% of which is 53048 sq km.

    Don't want to be down on wind power or anything, but there's still quite the engineering challenge here.

  • Re:Misleading title (Score:5, Informative)

    by adoll ( 184191 ) * <alex@doll.agdconsulting@ca> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:54PM (#10252094) Homepage Journal
    Offshore Wind Energy [] report by Deltf Univ, Netherlands, on the economics of a wind power system offshore in Europe.

    Page 5 gives the cost of producing power, including capital costs, at Eur 0.051/kWh (~5.5 US cents/kWhr). This gives a payback of about 7-8 years. So, NO, the power doesn't cost USD0.01/kWh.

  • Re:Nice on paper (Score:3, Informative)

    by thpr ( 786837 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:57PM (#10252113)
    First off, you don't want power output to rely too heavily on weather conditions. I want my electricity to be stable. Not that what we have now is stable either...

    There are actually reasonable solutions to this. First, you can store the energy. There are already wind turbines in California that split water at night into hydrogen and oxygen and then convert that back to energy (using a fuel cell) during the day. Expensive as all get-out (in terms of capital cost, not variable cost); but it works.

    Since one of the best regions for sustained winds is in the Dakotas (North Central USA, for those Americans who don't know their geography), it could be converted to hydrogen and then piped somewhere (most likely Chicago) for conversion to power. The challenge with this method is that Hydrogen (being such a small molecule) donsn't like to stay in pipelines. It may be better to steam reform carbon dioxide into Methane and then put the methane into our existing pipeline infrastructure.

    In other words, stability isn't a problem, as you can use other methods. While it does decrease efficiency (going back and forth between electricity and chemical storage of energy is wasteful!) it STILL has less of an environmental impact than oil.

  • by pfriedma ( 725399 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:59PM (#10252127) Homepage
    Global warming is caused more by the release of greenhouse gases which reflect solar energy back to earth than it is due to net thermal release of our appliances into the atmosphere.
  • Re:The Problem Is... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:59PM (#10252129)
    There should be almost no effect on weather patterns even if you covered the earth with windmills sufficient to meet our current energy needs. Well over 99% of the wind energy is distributed above 200' AGL.
  • by applemasker ( 694059 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @09:59PM (#10252133)
    I think the point was that wind power will reduce greenhouse gases and other atmospheric pollutants that contribute to global warming (or not, if you ask the White House) that would otherwise be released by obtaining energy from fossil fuels.
  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:00PM (#10252141) Homepage
    Sorry to reply to my own comment, but this study [] by wind power advocates suggests an energy payback time of three to six months, a small fraction of a windmill's lifetime. Even assuming they're out by an order of magnitude, a turbine should last at least 20 years and so the energy produced is way larger than the energy used to produce the turbine.
  • by CleverMonkey ( 62124 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:00PM (#10252142)
    Yup. You are absolutely right - although the submitter, the poster and the original article don't make it clear 0.01$ is the PREMIUM for green power over traditional fossil fuel power.

    This small over-looked fact makes this entire post (and the subsequent /. chatter) rather meaningless. Perhaps a better title for the posting would be "Green/Renewable Power Still More Expensive than Fossil Fuels".

  • Re:Misleading title (Score:5, Informative)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:01PM (#10252150) Journal

    It has been about 8 years since I lived in Ft. Collings, but the power was not subsidized. We paid extra for it initially (about 12 years ago), and about the time that I left Ft. Collins, the price was plummeting.

    The real problem is not the price / KwH, but the fact that it is intermittant. In Colorado, we are one of the better states for energy/power esp with wind, but it still is intermittant. Until we create low cost energy storage this will not be truely viable

  • one cent? not really (Score:3, Informative)

    by mshurpik ( 198339 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:02PM (#10252162)
    According to the State of Wisconsin [], wind power costs 9 cents versus 4 cents for standard fuels. Of course, this is still cheaper than what people are paying here on the east coast (10-12 cents I would imagine).

    if the whole world converted to wind power in 15 years, the amount of power being extracted from the atmosphere would be more than the increase in greenhouse gas atmospheric energy


    when we run out of oil we will convert coal to synthetic fuel.

    I doubt it. The Germans did this in the 1930's, and it was pretty expensive.

