Climate

Wind Power — A core climate solution

wind-turbines3.jpgWind power is a key climate solution. It is one of the few zero-carbon supply options that can plausibly provide more than one of the 14 or so “wedges” we need to stabilize below 450 ppm of CO2 (see “Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 2: The Solution“). I plan to go through all of the major solutions this year on the blog.

The stunning new Bush administration report, 20% Wind Energy by 2030 (discussed here), convinced me it was time to write a long piece, which has just been published in Salon. The article–“Winds of change: The U.S. can greatly boost clean wind power for 2 cents a day. Now all we need is a president who won’t blow the chance.“– explains the more than 2,000-year history of wind power, how conservatives cost America the chance to be the world wind leader, and why the global industry is so successful in spite of our government’s relative apathy:

From 2000 to 2007, the industry increased fivefold in size. Last year, $36 billion in wind investments were made around the world, with $9 billion invested in U.S.-based projects. In 10 years, it is expected to nearly quadruple in size.

Yes, I know, most of the media attention goes to a few high-visibility debates about putting wind in places like the waters off Cape Cod. But most installations are a welcome source of revenue to farmers and landowners. In fact, because the new wind turbines are tall, and don’t interfere significantly with grazing or farming, they have become popular in the central U.S., where the wind resource is best in the country. Some ranchers make half a million dollars a year by leasing only a fraction of their land for turbines.

Surprisingly, the top state for wind farms is no longer California as of 2006:

By the end of 2007, [Texas] had installed 4.4 GW compared to California with 2.4 GW. By the end of March, Texas had 5.3 GW. Again, this has been driven by the wind tax credit and a strong state mandate. A year ago, the Texas Public Utility Commission approved transmission lines that could deliver up to 25 GW of wind by 2012….

Why the explosive growth? The short answer is price. New wind farms are currently offering power at 4 to 8 cents a kilowatt hour, including the federal wind tax credit. Even without the credit, and with the recent price rise that most power sources have seen, wind power is delivering power at 7 to 10 cents/kWh. The price of new wind farms has risen 30 percent to 40 percent in the last few years for two reasons. First, commodity prices have soared. Second, most wind turbine manufacturing is in Europe, and the dollar has plummeted compared to the euro. As of 2007, America had about 18 percent of total global installed capacity and about the same fraction of the wind manufacturing business.

Ironically, the plunging dollar has done for the domestic industry what conservatives refused to do — make this country the place to build new wind manufacturing capacity. In the last few years, the percentage of U.S. wind equipment installed here but manufactured abroad has dropped from 70 percent to 50 percent, and that drop is projected to continue, which should help stabilize wind costs.

The recent Bush administration report doesn’t explain how to get to 20% wind power by 2030, mainly because they don’t like any of the answers, but it is kind of obvious:

We mostly need a cap and trade system that results in a significant price for carbon. While waiting, we should extend the production tax credit for at least five years (until it is permanently sunsetted) to give the industry some consistency. At that point, a 20 percent (or higher) national renewable electricity standard for utilities would become the key policy support, at least until carbon was significantly more than, say, $50 a ton.

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41 Responses to Wind Power — A core climate solution

  1. BobbyG says:

    Just saw this referred to over at salon.com. Very good. See my blog post “0.0143%” at bgladd.blogspot.com. Wind, wave, hydro, photovoltaic, geothermal…the solutions are sociopolitical, not technical.

  2. charlie says:

    Great point about water usage, because where wind and solar make the most sense you have also water access issues. Hadn’t heard that before.

    Wish you had talked about the transmissions issue a bit more. (How to move power from wind farms to where it is needed).

  3. Earl Killian says:

    High-altitude wind may someday be even more impressive. Capacity factors of 70% are common, which would bring down the cost per kWh:

    A careful study we have made using an FEG design rated at 2.81 megawatts flying at a typical U.S. site with an eighty percent capacity factor projects a life cycle cost per kilowatt hour at 1.4 cents.

    This is R&D sort of stuff, so not something to wait for, but one can hope it works out.

