Saturday, September 11, 2010

Master Resource on Wind: Not Power at All?

Kent Hawkins at Master Resource has written a 3-part series on wind power, in which he demonstrates that wind is not power at all! We will excerpt from each of the 3 parts in an attempt to provide Kent's argument in an abridged form.
Wind appears to be an electrical power source because it has some ability to generate electricity, which can be expressed as watt-hours, that is, energy. This is a term that we are fairly familiar with because it is the common measure of our use of electricity. But this is not power, which can be expressed as watts.

Power is the rate at which electrical energy is delivered, and can alternatively be viewed as watt-seconds per second, or watt-hours per hour, representing energy flux at any point in time or over an extended period of time. For effective use of electrical energy this must be consistently delivered, and reliable electrical power is the means to achieve this.

... reliable electrical power is vital for the needs of our modern world. It provides the necessary access to electrical energy in a timely manner. It is an important part of the foundation of the most developed countries. A reliable supply of adequate power enables us to do as much work as we need in the required time. In other words, the absence of adequate and reliable power limits our ability to access the energy that could be available to us.

...power can be viewed as the ‘portal’ through which energy is accessed. Two important dimensions of power are:
Power density, in this context is the relationship between power and the land or water area required to sustain the power source, as explained by Smil. High densities are measures of the suitability of a power source’s capability to provide any worthwhile share of the total energy need. A measure of this is energy flux per unit of horizontal surface and can be measured in watts per square meter (W/m2). Our energy flux needs, especially those of the large developing nations, are too great, and our energy conversion and use infrastructures too established to allow the consideration of employing significantly lower power densities to access energy than now being widely utilized, for decades if at all.

Capacity (power) value is the rate at which energy flux can consistently be provided. In electricity terms it is, again, watt-hours per hour (or watts), representing the amount of useful activity that can reliably be performed in a given period of time (for example, lighting, heating, running computers and machines). This extends the view of power beyond power density considerations.
...all renewable energy sources are ten to over a thousand times less effective than those serving our needs today, with wind providing one of the poorest performances of the renewable sources shown, outside of wood. Areas required for renewables are large because of the dispersed, and often remote, nature of their energy supply.
...the current rush to massive implementations of wind plants is an extremely premature, unwise policy. Of the two, wind and solar, direct tapping of solar energy has by far the most useful and effective outlook for renewables, but the entry point for utility-scale commercialization of this is still many decades away. We need a well thought out energy use evolution in the meantime, not a revolution.

...for electrical energy to be useful, we must be able to switch it on and off at the level needed and rely on it being available during the period of use. To accomplish this, capacity (in this context capacity and power are interchangeable terms) must be reliably available on a continuous basis. This is as opposed to wind “activity” as described in Part I, which is available only randomly and in continuously varying amounts over time.

...For utility-scale wind plants to have value, they must provide renewable power, not just renewable energy. This means wind capacity must be reliably available on demand and throughout the period of use, and it is not....In summary, reliable capacity is the means by which useful electrical energy is provided. In its absence, the availability of energy, regardless of the reliability of the energy source, is of very little, if any, value. _Master Resource
If you are interested in the future of large scale energy -- which amounts in many ways to the future of the civilised human race -- I recommend reading Kent's series in entirety, 1...2...3...

The energy policies of much of the developed world are being written by faux environmentalists -- who as we have seen, are devoted to the elimination of at least 90% of the human population of the planet. If you are content with that state of affairs, then do nothing, and accept the consequences of trusting half-brain baboons with your future and the futures of your loved ones.

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