  • by applemasker ( 694059 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:02PM (#10252167)
    Or you could put it just off the coastline, like these folks [].
  • by synthparadox ( 770735 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:03PM (#10252169) Homepage
    Au contraire. Global warming is the effect of the increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. If you decrease the amount of greenhouse gasses, the heat radiates more readily from the Earth.

    When you said electricity releases the heat back into the atmosphere, thats somewhat true, but heat naturally radiates from Earth at a pretty high rate. Greenhouse gasses are the important factors in global warming, not energy. When we say we're taking energy from the wind instead of coal or oil, we mean we're not producing the greenhouse gas byproducts.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:03PM (#10252171)
    Young man, we obey the laws of thermodynamics in this household! Each time we convert the energy we lose a little (or alot depending on the method employed.) Therefore, these types of storage systems are suboptimal. Say you lost 2% on each side of the transfer, you end up with a net loss of 4%, and this is not including loss across the transmission lines and after a while these seemingly small losses add up and you're sitting at an overall efficiency somewhere in the 70-80% range.

    So yes, you can store it, but you will lose alot of it in the process.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:06PM (#10252196)
    The main problem with wind power is nobody wants them around.

    In MA, is trying to build a wind farm, and is running into all kinds of opposition from "environmentalists."

    Basically, the problem is NIMBY.

    If you're going to build wind farms, you're going to have to put them far, far away from the upper-middle class, preferably among the poor.

    Of course, capewind is far, far away from everyone. But nobody even likes the idea of these big fans out there, spoiling the ocean view for those who might be sailing around in the area. Heavens, the horror!
  • Re:Aye... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rebar ( 110559 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:07PM (#10252203)
    It needs to come not only pretty much constantly, but with some speed as well. The energy in wind power goes up with the cube of the wind speed, and most wind generators give their rated output above 25 or 30 miles per hour. So, if you constantly get wind 15 miles per hour, you will get, what, 12.5% of the rated power out of your generator that's rated for 30 MPH winds.

    I put an anemometer up for a summer at my house that got a pretty constant light breeze, and captured data for a summer. I figure a wind generator (at maybe 80 feet up) would have given me on average 3% of its rated power.

    Have a look at (United States) this map [] before you put up a generator.

  • Not really... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:09PM (#10252227) Homepage
    This article suggests that coal-to-diesel is cost-effective in the US if oil is at $33-35 per barrel []. Have you seen the price of crude oil lately?

    As the article itself points out, such prices have not historically been sustained, but I'm not so sure this time around...

  • Re:Not right now... (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:10PM (#10252233) Homepage Journal

    Fuel cells have the problem that they wear out and are expensive to produce. If you want to store energy using hydrogen you're better off disassociating water to produce hydrogen gas, then burning that later in a generator. This is of course all best done at some central location, as opposed to on-site, unless on-site is all there is. If you have sun, water, and wind, you have quite a bit of energy available to you for not much cost. The hydrogen will be a little "dirty" unless you're distilling water and separating it, but since all you're doing is burning it, that won't really affect much.

  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:12PM (#10252254) Homepage
    That all sounds fine and dandy, but the technology to use hydrogen for this purpose still seems to be at least a decade, and probably more, away. Over that timescale, it seems to me that there are a number of other technologies which might make significant advances. If these occur, the impetus for hydrogen energy storage might just disappear, for static applications at least.
  • Re:Not right now... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:19PM (#10252309)
    2.) Same with fluoride

    Oh please. I for one welcome our flouridated overlords. If you've seen the dental work of folks who did most of their tooth formation prior to 1953 ( when Australia got it in the water supply ) compared to kids today, despite all the sugary crap they consume, I believe it has had a positive effect on dental health, and therefore overall quality of life.

    If you don't want it, you're welcome to drink rainwater or perform your own distilation, but I think fluoride is an example of social engineering with practically no downsides ( unless you count the endless ranting of clueless NWO conspiracy nuts as a downside ).

  • by 286 ( 620933 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:22PM (#10252334)
    If you are serious about making a windmill, I highly recommend one of Hugh Piggott books "Windpower Workshop". It has everything from building generator from scrap and recycled parts to wing design. I found book fun to just read.
  • Cost Estimate (Score:2, Informative)

    by thpr ( 786837 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:23PM (#10252342)
    Also what would the monetary cost of doing this be?


