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As I explained in an earlier diary late last year, I finance wind projects around the world (as well as oil & gas projects) and so am happy to say that I do my bit to change our energy mix, and I am thus well-placed to talk to you about what is THE success story of the clean energy sector.

Wind power is clean, safe, and it is already pretty much price competitive.

And it is a big industry, with players like Shell, GE, Siemens and - gasp - Halliburton.

Cost of production for various technologies, not taking into account externalities).

(my calculations from various sources which I'll be happy to provide upon demand. I have modified some numbers somewhat to avoid giving out any confidential information when necessary)

As this is more a feelgood kind of piece, I won't bore you too much with wonky details (have no fear, there will be some!) but will provide instead some nice pictures, like this one:

Wind power does not actually use up much land - its "footprint" is really small (a few square yards per generator plus an access road), so it is a great add on for rural communities: it brings in income (a few thousand dollars per generator for the owner of the land), jobs, and it does not require to give up on any existing activity.

Wind power also is the amazing story of a heavy industry with dot-comesque growth rates:

(the stagnation last year is due to a glitch in the US - see below why)

And if you don't believe it is heavy industry, please reconsider:

(yep, that's just ONE blade)

(And that's how you change the gearboxes, offshore...)

And note the names of some of the largest manufacturers: GE, Siemens are present alongside Danish upstart - and market leader Vestas. I am sorry to say that Halliburton is present in the sector as well - their affiliate KBR has teamed up with Vestas for offshore projects...

On the sponsor side, you can now find all the big utilities, like FPL or AES in the USA.

It is still mostly a European story so far:

But the USA is only lagging behind for really silly reasons:

Construction is highly irregular, because the federal support mechanism, the PTC, is only renewed for 2 years at a time. So you see a rush to get projects built before the deadline, and then a lull as people restart only once they are certain that the mechanism will actually be there. In 2004, it was even worse: the PTCs for 2004 were only put in place (retroactively) in October 2004 - for 2004 and 2005. Almost no projects were built last year because very few sites are good enough to be profitable without the tax credits provided under the PTC, and very few developpers were strong enough to take the risk that they would eventually be reinstated.

The PTC works fine. Banks are happy to finace projects on the basis of PTC revenues, but the sector needs more stability in that respect. So if you want to help develop wind in the USA, lobby your representatives so that PTC is renewed for a lot longer than 2 years, as needs to be done this year.

Argh. I'm back into geek stuff, sorry. I said feel-good...

Just a few more things:

  • wind turbines are NOT noisy (regulations saying the minimum distance to houses are more than enough)

  • wind turbines do NOT kill birds (not in significant numbers)

  • wind power does NOT require "back up" capacity to compensate for the unpredictability of their production - at least not until their reach 20% of total power production, which is definitely not the case in the USA. Denmark is at 20% of its electricity generated by wind and they are coping mostly okay.

  • wind power deserves the subsidies it still requires to be built. It causes no externalities (no pollution, no global warming), and it actually gets less subsidies than other forms of energy (see our good friends at the International Energy Agency urging the end to energy subsidies).

  • wind power actually creates more jobs per kWh produced than all other forms of electricity, and these are decentralised jobs for a good part (i.e. in your communities)

So get behind wind power. It is one of the ways to avoid an energy crunch (not the only one, of course, but one of the best).

(All pictures taken from

Originally posted to Jerome a Paris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 05:56 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (3.99)

    in the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)

    by Jerome a Paris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 05:54:41 AM PDT

    •  beautiful diary (none)

      Something good, for once.

    •  One of the big arguments we hear (none)
      ...against eco-friendly energy is how much "bad" energy it takes to create these eco-friendly technologies.

      But the simple answer is to use eco-friendly energy to built eco-friendly energy technologies.

      We were on the right track on this back in the late 70s, but then Reagan axed the tax relief for clean energy users and producers. Now here we are 25 years later and the problem is only worse.

      Thank you for posting this. The time is now.

      •  Tell me about it (none)
        Photovoltaics -- solar panels -- get this rap a lot. I've heard more than a few ill-informed people assert that it takes more energy to produce solar panels than they produce during their lifetime, which is not only untrue a little untrue, but actually way off the mark.

        I became interested in photovoltaics when I was researching "boondocking" -- living in an RV without a hookup for extended periods. Solar panels can be rather pricey, though if you can afford an RV, the panels are a drop in the bucket. I can't afford an RV, but I ended up looking into using solar panels and batteries in my late grandmother's house, and it looks both feasible and cost-effective. (Caveat: I use neither air-conditioning nor a dishwasher, and I do my laundry at the laundromat. If you can't do without these, you can't live off-grid.) Depending on your lifestyle and what you can or can't do without, it's a great way to unilaterally break the stranglehold of the energy companies.

        For anyone who's interested, Backwoods Solar is a good place to start looking. (I'm not affiliated with them, other than being a satisfied customer.)

        Support Our Troops: Send the Commander-in-Chief to the Front!

        by eodell on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 01:21:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Net-energy issues re PV (none)
          > people assert that it takes more energy to produce solar panels than they produce during their lifetime

          I've heard a lot of back-and-forth about this, but haven't had much luck finding corroborating sources online. Do you have any links? TIA

        •  Green Schools (none)
          My hometown just built a new "green" high school.

          One of the main features of the school is the photovoltaic cells that run the length of the south side of the school. Expensive at first, the cells will eventually allow energy to be sold back to the local energy company for a profit.

          More and more schools should be looking into these alternative energy sources and we should be the ones bringing them to the table. The faster we get our communities involved with the alternative energy movement, the faster we'll see the death-grip our culture has on non-renewable energy sources start to loosen.

          The New Deal is dead. We're getting the Raw Deal, instead.

          by Ghidra99 on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 03:04:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Not for long (none)
          Advances in nanotechnology are propelling photovoltaic efficiencies up and production costs down at lightning speed.  

          Nanosolar and Konarka are at the forefront.  Both are developing flexible plastic solar cells manufactured using cheap continuous printing/self-assembly techniques.  Apparently Nanosolar has prototypes that have efficiencies of over 12% (comparable to amorphous silicon) and would cost about $30 a square meter.  They would pay for themselves, energy-wise, in about 3 weeks, and would produce energy for about $0.05 per kilowatt-hour.  Apparently they should last about 25 years.  Konarka is pushing 10%, and can actually print designs on the cells or even make them translucent.  

          I'm fairly confident that developments in quantum dot or nanotube based cells will ultimately push efficiency beyond 30%.   So yes, in less than five years solar energy really will be cheaper than fossil fuels.  You'll be able to pick up panels at wal-mart, and have your roof re-shingled with cheap photovoltaic panels.  This is doubly good since distributed rooftop generation would take a large load off our overburdened transmission systems.  

    •  A Good Starting Place, IMO (none)

      The New Deal is dead. We're getting the Raw Deal, instead.

      by Ghidra99 on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 12:57:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Merci, Jerome! (none)
      Wow, you're an actual financier for these projects and you use exactly the same talking points I've developed over the years, just as an individual, in favor of wind-power--even the second revenue stream that wind turbines can bring farmers!

      Talk about your "feel-good" diaries, I've had a lousy past few days (wrecked my car on Saturday), I definitely needed something affirming!  So--merci!

    •  Sales pitch -- (none)
      It should be made more clear that this is an advertisement.
  •  Fenner Wind (none)
    There is a wind farm not far from here in Fenner, New York, which has grown famous for its giant windmills which can be seen from miles off on the NY State Thruway.

    Fenner Wind Project

    •  And several more (none)
      Several more wind farms are in the works for here in CNY, too.

      It seems our weather and politicians move enough air in the right patterns to make such projects feasible.

      Theory is when we know everything and nothing works. Practice is when everything works and nobody knows why. (Einstein)

      by CodeTalker on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 06:21:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wind farms are popping up (none)
        all over central WI; one recent proposal, though, is rather controversial, because it's right next to the Horicon Marsh NWR, a major node for migratory birds on the central US (Mississippi) flyway.

        "Never mind the trick, what the hell's the point?" Joseph Heller, Catch-22

        by wozzle on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 06:58:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wonder (none)
          In Wisconsin they could easily put wind turbines near the nuclear plants, either in Lake Michigan or on the grounds of the plants. There is decent wind availability there and the power distribution infrastructure is in place already (and this could supplement the plants which both have had a number of shutdowns that we could do without).
        •  Hmm (none)
          Looking at this picture, I can see why it is doubtful that these things really do kill birds.  I think a bird would definitely see and avoid these ...

          John Stossel looks like a 70s porn star.

          by bink on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:37:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Depends (3.50)
            On the rotation rate of the blades, especially in periods of fog or storm.

            Governor Brian Schweitzer: "He's sort of our Howard Dean on the ranch."

            by Ed in Montana on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:46:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  We're talking birds here (none)
            These are not always amongst the brightest of creatures. After you watch the same bird fly into your patio door window the third time, you start to wonder how birds managed to last as long as they have.
          •  Your comment is right on the money. (4.00)
            Opposition is usually based on old bird kill data from places like Altamont and Tehachapi.  These locations used a wide variety of first and second generation turbines, many of which had small blades and much higher revolutions per minute.  They caused serious bird kill.

            The newer turbines, as you clearly note, are much larger and easier to spot.  They also travel much slower.  Building the turbines larger means much greater power production even though the blades travel slower.  I'll try to track down the equations that explain it if anyone is interested.

            Sites for turbines still need to be selected with great care.  Migratory routes and sites adjacent to wildlife sanctuaries are really not good ideas.  There's also recent reports of bat kills from turbines that need to be weighed.  In general, though, the newer generations of turbines are much less harmful than previous ones and may pose much less threat than using fossil fuels.

            •  Thank you (none)
              Excellent post...several of the above posts (including the diary itself, which could use an edit, hint hint!) dismissed the issue out of hand.  In fact, you refer to this entirely in the past tense, but Altamont and Tehachapi are still out there killing birds, primarily raptors.
              •  The data... (4.00)
                ...that is often used is from older studies when the only turbines in Altamont were the "cuisinarts of the skies" i.e. the first and second generation turbines.  The companies that currently operate the turbines are in the process of "repowering", replacing older, dangerous and less productive turbines with current ones.  This should help reduce bird kills significantly.

                Still there remains the basic issue of whether the turbines are appropriate for Altamont and Tehachapi at all.  This is an issue that I'm not really certain about.  Clearly the old turbines were bad news.  Monitoring needs to take place where "repowering" is done to see if there is a significant difference in bird kills.  If there isn't I'd be in favor of phasing out the turbines there and looking for better sites.

                I ran across an article on a wind power site that put some doubt in my mind about the effectiveness of the "repowering" in minimizing bird kills.  It relied only upon one paper, so I think the jury is still out, but we need to get some real hard data about this so we can move forward with more wind power development that doesn't have such significant impacts.

              •  Bottom line (none)
                Denmark gets 20% of its electricity from wind power.  If all those wind turbines were slaughtering birds by the thousands, there is no way in hell that Danes would tolerate this.  If you know anything about Danish culture, you'll know I'm right about that.
            •  I would think (none)
              that bats, using echolocation, would be much less likely to be unaware of the blades than birds.

