An image of the largest farmer (significantly) owned wind farm in the world - Agrowind, The Netherlands, which is finally nearing completion. Picture from Enercon’s “Windblatt” 2015 1st Issue:
http://www.enercon.de/p/downloads/WB_012015_GB.pdf. The onshore portion of the wind farm consists of 38 x 7.5 MW Enercon E-126 turbiness on 135 meter tall concrete towers. The offshore portion (to be located about one to two kilometers offshore in the lake) will consist of 48 x 3.6 MW Siemens SWT-3.6-120 wind turbines. To get an idea of the scale, that tower is 443 feet (135 meters) tall and made of reinforced concrete sections - steel is too flexible for the masses/forces involved. The tip of the blade at its highest position is around 650 feet above the ground. These are not the kind of renewable energy system easily hidden...
The Agrowind project (http://www.nopagrowind.nl/) is an example of a “can do” mentality, large version. After all, nothing quite says Green Energy like wind turbines that can be seen for 40 miles on a clear day. It happens to be the biggest wind project in the Netherlands, but there also are a very large number of smaller and medium sized arrays in that country, plus a few big ones. Even though the Netherlands rests on THE biggest methane resource in all of Europe - the Groningen natural gas field (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groningen_gas_field) and it could totally power up its electricity needs with this methane, it chooses another path, saving the Groningen for export income and industrial chemistry. However, The Netherlands is no longer looking to natural gas as their main energy source (fossil fuel fields do deplete and get emptied over time....). The country is also very flat, and some parts are below sea level. As the ocean levels rise (and they are doing that as both surface waters warm and the Greenland/Antarctic ice caps melting/glaciers (such as those in the Alps in Europe) melt), the flat land parts of Northern Europe and the 100 million or so people residing on them are going to be adversely affected, both in terms of a danger to lives and money. There are literally trillions of dollars worth of very pricey real estate about to get converted to much lesser valued fish farms….. And the way around that fate, if there is one, is to make electricity via renewable means, as well as to quit using pollution based approaches to do that. Besides, once Groningen gets emptied, maybe having something in place to replace what methane is needed for would be a wise idea…
We have that same problem in NY State (except for methane fields of a commercially viable quality). Our most valuable real estate and more than 2/3 of the population of the state, most of the wealth of the state/in the state is tied up in the NY City metro/Long Island region. A 20 foot rise in water levels renders NY City inoperable - and that probably also goes for a 2 foot rise, because adding 2 feet of ocean level onto a storm surge will flood the subway and several million homes. Do that enough times and why bother fixing it. Instead, people and businesses will move elsewhere, but not necessarily within those parts of the state (like upstate) that do not flood via rising sea levels. And since most of upstate/rural NY lives off of the incomes generated in the NY City region, well, one definition of Stupid is to generate electricity and heat homes, offices, schools and businesses in a way that speeds up the drowning of the NY City region.
Roughly half the land area of NY State could be part of a wind turbine array. If but one turbine suited to the wind regime in NY State (which is NOT one of those Enercon’s, as those are “fast wind” speed turbines) was put on an average of every 2 square miles, that could provide enough electricity for all of NY State and then some. Couple this with pumped hydro for electrical energy storage plus the existing hydropower now operating and it becomes even easier to power up NY renewably. This could also be a jobs program like none seen since World War 2 and the twenty years after that, only this would build the world up, not destroy it. And instead of exporting the multiple billions of dollars to out of this state for heat and electricity plus importing the mass poverty that comes with exporting money in such quantities, we could practice money recycling and the job/economic growth that comes with such activity.