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    Also interesting is FloDesign’s wind turbine – it has cowlings that make it look like a large jet engine, except that air moves the turbine rather than the turbine moving the air. CNET wrote it up at:

    http://www.news.com/greentech/?keyword=FloDesign+Wind+Turbine

    They make some interesting claims for it.

  5. Robert says:

    I think the whole world should copy Texas’s fine example:

    http://www.eredux.com/states/state_detail.php?id=1112&state=TEXAS

    32 tonnes CO2 x 6.7 billion people = 214 billion tonnes

    That’s only 7.8 x the global average http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

  6. Robert says:

    BTW – the reason I keep making completely cynical and negative posts is this: this whole blog seems to be a desperate attempt to argue for an indefinite continuation of BAU. This is completely unrealistic, expecially for the biggest CO2 culprit of all – the USA. How can we one minute be talking about REDUCING CO2 to 350ppm while simultaneously discussing relatively minor tweeks to the energy mix of the world’s most polluting state?

    A target of 20% wind by 2030 means almost nothing, if only because total energy consumption is projected to have increased by more than 20% by then, so CO2 will still be increasing. The US could slash its CO2 by 50% overnight by just using less – I know its possible because we have done exactly this in our house in the last 2 years. Most of the changes are really boring things like better insulation, energy efficient appliances, turning things off when you’re not using them.

  7. Reader says:

    Robert,

    This blog isn’t about actually fixing anything.

    It’s about alarming the public and softening them up for increased taxes, reduced liberty, and public payouts to pet industries.

    Joe isn’t a scientist or politician, though he does have a science and government background (check out the resume he posted on wikipedia).

    Joe is a salesman.

  8. Kiashu says:

    “Wind power is a key climate solution. It is one of the few zero-carbon supply options -“

    Wind power is not zero carbon. It is very low carbon, but not zero.

    As I write here, most of wind turbine’s emissions come from the concrete blocks used as their foundations, with the rest being from maintenance vehicles, demolition and so on. The energy payback period in the mature wind power industry of Denmark is just two or three months, but in other countries as much as two years. A middle figure gives us about 3% the emissions of coal, something like 35-50g CO2e/kWh against 1,300.

    Worldwide about 13% of all energy use is electrical, but about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from electricity generation. If we change to an entirely renewable society, then it’s very likely the proportion of electricity generation in total energy will increase. So changing entirely to renewables would have a strong effect. Given that renewables emissions are 3-17% of coal, or 2-12% of the current generation mix’s emissions, we could expect that changing to renewables would give us a 88-98% of 33%, or 29-32% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

    However, in attempting this we must be cautious. Sweden and Denmark have lots of renewables, but still have high per capita emissions. France and the US have a lot of nuclear but still have high fossil fuel use and emissions. The case of Sweden is particularly telling: in the 1980s they voted to get rid of nuclear power, and added renewables to replace it, but… found new uses for this electricity, and didn’t shut down nuclear after all – they now use about 25,000kWh per capita annually, twice that of the US or Australia and thrice that of their neighbour Denmark, and are building more generation capacity still.

    So in building renewables there’s a danger that we’ll just add them rather than substitute them for the fossil fuel plants. That then would be 3-17% emissions added rather than 29-32% subtracted.

    Thus, with building renewables there must be a simultaneous knocking down of the fossil fuel plants.

  9. dotcommodity says:

    I really hope that Obama can be educated (by you?) to be as pro Wind as Clinton.

    His energy plan extends the PTC only for 5 years!

    …just long enough for the next time the idiots get hold of the reins again and shut it down again; I wish he would extend it permanently like Clinton with her 1.8 cent PERMANENT PTC so we can catch up with the civilized world.

    Once material shortages and Peak Oil kick in it is going to be very difficult to build as massive and many Wind turbines as we need, and our nation will be the one left to flounder in the dark.

  10. Rod Adams says:

    I took a detailed look a the NREL’s report. Several of the entering assumptions seem unreasonable and unobtainable. Here are the ones that stand out in my mind.