    The Danish Wind Industry Association says infrastructure is just under $100K per 100Kw peak production []... our total peak capacity [] is about 1 TW. At 100% efficiency, that's $1 trillion (assuming I'm not doing slashdot math). So expect the real cost to be at least 4X that (guessing?)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:23PM (#10252343)
    Here in Germany you pay about ~16 cents/kwh and that's already with about 5% of the energy created by Wind Power. You can get 100% renewable energy, that's about 4 cent more.

    As of what i hear around here wind energy is considered to be a very unstable energy-source, because you need to have backup power installed with about 80% power of all the wind-generators over the year, because the wind is not always blowing. But this needed backup power is expected to decrease, when the Offshore-WindParks on the open Sea, with 150m height and 5mw per generator, get installed. The Wind is blowing more steadily in those heights.
  • Re:Misleading title (Score:5, Informative)

    by adoll ( 184191 ) * <alex@doll.agdconsulting@ca> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:28PM (#10252379) Homepage Journal
    The oilsand projects I'm working on [] cost, typically, $1B per 22k bbls/day.

    Iraq is now producing about 1.5 Mbbls/day of crude. Let's assume that the $85B is a capital cost to keep this oil moving (which is nonsense, but you insist in including these costs in the oil capex. So be it). This means that the capex to develop a 1500k bbl/day plant should cost $65B. So, yes, the cost is a little bit higher than developing oil in a safe place like Alberta or Alaska [] but it is not orders of magnitude higher.

  • by the-build-chicken ( 644253 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:31PM (#10252399)
    ...apart from a few famous mishaps, nuclear power is cheaper, more reliable and pretty environmentally friendly (providing nothing goes boom)

    Now, we just need to throw a good marketting team at it and we're set.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:34PM (#10252434) Homepage Journal

    Fuel cells don't store electricity, they produce it. The electricity we're talking about storing here is produces by wind turbines. How would you get this electricity into a fuel cell? It's not like you can just run a fuel cell backwards --> apply electricity to it and get hydrogen out and store the energy chemcially until needed.

    Really? this [] must be a figment of my imagination then. How silly of me.

  • Re:Not right now... (Score:5, Informative)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <<logicnazi> <at> <>> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:43PM (#10252494) Homepage
    The issue is about how to convert that hydrogen back into electricity. Fuel cells are one method which essentially work like a battery directly converting the chemical energy into electrical energy. The suggestion is that we would be better off just burning the hydrogen in a conventional generator (i.e. using the heat from burned hydrogen to create steam and drive turbines..or just directly using hydrogen in the turbine like a jet engine).

    If we are really thinking of doing this on a large scale I don't think the expense of the fuel cell will be as important as the *potential* increase in efficency. However, whether we can really get the higher efficency is another matter.
  • Re:I've actually... (Score:3, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:44PM (#10252501) Homepage Journal

    Since those studies, researchers have learned that a lattice structure used at the Altamont plant increased the risk of bird deaths since birds used the structures to nest and then were caught in the blades. Turbines are now designed to have clean blades, free of lattices.

    Your only real data point is a statistical anomaly due to a specific design flaw. this page [] which decries the altamont pass installation nonetheless says that We can have wind energy without decimating imperiled wildlife populations. The issue with the view is real, I suppose, except most of the time the windmills are where no one will see them up close, and frankly they're a break in the monotony of the landscape.

  • Re:Not right now... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:46PM (#10252516) Homepage Journal
    Storing hydrogen in tanks and then later burning it is relatively cheap and easy, whereas fuel cells are more expensive and temperamental. I'm not sure of the difference in efficiencies, since cells are generating power directly and burning the gas needs to go through a conversion from heat to electricity, probably through a dynamo.
  • Re:Not right now... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Malc ( 1751 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:49PM (#10252538)
    So we produce more wind turbines than we need. During peak production we apply the excess to hydrogen production. When there isn't enough wind, we burn the hydrogen to make up the difference. It sounds like a workable solution! This is rather like the >pumped storage hydro electric power in Wales [] that I learnt about back in the 80s. Of course, in places with large hills or mountains, wind turbines could be coupled with pumped storage rather than H2 production!
  • Re:Not right now... (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:50PM (#10252539) Homepage Journal

    Fuel cells need to be larger to produce more, and making them larger means using more materials, and those materials are usually expensive things like platinum. The larger the scale, the larger the cost - I don't think fuel cells are ever going to be all that scalable. They'll be most desirable in smaller applications.

