Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The World’s Grandest Farmers Co-op Wind Farm, to date



Simulation picture, E-126 in the Netherlands from http://green-giraffe.eu/projects/nop-agrowind#detail
Next month the first of 26 of the world’s biggest and most powerful commercial scale wind turbines (7.5 MW) will be installed and operational right on the shoreline of a big inland lake in the Netherlands called the IJsselmeer, which is a shallow man-made lake of fresh water covering 430 square miles. Another part of the project is the Westermeerwind 144 MW offshore (in the Ijsselmeer) freshwater wind farm,  to be composed of 48 x 3 MW Siemens wind turbines located paralleling the shore, and between 1,100 to 500 meters from the shore. Rather than being chicken at the sight of a wind turbine near the coast, this country is embracing them. However, the Dutch also have wind farms located over 20 km into the North Sea….

This project has been a long time in the works. Over 20 years ago, 100 local farmers/landowners got together can came up with this vision. They are still the majority owners, but have teamed up with two major electrical generation companies (RWE (Germany) and Essent). They are also offering their neighbors a chance to own part of this project. The ultimate plan (3 parts) is for 38 big E126 units and 48 smaller offshore units to be installed (458 MW) cranking out an average of at least 160 MW. This part of Europe has a very decent wind resource - up to 9 m/s at 135 meters above the water/ground, which is where the Enercon E126 hub height stands.

The lake was formed by constructing a long dike stretching from  the province of North Holland to Friesland. On the other (western) side of the dike is the Wadden Sea/Atlantic Ocean. The dike is 20 miles long and built 7.5 meters (25 feet) above sea level. It is one of the most impressive engineering accomplishments in the world. It separates the Zuiderzee freshwater lake from the Atlantic, and large parts of this lake have been reclaimed from the lake into some incredibly productive agricultural land. However, the income from sale of the electricity will probably be much greater than the farm income, at least for the initial 100 investors. This project will be the largest wind farm in this country….. and it should supply electricity for 140,000 households in the Netherlands.

The total investment will be close to 1 billion Euros. The initial Agrowind (26 E-126 turbines) will cost 420 million Euros, and 350 million of that will be borrowed money. The financing recently was closed, though there appears to be a lot of the construction (and which someone got paid to do) done already. 

It costs around $14 million just to buy an E-126, and about $7 million to install it. Part of the installation involves building a humongous “crawler crane” (and not many of these exist in the world) which essentially barely moves at all. It is needed for the final lifts of the concrete tower sections (the tower is made of pre-fabricated reinforced concrete shells and is 135 meters tall. And it comes with its owns internal elevator (135 meters is 443 feet), too, as well as ladder for manual ascents. The foundation is a special challenge due to the poor “strength” of the soil (basically reclaimed silt from swamps, rivers, harbors and ocean) - it consists of 2800 tons of reinforced concrete resting on long piles that connect with bedrock or what passes for it in that country. The blades come in two sections, as at ~60 meters, they would be a pain to transport. The inner parts of the turbine blades are mostly steel, and the outer sections are fiberglass reinforced epoxy polymer. They even have “winglets on their tips to prevent air from “spilling off” as noise. 

By and large, these are reported to be really quiet - no gears in the generator section, a very rigid concrete tower and the fact that the nacelle is 440 feet up in the air. Anyway, the farmers in this VERY DENSELY POPULATED part of Europe should be very happy with their new source of income and electrical energy, and they are in hawk to the tune of $US 550 million for this (well, probably not THAT happy about that aspect of the project). But they have long term power purchase agreements for their electricity, as otherwise the banks who now have $460 million tied in in this would NEVER have loaned that quantity of coin to some farmer dudes and dudettes in the “Nord polder” of the Netherlands. Anyway, we in the US just cannot do such a project at present - not because our workers could not construct it (they could!!!), or we don’t have the wind resource and land to do this one (we have that several times over). No, Enercon won’t sell their turbines (considered the highest quality ones in the world, and at $2.8 million per MW of capacity, not a bargain, either) in the USA, because the pricing systems we have concocted for renewable energy make Sarah Pain and Michelle Bachman look sane. And THAT is not an easy thing to do, but that’s a done deal. BTW, those two women grifters do appear to be the definition of “bat crap crazy” to many people..

Anyway, there are some nice things to be said about a sane pricing system for renewable energy, and electricity in particular. Too bad that’s not on anyone’s election year agenda to any significant extent, though that may be an overboard generalization. So if you are a politician and you advocate for sanity in renewable energy pricing in this country or NY State (which takes the bad aspects of US policy and makes it worse via Casino style pricing for electricity), good for you. Andf it’s a good time to let the world know, what with Bill McKibben’s big NY City rally coming up for this fall equinox in NY City… (see http://peoplesclimate.org/march/)..