    1. Ten percent of current grid capacity is available – apparently for free – for wind energy transmission.
    2. There will be a 10% reduction in the real cost of new wind turbines.
    3. There will be an increase of 15% in the capacity factor of new wind turbines. (Since wind CF is largely driven by the availability of the wind and since developers reasonably develop the best resources first, I find this one particularly troubling since it plays a huge role in the overall cost per unit power output.)
    4. New transmission lines can be constructed – apparently without opposition – as new wind farms are developed. (This a model construct, but does not match the reality experienced by any transmission line developer that I know.)
    5. New transmission lines will be constructed in straight lines from the wind resource to the closest part of the grid – mountains, national parks, rivers, lakes, bays, etc. are not impediments to this construction requirement in the computer model used for the study. (Take a look at the graphics on page 159.)
    6. The American Wind Energy Association is a disinterested source of data to be taken without verification in the real world.
    7. Wind projects continue to benefit from 5 year depreciation schedules.
    8. Coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydro continue to provide enough capacity to meet all demand and supply variations at no cost to wind developments.
    9. Nuclear plant lifetimes are limited to 30 years. (Most operating plants are going to run for 60 or more years based on current industry and regulatory projections.)

    The accuracy and relevance of any future prediction, including one run through a computer model, is completely dependent on the validity of the input assumptions. In this case, I think that the assumptions negate the value of the assessment.

  11. mauri pelto says:

    I am excited and pleased to see the growth of wind energy in the last five years. The number of proposed projects is staggering. A key reason I think wind energy has so much potential, is that it appeals to America’s sense of independence. Each landowner, with the right wind characteristics can begin to make money off of energy production, not just pay for energy. Who would not want to profit from instead of be punished by rising energy costs? This distributed production is the key, just like distributed computer processing, to helping increase output quickly. I love the graph on page one of this report showing the impact govt. can have on installed capacity. http://www.awea.org/pubs/documents/Outlook_2008.pdf.

  12. mauri pelto says:

    In the previous post inserting the link somehow led to two blank spaces that causes the link to not work, sorry. The report at awea.org is excellent.

  13. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Hey Joe

    Wind turbine are fine, but they will have no effect on the reduction of CO2 in the heavy frieght industries or aviation or mining or cruise ships. Or those energy-glutton industries such cement, metal and oil refining, all ceramics, forestry, fishing, agriculture, professional sports, etc, etc. etc.
    Or the military-industrial complex.

  14. Robert says:

    Kiashu – the Sweden experience does not surprise me. Parkinson’s law seems to apply to energy usage, in that people adapt their behaviour (and in the long term the population itself) to consume all available energy. IMHO the only way to tackle CO2 emissions is set global caps on fossil fuel extraction, plus a cap on the ultimate amount extracted. Anything else is doomed to failure, although people may not understand why the failure is happening.

  15. Reader says:

    Rod,

    You think those computer models are intentionally flawed? You should take a close look at the IPCCs models….

  16. Reader says:

    Joe,

    Comment please:

    Do you think mis- & disinformation articles such as this help or hurt your agenda overall?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/theroyalfamily/1961719/Prince-Charles-Eighteen-months-to-stop-climate-change-disaster.html

    [JR: The headline is wrong and doesn’t seem to reflect what he said. But we have run out of time for delay, as even the head of the IPCC — handpicked by the Bush Administration — has said.]

  17. Rod Adams says:

    Reader:

    I am not claiming any intent – I have no way of understanding what the study sponsors wanted to find.

    My interpretation is that the assumptions are flawed and my experience with modeling suggests that a model running on flawed assumptions cannot produce a useful answer.

    In other words – I do not think that the study is worth very much as a tool for making important decisions about energy policy.

  18. John Mashey says:

    Kiashu, Robert:
    the effect you describe is usually called the Jevons Paradox.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

    but read the “Energy Conservation Policy” section. I’d observe more:

    1) Biophysical economists like Robert Ayres+Benjamin Warr find that the much of economic growth actually comes from:

    work = energy * efficiency

    In neoclassical economics, this appears as the “Solow Residual”, or “Total Factor Productivity” or “technological progress”, or something like that … but Ayres+Warr makes more sense to me.

    SO, if someone increases energy, they get more work done, which increases wealth, and it is often quicker to build another power plant than it is to do the long, slow rework of infrastructure and vehicle fleets to make them more efficient. Note that California has managed to hold electricity/person ~constant for 30 years by such methods, without getting poor, while the US as a whole has risen substantially.