              "If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction." George Orwell

              by justme on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 01:27:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You would think so... (none)
                ...but there were thousands of bats killed at one site.  There's some sort of serious problem, perhaps with the siting of particular turbines, or with a particular species of bat.  There needs to be some good monitoring done and what is learned needs to be taken into account for this site and for others where the same problems could develop.
          •  Perspective (none)
            Wind turbine bird mortality in perspective
        •  Yep (none)
          To be "fair and balanced," not all wind projects are created equal. There was one done in SE PA that led to a sizable clearcut and placement along a key migratory mountain ridge.

          The backers had agreed to stay way back off the ridge and to minimize clearing, and did neither.

          We should have strict standards on them, but they can be done pretty well if attention is paid.

          •  Not on Hawk Mountain, (none)
            I hope?

            "Never mind the trick, what the hell's the point?" Joseph Heller, Catch-22

            by wozzle on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 01:46:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  No. (none)
            We don't need to be "fair and balanced."  We need to be honest.  In current use, particularly with environmental issues, "fair and balanced" means giving equal weight to weaker arguments that keep consensus from emerging and action from being taken.  "Fair and balanced" is a way of avoiding taking action and we need to be clear with everyone that that is the case.

            I know you were just being light of tone, but as we all know language is important.

      •  They are to in trying in NNY , but opposition. (none)
        One claim, from a SUNY prof leading oppo, is that they generate noise that makes people & cows crazy (not exactly, but unpleasant). He says it doesn't happen up next to windmills, but at distances of 1/4 -1 mile, or something like that.
        Hope this is not true.
        Not many objections to them heard from CNY.

        "Go in peace, errant sisters." -Horace Greeley, April, 1861

        by faithnomore on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:21:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  crazy noise (none)
          One claim, from a SUNY prof leading oppo, is that they generate noise that makes people & cows crazy (not exactly, but unpleasant). He says it doesn't happen up next to windmills, but at distances of 1/4 -1 mile, or something like that. Hope this is not true.
          Hmmm. How far does he live from one? Sounds like crazy talk to me. (Which doesn't mean he's wrong, of course, but I'd like to see some peer-reviewed research.)
          Not many objections to them heard from CNY.
          There's a wind farm near where I grew up in central NY. Locals seem to be proud of the windmills, and like to point them out to visitors. They are pretty impressive-looking. I don't know how the closer-up neighbors feel.

          There's a bunch of folks fighting it out over a proposed project off of Cape Cod (Massachusetts). Me, I think I'd like seeing them out over the water. As for the threat to birds, has anyone done a kill-comparison to other forms of energy? Given that oil-based power is a major factor in climate change, and climate change may lead to massive die-offs (and possibly some extinctions), I suspect wind farms look pretty good in comparison.

          Proud member of the reality-based minority

          by Bearpaw on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 08:06:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The birds thing drives me crazy... (none)
            You're going to not install the cleanest and most renewable power source in the history of the planet because you're worried about killing a few birds? Not even that many, really. Come on, I'm as much of an environmentalist as the next Kossack, but really.
            •  It all depends on (4.00)
              cautious, scientific placement. I don't think most of the bird people are really trying to stop any kind of progress on this issue, but I think it's safe to say that history has shown that approaching new technology with a healthy level of caution is safer than the alternative.

              I hope we don't let the science get lost in the politics on this one (and for specificity's sake, I agree with the article above that argues wind is better over all for birds).

            •  Don't just dismiss...look into the subject (none)
              See posting above...bird kills are a MAJOR problem at certain sites.  In Altamont CA, raptors are most likely to be killed, as the earlier generation (50 - 100 foot high, high rotation rate) turbines are in a migration route, capturing the same updrafts that the birds are using.  Bird kill rates are at a minimum in the hundreds per year, maybe only a few but over time, and if the problem is not recognized when building new sites...
              •  Bird Kills are not a MAJOR problem (none)
                if you keep things in perspective. From the article linked:

                Utility transmission and distribution lines, the backbone of our electrical power system, are responsible for 130 to 174 million bird deaths a year in the U.S.1 Many of the affected birds are those with large wingspans, including raptors and waterfowl. While attempting to land on power lines and poles, birds are sometimes electrocuted when their wings span between two hot wires. Many other birds are killed as their flight paths intersect the power lines strung between poles and towers. One report states that: "for some types of birds, power line collisions appear to be a significant source of mortality."2  

                Think about it: that's a magnitude of difference of about 1:1Million between hundreds of deaths and hundreds of millions of deaths. I don't think we should purposely put these things in migratory paths, but whining about 1/1000000 the amoutn of deaths as other things that we rely on is not a good enough reason to avoid moving to cleaner energy.

                Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

                by sacrelicious on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 04:58:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Perspective is exactly the point (none)
                  There are tens of thousands of miles of power lines in the US.  Of course they are responsible for orders of magnitude more damage to bird populations, but doesn't that argue that more attention needs to be paid to this issue overall?  Luckily, wind technology has moved beyond the point where this is much of a problem, but dismissing concerns as "whining" is counter-productive, and obnoxious.
          •  noise (none)
            Actually some people do complain about the noise.

            Visually, they're quite pleasant, especially when seen from a distance.

          •  Put turbines in noisy places (none)
            Put them in windy spots along freeways and in industrial parks and along railroad tracks.  They might actually cancel out some of the racket or provide a soothing white noise.
      •  One right at the top of my road! (none)
        Cornell University is apparently looking into putting a wind farm within walking distance from my house, on top of a very high hill.  I was actually pleased about this, having seen big wind farms in agricultural areas in Denmark that seemed quiet and much more attractive than any other kind of power plant.  

        However, it seems some guy who own a lot of land up there is circulating petitions against it, saying it will lower property values, kill birds, make nasty noise, etc.  I'm glad to read this diary and comments, I'll have more to say if he shows up at my door!

        "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

        by sarac on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 12:25:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hi, I am a neighbor of yours (none)
          and I am very on-the-wall about the Mt Pleasant project. I also subscribe to the birds listserve out of Lab of Ornithology, so I see the "opposed view" setting up.

          Interestingly, I have been watching the stop-and-start of a windfarm on an island at the foot of Lake Ontario. There are some big infrastructure problems there, but plenty of land, and plenty of hopeful landowners. And a good supply of wind, all the time (that study has been done for at least the last two years).

          As a former reader of Audubon, I know how the opposition will set up, with Altamont data, etc. I have no opinion on the later-generation wind vanes, because I just haven't gotten to read much about it.

          Some of the data that NEEDS to be collected involves actual dead birds under working vanes. I know that in some sites with large TV towers (and the associated guy-wires) there are data. That may include my island in Canada,  the CKWS tower is huge, and is really cool to see get hit by lightening!

          Personally, I am not sure that Mt Pleasant has enogh wind for this project, I see the difference on our Candian island, where wind is a certainty.

          I haven't seen a working wind farm. Am I right, the one off Mass. was approved?

          •  I'm no expert... (none)
            And I don't know about the Mass. project.  I agree about the need for more current data on the birds.  Of course, if the Mt Pleasant project goes through, there would be ample opportunity for Cornell to do a study!  I'm wondering if there have been any in Denmark or other European countries that have more modern windfarms.

            I'd believe there is enough wind up there!  But they should figure that out in the next year or so.

            "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

            by sarac on Wed Apr 06, 2005 at 09:36:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Our little town could soon have a wind farm. (3.83)
      A modest proposal for 7-10 turbines at the site of the now inactive garnet mines on the back side of Gore Mountian. So far, the only negatives expressed are from some environmental groups who worry about visual impact.

      My friend and neighbor, Bill McKibben wrote a piece for the New York Times that pretty well expresses my feelings.

      However, I have to keep something of an open mind about this because I am on our Town's Planning Board, and we have to review and approve this project before it can proceed.

      "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war."

      by RonV on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:15:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, I live near you, winter house (none)
        and ski up at the mountain.  Is it true that our town is very progressive with most of the people actively Democrats?  

        If so, I think I'm moving from here to there permanently.

        •  Not quite. (4.00)
          Our town is reasonably progressive, but mostly republican. As odd as that is, it works (this is New York, after all). For what it's worth, in the past 15 years, the all republican town board has appointed me to the planning board, the office of Zoning Enforcement Officer, recycling coordinator, and chair of a couple of volunteer committees. And I'm a long-haired, big bearded, "Dump Bush" bumper-stickered, stand on the corner in the village protesting the war kind of guy. ;^)

          But we are facing some major projects that will possibly remake our town over the next few years. Including several major townhouse developments, a real, physical connection to the village of North Creek with the ski mountain, expansion of the tourist trains, and the possibility of needing to put a sewage treatemnt system in. Of course, this all depends on our community being immune to the inevitable real estate "market corrections".

          "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war."

          by RonV on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:44:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you (none)
    thank you
    thank you
    thank you
  •  We should talk (none)
    I'm involved in the same sorts of things and maybe I'll post a diary on this area one of these days. Maybe we could communicate off line..pun intended.

    Merci Bien

    If we knock on our neighbor's door, introduce ourselves, ask their opinion and explain why we're Democrats, we'll win. Howard Dean (paraphrased)

    by philinmaine on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 06:27:33 AM PDT

  •  I'm a huge proponant (none)
    of wind and solar energy.  100% clean and 100% renewable.  If we can make even 1 third of our energy come from these sources we do the environment and ourselves a great favor.
    •  I support them too, but... (3.66)
      No major investment of this sort is 100% clean or 100% renewable. Building both uses resources and solar electric cells are developed with processes that are not that clean today. Yes, they are cleaner and more renewable than the current alternatives, but I also recall when massive hydro projects were favored because they didn't pollute. Let's sell the benefits as well as possible, but not oversell them.
  •  Avian issues. (none)
    Years ago flocks of birds would be killed by the windmills, has this problem been successfully resolved?
    •  Clear glass windows . . . (4.00)
      . . . kill a few million times more birds than wind turbines ever will.  Have they solved that problem?
      •  I'm not suggesting that wind energy be abandoned. (none)
        It was simply a question as to whether the problem has been resolved, sounds like I touched a nerve.

        Judging from the hostility in your answer I guess the problem hasn't been resolved.

        •  A nerve (4.00)
          is touched because people seem to require wind power to be so perfect before it is considered and the same standards are certainly not applied to other technologies, which is annoying at times...

          Some birds are killed, so we cannot say that it is an unexistent problem, but as pointed above, the scale of the problem is actually quite small.

          Wind power is probably the only industry to so extensively cover all the possible consequences of its activities - and to actually pay for them! And despite this, it is already pretty much competitive.

          in the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)

          by Jerome a Paris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:09:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It is too bad that it can't be made perfect, (none)
            migrating birds have enough problems as it is.

            That said, likely more die as a result of global warming than would ever be killed by windmills.  I'm not sure I like the glass window analogy.

          •  Actually there are serious problems (3.75)
            With the placement of wind turbines. In the western U.S., they are frequently placed in the same areas as major bird migration routes. This can result in major kills during certain seasons. In the eastern U.S., in Wst Virgiania, they have been found to be killing certain speicies of bats, which migrate at night.

            Most of these problems can be solved by placing turbines in non-migratory areas, and some windy areas may have to be just left to the birds. There is some work going on studying the effects of blade size and rotation rate on the mortality of birds, which may allow some turbines to be retrofitted with safer equipment.

            This is not a huge problem as yet, but we want to make sure it does not grow into the chronic problem that has resulted from large radio, TV and cell towers which are notorious for large bird mortality events, especially at night, in fog or during storms.

