Cost of renewable energy

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by Success_Machine, Jun 22, 2001.

  1. Success_Machine Impossible? I can do that Registered Senior Member

    A 600 kilowatt wind turbine is considered to be the workhorse of wind farms worldwide. Such a machine in Canada costs $1.2 million to install, has a 50 meter tower, and a 43 meter blade diameter. They cost $6,000 per year to maintain, but pay for themselves in about 8 years. Wind turbines are so far the least expensive form of renewable energy. However it doesn't really make sense to build them for the transportation industry since, after all, electric cars aren't practical yet. But how about this:

    Canadians consume 64.75 gigawatts of non-renewable electrical power. This comes from nuclear, coal & oil-fired powerplants. Replacing this would require us to build just 15 new wind turbines per day - one in each Canadian city - and would cost just $209.92 per person, per year, over 20 years. Plus wind turbines tend to pay for themselves in 8 years, after which our electrical bills would decrease substantially!

    That's all it would take to get rid of nuclear, coal *and* oil from the power generation industry.

    What do you say we do just that ?

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  3. 666 Registered Senior Member

    Except for one fact that you left out. That 600 kwatt fan does put out a constant 600 kwatts. what do you do on the days when the wind doesn't blow that hard, and not to mention the fact that blow as hard in every geographical location.

    Even in high wind areas there are still plenty of days when the big fans stand still. I drive pass a big wind farm twice a day and let me tell you most of the time 90% don't spin. The only thing I think of when see that is, "Look at the waste, I have to pay for that!". Yes some of my money goes to pay for it. PG&E pays 43 Million a year to get power the farm and even though a portion is paid through taxes they saddle thier customers with the full cost.

    They also have to face a major hurdle. They are causing just as much enviromental damage as coal power plants. A study was regarding the local bird population. They are flying and sometimes getting sucked into the blades. The local birds are on the edge of become no more, and every lowers thier numbers just that much more. It's an estimate of 2-4 birds a day.

    In fact a bit south of there they are paying the same amount but can't get the power from the farm, becuase stringing more power lines would cost to much money and they can't ge the approval for enviromental reasons, but they signed the contract and have to pay anyways.

    It's not a perfect solution, but does help reduce polution when you can get power from them. Also polotics will all ways get in the way, even the green kind!
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  5. Porfiry Nomad Registered Senior Member

    Well that's obvious, isn't it??
    Wind patterns in a particular geographic region are almost certainly predictable (on average), and so it should not be difficult to choose locations that maximise profit. If your power company is incapable of this, then too bad. It doesn't invalidate the pursuit in general.

    Huh? You are almost guaranteed a cost savings at some point.

    I don't consider 2-4 birds to be "just as much" damage as the irreversible damage a coal-fired plant's pollution is causing the environment on a global scale. My cat very nearly consumes 2-4 birds a day. I don't think my cat is equivalent to a coal-fired plant that produces tons of mutagens, biotoxins, and carbon dioxide a day. Sure, she leaves fur everywhere, but...

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  7. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    The cat enviro-disaster

    That would be awesome, an enviroment threating cat! A single cat.

    There are other alternatives, depending on location. Wave to electricity generators is a favorite of mine. And the waves are almost always there. Of course some days are better than others, just like the wind. But unlike the wind it doesn't completely stop.

    If you're not near the seaside then it's out as an option. But that's renewable and nonpolluting. I think the Japanese even had one for currents like the Gulf Stream current.

    To get a little of topic for a moment there was a show on TV the other night about the Bermuda Triangle. One of the things that came up was that they sent this robotic submersible down and they were finding all this stuff on the ocean floor. Somehow or other they wound up near England. There they showed that a boat, that had purportedly sunk in the Bermudas, on the bottom having been carried by the Gulf Stream current. To me it was just astounding that it would still be in one piece much less survive that distance of being dragged along the bottom. But it does give the visualization of the push of the current. (So maybe it wasn't to far off topic after all)
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2001
  8. Success_Machine Impossible? I can do that Registered Senior Member

    Wind power pays for itself

    When there is no wind, no power is produced. However there are plenty of areas where the wind blows 80 percent of the time, and the Bruce Wind Turbine (Ontario, Canada) often exceeds its maximum rated power output. But the real benefit of wind power is long-term with cumulative power produced on an annual basis. This results in a huge reduction in dependance on nuclear, coal & oil. In fact the 600 kW wind turbine in Bruce township, Ontario, averaging 28 percent of its maximum power production, is still expected to pay for itself in just 8 years.

