By the end of 2011, Europe had 99% of the offshore global wind capacity installed. The European Wind Energy Association produced a report titled ‘Wind in our Sails’, with the almost religeous sounding subtitle ‘The coming of Europe’s offshore wind energy industry’. On page 15 we find: “EWEA has identified 141 GW of offshore wind projects in European waters – either operational, under construction, consented, in the consenting phase or proposed by project developers or government proposed development zones. This 141 GW shows tremendous developer interest. With 26 GW already operational, under construction or consented, solid progress has been made towards 40 GW of offshore wind by 2020. Moreover, it provides a good indication that EWEA’s expectation that 150 GW of offshore wind power will be operating by 2030 is both accurate and credible.“. This would amount to covering 14% of the EU’s 2030 electricity demand.
[ewea.org] – 93 page pdf report
The familiar story in a new shape. Wikileaks revealed that Saudi-Arabia may have overstated its reserves by 40 percent and that Saudi oil production would peak in 2012. The US Department of Energy admits that the chance exists that the world will witness a decline of world liquid fuel production between 2011-2015. Globalization will come to a halt, local lifestyles will re-emerge.
Every now and then you hear the argument made that wind energy should be rejected on the grounds that wind turbines have a negative net energy, meaning that it would cost more to build a turbine than it will ever return in energy terms. Additionally the claim is heard that fossil fuels are needed to build and maintain a wind turbine.
Here is a US government (DoE) document specifying a standard 5 MW offshore wind turbine (“NREL offshore 5-MW baseline wind turbine”).
In page 2, table 1.1 we find:
Rotor mass – 110,000 kg
Nacelle mass – 240,000 kg
Tower mass – 347,460 kg
Total steel mass – 700 ton
We are going to assume that the windturbine of the future is going to be produced with renewable electricity, where the steel will be made in an electric arc furnace:
That wikipedia article claims that the energy cost for one metric ton of steel is 440 kwh. Applying this to the data of the standard wind turbine mentioned above, we arrive at 440 * 700 kWh = 300 MWh. This is the equivalent to the power production of the same 5 MW standard wind turbine of 12 days full power.
Assume the requirement of 1000 ton of reinforced concrete for the foundation (obviously for onshore situation). From this source we learn that the energy cost 1 ton of reinforced concrete is 2.5 GJ. This comes down to ca. 6 days of windturbine operation at maximum power. That makes 18 days in total. Assume a more realistic load factor of 33%, we arrive at ca. 60 days of normal operation for the wind turbine to earn back the invested energy, after which the net energy harvesting starts. The tower will last centuries, blades and gearbox maybe 30 years. And again, the steel can be produced efficiently with electricity, no fossil fuel necessary. This calculation does not include gearbox and generator. Without these items, for a 30 years = 10,000 days, we arrive at an EROEI of 10k/60 = 160. Again, energy cost of gearbox and turbine are not included, as is road construction, transport and assembly. On the other hand the steel tower, representing half of the total steel mass of the turbine, is certainly not written off after 30 years (Eiffel tower was built in 1889 and is around already for 123 years, with no end in sight). It seems that the EROEI value of 20, mentioned in the 2006 theoildrum article (see below), maybe applies to smaller windturbines, but probably is too pessimistic for large offshore windturbines.
Wind energy: go for it.
Saudi-Arabia is competing with Russia for the title of the world’s largest oil exporter. The BBC gives us an intimate insight into this Kingdom. Youtube text: Lionel Mill’s film has unique access to Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen, one of the rulers of the rich, powerful and secretive Saudi royal family. This is a fascinating insight into the conflicts between tradition and modernity in one of the world’s most conservative and autocratic countries.
Youtube text: Edible City is a fun, fast-paced journey through the Local Good Food movement that’s taking root in the San Francisco Bay Area, across the nation and around the world. Introducing a diverse cast of extraordinary and eccentric characters who are challenging the paradigm of our broken food system, Edible City digs into their unique perspectives and transformative work, finding hopeful solutions to monumental problems. Inspirational, down-to-earth and a little bit quirky, Edible City captures the spirit of a movement that’s making real change and doing something truly revolutionary: growing the model for a healthy, sustainable local food system.