Actually, NY needs Low Wind Speed Turbines en masse (not fast wind speed turbines), ones suited for average wind speeds in the 6 to 7 meters per second range at 100 to 135 meters above the ground (the Agrowind site has 9 m/s average winds at 135 meters above the ground, c/o the North Sea). Only that rate of turbine deployment is simply not happening at the scale needed and in the time frame required. We need to come up with at least 16 GW of average delivered electricity within a decade to replace the gas burners and nukes but which would allow NY state to be largely heated with either biomass or electricity powered ground sourced heat pumps. Excuses and superstitious beliefs like “we don’t have enough money to do this in a decade or less” that are the evil hard core basis of neoliberalism or conservative thought now rule the roost. Money that goes to fund a positive actual real capital improvement/upgrade that does not perpetuate fossil fuel consumption (roads and airports, for example) can be created at a whim by banks, by wealthy people, by NY State government (bonds) and of course, by the Federal Government, but of course, that is simply not being allowed to occur. The beauty of the wind turbine investment is that it IS the lowest cost non-pollution way to produce 16 GW and more of delivered electricity in NY, and it is future payments for the electricity delivered by these over their 25 year lifespan (or more when repaired/replaced) that pay for the upfront investment. In a way, they become self financing, and in a world where negative interest rates are not that far off (and now exist in much of Europe), they represent a very decent long term investment. And things like not exporting tens of billions of dollars per year (which will be the norm once the present bubble petroglut based on fracking pops in the near future) is a nice added touch; after all, each gigabuck per year exported to import methane from Fracksylvania probably represents close to 15,000 jobs in NY State not created. Stuff like that adds up. And keeping methane demand low keeps methane prices low, and that happens when wind turbines displace gas fired electrical generation. That could be worth close to $50 billion to $100 billion per year right now in the country, just by displacing 1.5 trillion cubic feet of methane consumption as a result of making 20 GW with wind turbines nationwide.
In the next 18 months, close to $25 billion in new turbines will be installed in our country. Ones like Warren Buffett’s 400 MW wind project in Nebraska (the windiest state in the nation), which will also employ Low Wind Speed Turbines, but in high wind regions of Nebraska (which is most places in Nebraska) - see http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Renewable-Energy/Warren-Buffett-Betting-Big-On-Wind-Energy-In-Nebraska.html. Those will probably average 55 to 60% of their rated capacity, and that will make Berkshire Hathaway Energies a lot of money, even in a part of the country where electricity is almost as cheap as dirt. As for NY State, maybe all of $200 million will get spent in the next couple of years on wind energy; all the jobs generated will be construction ones, and after that, not much. Meanwhile, in the Quebec and Ontario, close to $2 billion per year will be invested in wind electricity through 2016, each. So why does NY State go the wimpy route? Why the urgent activity of drowning the NY City metro region though intense neglect? Why the mirage of spending a billion or so on solar PV which for the same money could make 8 times more electricity and put so much more of a hurt on the fracking for methane biz?
In fact, is NY’s horrid renewable energy approach a bug or a feature? Is the intent to prop up methane demand for the next decade so that a few NY banksters and their friends can scam gullible investors out of the oil and gas money? Does that game ever get old? Does the fun derived from defunding and defrauding investors (suckers) ever get boring?
Next time you hear of politicians waxing poetically about some trivial deployment of renewables (such as NY’s PV program, or the pathetically small (though at least it is SOME) wind turbine deployment), think about the Dutch farmers who are now co-owners of this very impressive half billion dollar investment in a viable future. Oh, and guess where the best onshore winds are in NY State? If you said the south coast of Long Island and the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, well, you win a prize. And while the exact turbines in the picture cannot go in NY (Enercon REFUSES to sell in the USA, though a lot of theirs are deployed in Ontario and Quebec), lots of other companies would love to do an Agrowind type project and deploy some coastal and near coastal projects with their turbines. That the vast gulf between what could be and what will be in NY over the near future is not a thing to be proud of. Maybe holding those responsible for this inactivity by insisting they live along the ocean and STAY living there when the waters rise - well that might change some views and what can get accomplished. Nothing like the fear of drowning to motivate an end to destructive behavior and evolve into leadership that is not destructive and the equivalent of playing violins on the deck of the Titanic.
But surely there have to be better ways to instill decent behavior than that? So what are your views as to getting things done and not just talking till the proverbial cows come home and almost all the money that can get extracted from the fracking hellholes in Fracksylvania have been tapped dry? How can our political leaders get motivated? Or replaced with ones who can get motivated?
Anyway, the waters in NY City harbor are rising. And time’s a wasting. We really don’t have forever to do an electricity swap-out (pollution based to renewables). And then there is the opportunity cost involved, as well as the hundreds of thousands of NY residents who could be gainfully employed, but who won’t be ifs present trends persist/keep on “progressing” at current rates. Is having a coastline devoid of wind turbines worth drowning out 10 million people from their homes, and pushing NY State into an economic basket case condition? Well, we have about a decade to find out, maybe less. It would be nice to not see that dystopia come to pass…
For a bit more on the Dutch project, see http://green-giraffe.eu/projects/nop-agrowind#expo/8/51.91039070988962/6.3446044921875