    Installation cost comparisons
    coal = $1.20 per watt
    diesel = $1.60 per watt
    hydro = $1.34 to $1.87 per watt
    wind = $2 per watt
    heliostat = $4 to $5 per watt
    nuclear = $4 to $6 per watt
    photovoltaics = $6 to $7 per watt

    Wind power seems to be in the price range that would make it one of two renewable power sources that can compete with coal & diesel. Nuclear isn't even in the ballpark. Why do we bother with nuclear? Nuclear is reliable, whereas the wind doesn't always blow full strength. Nuclear is also compact and doesn't emit visible air pollution (out of sight, out of mind). I personally like the hydro & wind options since they are renewable energy resources that also turn a profit.

    The one concern with wind power is bird fatalities, which seem to be excessive. However mid-air collisions with obstacles is the leading natural cause of death in all bird populations. A study in California concluded that the number of collisions of birds with wind turbines was the same as highrise buildings, and it did not seem to matter if the blades were rotating or not. But the issue continues because a larger proportion of the bird fatalities were Raptors (eagles, falcons, etc.) who unexpectedly used the turbine towers as ideal nesting & perching spots. My opinion as a design engineer is that it would be a trivial effort to prevent birds perching/nesting on the towers altogether, and also to locate the towers away from areas where a lot of birds nest, e.g. seaside cliffs.
  9. 666 Registered Senior Member


    I was refering to the stats that Success_Machine posted. The stats appear to rely upon the turbines to produce thier full power constantly. I was just pointing out that this never happens. I have seen a row of ten turbines with only 3 spining. The area these turbines are in would have to be one of the best areas for the region, but yet they still can't produce enough power!

    Taken from a web page about the Altamont Wind Farm (the same one I drive by).

    That would be 200,000 Kwh per year per turbine

    Keep in mind that the Altamont pass wind farm is the world largest concentration of turbines.

    In 1999 California consumed 276 TWH. Now i will give the benifit of the doubt and go with the higher number of 1.2 TWH That Altamont produces with 6000 turbines. It would take 1,380,000 turbines just to produce the power demand of 1999.

    Now I wouldn't call this efective, and I sure wouldn't call it cost efective. at 1.2 million $ a peace this would cost $1,656,000,000,000. Maintaining them would cost $82,800,000,000 over a 10 year peroid at $6000 per year per unit. Not to mention that it takes 8 years to pay off one turbine. It would take 13,248,000,000,000 years just to pay for the turbines. I won't even go into physical space requirments.

    If this is the closest we are to renewable energy we will have put a man on Mars before it is efective. I may some day eat those words, but for now that is ware we stand. In higher population areas it is a matter of demand vs. out put, and the turbines just are not up to the job.

    I stand by my original argument that it is a good suplament to conventional power generators, and helps reduce polution, but it is not the solution.
  10. thecurly1 Registered Senior Member

    Wind power will never be able to generate enough power to supply any large scale demans, too small. In areas such as Arizona, and Nevada, we should experiment with large scale solar farms if you will. These could collect massive amounts of free, unpoluting sunlight, as long as these pannels were spread out over many miles. This could power near by cities such as Tuscon, and Las Vegas. Clouds wouldn't be a problem in the desert. The few clouds that occur would block a tiny percentage of sunlight barrely effecting power production. AC/DC converters, and photovalic cells are being reduced in price. Very soon this will be the most economic form of producing power in dry, desert states. Other than that, new nuclear plants should be built far away from populated areas to provide power to the US seaboards, or places where solar power can't be utilitzed. Oil and coal fired plants must never be built again.
  11. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    My concept of renewable energy would be to have the solar collectors/microwave transmisson to collectors on earth. No weather problems. The beginning of space industry. Pollution will eventually make industry to expensive to operate within the atmosphere. Every year sees more regulations, requirements, fees, taxes, licenses, material cost increases, labor costs increases, ect. Some costs are not avoidable but others are. These are some of the very costs that are driving industries to seek 3rd world countries for bases of manufacture. But with the new found wealth these industries bring is also the desire for better living conditions. That ties right back to the enviroment and just delays the process somewhat. Eventually space will seem to be the one place with welcoming arms. Abundant raw materials, energy for the collecting, refridgation for free, heat for free. Processes available because of weightlessness that are not options here in this gravity well. Who knows how long this will take? But surely it will comw.
  12. thecurly1 Registered Senior Member

    About space based power...

