back to article Look out! Peak wind is coming, warns top Harvard physicist

The realistic limits on wind power are probably much lower than scientists have suggested, according to new research, so much so that the ability of wind turbines to have any serious impact on energy policy may well be in doubt. Even if money were no object, the human race would hit Peak Wind output at a much lower level than …

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  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    One question I have always asked myself

    If the flapping of the proverbial butterfly wing has an impact of the weather, how come scientists could claim with a straight face that extracting several tera-Watts of power from the climate system will have no effect?

    This scientist seems to be asking that self-same question.

    This does not mean I am against wind power, I just think we should not blithely assume it does not impact climate in some way.

    And of course, as Mustrum Ridcully would say, lets find those bloody butterflies that are causing all these storms

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      It's obvious that extracting kinetic energy from a moving fluid is going to slow that fluid down. But hey, why let facts get in the way of a good grant application?

      btw - will people *please* stop with this fallacy of the proverbial butterfly wing? Its flapping doesn't *cause* the hurricane, it just buggers up the calculations which would otherwise have allowed the hurricane to be forecast (in the absence of all the other flutterbyes, of course!).

      Yes, I *know* you all knew that. But I felt the need for a rant.

      1. Tanuki
        Thumb Down

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        Dammit: - you've just nullified my life's mission to prevent hurricanes by pulling the wings off any butterflies I come across.

        1. sabba
          Pint

          Re: One question I have always asked myself

          Don't forget the lizards...pull the legs off the lizards and keep David Ike happy!!

          1. IronSteve

            Re: One question I have always asked myself

            *Icke

      2. Colin Millar
        Pirate

        Re: One question I have always asked myself @ Neil Barnes

        At first go I read your last sentence as "I felt the need for a grant" and thought - well why not - we give subsidies to much more ludicrous ideas than measuring the climate effects of butterfly wings - wind turbines for example.

    2. ContentsMayVary

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      The main effect would be one of cooling. All those winds blowing around eventually end up as thermal energy - unless they are converted into some other energy first. A lot of the wind energy currently gets converted into wave energy, but even that eventually gets turned into thermal energy.

      1. Robert Sneddon
        Flame

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        Once the wind-generated electricity is "used up" it ends up as heat anyway, so no cooling effect would be noticed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One question I have always asked myself

          Air conditioning?

      2. PyLETS

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        "The main effect would be one of cooling. All those winds blowing around eventually end up as thermal energy - unless they are converted into some other energy first. A lot of the wind energy currently gets converted into wave energy, but even that eventually gets turned into thermal energy."

        Only temporarily and to the extent the wind electricity has to be stored, e.g. behind big hydro dams . One the electricity generated is consumed, the consumption results in the same heating as would otherwise have occurred if the wind had blown other stuff around e.g. waves instead of driving wind turbines. I suppose you could argue theoretically that using any kind of sustainable energy locked into aluminium has a similar effect, but it's going to be so miniscule in practice you'll never be able to measure it. Getting people to make their roofs white or black would have a greater cooling or heating effect.

        1. tastysandwich

          Re: One question I have always asked myself

          Yes the heating is the same at the end, but in the meantime humanity has used it for something. Other ways to generate said electricity would generate even more heat on top of the heat that the wind produces anyway.

          Wind generators are still a good way to generate clean energy, they just won't be enough for the entire world's demand.

      3. Voland's right hand Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        Quote: "The main effect would be one of cooling."

        Errr, no. Second law of thermodynamics - you cannot "lose" it (same as you cannot "make" it). It just moves elsewhere. So the "cooling" from slowing down fluid friction will be compensated by emitting heat from all the electrical appliances to a net effect of 0.