    2) We’ll see how Jevons Paradox holds up as it becomes clear, with Peak Oil & Gas, and likely restrictions on Coal, that increasing the energy supplies is hard, and the only way to even hold the work constant is to get better on efficiency.

  19. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Attn: Joe!

    The most inportant flawed assumptions are that the conc of CO2 is 388 pppv and there is a uniform distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    This not the case. Read on.

    RE: Carbon Dioxide in Real Air.

    The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere as determined by analysis of ambient air at Mauna Loa or any site is reported for “Standard Dry Air” which is air at 273.2 K and 1 atm pressure and is comprised of nitrogen, oxygen and the inert gases. These are the reference conditions always used for reporting the composition of the atmosphere based on analysis of ambient air at a particular site by various methods. The value is only valid for Mauna Loa and bear no relationship to the concentration of CO2 in “real air” at any other site. “Real air” is term for ambient air at the intake ports of air separation plants and is used in the HVAC industries. GO:http://www.uigi.com/air.html for more info about real air.

    In general, the composition and physical properties of real air are quite site specfic, variable and depend primarily on elevation and fluctuating temperature, air pressure, and absolute humidity and to a lessor extent on the seasons and weather, site surface and geophysical features (e.g., ocean, mountains, desert, forests, cropland, urbanization, etc) and on biological and human activities. Clouds and temperature of bodies of water will also effect the concentration of CO2 in the air in their vicinity.

    For example, if standard dry air is heated to 30 deg C the mole number declines by about 10% but the relative ratios of the gases in the real air will remain about the same. This is origin of the phase “well-mixed gases in the troposphere.”

    Standard dry air has 388 ml of pure CO2/cu. meter. At 30 deg C this value drops to 350 ml/cu. meter. If the air were to become saturated with water vapor (ca, 4% by volume), the amount of CO2 declines to about 336 ml/cu. meter. The amount of IR absorbed by CO2 depends upon the absolute amount per unit volume and its competion with other gases suchas as water vapor for IR photons.

    Air pressure declines about 1 psi per 2000 ft increase in elevation. This would lower the density of the air and thus the absolute amount of the gasses per unit volume. However, air temperature drops about 6 deg C per 2000 ft. increase in elevation. This would increase the density of air. Thus the absolute amount of the gases per unit volume of air becomes a complex function of these variables as well as the above mentioned fluctuating temperature, air pressure and absolute humidity.

    Since clouds have a high surface area and CO2 is quite soluble in water, the amount of CO2 in the air will be altered and depend the cloud density, i.e, the amount of water per cubic meter. If the clouds move into warmer air and dissipate, the dissolved CO2 will be released to air. If the clouds move into cooler air and rain is formed, the dissovled CO2 will be transported to the surface and its disposition will depend on that surface. Over the oceans the CO2 will mix in the water quickly. Over the land, however, the nature of the surface will effect whether the CO2 is retained in the water (e.g., porous soil) or released back to the air (for example, hot concrete or rocks or plant leaves, etc).

    Over water the amount of CO2 in the air will be influenced by the temperature of the upper layers. The solubility of CO2 declines rapidly with increasing water temperature and can be about 60% lower in water at 30 deg C than water at 0 deg C. As warm tropical water moves to the poles, its temperature slowly drops and by the time it reaches the polar region the water temperature can be about 0 deg C, and can hold about 2.5 times as much CO2 as the warm tropical water. How much CO2 is absorbed will depend on air presssure, wind, wave action, salinity and biological activity, etc.

    Biological activity will affect the amount of CO2 in the air. In particular, green plants from alga to big trees fix CO2 in the daytime, but all animals and non-photosynthetic microbes respire. At night all plants and animals respire and release CO2.

    Human activities will alter local and regional concentration of CO2 in the air. For example, in Southern California, the concentration of CO2 will start to increase at sunrise, continue to rise throughout the workday, and will be the highest near the end of the evening rush hour after which the concentration of CO2 will start to decline. How the CO2 disperses will depend on the weather (e.g., movement of highs and lows into and out of the region) and the direction of the wind(s). Presence of large airports as well as cement plants will certainly alter the local concentration of CO2.

