Monday, December 12, 2011

Scotland Celebrates Green Utopia in Winter

Scotland is bracing for more severe winter storms like the recent one that left thousands of Scots without electric power. Scottish ski resorts are in full swing, and thriving in an atmosphere of global cooling warming. Meanwhile, Scottish "greens" are congratulating themselves over the ongoing replacement of nuclear and coal energy by clean green big wind energy.

Giant wind turbines have a tendency to break down in expensive and often dangerous ways. The machines themselves require enormous resources to build, install, and connect to the power grid. And that is just the beginning of the problems. Above, you can see a recent wind turbine exploding in high Scottish winds, much to the chagrine of the sheep grazing below.
This striking image of a wind turbine in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland as it exploded in high winds has made headline news. The turbine was destroyed yesterday as the region was battered by winds of up to 260km/h when a ferocious Atlantic storm powered into northern parts of the UK. But what caused the explosion?

An amateur video shows the turbine head spinning on its axis and one turbine blade apparently losing its carbon composite skin before the fire starts.

It's not yet clear what happened, but attention is likely to focus on the turbine's ability to shut itself down in high wind. A wind turbine normally shuts down when winds reach 55 mph - but something clearly went awry in Ardrossan, perhaps causing excess current in the generator windings, which may have led to the fire. _NewScientist
Meanwhile, in the US, big utilities are just now discovering what a huge headache integrating big wind power into their power schemes will be in the years ahead.
The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), among the largest of US federal power agencies, which operates massive hydro resources of the Columbia River Basin, could have spilled water over the reservoirs, but due to environmental restrictions could not do so. It shut down all its own fossil-fueled plants and even reduced the output of the region's sole nuclear plant by 78% – but there was still too much power and not enough demand.

Some 2,000 MW of newly installed wind turbines, twice the load of city of Seattle, were spinning in strong gusts, just as their owners had hoped. At the height of the crisis, the entire BPA system was virtually running on renewable generation, hydro and wind. It was not a pretty picture as any experienced system operator would tell you.

BPA resorted to giving power away for free to whoever would take it, but due to transmission constraints, there was only so much that could be exported out of the region. As a last resort, BPA was forced to shut down fossil and wind generators feeding the network, offering to provide them with free electricity for what they would have generated in the absence of the crisis.
Wind is poorly predictable, and often blows most strongly when it is not needed by the grid. Wind power capacity is available less than 10% of the time it is needed -- during peak demand. So when wind farms dump excess power onto the grid -- which governments force utilities to accept even when not needed -- grid managers must dodge bullets from all directions to keep the grid up, running, and profitable.

To say that greens and government officials do not understand -- or particularly care about -- the dangerous dilemma which they are forcing onto the utility grids, is an understatement. Environmental activists & attorneys, and government functionaries and adjudicators, exhibit a deep antipathy toward people and institutions in the real world who must perform to exacting standards in order to keep societies' vital infrastructures running.

But the fantasy green ideology will have to play itself out, no matter how disastrously. Public institutions and activist special interest groups are like the runaway giant turbine in the photo above. They have not brakes and cannot check their own excesses. The ultimate crash and burn is inevitable.

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