            Governor Brian Schweitzer: "He's sort of our Howard Dean on the ranch."

            by Ed in Montana on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:41:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  By this standard (none)
              ..we'd better close all the roads in windy areas, too.  How many birds are killed by cars and trucks?

              One single highway kills more birds than ALL the windmills in the world combined.

              I'm NOT saying that wind turbines should not be made safer.  I am saying that if we are concerned about birds and other wildlife we should attack the problems that cause the most damage first.

              Your comment (below) about decals on windows is a good one.  Each of us should do that on windows in our homes.  I did that some years back when I discovered a new second story window we installed was getting hit by flying birds.  Usually they were just stunned, but a couple of them didn't make it.  A couple of well placed decals and a hanging plant have helped a lot.  Now, how to stop killing thousands and thousands of birds by large office buildings with clear windows?

              •  Don't know about car and truck bird mortality (4.00)
                But in the case of large towers, some have recorded tens of thousands of bird mortalities in a single event for a single tower (including guy wires), usually in a storm during spring or fall migrations. This obviously can have a big efffect on some bird species.

                This sort of thing could have been prevented by more careful tower placement.

                Governor Brian Schweitzer: "He's sort of our Howard Dean on the ranch."

                by Ed in Montana on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 08:13:56 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  FCC and FAA (4.00)
                  . . . tower approval requirements include certifications that large communications towers not be placed in migratory flyways.  Since that requirement was imposed, over 15 years ago, (newly constructed) tower bird kills have dramatically declined. In my former life in the radio biz, I have built and maintained numerous tall, guyed towers between 500' and 1000'.  None of these was in a migratory flyway, of course, and I could find no evidence of any bird kills at all.  A grad student naturalist did a three year long study on one of our towers and found no evidence of any kills, either.  But there are plenty of birds around them!  Numerous species seem to enjoy the tower as a perch and meeting place.  On some days many hundreds of birds are seen cavorting on or near them.
              •  I wonder (none)
                How many birds are killed by tall trees. You would think that would happen sometimes too, especially trees out by themselves on the tops of mountains and ridgelines.

                Just speculating...

            •  Bats are the problem (none)
              A recent survey in West Virginia found thousands of dead bats littering the ground under the turbines.
              BackboneMountain Windfarm Bat Death Survey
              •  and (none)
                And bats are superb navigators.

                "We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile. - W, 09/09/00

                by Bob Love on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:15:52 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  that (none)
                  was evidently the problem.  Their navigation skills were thrown off either by the sound waves generated by the wind turbines, or conceivably they were unable to cope with objects that gave off a different "radar" signature than anything else they encounter.

                  Having concern for birds and bats, scenic vistas, and other resources is not inconsistent with support for wind energy.

                  •  thats true (none)
                    less bats and birds = more mosquitos = more West Nile virus cases.

                    "Freedom no longer frees you!"

                    by Renegade Prole on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:31:13 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Ahem (none)
                      I fail to see what birds and bats have to do with preventing petro-chemical fever...


                      "Neither falsehood nor appearance and beauty are 'foreign' to truth. They are proper to it, if not its accessories and its underside." - Luce Irigaray

                      by lucid on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:55:11 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I'm sure you're kidding (none)

                        No, I'm not a FReeper. Thanks.

                        by JamesInPDX on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 11:25:50 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Actually I wasn't (none)
                          Granted there are some crazy little articles over at sick of, but the theory that West Nile is not viral has gotten study by a number of folks - that's just the first article that popped up on a google [and I was in a hurry]...

                          I do get very annoyed when a very "iffy" virus gets used to justify the poinsoning of my community with massive doses of malthion [which if Mark Purdey is to be believed is actually on of the precursors to CJD type diseases - ]

                          "Neither falsehood nor appearance and beauty are 'foreign' to truth. They are proper to it, if not its accessories and its underside." - Luce Irigaray

                          by lucid on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 12:28:35 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  I never had heard that before. (none)
                        Interesting and I will give it a read.
                        •  Here's the best (none)
                          and most detailed study of this.


                          It's no fun breathing in Malthion here in NYC during the summer time...

                          "Neither falsehood nor appearance and beauty are 'foreign' to truth. They are proper to it, if not its accessories and its underside." - Luce Irigaray

                          by lucid on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 12:52:58 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  That smell ... (none)
                            BTW, do you know if that distinctive smell is malathion itself or an additive?

                            "We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile. - W, 09/09/00

                            by Bob Love on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:29:30 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Malathion has a garlicky smell (none)
                            So if you smell garlic after a spraying you are smelling malathion (or passing by an Italian resteraunt).  Some of the formulation excipients have a solvent like smell.  

                            West Nile is quite real as a virus, I had it last summer and came pretty close to leaving this mortal coil.  (No malathion is sprayed where I live or work, either).

                            Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

                            by barbwires on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 03:07:05 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I'm glad you made it (none)
                            I'm certainly not implying that 'west nile' is a myth, I just think the viral theory is still very tenuous at best, as no virus has yet been isolated.

                            The folks like Jim West aren't suggesting that malthion spraying causes 'west nile' either [though in a post upthread I was implicating malthion as a causal agent in other diseases like CJD (mad cow)]. Their thesis looks at it from an epidemiological standpoint and finds that all 'west nile' clusters are in regions that are heavily polluted by petro-chemicals, specifically the gasoline additive MTBE. When diseases are found to be geographically endemic to certain regions, it definitely suggests that the cause may be environmental and not viral.

                            "Neither falsehood nor appearance and beauty are 'foreign' to truth. They are proper to it, if not its accessories and its underside." - Luce Irigaray

                            by lucid on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 03:42:06 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

            •  I have an idea (none)
              Couldn't they outfit the turbines with some sort of noise or visual marker to help the birds steer clear of the turbines.  There has to be a scientist out there working on this now.  I think its just a matter of time before the turbines become more sophisticated and more enviromentally sensitive.

              "Freedom no longer frees you!"

              by Renegade Prole on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:29:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  statistics on birds? (none)
            It's not that I doubt you, i would be interested in seeing the results of studies, if such studies have been done.
        •  Recent study says bird problem worse than thought (4.00)
          (at one particular location):

          Altamont Pass report.

          I remember an NPR story on this last year.

          Here's an article "putting bird deaths in perspective" - I looked into some of this research while addressing concerns from a bird-loving neighbor about free-roaming cats killing "her" birds... and learning that habitat loss, windows, pesticides, vehicles, cell towers cause more bird deaths.

          Here's a analysis of a Cato institute study and why it's cited by petroleum-friendly rightwing environmental appointees.


          •  actual studies (none)
            Yes, thanks for coming up with some actual studies.  I place no faith whatsoever in the assertions above that [whatever] causes [whatever] times more bird deaths.  Assertions are not information; reality is always a better basis.

            "We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile. - W, 09/09/00

            by Bob Love on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:21:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  which birds (none)
              Also important is which birds are killed by the windmills.  Altamont Pass kills mostly Red-tailed Hawks, a common species, but also about 24 Golden Eagles per year.  The area happens to have basically the highest concentration of Golden Eagles in the world.  As the article says, Burrowing Owls are being hit pretty hard (around 50 per year IIRC) and they are a rapidly declining species to begin with.  A certain level of mortality can be maintained, but top of the food chain predators don't reproduce fast enough to tolerate alot of incidental deaths.
              •  Yup (none)
                Yes, mere quantities without breakdown by species can be enormously misleading.  I hope we get to the point soon when we can talk about energy projects' prospective impacts not only on species or classes but entire ecologies.

                Up here in the Seattle area we've got tons of red-tailed hawks (my partner is a birder, just got his 500th North American species).  We'll trade you another 1,000 hawks for a 1951 Mickey Mantle, or maybe a bit more sunlight.

                "We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile. - W, 09/09/00

                by Bob Love on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:23:23 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Good Post (none)
            I live in the Bay Area, and there is talk about closing down the turbines at Altamont Pass because they kill quite a few raptors (hawks) who use the prevailing winds to drift lazily while looking for lunch.  I wish there were more government funding for research into cost/benefit analysis of all types of energy on an environmental basis.

            As it stands now, government funding for alternative energy is deplorably low if you take out hydrogen fuel cells, which are just an efficient battery.  They still need to be charged with energy from another source, so they are not actually alternative energy.

            •  Aren't Altamont turbines obsolete? (none)
              I think that they have a much older technology, they are smaller and their blades rotate faster.

              If so, Altamont Pass wind-farm should be replaced.

              •  I think so (none)
                They're small and move very very fast.  Also, every time I've driven through (not too many times, maybe 5 times total) I'd guess 50% were not in use.  There was wind, but they must have been broken.  I think Altamont was one of the first projects, so it was probably very expensive and may not have paid off its financing yet (pure speculation).
          •  That's Altamont Pass data. (none)
            The wind turbines there are decades old, use much smaller and faster turbine blades and pose a threat to birds that may be orders of magnitude large than that posed by the newer generation of turbines.

            Altamont is a problem all of its own because of the collection of older technology.  Clearly the threat to bird life there needs to be addressed.  But you cannot, in all fairness, use bird kill data from Altamont to project bird kills from new turbine installations.  It would be like using car crash fatality statistics from the 1940s to predict car crash fatality rates from this year's models.  The technology has changed a lot due to increased size of blades and lower blade speed.

            •  Sorry, that article is current... (none)
              ...and deals with the "repowering".  That is quite relevant and I shouldn't have been so quick to dismiss it.  The jury is still out as to whether the new turbines will reduce bird kills significantly in Altamont Pass.

              I think my comments are still relevant where people are trying to apply Altamont data to new installations, though.

            •  Yes (none)
              Altamont needs to be shut down.  I think it could easily be replaced by a dozen giant turbines in the bay, and they'd make a great scenic enhancement, with little or no risk to birds.

              Plus, it would help to eliminate the argument over bird safety and wind towers.

          •  site not found (none)
            "putting bird deaths in perspective" site not found; alternatives?

            "We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile. - W, 09/09/00

            by Bob Love on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:32:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Yup they have. (none)
        Just put a bird icon decal or two on your large picture window. This discourages the majority of birds from flying into the glass.

        Governor Brian Schweitzer: "He's sort of our Howard Dean on the ranch."

        by Ed in Montana on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:43:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is one that I don't understand... (none)'s been shown that more birds die from other common obstructions like buildings and aviation than from the turbines.  

      It's also been shown that my present lung problems are caused solely by pollution.  

      There are millions of human beings suffering and dying each year from pollution related to petroleum.  Not to mention the fact that we're running out of the stuff.  And not to mention the fact, again, that wind is just about the cleanest form of energy production around.  

      I'm not an industry guy, but I've studied proposals of this type for the state of Texas and found in every case the pro's far outweigh the cons.  Far outweigh.    

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:19:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes (3.66)
      By not siting them in bird flyways, by raising them higher off the ground and by switching to the new BREAKTHROUGH in wind turbines from Clipper Wind: the 4-gear turbine.

      Like a clutch on a car the 4-gear, 4-generator Clipper Wind Turbine slows the blades down while still generating electricity.  The birds can then just fly around the blade.

      Plus this advance allows utilities to site the turbines closer to the cities and suburbs that need it, reducing transmission power loss.

      Even with very low wind speeds these babies still make lots of power.