    Internal combustion engines, on the other hand, are highly scalable. In fact the most efficient ICE is some diesel engine that's the size of a house and is over 50% efficient, if I properly recall. If you have a use for the heat you can make the process of combustion highly efficient. For example, you could use the heat to distill water or something. Thermoelectric generation of electricity is even less cost-effective than fuel cells from what I can tell so that wouldn't be much help.

    I do believe that fuel cells will eventually reach a higher level of efficiency, but what we really need is a way to make them last orders of magnitude longer.

  • by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <<logicnazi> <at> <>> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:51PM (#10252552) Homepage
    I really find this hard to believe after all hydrogen is commonly highly pressurized and stored as a liquid. Furthermore, from an atomic physics standpoint this doesn't seem very reasonable. After all it isn't the physical size of the molecule which prevents it from passing through other solids but the electromagnetic interactions (which admitedly do have something to do with the distance between the electron cloud and nucleas). How do you explain hydrogen working it's way through a covalently bonded crystal? Do you have any sources.

    Besides, so what if hydrogen leaks out of *almost every* container. Just pick a container which doesn't leak. Neither is being 'very heavy'. If the idea is to use this as a fixed energy battery(for low wind times) who cares what it weighs.
  • by Caseyscrib ( 728790 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:53PM (#10252561)
    Actually, an Australian company has developed a cost-competitive method that uses Corn Starch to create biodegradable plastic. There's many links available here. []

    This still does not solve our problem with major dependence on black gold.

  • by jwdeff ( 629221 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:55PM (#10252575) Homepage
    I don't think you followed deglr6328's point. He was debating the following statement:

    the amount of power being extracted from the atmosphere would be more than the increase in greenhouse gas atmospheric energy forcing since 1600

    You are saying that reducing CO2 production lessens the greenhouse effect, which no one is arguing. But js7a wrote, that extracting energy from the atmosphere would reduce global warming. That is the point that deglr6328 is disagreeing with, and I'm guessing you disagree with the point as well.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @10:55PM (#10252577)
    a fundamental misunderstanding of economics
    We will NEVER EVER run out of oil. Never. Ever.
    That might be true in economics, but in physics we have have concepts like finite quantities and have math to deal with models which are more complex than the compound intrest formula.

    We don't know how much oil there is, but we know that it cannot be an infite quantity.

    Even from the view of the ecomomist, oil has run out before during wartime (demand a lot more than supply). Even if we have some infinite reserve there will come a point at which we can't get enough out of the ground.

  • 20 yrs (Score:2, Informative)

    by mnemonic_ ( 164550 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:05PM (#10252621) Homepage Journal
    a turbine should last at least 20 years and so the energy produced is way larger than the energy used to produce the turbine.

    Actually, wind turbines last forever. Only coal, fission, fusion, gas and microwave powerplants must be replaced after 20 years. Of course, this is all
    • 2000
    technology, so things may have changed.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:16PM (#10252682)
    our storage capacity for electricity is zero

    This is not true, and hasn't been true for decades. Many hydro systems that have a forebay (pond) above the plant and empty out into another lake, have the ability to reverse their turbines when power is plentiful at night and pump the water back uphill. The same water is then run through the turbines again when power is needed.

    And how efficient is this? Efficient enough that it's done a lot of places!

