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Old 07-10-2009, 10:49 PM   #41
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So, as it stands now, cost of moving the coal to the plant, distributing the electricity is cheaper than moving the turbines to the wind and distributing the electricity due to "economies of scale", and not taking environmental factors into account. I think I'm stating the obvious, but, pure economics is our only measure, now. Whereas the question was what factors aren't taken into account. Mostly everyone's saying the coal transport and transmission issues have been taken into account. Correct?
-CC
Yes, correct, but it's useful not to lose sight of the observation that ERD50 made earlier: in some respects, the economics may be a good indicator of the underlying energy impact (and, to some degree, total economic costs) of the various options. Because energy costs sometimes make up a big portion of the economic costs of various options, often the most cost-effective choice is also the one that uses the least energy. For example, if wind power is more expensive for consumers to purchase than electricity made from coal, we should at least investigate why this is so. It might be that the embodied energy used in fabrication of the wind turbines, towers, and connecting transmission wires is very large (which might be why they are expensive), maybe large enough that energy payback period exceeds the expected life of the equipment. Higher costs for wind power at the meter might partially be because of the relatively large transmission transmission losses that accrue as the electricity trickles in from a large number of spread-out turbines to the larger wires, and the long distances between where the wind is harvested and where the power is used. At any rate, economics should be seen as an important indicator of possible parallel energy costs underlying the options.
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Old 07-10-2009, 11:56 PM   #42
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The big numbers can work both ways. Sure it's a fraction of the BTU's. "We only used millons of gallons of diesel a month because we burn a trillion tons of coal." That makes it OK?

It's all relative, not trying to pick a fight, etc. But, when 16 coal trains a day on one mainline aren't enough, maybe it's time to turn off some lights/my computer/etc. Heh.
I agree, and the more I look into this, the more I'm convinced that "passive conservation" (turning off the lights, computer, etc) is the first and best payoff.

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Whereas the question was what factors aren't taken into account.
I'll add to samclem's comments... that it is true, the environmental impacts are not all included in the energy we buy. If they were, it would be a much more level playing field, with the true "green" energy sources having a lower relative cost, and a better chance in the market.

But that means adding a tax to fossil fuels. That tax could be used to repair environmental damage where possible, or used to research cleaner fuels, or just returned to the public in an effort to push renewables. It does not appear that we have the political will to do that.

-ERD50
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Old 07-11-2009, 05:57 AM   #43
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Went through the Mendota Hills Wind Farm yesterday. Only a few were stirring (maybe 10 mph wind)

Mendota Hills Wind Farm - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The wind farm produces about 110 million kilowatt hours annually (In comparison, the local nuke plant puts out 19,657 million)
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Old 07-13-2009, 08:50 PM   #44
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In addition to ERD's comment, also consider that house cats kill far more birds than wind generators
I am just pointing out one of the costs.

Does your cat kill more birds than one of those large wind generators?
Has your cat brought home a hawk lately? How about any bats? Eagles?

Cats kill more birds than wind generators. There are many more cats now. But if there is a large numbers increase in wind farms, cat to wind mill ratio will no doubt change.

Wind farms with the giant windmill technologies are a new thing and there are effects happening that people are still learning about. I was talking to a bat expert that is studying this and other reasons why the bats in the Eastern US are declining. He says that bats are killed just by the barametric pressure change of the blades as they spin.

It all sounds so good. Why do that nasty stuff. Just use a clean beautiful windmill. This excellent thread points out that there are many costs and that some of them are hidden.

It is good to look at the ROI. It is also good to look closely at the details in order to make a good investment.

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Old 07-14-2009, 08:44 AM   #45
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I am just pointing out one of the costs.
But doing so without context.
This is an exellent example of why the book 'Sustainable energy without all the hot air' is such a refreshing bit of work.

Yes, care needs to be taken in the placement of wind turbines so they are not directly in migration patterns. Bat kills are not well understood yet as we don't know what the total population numbers are of bats so the impact is difficult to ascertain. More study is being done.

But we need context. How many birds are killed each year in comparison to the approximate total population? In 2003 it was estimated that 37,000 birds in the US were killed by wind generators. While that is a large number, it is 3 thousandths of one percent.
Cars, cats and buildings kill more.

Yes, there are more cats than wind generators. Do you think that is ever likely to change? There will always be more cats than wind generators, and yes the ratio will change, but it will always be heavily in favor of the cats.

In summary, I do agree with you that we should keep in mind the costs. But we should do so in context, not just with emotional arguments that don't show the whole story.
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Old 07-14-2009, 09:09 AM   #46
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Yes, there are more cats than wind generators. Do you think that is ever likely to change? There will always be more cats than wind generators, and yes the ratio will change, but it will always be heavily in favor of the cats.
So what we need is, a cat killing attachment on the windmills. Lure the cats in with a few dead birds as bait, then whollop the cats with a blade!

With the right ratio, we should be able to make the windmills a net neutral in terms of bird kills. Hey, if you are gonna make omelets, you gotta break a few eggs .


-ERD50 < from the cat lovers
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:19 AM   #47
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:31 AM   #48
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Wind power = noise and flickering shadows - so distracting! Coal burns dirty = nasty deposits on the buildings and lungs. Dams hurt fish runs. Solar takes up too much area and the collectors are expensive to build and require cleaning to maintain efficiency. Conservation is cheap and effective, but dammit - we're Americans!

Comes the answer: Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes | Environment | The Observer

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Old 07-14-2009, 10:35 AM   #49
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Hey, this thread is about a different Pickens...
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Old 07-14-2009, 11:29 AM   #50
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Solar takes up too much area and the collectors are expensive to build and require cleaning to maintain efficiency.
I'm guessing that's sarcasm...
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Old 07-15-2009, 11:28 AM   #51
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These small scale reactors are very interesting. They also mention the Toshiba units - I think we discussed those ~ a year back:

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Toshiba has been testing 200KW reactors measuring roughly six metres by two metres. Designed to fuel smaller numbers of homes for longer, they could power a single building for up to 40 years.
What I like is, you could have these scattered around, which means we are less dependent on "the grid" connecting a few super-sized power plants. Every moderate sized town (or neighborhood for the Toshiba model - ~ 200 homes per?) would have one, and could draw from their neighbors if one went down. The 8% loss in the grid would be reduced. Tying these into the existing grid would reduce the overall load on the grid as electricity would not be flowing so far. It would get used locally, and those wires already support that load.

As far as safety:
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The reactors, only a few metres in diameter, will be delivered on the back of a lorry to be buried underground. They must be refuelled every 7 to 10 years. Because the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use, few countries are expected to object to plants on their territory. An application to build the plants will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next year.

'You could never have a Chernobyl-type event - there are no moving parts,' said Deal. 'You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it's too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.'
Sounds good, but while somebody could not steal a barbecue with bare hands, a vandal could tip one over with a ten foot pole, if all they wanted to do was create havoc.

But I bet it would be easier to create even more havoc by catapulting a couple dozen standard copper water pipes from the back of a pick-up into one of those transformer yards you see with the barb wire fences around them....

Terrorists seem to go low tech - it's easier.

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Old 07-16-2009, 09:28 PM   #52
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Wind power = noise and flickering shadows - so distracting! Coal burns dirty = nasty deposits on the buildings and lungs. Dams hurt fish runs. Solar takes up too much area and the collectors are expensive to build and require cleaning to maintain efficiency. Conservation is cheap and effective, but dammit - we're Americans!

Comes the answer: Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes | Environment | The Observer

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