    Commercial and military aviation might alter significantly the concentration of CO2 and water vapor in the upper atmosphere around 35,000 ft in a non-uniform manner since most aircraft generally fly in designated fight paths.

    What all of the above boils down to is this: There is no uniform spatial and temporal distribution of CO2 in real or ambient air as expessed in an absolute amount per unit volume of air. Climate models would probably give better results if the absolute amount of CO2 per unit volume is used (e.g., milligrams or millimoles/cubic meter) and some method for estimating the above mentioned spatial and temporal distribution(s). However, the fluctuating concentration of CO2 would be most prevalent in the lower troposphere, epecially over land, and might not apply in upper troposphere above ca. 40,000 ft. Over the middle of oceans (e.g., the Pacific), there will be a more uniform distribtion of CO2 since there is little human activity there.

    Since standard dry air exists at no site on the surface of the earth, any “computer modeling experiments” using a value of 388 ppmv will give results that error on the high side.

    Recent images from the AIRS satellite so there is no uniform spatial and temporal distribution of CO2 in the mid-troposphere at about 8 km especially over the continents.

    Presently climate models are unable to parameterize the nonuniform distribution of CO2 and its rapidly changing concentration in real time.
    Climate models have very limited skill for making projections that are accurate and useful.

  20. Robert says:

    See. It can be done:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/alaskas-capital-goes-green-after-avalanche-cuts-power-lines-829931.html

    “In all, the city, unreachable by road and with a population of 30,000, has managed to cut consumption by 30 per cent in less than a month, a margin some experts had thought impossible. ”

    People just need the right economic kick up the arse.

  21. Tom G says:

    Harold….
    The post is about Wind Power.

  22. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    ATTN: Joe and John

    I forgot to mention one the most important properties of real air and that is this: Real air always has water vapor and substantial amounts of it.

    There is no place on this earth where the absolute humidity is absolutely zero all the time. Not even in the Atacama Desert in the Andes where in some place it rains about once every 100 years.

    There is so much water vapor in the air that it totally swamps out any greenhouse effect of CO2. Check out “Global Warming: A Closer Look at the Numbers” GO: http://www.clearlight.com/~mhieb/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

    Monte Hieb is a mine safety engineer and is knowledgeable of the chemistry and physics of gases. He did not atate what absolute humidity he used for his calculation, but these are correct for an absolute humidity if !% _the mean global average_.

    There is so much water vapor in the air is that it always forcing weather and climate and it has the property of auto-feed back. Water does not need any assistance from CO2 to function as the primary greenhous gas.

  23. Earl Killian says:

    Harold Pierce Jr, please stop posting falsehoods. Please read
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm
    and
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/Radmath.htm
    to understand why CO2 adds to the heating caused by water vapor and why water vapor is an amplifier of CO2 induced warming. The issues you are raising were date from the early 20th century, and were resolved in the 1960s. Your science is antiquated. You may also find
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php
    item #22 to help dispel your misconeptions.

  24. Finnjor says:

    Forgot the potetial energy of the Greenland and Antarctic ice masses? All the energy and fresh water for a thousand years that we need. CO2 gets 1000 ppm anyway, so that we have take these ice masses away on land not to get the 100 meters sea level rise.

  25. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    ATTN: Tom G.

    I posted this as a follow up to Rod Adam’s comment. You warners need to be continually whacked with the 2 x 4 of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 101. Hopefully all this global warming gobblygook and climate change claptrap will be knocked out of your heads.

  26. Rainhelt says:

    Don’t mess with Texas?

    You installed 4.4GW of wind power in Texas? Amazing! That’s like 2 standard coil-powered power plants…

    The overall installed wind power in the U.S. amount to 15 GW (as far as I know). That’s like 7 Power Plants. Und you really spent $9 Billion on that?

    Furthermore, wind power is not base-loadable energy…

  27. Joe says:

    Harold: I don’t know what irrelevant nonsense you pedal at other blogs, but I don’t know what this has to do with wind power. In any case, somehow I’m going to take the top 2000 climate scientists summarizing the peer-reviewed literature over you.

