Monday, March 27, 2006

Wind Energy Storms Onto the Stage

As we convert from a dependency on fossil fuels to using renewable energy to power our societies, it is good to take stock of our progress from time to time. Jim from The Energy Blog has provided this report that wind energy now costs less than conventional power sources.

....Xcel’s 33,000 Windsource customers, who until late 2005 were paying $6 more each month for their electricity, are now paying slightly less than those using conventional electricity, which comes mostly from natural gas and coal. To meet fast-growing demand, Xcel is currently soliciting proposals from wind developers for up to 775 megawatts of new wind power generation, enough to supply 232,000 Colorado homes with electricity.

Wind energy is also proving a boon to small ranchers, who will earn royalties from the energy generated by wind turbines placed on their property.

.... When Xcel announced it would develop several hundred megawatts of additional wind-generating capacity, it got the attention of ranching communities throughout wind-rich eastern Colorado. In tiny ranch-country towns like Grover, near the Wyoming border, ranchers welcomed a proposed 300-megawatt wind farm that would span some 30 ranches.

With a large, advanced-design wind turbine generating easily $100,000 worth of electricity per year, even a 3-percent royalty would earn ranchers $3,000 a year from leasing a quarter-acre of ranchland. And they can still run cattle on the land. If the proposed project is approved as expected, these 30 or so ranchers will have an average of seven turbines each, yielding roughly $21,000 a year in additional income. A decade from now, there may be thousands of ranchers who will be earning more selling electricity than they do selling cattle.

....Wind energy is emerging as a centerpiece of the new energy economy, because it is abundant, inexpensive, inexhaustible, widely distributed, clean, and climate-benign. Three of the 50 states—North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas—have enough harnessable wind energy to satisfy national electricity needs. The cost of wind-generated electricity has fallen from 38¢ per kilowatt-hour in the early 1980s to 4¢ to 6¢ today, offering an almost endless supply of cheap energy.

Read much more from this report from the Earth Policy Institute.

Renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wave, tidal, OTEC, and others, are developing solidly in the background, while the rest of the world continues to talk peak oil, and a war of the titans over oil.

Labels: ,

Solar Energy: Renewables from Outer Space

Whatever happened to the idea of using satellites to harvest solar power 24 hours a day? Jim from the Energy Blog has an update from the Space Island Group (SIG) and their current project to place photovoltaic arrays in orbit.

The Space Island Group, Inc. (SIG) will design and finance two categories of space hardware to make these results possible. Both categories will incorporate components now used on NASA’s space shuttles and other launch vehicles, and on today’s communications satellites. This is not an R&D project. Because we will not develop new rocket engines, guidance systems or other components and because we’ll manage the program with private industry procedures, our development costs will be far below those of comparable government efforts.

The first hardware category will be very large structures up to several kilometers wide called solar power satellites and solar reflectors, which will be assembled in space.

The second will be very low-cost manned and unmanned launch vehicles, and very large, low-cost living quarters in orbit able to comfortably house several hundred occupants at a time. These occupants will, among other tasks, assemble and maintain the orbiting solar satellites and solar reflectors.

....This is not a government program. We feel that taxpayers have already funded most of the hardware we’ll use.

Now it’s our job to use that proven hardware to let a broad range of industries profitably capitalize on that investment. Along the way, we expect that we and these industries will create millions of high-paying American jobs that overseas competitors won’t be able to take away for decades. In fact we’ll make those American jobs a lease-condition for our tenants.

These jobs will start with the defense contractors. Some 90% of our development funds will go to the firms that now build shuttle components for NASA. Tens of thousands of current aerospace jobs will end when the shuttles retire in 2010. Our first launch in 2008 or 2009 will not only absorb those employees, but will increase their numbers many times over during the following decade. Many of the same firms will build our space hardware, but we’ll use simpler, commercial procedures rather than the more complex ones used for government work.

Read more at the SIG website. SIG has quite a few plans for their solar satellites, including energy production, hurricane control, reflecting sunlight to croplands to prolong the growing season, and many more . . . They have a section discussing global warming, ice age, and many other fascinating topics.

Read more about solar power satellites, and other peaceful uses of outer space, here. This might be a good time to go back and review my posting about access to space. You have to get there before you can do all these things. This post from Power From Space blog provides links to all the companies involved in the race to place solar power satellites in orbit.

The main limit to human progress is the limit of the human brain. Humans are presently intelligent enough to get into a lot of trouble. If you are a singularitarian, you are pinning your hopes on intelligent machines, nanotechnology, and the exponential increase in knowledge. Personally, I prefer the idea of enabling more intelligent humans. Either approach holds risks, but the alternative is to let things take their current course. There are also problems with that approach.


Newer Posts Older Posts