  • by El_Ehmenopio ( 701830 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:18PM (#10252696)
    Bird windwill deaths are real, but extremely overrated. The bird deaths in california were landing and resting on support wires for a certain type of windmill (which is obsolete anyway, most don't use support wires in the airframe).
    The windfarm in question was in a migration path of a particular species, and only affected local predater hawks because they were preying on the resting, tired,fat, birds. Until the obsolete windmills were replaced. a simple sollution was worked out, in which the windfarm was shutdown during a few weeks in the fall for migration of the food. Oddly enough, the few hawk deaths were worth it for the hawks, who found the resting birds to be plentiful and Yummy.
    Still, windmill caused bird deaths are a fraction of a fraction of the bird deaths caused by 1.) big clear glass windows, 2) Pollution, 3) Automobiles, 4) Powerlines and transformers, 6) air pollution (yes tweety gets lung illness too) 6) invasive species, and 7) Cheney and Scalia on duck huntin' trips. And 8) 8? I forgot what 8 is for......
  • by Chuck Messenger ( 320443 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:26PM (#10252736)
    If you read the article, it's pretty clear that they're talking about how much you pay above-and-beyond the regular electric bill. It used to be 2.5 cents above. Now it's a bargain at only 1 cent above. What you get for your money is the knowledge that you're using renewable energy.
  • Re:Misleading title (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:27PM (#10252741)
    It's the surcharge students are paying in the article, they just mangled the text a bit. Looks like they are paying 1 cent per kWh MORE for wind power than for regular power, which is much more believable, since generally power costs about 5-6 cents per kWh (more in some areas), excluding transmission costs (which are usually shown separately on your bill, another 5-6 cents per kWh).
  • Re:ummm (Score:3, Informative)

    by deglr6328 ( 150198 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:47PM (#10252822)
    Purposterous. The total amount of energy falling on the earth is over 100 thousand Terawatt-years/year. The total amount of electrical and all other energy generated by humans .... ~10 Terawatt-years/year. Even assuming total conversion to heat that's a totally inconsequential amount looking at the whole heat flux of the atmosphere.
  • by Phronesis ( 175966 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:53PM (#10252859)
    Because hydrogen is such a small atom, when stored as a gas, hydrogen leaks out of almost any container at a significant rate (I seem to remember ~10% per day).

    I regularly keep commercial compressed gas cylinders filled with about 2500 PSI of pure hydrogen in my lab. I have stored such tanks for two years without significant loss of pressure.

  • Re:The Problem Is... (Score:3, Informative)

    by RsG ( 809189 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2004 @11:57PM (#10252890)
    FYI it's "tritium". And don't get your science facts from Spiderman 2; tritium is a bybroduct of heavy-water (D2O) nuclear reactors. We can _make_ it if we need to (and already do in small quantities - actually this stuff can be classified as a nuclear waste product).

    Besides which we don't actually need tritium for a fusion plant per se. We can use lithium (more abundant, but still rare enough) or abandon higher order fusion altogether and just use deuterium (which is really common). In a few decades/centuries/whenever after we get fusion power, we could even use elemental hydrogen fusion reactors, essentially giving us unlimited fuel (hydrogen is the most simple and abundant element in the entire universe). As a bonus, with D/T or D/D reactors there is still some radioactivity (reactor neutron activation, since the reactions spit out free neutrons). A H/H/H/H reactor would produce helium and no radioactive waste at all (mind you it'll take a long time to get a pure hydrogen reactor, but the first step is to get a basic fusion reactor that works).
  • Re:Not right now... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Inebrius ( 715009 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:02AM (#10252922)
    "Do powerplants output at a constant rate? Or do they dynamically scale up and down according to demand?"

    Nuclear power is normally run at 100% capacity all the time. Ideally, nuclear plants would, after ramping up to 100%, run until the next refueling outage (18-24 months).

    Other power plants can scale the output, like hydro and natural gas. Although hydro is often environmentally constrained.

    In California, the power usage tend to range from 22000MW to 44000 MW from night to day with the peak between 12-6pm.

  • by HellKnite ( 266374 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:03AM (#10252933)
    I live in toronto, where there is a public project called "Windshare" which is investigating the viability of wind power in urban areas. They recently did a study on bird mortality caused by the turbine. Here's a link - Windshare []

    For those who don't want to click, during heavy migratory seasons (spring and fall) for 1 year, there were a total of 2 dead birds found in the vicinity of the turbine.

    See for more info on the project.
  • Whoa. Wait a minute. (Score:4, Informative)

    by macthulhu ( 603399 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:04AM (#10252940)
    Currently, there is a proposal in place in Westfield, NY to build a shitload of these 400 foot turbines. My dad, a pilot and weather freak for the last 30 years, is spearheading the campaign to stop this project. There are some factors that are important to the disussion...