One of the 26 wind turbines being installed as part of the Agrowind project, Part 1 (from http://www.nopagrowind.nl/page/197/werkzaamheden.html). More information on the project can be seen at http://www.windkoepelnop.nl/wind-farm/news.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Kid on the Block


The first of the brand new 6 MW Siemens wind turbine with a 154 meter rotor diameter (SWT-6.0-154) just got certified as a viable product recently. And with that in hand, commercial installation of this unit began last week at the “Westermost Rough” Wind Farm” 6 km offshore of eastern England last week, in a shallow part of the North Sea. But, odds are, this bit of good news was overshadowed by any number of more prominent bad things that happened last week. And it even has a nifty marketing campaign associated with it, too - “Turbina Sapiens” - a new breed of turbine. But just because a $150 billion a year corporation has a new product to push, one that could help make the world a better place in a big way (and that seems to be a pretty rare thing these days, too), why should that matter? This is not bad news (except to the nuclear fission or natural gas based power industry), so it can’t get past the “if it bleeds it leads” theme filter for the month of August…




There are very few really big wind turbines that are “commercial”, though several have been made as proof of concept or “initial models”, waiting for someone to come along and order some. These are generally pretty expensive and can cost between $15 million to $25 million each when installed, or more if they are installed offshore. So, by these standards a million dollar Lamborgini sports car would be a bargain…. But unlike that fancy car that may well be compensation for inadequate sexual prowess, this product is all business, and big business, too. And there are literally many billions of dollars committed to this product (and a few billion in preliminary sales, too), so there is a lot riding on the initial installation and operation. Should this become the new industry standard, possible sales are way in excess of $100 billion for this puppy…

Of the 5 MW or more “club”, here are the more prominent members:

Enercon E-126  7.5 MW  (land based)
Senvion 6.15 MW (126 and 152 meter rotor diameters) - formerly RE Power
Bard 5 MW (116 meter rotor)
Areva 5 MW (116 meter rotor)
Alstom 6MW x 150 meter rotor (Halaide)
Vestas-Mitsubishi 8 MW x 164 meter rotor
Gamesa G-128 x 5MW (land based)
Ming Yang 6 MW x 140 meter rotor diameter
Sinovel 5 and 6 MW x 128 meter rotor
XEMC-Darwind 5 MW x 115 meter rotor
CSIC-Haizhuang 5 MW (127 and 151 meter rotors)
Mitsubishi 7 MW x 165 meter rotor (Sea Angel)
Aerodyn 5 MW x 139 meter rotor


The Westermost Rough array will consist of 35 of these Siemens turbines, and it will set its owners (3 of them) back about 1 billion Euros. At present, Siemens has dominated the offshore wind market with it’s latest workhorse, the SWT-3.6-120 (also the model designated for the Cape Wind project in the USA). The new, bigger unit will attempt to bring more economies of scale and thus lower electricity production costs to its customers. And if it so happens to make greater profits, well, the folks at Siemens will be quite overjoyed, too.

The project uses 35 enormous monopoles (see http://www.offshorewind.biz/2014/05/27/geosea-installs-all-westermost-rough-foundations/) that will be (mostly have been) rammed into the seabed (sandbank) of the north sea. These weighed between 600 to 900 tons, and were 6.5 meters (over 21 feet) in diameters. The last foundation was installed in May of this year, and the substation was installed in June. The depth ranges between 10 to 25 meters (35 to 85 feet), and since this is close enough to the coast, an ultra-expensive HVDC converter station is not needed. The combined energy will be exported to the land via a single set of cables at 132,000 volts. Based on previous installations, the average power from this 210 MW capacity array should be more than 100 MW, as this is a very windy patch of ocean, with cold, nasty tides and prone to greater than hurricane force winds/mountainous waves, especially in the winter months.

Unlike most of the Siemens turbines, this unit is a “direct drive” low speed generator. It uses a permanent magnet generator, so the rotor does not need to be magnetized with a huge amount of current when the unit starts turning. The operating turning rate is between 5 to 11 rpm, so this generator has a great many “poles” - conventional generators usually have between 4 to 6 poles. Because of this design, the nacelle “only” weighs around 396 tons. The lighter weight lessens the loads on the on the towers, foundations and makes installation of these slightly less than epic task - though just slightly. The blades are 75 meter long single piece assemblies (246 feet) that get fitted onto the 4 meter diameter hub. These will experience tremendous forces/strains and stresses over their 25 or more year long lifetime. And while simulation tests have predicted a long and prosperous life for them, only tome will tell. If the blades have been poorly designed and/or manufactured, sales of this unit will tank and so will Siemens’ dreams of being a major factor in the offshore wind biz. A lot of the companies (or in the case of China, the government owned/controlled/ordered around corporations) won’t make it with their big turbine efforts - blade quality being a major factor.