    Having orbiting solar collectors is better than land-based power but there is a significant problem with it: they are extremely susceptible to anti-satellite weapons. If another country destroyed these power collectors, the nation's power source would be rendered useless. With the solar collectors in our borders they would be much easier to protect than in space. If someone tried to hit them in the continental US than it would be an act of war. Satellite collectors may not be viewed as a sovereign piece of American soil. Other than that concern it works.
  13. 666 Registered Senior Member

    Well then we would just have to arm them. Or use other satilites that could do double duty to protect them.

    Lets not forget one other problem. We would still need focus our efforts on conserving energy. If we go hog wild we risk block out a significant amount of sunlight.

    If we could find a renewable (I don't like the term renewable energy *) engery source that wouldn't have any ill effect on any thing else we would not have to worry one bit. This is the ideal state.

    Any time we have to hold back inorder to conserve energy we inpact industry. When we impact industry we impact the economy. When we impact the economy we impact quality of life.

    * Renewable engery would mean that there is an energy source that can be used up completly. When infact all we do is take one state of energy and change into another which in turn gets gets changed in another, and so on. It's all "renewable" some forms just not fast enough.
  14. thecurly1 Registered Senior Member

    Modifing the satellite idea...

    About satellite solar power, it would be more wise if we put the solar collecting satellite closer to the sun, the light would be brighter and we wouldn't block any light hitting Earth. The sunlight could be switched to microwaves, and then reflected off a smaller satellite down to a power plant on the ground which would use the microwaves to heat water into steam, driving turbines, that would produce power.
  15. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    Putting the satellites out of plane of earth's orbit would solve the problem of light blockage. There might be some degrading of the power with distance due to beam spread. (Not being able to collect all that was sent and power dropping with distance from transmitter to reciever) Somewhere along the line in distance is the break even point where you don't recieve enough power in the transmission to make it feasable. (Where that would be I don't know but I'm sure it has already been researched and someone on the internet has the answer) As with all new technologies it starts close and as the equipment is refined and tweaked it gets better.

    As far as satellites being a target, I would imagine threating a nations' power supply would be considered as an act of war much the same as Iraq and the oil fields. Not much difference as it is a resource that a nation would depend on.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2001
  16. thecurly1 Registered Senior Member


    My signature is taking up more space than my reply!
  17. Deadwood Registered Senior Member

    I reckon Australia should just build a huge solar power plant in the big desert we have here. and sell the power overseas, which our state was going to do for California, but some legislation of California prevented them from buying it.

    but anyway, our state produced 24kw of solar power yesterday.

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    Enough to power 1 home! I betcha that was my house! And it saved .02tonnes of CO2 from being freed!

    I think that we should become more efficient. I always turn off switches at night and get the tellie off stand-by before going to bed. However, it is better to leave fluorescent lights on if you are only going away for a little while, because I hear it consumes a bit of electricity just to get them goin'.

    Anyways, don't people realise that coal costs money! Wind costs nothing. Unless you artificially generate the wind to power the turbines. (possibly the greatest invention I have ever come up with).

    Actually, I have come up with an idea for a renewable energy car. You see, it has solar panel on the roof the bonnet and back. So that provides the energy to get the car started. However, you also have wind turbine, about 25cm (10 1/2") on top of the car. Like two or more. This is surrounded by a wired cage for safety, but still lets the wind through. So when the car goes, the wind turbines power it. When at traffic lights you have the solar power. What to do when there is no sun. Don't worry I though about that to. At night time, push your car underneath a street light, or shine a torch on it, everyone takes shifts.

    Do you like my idea?

    In the early nineties, I watched a kids program about wildlife and the environment. It said that in the late nineties everyone will be driving solar powered cars. Me and my young mind thought ,wow!, but now it thinks, "silly me!"