      Clipper Windpower Technology Development

      D-GEN Characteristics

      Design life: 30 years Class II winds, 20 years Class I Winds

      Variable speed (including U.S.A.) - up to 6% more production

      Very quiet operation

      Robust, compact and lower weight

      Higher availability through generator redundancy

      Component change-out does not need large crane

      Standard mounting dimensions

      D-GEN® is the latest innovation from the people of Clipper, who, since 1980, have been collectively responsible for three generations of turbine achievement.  

      Variable speed. Long life. Very quiet. From Clipper.
      Gearbox and generator failure is the number 1 problem for today's megawatt plus turbines. Why? Because drivetrains have not kept pace with other advances in windpower. As turbines grew in size, drivetrains just got bigger and heavier with virtually no change in machine architecture to meet the much greater requirements. Now Clipper's D-GEN® has charted a new course in drivetrain technology, ideally suited for mega plus scale offshore and land based turbines.

      THE CURE FOR TURBINE STRESS Overload is over.
      Larger wind turbines with slower turning rotors exponentially increase torque, risking overloading gear teeth and bearings with stresses to the limits of the design. Gear and bearing failure often follows, resulting in downtime, expensive repairs and crucial loss of power generation. Clipper's breakthrough D-GEN® relieves high torque stresses by load sharing to multiple second stage gear sets and drives. It's the technological breakthrough for avoiding frequent gearbox failures in today's large turbines.

      Variable speed also increases turbine production.
      Can a drivetrain actually increase a turbine's performance? Absolutely. D-GEN® delivers up to 6% more power kilowatt-hours, depending on wind speed, energy otherwise lost with fixed speed turbines. Advanced generator control technology provides D-GEN® variable speed, which improves turbine aerodynamic efficiency by adjusting to ever-changing wind velocities, storing energy from wind gusts that would otherwise overload critical components. Additionally, reducing dangerous torque spikes brings a greater margin of safety and longer operational life.

      Multiple generators provide higher turbine availability.
      Gearbox and generator failures account for more than one-third of total off-line time in large turbines. The single generator drivetrain risks "all or nothing" production. But the D-GEN®, with 8 generators, offers redundancy for continued operation, allowing a generator change-out when convenient. D-GEN® braking is also distributed to intermediate drive shafts for less stress to the system. The result is higher turbine availability, for your greater profitability.

      Lower transportation and handling costs.
      The D-GEN® costs less to transport and install because it weighs less than similar-size conventional drivetrains, and needs 2 to 3 meters less in nacelle length, also reducing weight. This saves money in lower freight and handling expenses and provides easier, more economical installation.

      Modularity eliminates need for large lifting equipment.
      The D-GEN® modular subcomponents are easier, quicker and cheaper to service. This cuts the financial drain of unscheduled maintenance on large turbines, since 60% of this expense is caused by gearbox or generator failure. It costs around $150,000 to mobilize a larger crane for changing out conventional megawatt scale components. Furthermore, statistics show that factoring in repairs and lost production can end up totaling about $290,000 - several years' worth of operating revenues. With the D-GEN®, a small nacelle-mounted crane can do the job in much less time, transforming disruptive unscheduled maintenance into low-cost servicing with minimum interruption of production.

      20 years in Class I winds; 30 years in Class II.
      Reducing loads increases longevity. The D-GEN® is designed to operate in Class I winds for 20 years, and for 30 years in Class II winds. This extended lifespan is achieved through the load mitigation made possible by variable speed technology, and by dividing the load as it moves through the transmission system, absorbing shock and reducing wear. D-GEN® splits the load 16 times (Vs. 4 in most conventional transmissions) as power transfers from the rotor to generators.

      Sets the new standard for low noise.
      Lower decibel levels are a big plus in developing new wind projects, particularly in noise sensitive areas. The D-GEN® load splitting architecture together with high contact ratio design takes the pressure off gear teeth, significantly reducing noise. Conventional drivetrains with highly loaded gears generate unwelcome noise levels that can jeopardize project development. D-GEN®'s very quiet operation opens up the range of turbine siting possibilities thus providing new areas of business potential.  

      •  Think about birds while building them (4.00)
        Yes, just thinking ahead now will help a lot.  Birds and windmills are a solveable problem.  Until cheap technology is available such as detailed above, just don't situate them on the major migration paths.  These are true "rivers of birds" and we don't want to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors again.

        Remember: this is solveable  now, so let's do it and not regret it.

        My Liberal Values: a clean earth, universal access to health care, human and civil rights, a broader distribution of wealth, and a global perspective

        by Pellice on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:58:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Flocks? (none)
      The current long blades are very fast at the end, but don't have any particular appeal for birds, so it appears that the number of birds lost is relatively low. There may be more problems if these are built in densely traveled areas (one reason there is a question about the effects of building along the Niagara Escarpment just east of the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin).

      Birds have been running into plate glass, particularly on glass-sheathed towers for decades, yet that hasn't been real effort to ban plate glass (though leaving the lights on during migration time seems to have helped a bit). Is wind power perfect? No, but no other method, with the possible exception of passive solar, is as safe or benign to the environment. The world will not do without electricity. The question is whether we would be better off building wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, coal, natural gas, or oil generation units. Which problems are you willing to live with?

    •  Design and siting (none)
      They are much safer for birds than they used to be. At least that's the common claim. And then, consider that the mercury from coal plants, the flooding of habitat from hydro, aren't kind to bird populations.
    •  Tower design (none)
      The first generation of wind farms, built in the 1980s, used lattice towers instead of the current monopole design. Birds, especially raptors, loved to perch on the cross-connecting struts of the lattice, so they could scan the ground for prey.

      By adopting monopole towers, and changing farm management practices to reduce rodents, bird deaths have been greatly reduced.

    •  Habitat destruction versus (none)
      death of (lots of?) birds.  Isn't the first worse?  It would lead to extinction of species.  If the habitat remains then the populations can rebound, right?  And present day technologies are leading to habitat destruction.  Just look what is going to happen to ANWR.  Is there a biologist out there who could speak to this?
    •  I Suspect ... (4.00)
      I suspect from what little I know of wind turbines that their deleterious effects on avian populations is what might be called a "Generation 1" problem, i.e., no one knew or even imagined that their large-scale deployment might result in lots of dead birds.

      As I understand it, it's since been learned that the "lots of dead birds" problem can be largely avoided if one has the sense not to deploy turbines in avian migratory paths ... Problem solved as a result of experience gained from Generation 1, which can now be seen to be what it really was, experimental in no small part.

      WIthout having researched it in the least, I also suspect that there are more than enough good sites for wind turbines so that properly siting them shouldn't be a problem.

      As I recall, the Altamont Pass wind farm in the East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area) hills killed a hell of a lot of birds until it was largely idled; this site, apparently, happens to be smack right in the damn middle of a major north/south migratory path ... oops ...

      Anybody know more about the Altamont Pass wind farm than I do, so I don't have take the time to look it up?

      •  Altamont Pass... (none) a problem mainly due to the older technology used there.  Your "Generation 1" comment is particularly apt.  The problems at Altamont included poor siting decisions (though Altamont's wind density made it very attractive, especially since peak winds occurred during peak energy demand periods).  

        The biggest problem at Altamont, though, was installation of many turbines with smaller diameter blade arrays that travelled at high rates of revolution.  These are much more dangerous to birds than the larger and slower blades on newer turbines.  Also, many early turbine designs used a latticework tower which was a tempting perch for birds.  New turbines all use monopoles that don't provide such temptations.

        Altamont Pass avian mortality is a real problem and is being addressed by companies that operate the turbines there.  Older turbines are being replaced with newer, safer ones.  Still, people shouldn't use Altamont Pass data to tar newer turbine installations.  I've posted some links above that you might be interested in.  Here's a link to a google search on Altamont:

        Google: Altamont+avian+mortality

    •  I believe the slower moving (none)
      blades of newer wind turbines has all but eliminated the bird issue.  According to one article, "the latest blade and turbine designs crank at only 28 rpm's, about seven mph, slow enough for birds to see to avoid impact."
      •  28 rpm does not equal 7 mph (none)
        I don't know how that figure was found -- it's utter nonsense. Modern wind turbine blades do indeed turn at low rates (even between 10 and 20 rpm). But they are so long that at the tips they could be flying along at over 150 mph. For example, a 35-meter blade at 20 rpm is moving at 164 mph at the tip.
  •  I have a question (none)
    I have often talked about wind power over family dinners, work lunch's etc and I have recieved one question I'm not able to adress it in part in your diary.

    The wind only blows some on the time, what happens when the wind doesn't blow?

    And your point

    "wind power does NOT require "back up" capacity to compensate for the unpredictability of their production - at least not until their reach 20% of total power production, which is definitely not the case in the USA. Denmark is at 20% of its electricity generated by wind and they are coping mostly okay."

    Is the answer we are okay until we reach 20% of total power production?  What more can be said about this common question?

    Also a good answer I have found for the "They're ugly and a blight on the landscape?"

    just return the question and say are they any uglier then power lines?  we don't notice them anymore do we, the windmills will become part of the backgroud soon enough and if they are built offshore then you don't see them.

    •  replies (none)
      • as far as their look is concerned, I personally think that they look quite spectacular. You should obviously put them in front of already-spectacular landscapes, but frankly, over empty farmland, they are certainy visible but not necessarily subjective. At least that's the only "damage" they do and it can be said that it is better than polluted air for instance.

      • as regards intermittence, it is a real issue, but the European experience does suggest that networks can cope fairly easily as long as the proportion of wind in the system is not too high. So yeah, below 20%, it's basically not an issue.

      in the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)

      by Jerome a Paris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:05:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Besides... (none) can probably up that 20% by quite a bit by just doing things like storing the energy in flywheels, pumping water uphill, etc. It's not like we don't know how to store energy for later use.
        •  To try and explain the 20% "rule"... (4.00)
          First, note that the grid does not currently store any significant amount of electricity.  The electricity that you're using now is being generated, well, now.  Real time.

          This means that the capacity of reliable generation must be at least as large as the largest possible demand -- generally late afternoons in August on a weekday, when the combination of air conditioners all turned on at once (plus other appliances) result in surging demand.

          Now, wind just might not be blowing at that instant, and so it's reliable generation capacity is generally considered to be 0.  This means that other power sources -- gas, oil, coal, hydro, and nuclear -- can't be torn down immediately, even if we had 100% average generation via wind.  Generally speaking, if wind makes up less than 20% of the generation portfolio, the other 80%+ will be enough to be considered sufficient reliable generation capacity.

          Another important question is: how easy is it to adjust the power output of a power plant in real time; that is, how do you adjust the output to match the electricity demands?  Nuclear is the hardest to adjust: they are generally kept at the same level 24 hours a day and provide a baseline.  Coal and oil can be changed, although generally not on a second-by-second rate.  Natural Gas can be adjusted very quickly.  Hydro can be adjusted, but since the fuel is "free", hydro plants try to generate as much electricity as possible.

          So -- in the short term, more wind plants will reduce natural gas consumption, and in a less direct sense, coal and oil.

          One way to reduce the amount of oil and coal plants required is to address peak demand.  When is demand at its highest?  In the day.  This is why solar has promise -- it provides electricity when the grid needs it most.  So, even though its cost per kWh of generation is still unfavorable, it can be used to reduce peak demand, thereby reducing the need to expand capacity.