        In any case, wind gets an unjustifiably high level of attention as a renewable. Solar (both cells and collectors) in the right location (Sahara instead of northern Europe), geothermal, tidal and wave have a much bigger promise. IMHO Europe should be building artificial tidals (4x4 mile simple "holding pen" with turbines on one side, rinse repeat - a standard port digger can build one in a few month) all over the wash, irish sea and the shallows around the North Sea coast. Much better idea than all the windmills because you can use that as an "accumulator" to compensate for fluctuations in demand as well as for proper generation.

        All of that is being left untapped at the moment. In fact it is being destroyed as a potential energy source by stupid windmills all over it in a way which prevents us rebuilding that for tidal without demolishing them first.

        1. Dave 15

          Re: One question I have always asked myself

          really? What about the energy that is emitted as light by the screens? How does that make it back to thermal in the atmosphere - we know from looking at the earth from outside that some at least escapes to space. Then perhaps the energy used to lift my lardy backside to the top of the hill is magically thermal instead of potential energy? Not all energy taken from the atmosphere will return as heat.

          Still, I doubt any of this will stop the UK government continuing to spend billions of our pounds on foreign made windmills dotted all over the landscape, standing idle like so many white elephants for 80% of the time while their bearings are bust, the wind is too strong or there is no wind at all. Worse of course is that because they are so totally useless we still have to generate electricity the old fashioned way, so when these white elephants do eventually stir their stumps the energy is largely chucked away because we are already producing the electricity we need and have no way of switching the old fashioned plant off so quickly.

          Bloody waste predicated on a 'scientific fact' which itself is balanced on forged and unreliable results manipulated by a bunch of beardies with a research grant to obtain. I think I'd rather go back to when politicians and scientists all believed in the wonder of eugenics.

        2. Ian Johnston
          FAIL

          Re: One question I have always asked myself

          It's the first law of thermodynamics which says you can't lose or make energy. The second law says that you can't convert heat into work with 100% efficiency.

      4. Charles Manning

        Re: thermal energy

        Even if you extract the energy from the wind (and thereby its resulting thermal energy) it will mostly end up as thermal energy anyway.

        First off, a huge % will be lost as friction on the tower, and the blades, generator, etc, Friction directly converts kinetic energy into thermal energy. The wind downstream of a turbine will be slower, but slightly warmer.

        The rest leaves the tower as electrical energy. Some of that will be lost along the way as resistive and inductive losses - thermal energy. Some will get lost in transformers - thermal energy.

        Eventually it will get used and (mostly) end up in thermal energy. Even light from the most efficient LED lamps mostly gets absorbed and eventually released as thermal energy (the only part that doesn't is light escaping into space).

        The only real difference is that we end up using this for our own needs somewhere along the way.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        Cooling? Really ...

        Where does all of that energy go. Lighting, cars, industry? All things which produce heat as their eventual end product. While it may well produce local cooling, in the absence of storage, the next cooling effect on the system as a whole will be zero.

        1. A 11
          FAIL

          Re: One question I have always asked myself

          Re: Cooling

          I think this could actually be a problem - as you (and everyone else) point out the net TEMPERATURE effect is zero, but local cooling/heating are likely to have large effects on the weather. If we assume the turbines are largely located where people are not (and obviously people's use is where they are) we could get some large temperature differentials.

          Rule of thumb: It's a mistake to sum across the whole planet when making a prediction that affects anything on the planet. We all know how bad weather forecasts can be despite the fact they use points in the range of a mile apart. This is on the order of 196,912,101 times less accurate.

          Not to mention the possible effects on wildlife / crops etc. of the local temperature changes.

      6. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        FAIL

        @contents may vary: Re: One question I have always asked myself

        ooops, I see you answered my question before i asked it *blush*

    3. HamsterNet
      Happy

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      its a factor of scale, the atmospheric is quite tall and quite large in comparison to every single wind turbine ever built. It's a but like wondering how much extra fuel a single fly hitting your car costs you.

    4. JimC

      Re: Butterflies

      Ah well, statistics are your friend here. Given a sufficiently large global population of butterflies then the effects of any individual butterly on the weather will tend to be cancelled out by the effects of all the other butterflies. However if the world butterfly population drops below a crucial figure then the averaging effect will be lost, and we will be plagued by butterfly induced hurricanes.