And just how big will this market be? Well, at this site, you can get an indication of how many prospective projects are in the works. And while not all of them will get realized, a lot of them will:
http://www.thewindpower.net/services_en.php#windfarms. There are 924 projects with a combined capacity of 292 GW, which is worth $US 1.3 TRILLION at $4.5 billion per GW of capacity. Of that, about half of those monies will get spent on the turbine, though in the case of Siemens, they also make offshore substation components and the substations themselves, plus associated transmission components. About half of these offshore wind farm possibilities are in Europe, but 65.7 GW of projects are in the planning stage and 0.43 GW are now in the construction phase (Cape Wind). China has 63 GW of projects in the works, while only 16.4 GW worth are listed for India. That country may be the one to watch, as it has a huge coastline, relatively few decent wind areas onshore and 1.3 billion people who mostly want to get powered up. India does not have really awesome offshore winds as exist in the Straits of Taipei or the North Sea or the Gulf of Maine, but they are certainly better than the most of their onshore winds.


Oh well, back to the scandal du jour, some of which are really serious, and some that are superfluous and seem to be more like sleight of hand ruses that those ruling the roost want to use to keep most people distracted from the truly outrageous stuff. And of course, there are those cute animal pictures…. (from 8-16-14 “Naked Capitalism” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/) with hidden liberal messages (if cats and birds can live together, why can’t we. 

Sort of like the “If Europe can deploy 6 MW offshore wind turbines (and at least 3 varieties, too - Siemens, Alstom and especially Senvion/REPower) why can’t the USA? Oh, that’s right, we COULD, we just can’t be bothered while our hydrocarbon owned and operated rulers try and figure out how to capture trillions of dollars in windfall profits (or much of any profits, apparently) from our remaining natural gas supplies….


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stopping the Frackers and Getting Beyond “No!”



Within NY State, the opposition to the fracking for methane nuttiness has been pretty amazing to watch. The “Just Mostly Say No!” efforts have achieved success on a shoestring budget and they have held a very unscrupulous, insistent and ambitious Governor and his bankster and hedgie buddies (who are the real players and beneficiaries behind the latest “Dash for Gas”) at bay. They have succeeded where most thought it not possible to the point where it is now politically toxic to support the financial and climatological nuttiness of fracking in NY, especially among the Democratic Party activists, who are the ones doing the candidate selection in this years primary election.

Cool. Doing anything good, if even a sliver of it, even for a bit, is so rare in this day and age (for example, none of the sleazoid crooks that tanked the economy in 2007-2008 ever went to jail, and they remain undeterred thanks to the “Holder Memo” (alias “Too Big to Jail” — see http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2013-06-03/holder-laid-groundwork-“too-big-jail”-1999) how’s that for an example of the Triumph of Evil?). So much seems so compromised and bastardized, with good things like renewable energy just a shadow of what it should be at this date. And that evil woman  busy pushing the propaganda that fracking is the best thing since sliced bread (“Log on to “Learn More” “) - with just the perfect posture, age, tone of voice, the walk toward the screen in such perfectly chosen corporate attire - is still “working the wall” and “working the pipe”, in a perfectly legal proverbial way. Or is she just digital imagery, as in the movie “S1m0ne” that starred Al Pacino (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0258153/). Won’t someone shut her or it up?



Actually, the imagery may be digital on these propamercials (new word! - a combination of propaganda and commercial), but that actress/spokesperson/“gasbag” is a real person (probably really well paid, too - who says evil is only for the impoverished and that it sometimes doesn’t pay quite well). Her name is Brooke Alexander and she is a soap opera TV star (she plays a con-artist on “As the World Turns” - sometimes you just can’t make this up), and she is a former model and also the former American entrant to the Miss World contest. See http://www.nofrackingway.us/2014/05/03/fracking-fraud-the-tv-gas-blonde/

And oh yes, what should be the first word that should come into your mind when “natural gas” is spoken or written? That would be “clean”. And who could be opposed to “clean” - cleanliness being so close to godliness and all? Sure, that bears little resemblance to “truth” - at best, methane as a fossil fuel might be “less dirty”. But then parts of Corporate America did not spend hundreds of millions of dollars blanketing the airwaves and the internet and any other place where advertising could go to mate “clean” with “natural gas”. Too bad the “word” called “fracking” came along and that it gets used more and more…. Anyway, advertising is also propaganda, especially in this case of that bad to the bone Ms. Gasbag. 

But in the last several years, most fracking based primarily methane wells have lost a lot of money - way past $100 billion, something like $10 billion per quarter since 2009. (see http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-08-07/making-sense-of-the-us-oil-story where this chart comes from).