          Ultimately, the best way to reduce the amount of coal/oil/gas power plants that need to be built is to reduce demand, especially peak demand.  Buy an electronic thermostat so that you can program your heating and cooling, thereby reducing total and peak usage.  Insulate, and insulate well.  Make sure your hot water heater is insulated and well maintained.  Make sure your boiler is well maintained.  Check the gaskets on your fridge -- leaking cool area wastes.  Use compact flurescent bulbs instead of the cheapo incadescents.  Make sure your home doesn't have drafty doors and windows.  Turn of the freakin' light if you're not in the room.

          We can all reduce demand all the while fighting for a better source of supply.

          •  I don't disagree with this... (none)
            ...and I understand that just about all the power being generated is done in real time. But again, why is that necessary?

            This means that the capacity of reliable generation must be at least as large as the largest possible demand -- generally late afternoons in August on a weekday, when the combination of air conditioners all turned on at once (plus other appliances) result in surging demand.

            Nope, it means that the capacity of reliable supply must be at least as large as the largest possible demand.

            Again, you don't need other power supplies to pick up the slack if you just store wind power in high-wind situations in giant flywheels or pumping water uphill or what have you.

            Say your mean wind is 30% of your energy budget. Make your max energy from other sources 70% (alright, say 75% to cover problems). If wind's at 133% of the average, store that energy in flywheels or something, then just draw it down when the wind's not blowing so hard. As long as you have sufficient storage capacity and you can keep losses down to some manageable percentage, then wind will always be, say, 25% of your energy budget (we'll say we lose 5% in inefficiency and storage problems).

            Just because we don't store our electricity, doesn't mean we can't in the future. We have the technology to do that right now.

            •  Yes, supply is the correct word, but... (none)
              energy storage can't be considered a way to improve supply in the near term.  I'm not suggesting that energy storage cannot be done, but...

              1.  Convert to storage medium.  Every time you convert energy from one source to another (for example, electricity to hydro gravitational potential energy), you'll lose some to inefficiency.  

              2.  Storage.  When storing energy, you'll lose some more.  Flywheels have friction.  Lakes suffer from evaporation.  More energy lost.

              3.  Convert from storage medium.  Again, there's less than 100% efficiency, so more lost.

              4.  Retransmit electricity back over power lines a second time.  More energy lost.

              So, while it's not impossible to store energy, the cost of doing so is fairly high, in fixed cost (building flywheels, dams, etc), marginal cost (operating and maintaining equipment), and effeciency (you don't get a MW back for every MW put in).  Given that green-e is already more expensive than coal, storing it is simply out of the question.

              Besides, in your scenario, what happens if the wind doesn't blow for a week straight?  In other words, what happens if a long stretch of wind is preceeded by a long stretch of no wind?  The stored energy might run out before more wind comes along.

              So, energy storage can become part of the solution eventually, but not for a long time from now.  It's too inefficient, too expensive, and doesn't solve the problem of longer-than-average green-e "fuel droughts".

              Even though I'm skeptical of the hydrogen economy coming within the next 15 years, I'd bet that, in general, the hydrogen economy will arrive before green-e is "too much of the supply" in the USA.  Once we start storing energy as hydrogen, extra wind/solar/etc power can be stored as hydrogen, to be used in elec plants or for auto fuel & home fuel, etc.

              In the short term though, it isn't an issue of major concern, since no states are anywhere near 20% of power generation using high variance green-e production.

    •  A better way to say it may be (none)
      You don't even have to bother with backup systems until you get 20% of your power from wind. There are backup systems that can be used, that are also clean, which rely on storing surplus power production until there is demand. Yes, they do increase the initial cost of the system, but it can be done.

      Strangely, I don't really notice most high KV power lines (as long as they are sensibly placed) or wind turbines, so it doesn't matter to me.

      •  I notice (none)
        power lines, towers and wind generators and find them to be among the more attractive of the things we put on the sky line. Spare, efficient structures that accurately show their purpose in life, like a well made bridge, can be beautiful. I was taken with your photographs. Incidently, the 20% limitation only means we have to have four more alternative power sources. We can do that.

        Pithecanthropus "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

        by johnmorris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:23:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks everyone (none)
          While In Ireland 2 years ago I noticed some compliants regarding how the Windmills where ruining the landscape....It was a bit of not in my backyard type feelings but some people had serve feelings against them.  Overall most people said it was a good idea and to be honest they are not unattractive but kinda impressive, moving in unison to the wind....alot better then a smoke stack

          As for the 20% idea, I like it and I also think that if we reached 20% in canada it would be great.....on a slightly related issue in Canada a new promotion has been send out by the Canadian governemnt called the 1 ton's kinda neat regarding waste.

          pass it around to people that may not know how to reduce the energy they use.  I believe it may also be taught in our schools.

          •  Beauty is based in part on social myth (4.00)
            Back in the 50s new factories would intentionally be built as close to the new interstate highways as possible, not so much for ease of transportation, but because at that time most people saw billowing smokestacks as emblems of ecomonic progress and a brighter future for all. Putting one by the highway with your corporate logo attached was great PR.

            Now in New England there is intense opposition to wind farms on some of the ridgelines. A vista "unspoiled" by human intervention is currently an emblem of the survival of nature. There are homes of the rich going up on these same ridges, but current zoning often insists they not be visible from the passing highways, all in name of the illusion.

            So there's a dissonance between the fact that more wind farms will result in a natural world less ruined by us, and the emblematic value of hills appearing to be covered by only trees. Of course, part of the opposition to wind farms is by a contingent who believe that any energy at all is bad, because it only encourage civilization. They regularly contribute letters to the editor to all the papers in the region. Perhaps this is a generational thing, and only their children will ever recognize wind farms as sublimely beautiful.

            •  I think that the movement... (none)
              is part of what makes them beautiful.  Have the people who are opposed to them actually seen a wind farm?  I know some people don't like them of course, but a wind farm is like an extraodinary huge sculpture to me, moving in the wind.

              And I always go back to the fact that I think most people would rather see a wind farm than a coal plant, nuclear reactor, or an oil refinery.  I know which would be more attractive on the California coastline I just visited (hint, the oil refineries are a serious blot on that lovely landscape, and their tar is a lot of little blots all over the beaches).

              "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

              by sarac on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 12:57:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  A couple of the more plausible (none)
      solutions if wind reaches more than 20% are:

      (1) use the excess power in peak production periods to pump water to the top of a dam from a resevoir at the bottom.  When the wind isn't blowing, use a hydroelectric turbine.  Of course, this isn't 100% effective, but it has the virtue of being very simple.

      (2) have baseline power provided by hydro or nuclear or a fossil fuel, as local circumstances dictate.

      •  Yes, but (none)
        In windy, hot locations the amount of evaporation from stored water can be significant.   I recall a proposed pumped storage project in southern Oregon several years back that died because the available water supply couldn't keep up with predicted evaporation.

        No matter what the ointment, there always seems to be a fly in it...

  •  Heh... (4.00)
    ...I'd go for them just because they look so cool ^_^
  •  Nice commercial (none)
    Not that there's anything wrong with that. :)

    That which does not troll-rate me makes me stronger. :)

    by cskendrick on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:04:44 AM PDT

    •  More serious thought (none)
      somewhere on the order of 50,000 Terawatts of solar energy is pumped into the Terran ecology every second.

      Every last bit of it on its way to the surface has to pass through the atmosphere first.

      That which does not pass through unimpeded generates motion in the air.

      Still wondering?

      At any moment there are 2,000 lightning strikes happening on this planet. Going by the Back to the Future standard of 6.2 gigawatts per bolt of lightning, that's 12.4 Terawatts right there.

      Those discharges represent a fraction of the energy that is present in the Earth's lower atmosphere.

      And wind power's a lot safer to harness than lightning bolts.

      Just ask Marty McFly. :)

      That which does not troll-rate me makes me stronger. :)

      by cskendrick on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:39:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Qualifiers -- (none)
      I love how each of the final bulleted items is essentially cancelled out by parenthetic comment. Refreshing honesty from the industry!
  •  From the Land of the South Wind (none)
    Kansas takes its name from the Kanza tribe.  Kanza (or Konza) means "People of the South Wind."  Is Kansas windy?  You bet!  In fact, some of the greatest potential for wind power exists on the high plains and the great plains.  

    In my home state, Kansas, there are energy companies who want to erect windmills in the Flint Hills.  The Flint Hills is home of the largest extant native tallgrass prairies. A lovely area.  But also exemplary of what is happening, and what has been happening for decades. What is that?  The exploitation of the land.

    There is debate in Kansas about the aesthetics of spoiling the magnificent vistas and sweeping landscapes with windmill farms.  Despite the "clean footprint" of wind technology, there are those who wish the Flint Hills to be left alone.  In fact, some who advocate this view are the very ranchers who would stand to profit from land leases to wind-power companies.

    Should the virtues of windpower trump the desires of those who would have to live in close proximity with them? Do people who object to the visual pollution of the landscape have a valid claim?  Just wondering . . .


    •  Well... (4.00)
      ...objections over ruled.  Without an alternative source of power we'll all be enjoying the view from inside our candle-lit hide covered bark houses.  

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:12:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kinda funny... (none) upside down planet earth is.  The Republican Land Commissioner of Texas is getting a project like this started off the coast of Texas.  Who's against him?  

    Us. Liberals.

    I mean, you know, damn near free enegery spoils your view of the ocean.    

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:10:40 AM PDT

    •  One of the responses to the project... (4.00)
      I mentioned upthread was from a "Down-stater" who was interviewed at Gore Mountain ski center. He opposes the wind farm because he; "Comes up here to get away from civilization".

      He was interviewed on a ski mountain that has been half clear-cut to create the 50-plus trails, the multiple lodges and the lift/snow-making systems. Like he was concerned that the wind turbines would interfere with his view of the new high-speed condola.

      If it weren't so silly, it would be sad. Maybe it's both.

      Additionally, the towers could be viewed from several points within the Adirondack Park's Wilderness Areas, but as someone who spent three seasons as a Wilderness Ranger in one of them, I can tell you that once you are in the woods, the dense canopy pretty much precludes "scenic vistas". If you do manage to fine a scenic outlook on a distant mountain top, and you knew exactly where to look, you might be able to see the towers. Maybe.

      "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war."

      by RonV on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:25:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Be careful on that kind of comment. (none)
      A lot of wind power projects were whole-heartedly supported by Republicans back when Enron was a huge player - and Enron was one of the worst for ignoring ecological standards.

      He likely supports it more because of who put the money in his pocket than for ideological or altruistic reasons.

      I don't think you're seeing wind opposition here, just the level of concerned, precautionary scientific types I would expect out of a liberal community.

      This is another one of those cases where the "opposing sides" in this thread actually agree on just about everything.

  •  Thanks (4.00)
    We need every clean resource available.  
    It's great to see how much emissions-free energy Europe is generating now.

    There's no magic solution to the huge and growing global energy demand. Every option has a downside. We have to look at each one with an open mind.

    I appreciate your sober approach. Some renewables supporters are so extravagant in their claims that they may risk a big public backlash when the realities become apparent.  This happened to the proponents of nuclear energy when they claimed it would be "too cheap to meter" back in the early days.

    Some energy gurus actually claim that there is no rising demand for electricity.

    I appreciate your explanation of why wind expansion has been appearing to stall in the US due to policy.

    Since 1978 the US has subsidized renewable technologies to the tune of 10 billion dollars.  Some great advances have come out of that.  Many big corporations (Exxon, Grumman, General Electric, and others) have also poured in money, and so have state governments.  And there are tax incentives and loans.  