    1. Westfield was one of the only places in the northeast that did not lose power during the big blackout. Their power infrastructure doesn't need any help.

    2. The company that is planning to build these things is promising to "rent" land from the locals to build the towers... What they aren't advertising is the fact that they've gone bankrupt a number of times. They collect huge grants for the project, and then bail out, leaving landowners with 400 foot towers that aren't being serviced, or paid for. Property values will drop like a rock.

    3. Westfield is right smack in the middle of a whole pile of migratory bird paths... There are also a number of eagles that live in the area. There are a number of sources, including the nearby Roger Tory Peterson Institute that confirm these towers will kill birds in massive numbers.

    4. I helped him organize the collected databases from the National Weather Service for almost 30 years worth of hourly wind readings from the two nearest stations. The wind speed needed to make these things worth building, even on the edge of Lake Erie, was rarely achieved for more than an hour or two, and only a few days a month.

    5. Just like the propellers on airplanes, the blades of these turbines collect ice... LOTS OF IT. It will of course eventually fly off of the blade. I'm sure there are some people here who can calculate for us the distance that a few hundred pounds of ice can be thrown from one of these turbines. While I secretly think it would be kind of funny to see a 400 pound slab of ice smash through a trailer half a mile away, in reality it would not be cool.

    6. Have you ever heard these things when they're operational? LOUD. My dad is currently collecting information about rates of depression and anxiety in people who live near the constant sound of these things... Not just the whooshing sound they make, but also the noise from the blades passing by the tower itself. It's somewhat like the air compresssion sound from the tail boom of a Huey.

    What it boils down to, is that it's an intersting idea, but poorly implemented by shady cocksuckers. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that we need alternative power sources, but these turbines don't add enough to the output to cover the costs, let alone free us from fossil fuel dependency. Anyone who has further information, or would like copies of the information that my dad has collected, can contact me at my screen name at excite dot com.

  • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:05AM (#10252951) Homepage
    Um, no, there's no need to pump water back up the Niagara Escarpment, plenty of it flows down the river from Lake Erie.

    They divert river flow to a reservoir at night and that is used in the daytime, yes, so that more of the normal flow can go over the Falls in daylight (and in the evening when the Falls are illuminated) to keep the tourists happy.

    (Slightly OT historical note: Sir Henry Pallet, who built the first electrical generating station at Niagara (at least on the Canadian side), became about as rich (adjusting for inflation) as Bill Gates. He built a castle (Casa Loma, complete with secret passages) in the middle of Toronto that cost (again adjusting for inflation) about $2 billion (with a B). Had to give it up when he couldn't keep up with the property taxes. It's now a tourist attraction itself, and has occasionally stood in for some wealthy guy's mansion in movies (eg Jackie Chan's "Tuxedo"). I grew up a few blocks from the place, and did the tour -- including parts not on the tour -- more than a few times.)
  • by Jack_Frost ( 28997 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:07AM (#10252971)
    Fossil plants generally do load-follow production and change their output levels to match demand. Nuclear plants tend to run best at constant power levels for a variety of reasons, but it ultimately comes down to a cost/benefit analysis. In many places you'll find nuclear plants alongside man-made lakes fitted with hydroelectric generators. At night the excess electricity from the nuclear station is used to pump water into the lake, converting electrical energy into potential energy. During the daytime this potential energy is converted back into electricity by the hydro plant to help even out the load and meet peak demands.

    This isn't a hard and fast rule for nuclear plants, rather it depends on the market and the fuel management strategies being used by the utility. For instance many French nuclear stations do use load-follow generating strategies, the operating strategies in France are sufficiently different such that load-follow there is cost effective for the way they operate their plants.
  • by hayden ( 9724 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:08AM (#10252979)
    Power companies want two things. A way of supplying baseline power that is cheap and plentiful and a way of handling the peak periods.

    Coal is good for the first choice. It's relatively cheap, relatively safe but takes a couple of days to get going.

    Gas is good for the second choice as you can start up a turbine and having it running at full efficiency quickly.