      At the moment climate change and habitat loss are approaching the point at which frequent butterfly induced weather problems are impacting the human race as can be seen by the increased incidence of hurricanes. At the moment the best remedy for this is probabably to breed more butterflies.

      However if the world butterfly population drops too much then it will become easier to resolve our climate problems by slaughtering every last wild butterfly and only keeping surviving examples in hermetically sealed containers in zoos where they will be unable to influence the weather.

    5. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      One thing I've been curious of, is what happens to the wind without wind turbines. I'd expect, that if wind hit a mountain etc., some of the energy would be absorbed as heat.

      I may be totally wrong here, so feel free to correct me, but wouldn't this mean that loads of turbines would reduce global temperature because they'd be removing frictional heat otherwise caused by the wind?

    6. Goa T. Herds

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      The one question I keep asking myself, is just how much $$$ do the oil lobbies put in to discredit alternative forms of energy...

      1. oddie
        Holmes

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        There are no oil companies anymore.. just energy companies.. and they are all investing into research on renewable energy... do you really think those massive companies will just run themselves into the ground as oil runs out and then finally file for bankrupcy?

        If you want to see what energy generating (converting) technologies are viable, then look to see what these companies are pooling their resources into. Governments (actually politicians, which is not the same thing) need to look good in front of their people, and can't afford not to put up wind turbines (seeing as this was what this article was about)... large vertically integrated energy companies are responsible to their shareholders and need to provide return on investments.. Look to them if you want to see what is viable and what is going to be our energy future. (Although renewables are now decade or two further away since we figured out how to extract gas and oil from shale... once those get too expensive to extract you'll suddenly find Shell or Exxon biodiesel made from algae hitting the market)

        The green revolution is coming, its just not led by the people you wanted it to be led by.

        1. C 18
          Mushroom

          @oddie 08:39: Re: One question I have always asked myself

          >do you really think those massive companies will just run themselves into the ground as oil runs out and then finally file for bankrupcy?

          Of course they will, and they are doing so everywhere we look throughout history. The banks are the current example. These companies are not being run by people with brains, they are being run by people addicted to money. They care not a jot about the facts.

          This is obvious to anybody who has been in a meeting with these muppets presenting them with facts. Facts which invariably they listen to, and then respond with something along the lines of 'so would it be fair to say that this can be interpretted as...X' (insert appropriate misinterpretation of the truth). Boffin responds, 'well not really, you're distorting the facts...' (insert appropriate attempt to have the muppet see the truth). To which the muppet will tirelessly respond with 'but that means...' etc until Edgar J. Boffin gives up and decides he will be better off back in the lab arguing with figures and spreadsheets, at least the problems with logic and truth there are down to his own understanding and he can adjust that.

          Muppets then, once rid of said boffin, re-interpret and mangle the truth until it is unrecognisable yet marketable.

          Meanwhile the cocktail party continues without the boffin, who is perfectly content once he doesn't have to go to any more of those meetings where he painstakingly tries to point out the truth which isn't acceptable to shareholders.

          Yes, they will career headfirst into a bankruptcy situation and then look mystified when the bubble bursts. That's what bubbles do. Unfortunately the oil bubble is particularly resistant to bursting, something to do with the consistency of oil perhaps (now there's a sentence loaded with double meaning.) Despite the evidence that this is how human greed works these muppets will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

          It's the Dunning-Kreuger effect. It's life. It sucks.

          Cheats rise to power, and they are the ultimate problem.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One question I have always asked myself

          You make me laugh. Stop thinking that these people have anyone but their own best interests at heart. They are just normal people with all the failings of normal people. With shareholders that ensure that their primary concerns (and legally constrained concerns I might add) are the short and not the long term.

          Hence, they are as guilty as anyone in lobbying for tax breaks and playing the marketing game.

