Update on wind power – (solar #29)

Here are a few articles on the environmental damage from wind energy: reclamation of wind farms, damage from Germany’s enegiewende program, and research on taller wind turbines.

9/3 – Dickinson Press – PSC orders financial pledge for cost of reclaiming wind farms – Two wind farms in North Dakota have reached the 10 year point in their operation. That is the time when the corporate shells that operate the slice-and-dicers must post a financial guarantee from their corporate parents to cover the costs of removing the blades, towers, foundations, and transmission lines at the end of their estimated 35 year life.

Why are guarantees necessary?

Because the farms are routinely parked in a corporation that has no other assets and would not be able to cover the reclamation costs. Profits are moved out of the shell into the corporate parents as there is cash available. Thus, the operating company has nothing other than depreciating wind turbines.

Corporate owners posted the following guarantees:

  • North Dakota Wind LLC – $2.23M for 27 turbines – about $82,600 each
  • North Dakota Wind II – $1.13M for 14 turbines – about $80,700 each

Now I know how the cost for removing slice-and-dicers in North Dakota will be handled. I don’t yet know how the costs of disposing of the toxic, chemically laden solar farms and turbines in California will be covered.

9/13 – New York Times – Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind – Long puff piece pushing wind and solar power still manages to acknowledge a long list of the problems with renewables in Germany’s energiewende, (energy transition). Here are a few:

  • Massive transition to wind power in Germany is adding huge costs to consumers; article says about US$280 extra per family per year.
  • Government has spent US$140B so far.
  • Cost to build offshore wind turbine is about US$30M.
  • Intermittency is huge issue.
  • Wholesale electricity prices “have crashed” during the time of day that solar output is high.
  • Because backup power has to be dialed up and down both quickly and frequently, the backup power plants are losing money. Those plants are uneconomical and aren’t really needed for load. Utilities will eventually have to be paid to keep the backup power online, thus driving up costs to consumers even further.
  • Dumping the cleanest power (nuclear) has the effect that there’s no net change in carbon output from the massive increase in wind. All that money and cost won’t change the amount of carbon generated inside Germany.
  • To make developers willing to build expensive and risky offshore wind turbines, the government is signing firm contracts for long terms (20 years I think) at several multiples of market price.

9/18 – ReWire – Feds Fund Research Into Taller Wind Turbines – Chris Clarke reports the Department of Energy is funding research to build taller turbines. Current towers are about 260 feet tall at the hub. The potential towers would be 400 feet tall at the hub with rotors about 160 feet long, giving height at top of the rotor sweep of about 560 feet high.

For comparison, the article says that puts the hub about six stories taller than the Morongo Casino Hotel north of the 10 on the drive to the desert. The top of the blade would reach about 21 stories higher than the hotel.

Current turbines run about 2.2 megawatt based on what I’ve read. The article says since the larger blade could catch more wind, they could reach 7.5 MW or even 10 MW per turbine.

That would be a substantial increase in output capacity.

USGS reports that migratory birds hang out in the altitude of 500 to 1,000 feet above the ground. With a reach up to 560 feet, the newly conceived towers could also reach up and grab some migratory birds at altitude.

That would be a substantial increase in the slice and dice capacity as well.

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