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  18. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

    I like it better than plugging one in all night to recharge. Solar cells are at present used for the recharge of wet cell batteries in remote locations. Especially for RTU's (Remote Transmitting Units). There they use a bank of wet cell batteries to power burst transmissions to a reciever elsewhere. This is used to gather info of whatever kind that industry requires. One such example is monitoring flow through gas pipelines for verifying no leaks in the system. No need to send someone out to read the meter on a daily basis. A central point recieves the info and compares to what was sent out. The figures will not match exactly but near enough to tell if a leak in present.
  19. kmguru Staff Member

    I came late to this thread. All the ideas have been discussed. So I have a few small stuff, I would like to share.

    1. Geothermal: We have a water well on the property with water temperature at a constant 67 F. I am thinking to drill two wells 100 meters apart. Then suck water from one well and run it through a heat exchanger and drain it to the other well. In summer time I can keep the house cool and in the winter time I may have to add a small heater to maintain the temperature. The AC is the biggest expense in a home in a hot area like ours.

    2. Solar heat: A large number of Arizona residents have solar heat powered hot wanter heaters. That is another big energy user.

    Cooking and clothes drying are also two major energy users. Unfortunately I have not figured that out, unless you drill two more holes in the ground for 2 miles deep to get the steam to cook.

    The light portion of energy for the house is minimal, so one can use photovoltaics to power the lights only. I have not found a cheap product yet to justify the purchase.

    3. Automobile: Corn to alcohol to fuel cell to electricity should be a renewable resource. Then have 4 - 50 HP wheel motors on the car should be cheaper to produce and not much degradation in efficiency over the life of a car.

    Same fuel cell process could be used to power the home too.
  20. sugarmatic Registered Member

    photovoltaics are painful

    PV technology as it exists today requires optimum power production of between 3 and 10 years or more to break even with the electricity required to fabricate the solar cells. Adding on power conditioning devices and storage, and the picture is downright ugly, residing in many way squarely next to nuclear power in overall cleanliness. In addition, the manufacturing processes produce significant quantities of difficult toxic waste. This is why PV is not the obvious answer it otherwise should be. It is a deal-breaker until these shortcomings are addressed.
  21. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

    power regeneration

    I mentioned upon a topic of global warming what I use to do, one of the things we were actually working towards was and is "Power Regeneration".

    All of the people in a modern civilization create alot of waste, this waste can be recycled but some is placed upon landfill tips to accumilate. The landfill tips are specifically structured, rather than just dumping rubbish in a hole in the ground, a network of pipes are laid for a mixture of drainage and for removing Methane (CH4) from the tip.

    As I mentioned in the other topic most landfill's presently just use an open ended flare to burn the gas or vent it, but the gas accumilates and if it isn't removed from the site it can build up to explosive limits.

    (This is also the reason why Landfill sites shouldn't be built on for many years afterwards) Also the venting and inefficient combustion of methane causes greenhouse gases and other toxins to be pumped into the air.

    The point with power regeneration is Gas taken from working landfills (and for at least 15 years after they close) can be used to power turbines, of course they have to use specific techniques to remove liquid from the gas, but it's usable. It can even be bottled. Also old mines produce gas also, sewerage treatment plants can as well, basically almost anywhere where their is biodegrading produces methane that could be converted into power or fuel.

    This means that Money/Fuel/Power can be made from waste. Depending on what your after.
  22. Edufer Tired warrior Registered Senior Member

    Windmill, Solar, Fossil, or Nuclear Power?

    Sorry for intruding so late in the topic.

    1) A two megawatt windmill with 100-foot blades built with $30 million ($15.000 per installed Kw) of taxpayers´ money by Southern California Edison. It rarely worked and was auctioned for salvage in 1983 for $51,000. Net loss: $29,949,000. Taxpayers´ money...

    2) In Alameda County, California, at Altamont Pass, in the hills between Oakland and Stockton, up to 7.000 windmills have been installed. The noise, when they operate, is so great that the operators have had to establish a fund to buy out nearby homeowners who sue. Said one: "You can hear that continuous whipping, whistling roar only for so long before you go raving mad". Many of the 7,000 windmills are not operating. Maintenance problems have prove to be severe. Wind never blows steadily or evenly. It pulses and that contributes to an unpleasant sound and the stresses on the vanes.

    3) Experimental windmill "farms" in North Carolina and Vermont have been closed down because of noise complaints from neighbors.