    Even with all this help, renewables supplied 6% of the country's energy in 1970 and they were still supplying 6% of it in 2002.  And most of that comes from hydro and wood waste.  Wind, solar, and geothermal contributed only .5%.

    DOE's outlook report for 2004 expects 89% of all new energy for the US to come from fossil fuels.

    As you point out, making wind power a community-based effort is a good idea.  People can see for themselves, on a local, small scale, what the benefits are and then decide whether it is worth the expense in the long run.

    Like millions of Europeans, I believe that it is.

    •  I'd bet a dollar (4.00)
      that if fossil fuel plants actually had to pay for their externalities, like coming into compliance with the clean air act, most of these alternatives would be competitive. Else, why would they have bought an administration to save them from the cost.

      Pithecanthropus "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

      by johnmorris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:27:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree--an outrage (none)
        Also, if fossil fuel companies had to pay the health costs as well as compensation to the tens of thousands who die annual as a result of exposure to their pollutants, that fuel would no longer be cheap.

        Annual deaths (cardio and pulmonary) from coal-fired plants in US: 32,000

        Annual deaths from nuclear plants in US and Europe over the past 50 years: zero.

  •  Sure, just like we stop seeing cell towers. (none)
  •  I'd be interesting in seeing some authority (none)
    to support the bird kill issue.  I've seen strong statements on both sides of the issue.
    •  Answered above. (none)
      Also, a link to this diary has been added to dKospedia under Wind.
    •  US Corps of Engineers (none)
      good enough for you?

      They did a big report on the Nantucket Sound offshore project which concluded that it was a minimal problem. (sorry, too lazy to google the link for you...)

      in the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)

      by Jerome a Paris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:42:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Talk more about the Nantucket Sound project ... (none)
        and the aspect of "visual pollution."  Would the wind turbine fill the horizon or a small section?  Couldn't you balanced turbine placement with minimal effect on the horizon from the most common viewing points?

        Greenspan is "one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington." -- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

        by slip kid no more on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 07:56:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry, but the (4.00)
        Sorry, but the Army Corps of Engineers is not a reliable source of environmental information.  Their projects routinely botch ecologies.  The Mississippi River is a classic case in point, and their penchant for "managing" rivers by cradling them in concrete is legendary.

        "We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile. - W, 09/09/00

        by Bob Love on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:37:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think the corps (none)
          is moving away from levees as river management tools.

          Just an impression I have, and not an answer to your basic critique.

          "Don't want to be an American idiot..." -- Green Day

          by Black Maned Pensator on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 12:07:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think you're right (none)
            I think you're right that they're moving away from levees, but I also think their culture is still to answer every question with a massive engineering project, and ignore environmental findings that don't favor their plans.

            "We cannot let terriers and rogue nations hold this nation hostile. - W, 09/09/00

            by Bob Love on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:15:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  solar costs? (none)
    Thanks a lot for this diary, Jerome.  I'm doing research on solar cells myself, which have a long way to go to reach the price point of wind power, but I'm delighted to see any clean energy technology succeed.

    As cost is the biggest problem with the photovoltaic power sources, I'd be curious to see where your numbers come from for solar power.  Thanks again.

  •  Think small too (4.00)
    One beauty about wind (and solar) power production is that it is economical to produce power on a small scale. Years ago I lived comfortably off the grid with a few hundred watts of photovoltaic panels and a half dozen golf cart batteries for storage. Today, I'd do it again with a micro windmill a more storage and an intertie.

    The source book for all things small scale is the fantastic Home Power Magazine, the world wide authority on off the grid living.

    I'm not left or right. I'm ahead. Progressives for the future!

    by weirdscenes on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 08:14:35 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for the link (none)
      A long time ago, I saw plans in a ham radio magazine (the first issue of Ham Radio Horizons, IIRC, not around anymore) back in 1977 for a small-scale portable windmill that could be built from scrap sheet metal & an alternator from a junk car.

      Even a 1KW unit (roughly the output of the unit in the magazine) would be sufficient to recharge a laptop, several cellphones, and run a couple of lights. In an era of tight energy (see some of Jerome's other diaries) replacing batteries every few years could become a problem though.

      Hatred is murder (1 John 3:15)

      by dirtroad on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 11:38:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, thanks for the link. (none)
      I've been looking for this sort of info.
  •  Would it be cost effective to use the jet stream? (none)
    I wonder if in the long term it would be cost effective (or even technically feasible) to construct wind turbines high enough to make use of the perstently strong wind of the jet stream, which if I recall correctly fluctuates between 20-40K ft.  

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

    by Bragan on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 08:26:31 AM PDT

    •  "perstently" = "persistently" (none)
      Another possible location for wind turbines to receive consistent high winds -- the lower reaches of the South Atlantic and the South Pacific.

      The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

      by Bragan on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 08:30:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Flying Wind turbines (none)
      To answer my own question, evidently (and not surprisingly), someone's already thought of harnessing the strength of the Jet Stream.

      The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

      by Bragan on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 08:34:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  indeed (none)
        They're also known as gyromills.  They and their tethers pose an airplane hazard though.  

        Personally I'm a big fan of ocean current generators, where possible.  Water moves slower but has much more inertia.  

    •  I doubt it. (none)
      The tallest buildings are a tenth that size.  Even if it could be done, it is hard to see how it would be cost effective.
      •  Think kites, not buildings (none)
        See the link in my post above.

        The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

        by Bragan on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:32:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The article's cost assumptions (none)
          a way off.  Inventing new technology is much more expensive than the post implies.

          It would be sort of like pricing the Stealth Bomber at the cost of materials plus a fixed percentage markup for assembly labor.  This misses the vast majority of the $2B a unit cost.

          •  On what do you base your assumptions? (none)
            We're not talking about buidling a stealth bomber.  From my admittedly non-engineering perspective, it doesn't sound like you would need to develop high tech materials.  Sure the initial building of these "kites" would likely be expensive, but unlike bombers, they'd pay for themselves pretty quick once they began harnessing that hurricane-force wind.

            As long as these flying generators aren't contracted out to the defense industry, this'll be a breeze (sorry).

            The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

            by Bragan on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:00:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Jet Stream moving (none)
      Even if technically we could build it, I think there is still a problem. It is true that generally the wind is much stronger in altitude (height above the ground) as there is less friction with the surface. But the actual Jet Stream is not fixed in position and altitude. It broadly changes with the seasons and also daily. See there for an illustration.
  •  Wind in Ohio (none)
    We have 4 wind turbines on our county landfill in Bowling Green, Ohio.  They look nice and have actually become an attraction.  Two major problems with wind power:  it can only exist where significant constant wind blows (thus limiting availability), and related is that one cannot ship the power generated by them efficiently over long distance (or any other electricity without major losses).  So it will be a relatively local phenomenon (but a good one).  Finally, can someone please justify Mr. Kerry and Mr. Kennedy's opposition to the windfarm off the coast of Massachusetts.
    •  Why did the oppose it? (none)
      Kerry and Kennedy, wow didn't know that.  Maybe powerful fishing lobby?
      •  Found this on Google (none)
        Massachusetts' Republican Gov. Mitt Romney and Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose family compound in Hyannis would look out at the wind farm -- have warned that the unsightly turbines would depress property values and damage the local economy, which relies heavily on tourism. A Beacon Hill Institute study, commissioned by the opponents of the project, said 21 percent of the 98,000 jobs on Cape Cod were in tourism-related industries in 2000.

        Romney has said the wind farm should not be built in "a national treasure. "

        Kennedy said through his spokesman, David Smith, that he was opposed to "turning over public lands for private commercial use."

        Kennedy's nephew, Robert Kennedy Jr., a prominent New York environmentalist, has also spoken against the wind farm.

        "People go to the cape because they want to connect themselves with the history and the culture," he told Boston's NPR affiliate, WBUR, in 2002. "They want to see the same scenes the Pilgrims saw when they landed at Plymouth Rock. "

        Sen. John Kerry -- whose windsurfing across the Nantucket Sound was immortalized in Republican campaign ads and who ran for the presidency on a strong alternative energy platform -- said he will wait for the final government report on the project, due at the end of 2005, before he takes a stand on the issue. Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, own a house on Nantucket.

        I basically think thats a bunch of horse shit, Not in my backyard syndrome.

    •  good point (none)
      "one cannot ship the power generated by them efficiently over long distance"

      No more going over there to get oil we can just genereate it here.

      "Freedom no longer frees you!"

      by Renegade Prole on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:52:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Want to learn about Wind/Solar power? (none)
    Solar Energy International

    Disclosure. I am not affiliated with SEI. I have attended a class there, that is the basis of my recommendation. I highly recommend their workshops.

    There are many ways that conduct to seeming honour, and some of them very dirty ones. John Webster The Duchess of Malfi Act V Scene II

    by GP on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 08:55:18 AM PDT

  •  Jobs (4.00)
    Its true that constructing wind turbines creates lots of jobs. Sometimes people don't appreciate that it also creates manufactoring jobs too. The generators, gearboxes and blades are mostly made in advanced countries. I have also read that in Germany, the wind industry is the second largest user of steel, after automobiles. Those steel towers have walls more than 1 1/2 inches thick.

    This can be a strong idea for Democrats: wind frees us from foreign despots, and it also creates US jobs.

    •  We have some of those jobs here in NW Florida (none)
      even though we don't have any of the turbines themselves. I've seen the blades going down the interstate to unknown destinations on big flatbed trucks.

      Of course, when I say unknown destinations, I mean by me. I assume they know where they're going. :)

    •  Also, this was one of the reasons I was (none)
      so impressed by Howard Dean's alternative energy proposal. The proposal was three pronged. Developing alternative energy sources would:

      1. Protect the environment by producing clean energy.

      2. Create good jobs in the U.S. in a growing industry.

      3. Help national security by reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

      BTW, who says the Democrats can't do national security? And it's smart national security as opposed to dumb saber rattling.  
  •  FWIW, Vestas considered a buy... (none) one investor newsletter that I subscribe:


    Invest at your own risk. I don't have any connection in any way, shape or form with Vestas, except that I love wind power.

    I really enjoy going through the Livermore Pass east of San Francisco, with the giant wind farm on the canyon hillsides. Very trippy.

  •  Plenty in Colorado (none)
    This is something that the Great American Desert is actually useful for!

    Unfortunately, the chiefs of the Democratic party are not so sure that wind power is actually a good idea. I sure do hope that our fearless Democratic leaders (specifically Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry) get on board with this. Their current NIBMY tactics in Massachusetts aren't particularly helpful.

    Ironic, isn't it, how wind power "works" in exremely conservative rural Colorado, but doesn't work in extremely liberal Massachusetts...

    •  I think you nailed it (none)
      Not in my back yard explains the thinking of Kerry and what if the wind power project actually reduced the cost of heating your home in winter?  Then maybe more people would get on is the time with these high oil prices to get approval and backing for these projects.
      •  Expensive (none)
        At present wind power costs more than other options to the US consumer.

        If you could check off on your electric bill a box asking if you preferred the "cheaper" wind power option rather than the "costlier" conventional option, you can be sure which box would be checked.  But there's a reason that choice does not exist and there is a reason that you can choose to pay more for "Green Power".  It's sort of like making a charitable contribution to emissions-free(er) energy.