This blog does not count emotions as a resource, so we needed a little pause before we posted this. See it as a diversion from the harsh reality of resource depletion and lets you drill into your own psyche (at your own risk), happy drilling. Youtube text: Peak Moment episode 225. “The external growth of a budding economy is over. The focus on growth now needs to be on the inner world.” Carolyn Baker: Navigating the Coming Chaos is a toolkit to prepare emotionally and spiritually for the collapse of industrial civilization now underway. First build an “internal bunker,” she suggests, to begin healing the fear, grief and despair that immobilize many people in our “culture of numbness.” From that foundation, she invites us to look at who our allies are ? people, places, possessions. Carolyn observes that many people experience a level of joy by doing this work.
Interview with Richard Heinberg. Youtube text: author and Fellow of Post Carbon Institute interview with Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock on big new book about impacts of our endless need for energy.
[wikipedia] – List of offshore wind farms
And here is list of the 50 largest onshore wind farms, most of them located in the US and China:
[wikipedia] – List of onshore wind farms
Youtube text: Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action in the European Commission since 10 February 2010, interviewed by CleanTechnica Director Zachary Shahan at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the 6th Annual World Future Energy Summit, the 5th International Renewable Energy Conference, and the 1st International Water Summit in the UAE.
Connie Hedegaard is a Danish conservative politician and European Commissioner for Climate Action since 10 February 2010. She was Danish Minister for Climate and Energy from 23 November 2007. It is her ambition that by the end of her five-year term, Europe will be the most climate friendly region in the world. She is a believer in sustainable economic growth. Since 2007, Connie Hedegaard has been behind Denmark’s energy policies, which made her country the first in the world to commit to an overall energy reduction, not just a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Youtube text: Statnett and TenneT are installing the world’s longest submarine high voltage cable between Norway and the Netherlands. This animation gives a short overview about this extraordinary cable project.
[wikipedia] – European Supergrid
[wikipedia] – NorNed. Operational May 2008, length 580 km, budget € 600 million, power 700 MW.
[wikipedia] – BritNed. Operational April 2011, length 260 km, budget € 600 million, power 1000 MW.
[wikipedia] – NorGer. Operational in future, length 570 km, power 1400 MW.
According to the Deutsche Bank the solar market will grow by 22% to 33.4 GW in 2013. Main impetus behind the growth will be China, US and India, more than compensating losses in Germany and Italy. The Chinese market could double to 10 GW in 2013. A solar stock to keep an eye on is SolarCity.
The German system of feed-in tariffs for privately generated solar power was succesfull, indeed too succesfull to the tune that the grid had trouble to process all this excess power. The logical next step is to cut feed-in tariffs and start concentrating on local storage. And this is what the German government is implementing. Size program: €50 million and ca. €2,000 per installation. With lower feed-in there will be no need for new electricity grids.
According to a study by the university of Liverpool 15% could be generated using estuary barrages and turbines and 5% using tidal currents in the open sea, together 20%. This form of energy would be more reliable than wind. Disadvantage are high operational cost as the agressive salt water has negative impact on the turbines, increasing maintenance cost. The largest potential for the UK (and the world) would have a Severn Barrage (8.6 GW). Required would be a 16 km dam in the Severn on the border of England and South-Wales, bringing the total cost at 34 billion GBP. The study pleads for starting smaller projects first and gain experience before larger projects could be tackled.
[bbc.co.uk] – UK tidal power has huge potential, say scientists
[royalsocietypublishing.org] – Appraising the extractable tidal energy resource of the UK’s western coastal waters
[spiegel.de] – Gezeitenkraftwerke könnten 20 Prozent des Stroms liefern
[guardian.co.uk] – Abandoned Severn tidal power project to be reconsidered
[google.maps] – Rance Tidal Power Station
[wikipedia] – Rance Tidal Power Station
Windchallenge, another small windturbine for the built environment, originating from the Netherlands. Weight 10 kg, 1.7 m diameter, price ca. 4500 euro all in. Intended for business customer, for ‘communication purposes’. Market introduction march 2013. Direct connection to the grid. Overload protection by turning the blades.