    If windmills prove to work as efficiently as their designers intend, and without expensive maintenance, how many would it take to make a major contribution to the US electricity supply? According to a study made at Lockheed, wind power could supply 19 percent of America´s power with 63,000 having towers over 300 feet high, blades 1000 feet across, and <b>a steady wind</B> No one has suggested where these machines might be installed.

    Wood waste, biomass, geothermal, wind, photovoltaic, and solar thermal power supplied by 1993 less than ONE percent of the U.S. electricity needs. This may increase and it may even double or triple, but for the foreseeable future, it will not make much of a difference. We are left, then, with the sober fact that 99 percent of the electricity in the USA is produced from three sources, and one of these, hydropower (4% of the total) is not likely to expand. That leaves us with nuclear power at 20% and fossil fuels for the remaining 75%. So let´s compare the relative environmental impact and consequences of their use:

    a) First, comparing the effluents frorn a 1,000 rnegawatt electric (MWe) coal plant with a nuclear plant of similar size reveals that the coal plant produces carbon dioxide at a rate of 500 pounds per second or seven million tons per year; <b>the nuclear plant produces none</B>.
    b) The coal plant produces sulfur oxides at a rate of one ton every five minutes, 120,000 tons per year; <b>the nuclear plant produces none</B>.
    c) The coal plant produces nitrogen oxides equivalent to 200,000 automobiles, 20,000 tons per year; <b>the nuclear plant produces none.</B>
    d) The coal plant produces quantities of smoke whose large particles are generally filtered out, but the small, dangerous ones remain and are spread widely; <b>the nuclear plant produces none.</B>
    d) The coal plant produces more than 40 different organic compounds that are released without control to the atmosphere; <b>the nuclear plant produces none.</B>
    e) Finally, since all coal contains some uranium, radium, and thorium, coal plants release unmonitored amounts of radioactivity; <B>the only radioactive element released to the atmosphere by nuclear power plants is Krypton-85, a harmless, noble gas, which is released in minute quantities under strict control.</B>

    Turning to solid waste, it is produced in a coal-burning plant at a rate of 1,000 pounds per minute, or 750,000 tons per year; the annual arnount of spent fuel from a nuclear plant is about 50 tons. The hazardous ingredients in coal ash include arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and lead, all of which maintain the same degree of toxicity forever. This material is discharged to the environment <b>without controls</B>.
    The nuclear plants’ spent fuel continuously loses radioactivity, eventually decaying to background levels. Disposal of nuclear waste is strictly controlled. The annual amount of fuel required for a 1,000 megawatt coal-burning plant amounts to <b>38,000 rail cars of coal, three million tons per year</B>; for a nuclear plant of similar size, <b>six truckloads, or about 60 tons of fuel per year</B> (and that includes the heavy metal-carrying casks), are all that are used.

    The lack of environmental effect in using nuclear power relates to the fact that the process does not involve chemical combustion and operates on the principle of containing wastes, not dispersing them. The heat that is produced and released – the thermal discharge – is about the same from a coal-burning unit as from a nuclear one, and it can readily be turned to useful purposes-.

    Since many of the wastes from coal-burning plants are airborne, their ultimate disposal takes place on land, in water, and, of course, in people’s lungs. Cornparative risk studies put the health effects of coal burning at about 50,000 fatalities annually. <b>Frorn nuclear power there are none.</B>
    If science and reason finally prevails, and the nefarious <b>linear no-threshold</B> (LNT) theory of radioactive effect on living beings is accepted as a hoax, then the costs of newer, fourth generation fast breeder reactors will plummet and make costs of producing electricity much, much lower.

    Do I recommend using nuclear power? Guess what:

    <center><font color=red size=6><b>YES, Absolutely!</B></font></center>
  23. SeekerOfTruth Unemployed, but Looking Registered Senior Member

    I am also late to the forum, but I wanted to add something on wind power. I just read an article, I think it was in Popular Science, about an idea a gentelman in Australia has for high-fling kites.

    Basically, it goes like this. Take some very large, well designed kites and place small wind turbines on them, fly them up into the jet streams, anchor the kites in place, and then just send the power down the cable. The kites will stay in place because the jet stream is fairly constant and extremely fast.

    It sounded like a good idea and the article states that the gentleman is going forward with his idea.

    The only problem I can think of with the idea is that you need to make specific no-fly zones for these power generation sites.

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