  •  More than a dozen years ago ... (none)
    on my first trip to Palm Springs/Palm Desert California, I fell in love with the beauty of the wind farms there. I felt that the windmills only added to the serenity and spirituality of that unspeakably beautiful place.

    "You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." - Ken Kesey

    by Glinda on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:15:08 AM PDT

    •  Interesting (none)
      I thought it was one of the most surreal sights I have ever seen. Huge yellow gray clouds of smog and dust blowing through San Bernadino Pass toward Palm Springs with these enormous wind turbines churning along in the gloom. Looked like something out of a bad science fiction movie.

      Governor Brian Schweitzer: "He's sort of our Howard Dean on the ranch."

      by Ed in Montana on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:53:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not how I experienced them at all (none)
        I wonder if the wind was blowing a different direction the day I saw them. I didn't see any smog. I just saw these behemoths seemingly dropped to earth by a race of giants and abandoned in the valley.

        But surreal? ... you bet it was surreal!

        "You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." - Ken Kesey

        by Glinda on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:03:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Jerome... (none)
    ...thanks for this. It's easy to get maudlin and despairing over our current energy plight, but the sight of those windmills coming up does my heart good :)
  •  They are going to put these (none)
    in North Creek, New York, up in the Adirondacks.  I think each one will provide electric for like 800 homes.

    They are beautiful, in my humble opinion.

  •  Costs (none)
    One of things that has come up when I've researched this in the past is how are projects paid for.  The vast majority of the cost of wind power is capital investment- buying the turbine, basically.  Which has to be amoritized over the life of the turbine.  So what interest rates you get when buying the generator makes a huge difference (compared to oil, gas, coal, etc.) on the cost of the power generated.  Generally, power companies tend to get very good interest rates, due to the low risk.  Meanwhile, farmers tend to get (comparitively) higher rates due to the increased risk.  Assuming power company rates instead of "normal" rates can drop the price per kwh by 40%.

    Also, I'd be very inclined to write some of the costs off as farm subsidies.  Instead of paying farmers to grow food (or not to grow food, as the case may be), we pay them to harvest wind power instead.

    Laws, sausages, and software- once you know how they're made, you'll never trust them ever again.

    by bhurt on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:46:40 AM PDT

    •  Already happening (none)
      In Colorado, dryland farming areas that have always been marginally productive are now able to maintain profitability by supplementing the farming activity with wind power. The turbines take up essentially no space and don't interfere with farming at all...
      •  It's a good combo. (none)
        In windy areas, farmland and ranchland are natural fits for wind power, since they take up very little ground space and only block out a little light.  Farmers especially aren't too keen on birds eating their crop, so that slight liability is actually a slight bonus.  Although crows are surely smart enough to figure out how to avoid the blades.  Since they also presumably reduce wind speed somewhat they should help retain water on the ground as well.  

        Point being, by combining the two you can eliminate the need for picking special spots of land.  The only question is whether the wind on the farm is adequate enough to justify the expense of building the turbine.  

  •  There is a problem (none)
    that I read about recently. (Sorry I don't have time to find any link)

    Becuase the windmills affect the air circulation patterns, apparently the land underneath the windmills dries out faster than it otherwise would. So farmland near windmills would require more water that would otherwise be needed.


    That said, I think the risks associated with fossil fuels and nuclear power far outweigh wind power. The array of wind turbines I saw in Zeeland (SW Netherlands) was quite impressive.

    Hopelessly pedantic since 1963.

    by admiralh on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:56:46 AM PDT

    •  How does that happen? (none)
      I would think that slowing down the air speed would reduce the local rate of evaporation. Or do wind farms act more like mountain ranges, diverting air currents around them and creating a "rain shadow" effect?

      On a larger scale, what effect would wind turbines have on global weather if they were adopted on a massive scale? Could pulling a large amount of energy out of the atmosphere reduce the incidence of storms?

      Those who don't remember the future are doomed to repeat it.

      by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:23:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was the turbulence created by the blades (none)
        This turbulence fostered a mixing of atmospheric layers, which drove warmer air to the surface. The warmer air is what caused the higher rates of evaporation.

        I think this was in Science News about 6-9 months ago, but I can't remember for sure. Sorry for being vague.

        Also, it was simply a localized study. I can't imagine being able to extract a high enough percentage of the energy in the atmosphere to affect the general incidence of storms.

        Hopelessly pedantic since 1963.

        by admiralh on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:40:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  My history professor always said (none)
    "I feel things will have to get worse before they get better."

    Perhaps we're close to that point? I'm sure when the theory of peak oil becomes more widely accepted, then yes, we'll see more wind and solar energy being built. I'm also sure that the big oil conglomerates are developing these things in secret right now - they have to to be competitive. But right now, they're reeling in the dough with the high gas prices.

    Until there is no money left in mining oil, there will not be a massive move towards renewable energy.

    "In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners." -Albert Camus.

    by BrianL on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:10:08 AM PDT

  •  Best diary (4.00)
    I ever read here.  (Of course there are a lot I haven't read.)  It is great to read some good news for a change.  It's even good to see the potential criticisms of this technology.  We need to think ahead and consider all the environmental consequences of steps we take.  Just think if people had been this far-sighted about petroleum and coal energy usage.  Think about the problems NOW before this is a dominant technology (we hope), not afterwards.
  •  Each way of generating energy (none)
    Has it's pros and cons, and I think wind is certainly one of the better means of energy generation. With some care to placement of turbines both on-shore and off-shore, problems with bird migration and mortalities can be minimized.

    But before we go hog wild on wind and cover enormous parts of Kansas, Montana, our seacosts or other landscapes with turbines, we should take a look at other options, including nuclear. Thirty years ago in grad school, one of my professors said that we would come to regret our country's heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants to the exclusion of other less polluting energies such as nukes, and he was probably right. We need to have a better mix of energy options that have less environmental impact than our present sources.

    Thanks Jerome for your great energy diaries!

    Governor Brian Schweitzer: "He's sort of our Howard Dean on the ranch."

    by Ed in Montana on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:18:07 AM PDT

    •  Growth of fossil fuel power (4.00)
      The DOE projects 89% of new energy in the coming decades coming from fossil fuels.

      Big Coal could not be happier.  There are two significant sources of baseload--24/7 rain or shine-- electricity (hydro provides only about 5%): coal and nuclear.

      Promoting renewables while keeping up a battle to prevent new nuclear power plants is the reason.

      Only nuclear energy, which does not produce greenhouse gases, has been able to slow or reduce fossil fuel reliance.  That has been because existing nuclear plants have been able to ramp up their output to near capacity.

      Before someone brings up the nuclear waste problem, let me repeat myself:
      All nuclear waste from power plants in the US is contained and shielded throughout the life cycle of the fuel.  The volume is so small that all the high level nuclear waste in the US (including medical and military) could fit in one football field three meters deep.  A huge amount of thought has gone into protecting the biosphere from nuclear waste.  This is not so with fossil fuels, which freely distribute their waste in the air, water, soil, and in human and animal tissues.

      And if people are concerned about exposure from radioactive materials, then they should focus their campaign on coal-fired plants, which emit 100 times more radioactivity than nuclear plants.

      Or people concerned about radiation should campaign against nuclear medicine.  That's where we get our largest manmade dose of radioactivity, on average, in the US.  Personally, I am in favor of nuclear diagnostic and therapeutic procedures because many people I know have had their lives saved by them.

      It's all a matter of risk perception.  We need to understand the realistic risks versus the ones perpetuated by misinformation.  And we need to understand the real benefits of large-scale, clean energy production.

      •  PS (none)
        I want to emphasize that I am in favor of renewables.  But given their expense in the US and the fact that wind and solar are comparatively weak sources of energy, their output has so far been small.

        This has permitted coal-fired plants to dot the landscape on a scale they would never have if the nuclear industry had been smarter and if there were few misconceptions about nuclear energy flying around.

        Like wind energy, nuclear energy is not perfect.  We need them both.  And the more wind, the better.

        •  Yup (none)
          We have made a faustian bargain with coal. My old prof (from the mid 1970s) metioned many of your points about the serious problems with coal, but they all fell deaf ears in those days. Now we have global warming, arsenic deposition, mountain top removal and acid rain as a result of coal-fired electricity generation.

          Governor Brian Schweitzer: "He's sort of our Howard Dean on the ranch."

          by Ed in Montana on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 11:27:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  future nukes (none)
        Nuclear is one of those tricky issues.  Despite elaborate safety measures, occaisonal non-compliance has ensured that exisiting plant designs are not safe enough by a long shot.  Hence pebblebed reactors.  Despite marketing, extracting and processing fissile material from the ground is quite expensive, and disposing of the radioactive waste is non-trivial.  Hence fast breeder reactors, capable of extracting more energy from cheaper of fuels and producing short-lived waste - but are inherently dangerous.  And then there was the problem of proliferation of bomb materials.  

        The technology has improved though.  I'm cautiously optimistic about a couple of new designs in particular - the fission-fusion hybrid designs, and especially the accelerator-driven reactors.  Accelerator reactors are sub-critical - it is impossible for them to meltdown, and can be turned on and off like a switch.  But like a fast breeder, it can be used to degrade existing long-lived nuclear waste, and a wider variety of available materials like thorium, while producing more energy.  

  •  Another Great diary, Jerome (none)
    It is always inspiring to see what the civilized countries of the world are doing to solve their energy needs cleanly, and with a vision of a better future.
  •  wind (none)
    you know we generate a lot of wind resistance when we drive.  I've always wondered if it's possible to put windmills on top of cars?  I mean, it could like kinda flat so it wouldn't look like holland on your roof, but still spin and maybe generate electricity for a battery or cell to plug in to your house, or at least regenerate energy for your car?

    Politology.US - Politics and Technology in the United States

    by tunesmith on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:21:47 AM PDT

    •  I don't know if you're joking (none)
      But any kind of external wind device would decrease the aerodynamics of your car, thereby decreasing your fuel efficiency.  You'd be paying for wind energy, through your gas tank.

      On the other hand, no matter how aerodynamic your car is, there is a constant force against the non-horizontal surfaces of the car when you are moving at high-speeds.  It is concivable, though, I suspect technologically unlikely that one could harness that energy without increasing drag.  How much energy that would be I don't know.  

      The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use JFK

      by Responsible on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:29:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  nope (none)
        not joking.  I know it would increase drag, but the whole point is that cars aren't perfect aerodynamically anyway.  So there's lost energy potential when a car is being buffeted by wind, it just makes me wonder if it could be captured and converted somehow.

        Politology.US - Politics and Technology in the United States

        by tunesmith on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:47:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  another technology I'd like to hear more about (none)
    Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is another technology I'd like to hear more about.  Especially considering that much of the warming in "global warming" seems to be building in the oceans, this would seem to be a direct way to cool things off a bit.

    If it QUACKs like a duck ...

    by Dale Read on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:25:57 AM PDT

  •  I'm a little pissed at your... (none)
    ...MISREPRESENTATION.   The two top pictures are FAKE.  I love the idea of windmills and renewable energy being used everywhere, but please don't put up antialiased (look closely) windmills over farmlands and ocean tankers (why are ocean tankers needed?) to make depictions of scenes that don't exist.  I've been all over this country and seen most of the windmill projects out of curiousity, and none of them have windmills that big, and never will.  
    Just tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Even little white lies hurt your case rather than harm it.

    Most people are idiots... But don't tell them. It'll spoil all the fun for those of us who aren't.

    by d3n4l1 on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:39:42 AM PDT

    •  well... (none)
      The website for Nysted Windpark says the project should have been completed in Oct. 2003, but the site isn't updated with actual photos, as best I can tell.

      Was this project completed or is it on hold for some reason???

      "Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment...but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society."

      by saint on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:54:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  WTF are you talking about? (none)
      Nysted wind farm exists, it is composed of 2.75 MW turbines. These turbines are 100 meters high with blades of 50+m each. There are some bigger, 5MW models which are 120m high with 60m blades. That's pretty big indeed but that's very real.

      go see here a video of flying over the windfarm:

      and here for various views:

      in the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)

      by Jerome a Paris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 11:25:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Fake? (none)
      I have seen a Danish offshore windpark that looks just like the top picture!  I didn't know what it was called, but it was certainly there.   My Danish cousin has a windpark near his farm that looks very similar to the one in the second picture.  It's not at all necessary to fake such scenes, they do exist.

      "Virginia Woolf's idea of a room of one's own has never been the place for middle- and working-class women. We work with interruptions." - Ananya Chatterjea

      by sarac on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 12:52:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  not fake (none)
      flying in and out of frankfurt airport, for instance... to the west toward the french border are numerous wind "farms" with i don't know how many generators all quietly turning away... on the east side of the sierras going from nevada toward fresno, there are huge wind farms literally carpeting hillsides and ridge tops... don't spout off as if you know what you're talking about when you don't...

      The first lesson of democracy is not to hold the public in contempt. - Ronnie Earle, Travis County DA, Texas

      by profmarcus on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:43:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not fake, just JPEG compressed (none)
      The artifacts you're seeing are a result of JPEG compression. Look at any sharp edge in any JPEG-compressed image and you'll see the same thing. The sharper the edge, the higher the contrast, the higher the compression, the more obvious the artifacts are.

      Since we no longer have taboos, we have Abus.

      by oldjohnbrown on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 04:11:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Congrats... (none)
    I all for clean, renewable energy sources and am happy you are finding success in developing them.  

    However, I would like to see the development of smaller-scale, more distributed sources of energy.

    A switch to another large-cap production project, be it wind, wave, geo-thermal, hydrogen or nuclear just keeps us dependent on large corporations and large government.

    Do you know of any smaller scale projects?

    •  There are a bunch! (4.00)
      The first step (and cheapest) is to reduce demand.  In your home, consider:

       * adding insulation where appropriate.
       * insulating your hot water heater with a hot water heater blanket, setting it to 120 (no colder... bacteria buildup), and insulating the hot water pipe coming away from the tank.  Better yet, get yourself a "tankless hot water heater" for even more energy savings.
       * get a programmable thermostat.  Program it.
       * fix drafty doors and windows with caulk, foam, gaskets, etc.
       * switch out your incadescent bulbs and replace them with compact flurescents.
       * use landscaping well: deciduous trees in south and west to shade in summer and allow solar heat in winter
       * efficient appliances, especially the fridge, can save electricity

      Now that you're using less electricity, check out these other ideas:
       * solar electricity on your rooftop
       * passive solar water heater
       * active solar water heater
       * mini wind power station

      And, reducing fuel consumption is part of the equation too, so how about
       * converting your diesel vehicle to biodiesel for about $40 in parts

      Google to find more information on all of these ideas: Americans could likely reduce our consumption of electricity by 10% with a fixed cost of $100 per household.

      •  All good (none)
        ideas and fairly widespread and many of them in place.

        I'm more interested in producing electricity from a variety of sources -- scavenging it from waste energy and just general waste to expand "the grid" to include individual households that could also function independently.


        1.  Security - seriously.  What happens if the grid goes down for days, weeks, even months?  We're screwed.  We are so dependent on it.  And how many of us have enough food, batteries and candles - not to mention, fuel, stashed for a serious disruption?  Who wants to keep that much?

        2. Economy - the more producers, the less the cost -- good times and bad.

        Solar's fine.  But there are so many ways of generating electricity.

        I can live happily for much longer without my car than I can without lights, refrigeration, etc.


  •  A question (none)
    I'm not thrilled with the sentence: (regarding backup capacity)
    "Denmark is at 20% of its electricity generated by wind and they are coping mostly okay."

    Mostly Okay?

    Doesn't really help you sell us.  And don't get me wrong, I am ALL for wind/alternative power sources, but this doesn't help your cause much. Coping mostly Okay?  Try again please.

    "Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment...but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society."

    by saint on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:51:32 AM PDT

    •  Well I´m not the expert. (none)
      What he probably means is that till now wind power (or lack of it) didn´t cause any black-outs.
      The one in 2003 had other causes.

      However in the case of most European countries we´re not speaking about a "national" power grid.
      We´ve got the Nordic Power System with Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland (NORDEL).
      (WIth Iceland however not connected.)

      That power grid in turn is connected to the European power grid (UCTE) through Germany (to Denmark and Sweden) and Poland (to Sweden).
      (With Finland and Northern Norway connected to Russia too.)
      The only bottleneck here in case of an emergency is the capacity of the transmission lines.

      I suppose in a purely national power grid Denmark could be in trouble with 20% of its electricity generated by wind power (and without additional backup power).
      In 2003 though Denmark was a net exporter of electricity. Exporting more than 20% of their generated electricity to Sweden and Norway.

      And NORDEL itself was a net importer of electricity. Mainly from Russia and the European power grid. If Danish wind power somehow caused instabilities, it´s certainly not obvious from the numbers. :)
      And I don´t think that NORDEL would rely on Danish electricity exports if they were unreliable?

      Backup power here is provided by connections to larger power grids. So I´d say that producing 20% of your electricity with wind power isn´t a problem as long as you can rely on a reliable larger system.

      Absolutely no wind or a storm is normally a localized event. No wind or a storm in Denmark?
      So get some electricity for a few hours from Sweden, Germany, France or Austria for example.

      I guess what I´m trying to say is that you need a reliable "large" power grid. To compensate for local shut-downs.

    •  reply (none)
      Even trying to be moderate and balanced get you in trouble her ;-)

      What I meant is that at the levels reached in Denmark (and Northern Germany) it does become an issue to properly manage the impact on networks of wind power production. They have already had times when total wind power production was HIGHER than total electricity consumption for the country (during some winter nights, in the early morning), which obviously can be a major headache if you cannot offload the power to your neighbors.

      So they are getting to the point when they need to worry about it and care about the management of the network. They are doing it and managing okay, but they are at the point when they do have to spend money and invest in new capacity.

      It also shows that until then, the costs are negligible.

      Hope this helps!

      in the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)

      by Jerome a Paris on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 01:06:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great diary, great pix! (none)

    hark! hark! the Clark!!

    by Errol on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 10:59:35 AM PDT

  •  You might find this interesting (none)

    This is a business owned by a friend of ours.

  •  Jerome, you say, (4.00)
     "I finance wind projects around the world (as well as oil & gas projects)".

    I want to know, WHEN? When do you have time to do this work?

    I mean, you post terrific diaries about every other day. This one certainly among the best, if not the best. The one (yesterday?) on peak oil decline was also great.

    Your stuff is of good magazine or newspaper quality, except that they  don't seem to carry anything this this topical, especially on energy issues.

    I think that "Jerome" is really about 8 highly competent and dedicated researcher/writers.

    "Go in peace, errant sisters." -Horace Greeley, April, 1861

    by faithnomore on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 11:15:15 AM PDT

  •  Fantastic Diary. Thanks! (none)
    I wish I had this information available when I did my research assignment on alternative fuels.  Which, oh by the way, happens to be here.

    I'd call this a classic case of diary whoring, I must admit, but hey....I think it has some pretty interesting stuff in it.

    Alternative Fuels: An Analysis of Domestic, Economic and Policy Implications

    I feel so dirty

  •  Great piece, thank you (none)
    And "Gunnar" being my middle name, I have like the captions on all those photos.  :-)
  •  Nice diary (none)
    Do you know of any literature that's available for people that are interested in setting up a small scale system - maybe one or two medium/large turbines?  I.e. Not something to help with the electricity bill, but power generation to sell on to a power company.

    I've vaguely looked into it before but the economics seem to be quite difficult (in the high hundreds of thousands for one turbine, without particularly great returns) for a small investor, not to mention location and planning permission complexities.

    I'd love to be involved with wind turbines but it all seems very daunting.

  •  thanks... it's nice to hear something good (none)

    The first lesson of democracy is not to hold the public in contempt. - Ronnie Earle, Travis County DA, Texas

    by profmarcus on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 02:38:59 PM PDT

  •  Chicago Tribune hatchet job on front page (none)
    Below the fold of the Sunday peper.  It talked about 4 development sites in Illinois (Near Galesburg and Bloomington) but was completely hysterical about the birdkill issue.

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    by Odysseus on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 04:16:54 PM PDT

  •  Great stuff (none)
    I've long thought that the central folly of energy planning was its insistence on uniform solutions scaled to immense sizes. Huge energy plants have their place, but a more distributed, self-similar and diverse strategy would be much more sustainable and much more secure.

    I have a question: I'm in Iowa. Wind here can come from the west, southwest (often), east or northeast. Sometimes it's breezes, sometimes it's ferocious tornadic storms. Once, about five and a half years ago, it was hurricane-force winds and tornados. Whole adult hardwood trees vanished without a trace, leaving only holes in the ground where the root ball was. I need hardly say that power outages come with the territory.

    Solar apparently doesn't work too well out here. My question is, can the current turbines deal with violent winds, tornadoes, trees being picked up and hurled at them, and winds coming from opposite directions, depending on where the high-pressure front happens to be coming from today? I'd like to move toward low consumption and alternative energy wherever possible, but it looks like I'm not in a very good place to do it. Thanks.

    Since we no longer have taboos, we have Abus.

    by oldjohnbrown on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 04:19:48 PM PDT

  •  blogged it (none)
    Terrific stuff, Jerome. I blogged your post here.

    Blue Mass Group
    Reality-commentary on MA politics and beyond

    by Charley on the MTA on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 04:58:22 PM PDT

  •  Regarding birds and wind power (none)
    Great diary! I wanted to write a reply to some of the comments on birds and wind power, partly addressing the wind issue but also highlighting that the issue of most concern for birds right now (aside from habitat destruction) is deaths from hitting windows: estimates are of deaths of 97 to 976 million birds/year from windows vs. 33,000 for wind turbines. My answer ended up getting so long and linked that I thought it might better work as a whole seperate diary. I've put a link to your diary here at the very top, hope you get a chance to have a look.

    The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

    by MaggieEh on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:48:21 PM PDT

    •  Trouble posting (none)
      I'm having trouble posting the diary, I'm getting message that I have over the 1000 plus word limit in the Main section and need to use the Extended box. Even though I have less that 250 words in the Main and the rest in the Extended already.

      I tried cutting and pasting into a whole new 'new diary' entry but still no luck, so I'll wait and try again tommorow.

      The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

      by MaggieEh on Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 09:57:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  views on vacations (none)
    I have been in Spain during my spring break, and it seemed that every mountain ridge near the Strait of Gibraltar has a row of wind turbines.  Yes, they are visible, but to put in perspective, a while ago they were putting castles on mountain tops and now these decaying eyesores litter the skyline -- some tourists seem to love them, though.

    I doubt very seriously if people would cancel Nantucket vacations because wind turbines would be visible from the shore.

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