    Wind is good for neither of these. It can't be relied upon to provide baseline or peak output because the wind is always blowing. So it requires some way of storing the energy produced to really be a serious part of energy grid without other things to back it up.

  • by Jack_Frost ( 28997 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:16AM (#10253028)
    I'm assuming that you're talking about last August's outage in the northeastern U.S. and Canada. If so that outage resulted from a failure in the distribution network, not from a lack of generating capacity. Your area of Michigan was not affected because it wasn't on the same grid as the areas that were affected. Parts of Manhattan were entirely dark while just across the river Jersey was fully lit. At least twenty of the powerplants in that region had to shutdown because of the outage since they had nowhere to dump their output because the grid had failed.
  • Re:Not right now... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:23AM (#10253071)
    conventional combined cycle plants (gas turbine + steam turbine) have thermal efficiencies above 54%. The latest generation with steam cooled gas turbine parts can achieve a thermal efficiency of 60%. See the following pdf files at rb ines_cc/en/downloads/gasturbine_cc_products.pdf
  • Diffusion... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jack_Frost ( 28997 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:24AM (#10253085)
    Hydrogen will rapidly diffuse through just about any material, even things that are very "solid" looking like glass or metal. The size of the molecules in question plays a significant role in determine how quickly a given material will move through another material. This phenomenon causes all manner of problems in a wide range of areas where hydrogen isn't welcome. Welding and hydrogen embrittlement being an especially good example. Hydrogen is also very reactive, forming hydrides with most metals. These hydrides weaken the microstructure of their host materials, reducing their ductility and toughness and making them less safe/suitable for storing high pressure gas.
  • Re:MSCFB (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Master Control P ( 655590 ) <ejkeever@neDEBIA ... com minus distro> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:53AM (#10253295)
    Scientists have already experimented with them; They mount a high-strength centrifuge onto a superconductor for levitation, and place it into a vaccuum. Right now, I think there are a few test units in place. Link []. I think that Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage is more interesting; They store energy by building an enormously powerful magnetic field around a superconducting toroid. The neat thing is that, minus losses from cooling, the energy is stored for basically ever.
  • by Shadowlore ( 10860 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @12:58AM (#10253326) Journal
    Well here we are *charged * about 5.5 cents per kw/hr. Clearly, the *cost* is less. Prices vary across the US.
  • Re:Misleading title (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @01:30AM (#10253520)
    Those numbers are worthless, because the bulk of funding for education comes from property and other local taxes, hence is not in the Federal budget.

    Well, we can all agree that less is spent on teaching government than national defense...
  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @02:28AM (#10253767) Homepage
    The mechanical parts, such as the bearings, of a wind turbine are subject to wear just like any other mechanical device, The structure will eventually succumb to fatigue also. I suspect that the structure, which probably takes the most energy to construct, would last considerably longer than 20 years.

    As to the lifetime of other types of powerplant, I'm no expert, but I do know that mechanical devices wear out eventually, and nuclear devices require a lot of maintenance because of for safety reasons you need to detect and repair potential faults before they happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @03:24AM (#10254029)
    Hydrogen is almost never stored as a liquid. In order to liquify hydrogen, its temperature must be below 33K (just above absolute zero), regardless of the pressure exerted (its critical temperature). The high pressure tanks of hydrogen, nitrogen, helium, etc, all contain compressed gasses, not liquids. Many hydrocarbon gasses like propane and butane have high enough critical temperatures to be liquified by pressure alone at standard temperature (~300K).
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @03:27AM (#10254045)
    Well I'm the counter example to your example. I took multi vitamins that had flouride and additonal flouride suppliments since my mom believed it helped and we had well water so no flouride.... Except our well DID have flouride in it (I forget the reason).

    My teeth have some discolouration that the dentist believes is a result of that (there are areas that are quite bright white whereas most of the rest is more subdued) but they are also invincible. No cavities ever and I don't take very good care of them.

    However, neither of these are valid empirically speaking, personal anicdotes don't mean anything.

    The real point is:

    1) There seems to be evidence that flouride helps.
    2) There is NO evidence it causes any harm.
    3) It's cheap as hell to do.

    So basically, why not?