          The real truth of the matter is that by simply designing homes better the vast majority of people could cut their heating/cooling bills by almost 100%. Unfortunately there are too many vested interests that stop most countries from moving towards sanity.

          Even the idea of building massive global wind farms is ridiculous, if only for the reason that the transport of electricity over large distances results in massive losses ... electricity is much better generated locally. Of course small scale local production isn't going supply everyone's needs and wind or sun or waves aren't available everywhere so the rational person would suggest that there is no single solution, just a patchwork of locally relevant ones.

          As for bio diesel made from Algae .... that's decades old tech and wasn't invented by big oil. So you've kind of stabbed yourself in the back by showing that big oil (or as you want to call them energy companies) have buried viable technology so they can continue making money from what they know and love best ... OIL.

          1. oddie
            Thumb Up

            Re: One question I have always asked myself

            @Anon 10:57:

            "You make me laugh. Stop thinking that these people have anyone but their own best interests at heart. They are just normal people with all the failings of normal people. With shareholders that ensure that their primary concerns (and legally constrained concerns I might add) are the short and not the long term."

            Having shareholders means some short term outlook and some long term. You get both kinds of investors. However, having shareholders mean that they are responsible to grow those investments, which means they wont invest in technology or projects that are unprofitable. Wind would be profitable if we didn't have lots of other technologies which are far superior in terms of CO2 emissions, cost and reliability... once oil is gone, if biodiesel (either algae or bio-ethanol from sugar-cane leftovers) doesn't come through, or photo voltaics don't go anywhere.. and we find that nuclear with its somewhat complicated economy (mining ore/reactor tech etc) actually turns out more expensive, then wind will be viable. it doesn't look like it will though, unless the various governments continue to subsidise the industry surrounding it (which isn't a problem in itself.. just means we aren't using the most economical/efficient way of producing power.. cheaper forms of energy like gas in effect subsidises the more expensive ones like wind)

            "As for bio diesel made from Algae .... that's decades old tech and wasn't invented by big oil. So you've kind of stabbed yourself in the back by showing that big oil (or as you want to call them energy companies) have buried viable technology so they can continue making money from what they know and love best ... OIL."

            Most of the renewable tech we have is decades old... photovoltaic, solarthermal, geothermal, hydroelectirc, biomass, wind/water/tidal generators... Energy Companies (Or big oil as you want to call them ;)) are very good at looking for new sources of energy.. it's what they do: find source of energy>find way to transport energy to market>profit. Which is why they are also the most likely organisations to be still delivering our energy once oil becomes too expensive to recover.

            The reason why the worlds motor cars don't already run on renewable energy is because a) oil is still cheaper, and b) renewables are still more expensive. Sooner or later there will be a shift (actually later, as my original post mentioned.. now we have shale gas and oil.. postponing the enevitable move to renewables). Exxon is investing in algae based biodiesel. Shell is investing heavily in brazil, turning waste from sugar cane production into fuel (I don't remember if its biodiesel or needs blending. I am not sure what BP is doing but last I heard they were still into Wind energy but were getting out of Solar.

            This doesn't make them loving caring charitable organisations that just what is best for the world.. and no, they didn't invent these technologies.. they are just the ones that are spending the most on research to improve them.. Which makes them the organisations most likely to provide the worlds energy mix also in the future.

            Unless 'Clean Coal' finally comes through obviously (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206093547.htm) and we end up with the coal companies becoming the de factor energy providers for the next 100 years.

    7. foo_bar_baz

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      If you're concerned about wind turbines having an effect on wind:

      - Be concerned about the impact of cutting trees and deforestation

      - Be concerned about the impact of urban buildup and tall buildings

      - Think about the natural variation in wind resistance from hills, mountains, lakes and oceans

      1. It wasnt me
        Thumb Down

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        Indeed.