    Rainhelt, For $9 billion these days you can maybe get one nuclear plant built by 2020.

    Ron Adams: Your analysis is both misleading and flawed. I will blog on it later.

  28. Finnjor says:

    Joe, more: do you believe the business as usual is going to be cast away globally before it is too late?

    Look at our civilization, all science and smartness: the best ones of that civilization behaving like never heard of any trouble with ppm 450. Over 99 % of them never really have not heard of such a thing.

  29. Rainhelt says:

    @Joe: But you do know, that you have to install backup powerplants anyway? (In Germany, those power plants are called “shadow power plant”. I don’t no the exact translation ;) . You need them to stabalize and controll the net. Normally they are realized by gas-fired power plants due to short reaction times)

  30. Joe says:

    If I had to bet, it’d be on 800 to 1000 ppm. But i am an optimist, I see the glass as 10% full. As long as 450 ppm is achievable, that’s what I’m pushing for.

  31. David B. Benson says:

    Harold Pierce Jr — In some parts of the Atacama Desert it has never rained. Not in all the millions of years since the Andes first formed.

    And, by the way, probably a poor location for wind power…

  32. Tony Castaldo says:

    This is great, solar thermal is great. I don’t understand why geothermal gets such short shrift. MIT did a 372 page 2007 report by 18 scientists, here: http://geothermal.inel.gov/publications/future_of_geothermal_energy.pdf

    and I direct your attention to pages 1-27 through 1-30. Geothermal is available everywhere in the USA. The resources are 200 times our entire national energy consumption, forever. It is zero emission, tiny footprint (it can actually fit in something the size of a warehouse in the middle of downtown), safe against terrorist attack, completely distributable, non-intermittent, on 24/7, cheap to tap, completely scalable from small town to big city, and the technology is easily explained to anybody — Drill down 3-8 miles, and use the bottom of the hole as a firebox for a steam turbine that generates electricity. It can produce electricity cheaper than we pay right now; in fact for some shallow western wells in California, at half the current cost. On top of all that, it really is zero-emission, green, and environmentally friendly. Greenland has already led the way, and we have many working geothermal plants in the US already.

    It makes no noise, kills no birds, and does not require any exotic elements. If wind and thermal solar are key technologies, so is Geothermal, and in fact geothermal alone plus hybrid cars could have us independent of all Middle Eastern oil in under 20 years, and independent of all fossil fuels in about 40 years. Not only that, but if America leads the way on the research and technology the rest of the world will adopt it pretty quickly, and we can get past the fossil fuel era within the lifetimes of today’s children.

  33. Earl Killian says:

    Tony, I am eager to see geothermal be part of a diverse set of solutions. However, it is important to start today with technologies that are ready to be deployed. Existing geothermal plants (built in natural geothermal sites) are not the same as the ones the MIT report proposes (which requires creating the field to heat the water at extreme depths). Before we bet on geothermal, we need to build a few prototypes and see how they do. So, if the US gets serious in January 2009 about solutions, it should start deploying wind and solar, and start building prototypes of other possible solutions. Once there is enough data from the prototypes (e.g. in 2017) that data can be used to decide how those technologies get added into the mix of solutions. But we must not delay starting with what we have today, because then we are sure to broach 450 ppm.

  34. Robert says:

    Our next door neigbour told me they are expecting their 3rd child in October. I resisted the temptation to tell her she was mad.

  35. Tony Castaldo says:

    EarlKillian: I agree, start with what we’ve got, my point is that Geothermal gets short shrift; it is not even mentioned in most debates or discussions or articles on energy independence, while to me, geothermal is the elephant in the room. Romm thinks wind can handle 20%, CSP can address 40% but needs a distribution system. Geothermal can address 20,000% and needs no new distribution system; and it is not exactly true that we need to create a field; there are in-hole contained binary systems that do not require a field at all.

    I am in Texas, and on the right highway going past San Antonio, I can watch wind turbine blades making their way north all day long. We have plenty of space for that. I have driven across New Mexico and all over Arizona, there are thousands of square miles of sunlit space to put in some CSP plants. So sure, if you must, get started there. But Geothermal is still the greenest of the green energies. It has a tiny fraction of the footprint of CSP or a wind farm, requires no special placement, it has no more environmental impact than building a large office complex, it is cheap ($5-20M per plant).

    The common wisdom is now Wind, but geothermal is literally 1000 times bigger than wind, and wherever you are standing or sitting there could be a zero-emissions plant. Unlike wind, geothermal has enough excess capacity to scrub the CO2 from the atmosphere, if we wanted to do that.

    Wind and CSP are short-term solutions. It is misleading to claim geothermal needs 10 years of testing to become viable; Greenland has done most of the necessary research for us over the last 20 years. It is viable right now, as the MIT report says. But the short term solution du jour is Wind and Solar, two partial solutions for intermittent generation that both require massive investment in new distribution networks, instead of one complete and permanent solution that generates 24/365, regardless of season or weather, requires zero electric storage capacity, delivers electricity for cheaper than we pay now, and that can be adapted to the existing grid.

    It is hard for me to get excited about CSP or Wind when the proponents seem completely ignorant of the one and only permanent and elegant solution with essentially unlimited capacity for the foreseeable future. That ignorance makes me suspect those proponents are not the experts they pretend to be, they have not studied the problem with an independent mind, and they are just parroting some fad of the year with which they have become enamored, dismissing all countervailing views out of hand because they don’t want to hear anything contrary to their preconceptions.

    I am not bitter, I am saying, as a full time research scientist (in computer science, not energy), that if I were to choose a route toward independence there is clearly a best and most certain technology which deserves far more attention than it gets, there is only one approach that is not a stopgap or partial solution and that one is geothermal energy, not wind or solar of any flavor. it should not be “in the mix”, it should be the default choice and only supplanted when wind or CSP, with their huge footprints and permanent environmental impact, have clear and compelling economic advantages.

  36. Reader says:

    Mr. Benson,

    Would that be on the same continent with the 1 billion displaced people trying to drink glaciers, and where 70% of species have been lost?

    Check your info, again.

  37. John Hollenberg says:

    > Also interesting is FloDesign’s wind turbine – it has cowlings that make it look like a large jet engine, except that air moves the turbine rather than the turbine moving the air. CNET wrote it up at:

    Here is the correct link (one posted above didn’t get to the right place):

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9945005-54.html?tag=bl

  38. I wonder if the FloDesign wind turbine is safer for birds. Seems they would see the cowling, plus the blades don’t sweep such a big space.

    Tony Castaldo Says:

    Wind and CSP are short-term solutions.

    Why would they be short term? That makes no sense to me. We aren’t going to run out of wind and sunshine.

    Tony says:

    But the short term solution du jour is Wind and Solar, two partial solutions for intermittent generation that both require massive investment in new distribution networks, instead of one complete and permanent solution that generates 24/365

    Solar thermal with heat storage is not intermittent.

    We need the distribution network anyway to beef up the grid. Especially if we want enough capacity to run transportation with electricity.

    The solar proposal at Scientific American says that public money would not have to be used for HVDC, but rather to assure enough tax credits to attract investors so the CSP companies can get up to scale.

  39. Reader

    environmentalism is COMMON SENSE

  40. The cost of wind turbines is still expensive, but I do think that it is the way of the future. The more and more are built, the cheaper the cost. within the next couple of decades, I see the U.S. primarily dependent on renewable energy!

  41. Pavol says:

    What is a CO2 foot print of manufacturing of wind turbines? Everybody saying that getting energy from wind is for free, but where is the cost for maintenance, replacement of parts and so on. I remember from school that when you manufacture something in big scale, it is cheaper. To manufacture so many turbines you release a lot of CO2 to get steel for that.
    And, as already mentioned you need to have a substitution for the case there is no wind.

    Joe, I have read the article in Time about you, and few things make me sad.
    one is that you “filtering everything through your own firmly fixed values”.
    For me it means that you are “believer” with whom there is no debate about if there is real a man made global warming. Even, as read many times all these worming theories are just “theories”.
    Another thing makes me sad that for you everybody who is not “believer” is “denier”, simply said somebody almost a criminal.