    Either way, it isn't some vast multi-national conspiracy. There is evidence to indicate (htough not prove) that it helps and it costs next to nothing. It's not added to make some company billions of dollars.

    I'm not saying it is a 100% empirically sound reason to add it, just that AFDB boy is wrong.
  • by tantalus ( 466821 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @03:31AM (#10254058) Homepage
    Bird deaths may be overrated, but bat deaths have been shown to be a concern, as noted in a Scientific American article []. At least 400 red bats died in a 44 turbine wind energy center in West Virginia during the bat's migration period last year. The bats seemed to have died by flying into the turning blades, though the exact cause for that is still under study. Scientists are trying to come up with a solution, but meanwhile this is threatening construction of other wind turbines in the area.
  • Re:Misleading title (Score:4, Informative)

    by humbads ( 240455 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @03:57AM (#10254128)
    It is not correct to simply compare spending by the Feds in Education and Defense. You need to look at funding by all sources, state, local, and federal. _education_spending.shtml []

    In 1999-2000, k-12 spending by the US was $373 billion. Billions more are spent on post-secondary education. Since local and state governments do not spend on national military, you can see that the DoE spending of $400 billion (2004) is probably less than the $400+ billion (2000) we as a nation spend on education.

    Even this analysis is incomplete. My point is that if you have a fleeting grasp of the statistics, you can paint a misleading picture, as if the U.S. is a war-hungry country.

    Slashdot posted a link to a pathetically incomplete news article, so it's not surprising to see all these incomplete responses. They don't even compare the price of wind to the price of conventional power at that school except to say it's more, and they don't mention that the price is subsidized.
  • Re:Misleading title (Score:2, Informative)

    by marvinglenn ( 195135 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @04:29AM (#10254229)
    The feds spend vastly more amounts [sic] on defense than they do on education.

    Well, duh! The key word there is the feds. The feds shouldn't necessarily be spending anything on education... the states and localities should be the ones funding education. Last time I checked, the Constitution mentioned the federal government providing a national defense, but didn't say anything about the feds taking care of education.

  • Re:Not right now... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zarn ( 11601 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:07AM (#10254354) Homepage
    Sure, and fusion power, solar power satellites, or artificial photosynthesis could make the whole discussion moot in a couple of decades.

    I suppose from a terrorist point of view that blowing up one fusion reactor is a hell of a lot easier than blowing up hundreds of wind towers in a wind mill park.

    In other news today: Dutch minister is considering an end to a moratorium on off-shore windmill parks. Goal would be 20 percent dependency on wind energy in 2020.

  • Re:Not right now... (Score:3, Informative)

    by rjforster ( 2130 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:08AM (#10254358) Journal
    Someone can't go to google, type "most efficient diesel engine" and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky".

  • by AGMW ( 594303 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @06:42AM (#10254612) Homepage
    Wind is good for neither of these. It can't be relied upon to provide baseline or peak output because the wind is always blowing.

    Why not link Windpower to something like the Ffestiniog Pumped Water Power Station [] in Wales. Off peak, the station pumps water back into the resevoir, then lets it flow during peak times. Now with a bunch of Wind Power stations putting power into the National Grid [], you could use places like Ffestiniog to "store" that power by pumping water back into its resevoir.

  • Re:Not right now... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @06:51AM (#10254651)
    Storing hydrogen in tanks and then later burning it is relatively cheap and easy

    No, it is not.

    "storing hydrogen in tanks"... see, that's a problem right there. You *can't* store hydrogen in tanks. Hydrogen atoms are small enough that they'll permeate through just about any solid walled tank. So you end up having to make massive tanks with super-thick walls. Then the tanks end up not holding very much.

  • by bwcbwc ( 601780 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @09:35AM (#10255573)
    The cost for Wind power isn't .01/kwh, $.01/kwh is the premium over normal power costs:
    The cost for wind power is more expensive than other options, but the cost has recently decreased.
    The price used to be 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, but as of June it dropped to 1 cent per kwh.
    . . .
    Even though college students are known for having a tight budget, some believe shoveling out the extra cash is worth it.
  • by freqres ( 638820 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @10:17AM (#10255921)
    So when half the wind generators aren't running you still have 2/3 (150% down to 100%) the electricity production? I'm not following your math.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern