Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Fukushima To Be Replaced By 1 GW Windfarm

Should become the world’s largest offshore windfarm, consisting of 143 turbines, 16 km off the coast of Fukushima. Completion date 2020.


141 GW European Offshore Windpower Underway

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.

[] – 93 page pdf report

Energy Shock – How Peak Oil Will Change Your Life

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.


Net Energy Wind Turbines

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.

[wikipedia] – Energy returned on energy invested
[] – Energy from Wind: A Discussion of the EROI Research (2006)



BBC – Inside the Saudi Kingdom

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.

Edible City

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.

Preparing Emotionally for the Coming Chaos

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.


Energy and the Delusion of Endless Growth

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.

List of Largest Wind Farms

The wikipedia link contains 25 of the largest operational offshore wind farms, 22 of them located in Europe, plus a list of the largest offshore wind farms under construction, all in Europe.

[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


World’s First 6-MW Offshore Wind Turbine Thornton Bank Windfarm


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