Natural gas used to be a generally predictable way to make money - and sometimes a LOT of money - but to get back to such a situation, prices for methane are going to have to rise because the average costs to produce it in the USA have zoomed by a factor of at least 10 since the dawn of the millennium. After all, if costs to stick methane in a pipe are greater than the revenue obtained from selling that methane there are no profits, just losses. And if there are no profits over a long stretch of time, what’s the sense in doing it? The mined methane biz is not a charity - after all, Exxon-Mobil sells more methane (not much of it via tracking either) than any other company in this country, and they are as close to a robotic money machine as has ever been constructed. Say what you will about the hydrocarbon explorers and drillers - they truly are only in it for the money or more properly the profits. Just like the advertising firms who came up with Ms. Gasbag, everything that she does and the modulation ever so scientifically designed in her voice. And “she” still has lots of money to burn, and loads of media outlets ever so anxious for those ad buys the Gas Biz does to keep “stoking the fires”.

So for now “she” waits, lurking waiting for a methane shortage, even a temporary one, as happened last winter, though one longer and more intense than that one. When most people get cold because they run out of money for oil and methane, or when none can be had for love nor money, won’t fracking sound like a wonderful idea to a lot of people - especially to one our most treasured resources - those many tens of millions of “low information votes”.

In reality, the Ngas Biz needs higher prices and they need them fast. They have stopped the furious pace of exploration and new drilling - present drilling rates have been less than 25% of what they were in 2008 when Ngas was really pricey ($12/MBtu and more at times) for several years. And since most fracking wells are in “fumes mode” after 5 years, the North American Ngas supply rate is slowly being cranked back. But then there is “associated gas” - that made as a side benefit from oil wells - more oil produced generally means more gas produced. Anyway, with slightly less supply (for example Canadian imports which used to supply 15% of this country’s supply have been dialed way back) and hopefully greater demand, there’s the hope for higher prices. That supply-demand balance only needs a nudge, and prices now near $5/MBtu will be at $10/MBtu, and thus generally profitable and in some cases, handsomely so.

But let’s examine Smokey The Bear’s main refrain - “Only YOU can prevent forest fires”. The same works for Ngas demand - where most of it is employed for heat and not electricity or chemical production. Only you can prevent increasing Ngas demand. Only you (via how your money is spent) can prevent Ngas demand itself….

If you really want to stop fracking for gas in NY State and a lot of other places, what should replace the “Just Say No” campaign is something along the lines of a morphed Smokey The Bear (but to avoid confusion, let’s use his cousin, Smokey Da Bear) saying - Only YOU can prevent Natural Gas Demand. That will send that infernal Ms. Gasbag back to a digital Solitary Confinement, and give us TV viewers a touch of blessed relief, but only a touch (it is TV after all). You can’t really win in an unfair fight where the Ngas pushers have a near infinite stash of cash compared to the anti-fractivists meager supply of donations. Playing permanent defense maximizes the possibility that it is a losing proposition, even if it is the only one they’ve got that works, and which to date has worked remarkably well. But as the saying goes, Rust never Sleeps. The Ngas biz can lurk until a price squeeze/price spike happens, and they are quite skilled art seizing opportunities, which will inevitably pop up.

So if anti-fractivists want to win and not just hang out in a temporary meta-stable draw, they need to shift the terms of this battle for the hearts and minds of…voters. A winning campaign would actually focus on reducing the consumption of methane every year, starting right now. For starts, how about 10%/yr - that’s an easy number to remember, though it can always be ramped up. This means less methane burned for heat and especially less methane burned for electricity, where there is a ready substitute in NY State  and many of the states in this country - onshore wind turbines - that can deliver way more electricity than is now made from methane at prices very similar to what electricity made from natural gas now costs. If demand drops sufficiently, prices will drop, the gas biz will lose even more money on MOST fracking wells, and drilling for those will pretty much cease and desist. If prices do rise, onshore wind turbines are THE only competition that can generate electricity at prices lower than gas prices at around $9/MBtu or higher. And just like in the Exploration and Delivery (E&P) part of the Ngas biz, the electricity generation biz companies are not charities - they too are only in it for the money. When they start losing money on gas, they won’t be using gas any more. Which once again leads to lower gas demand….

That fragile situation we have where the frackers have been booted from most (and perhaps all) of NY via the Dryden zoning ruling - that goes away in an energy crunch in a NY nanosecond (not that there is any significant methane reserves in Dryden to be had for less than $15/MBtu and probably much higher prices). The way to put the proverbial stake in the fracking vampire’s heart, or what passes for it, is to use less gas to make electricity, and to replace gas heating with ground sourced heat pumps once insulation and passive solar design been done as much as can be afforded.

As Smokey Da Bear (Smokey The Bear’s anti-fractivist cousin) would say:


ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT NATURAL GAS DEMAND! So get cracking, lest some “friends” of Ms. Gasbag trash your nice piece of the woods with all the trash from their fracking… And if you must use electricity, try getting it from one of these or one similar made by a competitor:




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