        Which is why you don't build wind turbines behind: trees, tall buildings, hills. The whole premise of the article was that current calculations for wind farms assume they don't take any energy out of the wind. Why would a tree take energy out, but not a white thing shaped a bit like a tree?

    8. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      Well the main issue here is not the resultant and basically inconsequential drag on the global air streams, it's the bio-centripital forces acting on the earth, from the spinning turbine blades, through the shafts and towers.

      If there is a harmonic wave of inversive reactance, then the whole earth could flip on it's axis, when the turbines twist out of global alignment.

      Then, and only then, will we really be in the shit.

      1. NumptyScrub
        Trollface

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        quote: "Well the main issue here is not the resultant and basically inconsequential drag on the global air streams, it's the bio-centripital forces acting on the earth, from the spinning turbine blades, through the shafts and towers.

        If there is a harmonic wave of inversive reactance, then the whole earth could flip on it's axis, when the turbines twist out of global alignment.

        Then, and only then, will we really be in the shit."

        What? I don't think any amount of wind turbines would be able to reliably spin the earth 180°, and since the moment applied to the earth from the turbines is reliant purely on wind direction, I'm pretty sure the overall effect is going to be similar to that applied by the wind to any other structure, natural or not (mountains and tower blocks are both viable carriers of wind kinetic energy).

        Also, plate tectonics: turbines are not attached to a solid homogeneous system, they are attached to a mobile plate floating on top of a soup (magma flavour). Turbines on the eurasian plate may or may not be competing with turbines on the african plate, the north american plate, the indian, arabian, australian and filipino plates (these are just the ones bounding the eurasian plate btw, there are more). These plates are already moving in different directions anyway, so the net overall effect on the earths spin is going to be at best bastard hard to compute, and at worst fucking impossible.

        Although you do raise the important climatological point of wind turbines possibly contributing to increased tectonic activity at active plate boundaries. Quick! Somebody should tell the government that wind turbines might cause earthquakes!

    9. john 112

      Re: One question I have always asked myself

      Its a closed system. All the power extracted will be returned as waste heat. I was going to say nearly, but in the end all of it minus whatever radiates to space.

      1. Ian Johnston
        FAIL

        Re: One question I have always asked myself

        Eventually it all does radiate out into space. Otherwise six billion years of sunlight would have made the earth a tad warm.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. FartingHippo
    Alert

    Peak Beans

    When I hear 'Peak Wind', why do I suddenly get a vision of Blazing Saddles.

    Childish? Probably. Funny? Hell, yes.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sheesh! What do these guys know anyway. Now if they were real scientists maybe they'd be taken seriously...oh, wait - they are.

    Damn, now the Pro-Wind lobby will have to think of another argument to dismiss findings which pour cold water on their money making (sorry - energy making) schemes. I know!! They're right whatever anyone says!! So ner-ner to you!!

    1. JDX Gold badge

      You mean like the real scientists who disagree with them?

      1. Sirius Lee

        @JDX Which ones? You mean the ones with flaky 'environmental science' degrees?

        We have kids in the 5th and 6th forms at the moment. There 'environmental science' is option for the kids that can't do sums. Is it the same at Uni?

        1. Dagg
          Holmes

          @Sirus Lee flaky 'environmental science' degrees?

          Not in my experience, I remember follow students doing a post grad degree in Environmental Physics in the 1970s. To reach that that needed a conventional BSc.

  5. Rob 5

    I'm shocked, shocked...

    ...to find that it was all just another con-trick, transferring taxpayers' money to politically collected developers in exchange for naff all of any value.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: I'm shocked, shocked...

      Hmm, obviously the moment science appears which supports a cynical viewpoint it's taken as gospel truth? Hardly a scientific approach.

      1. Rob 5

        Re: Hardly a scientific approach.

        Statistically, is is though. Since almost everything that government does tends to enrich the politically connected few at the expense of everybody else, it follows that "science" which supports a government programme is more likely to be fabricated at the behest of vested interests and therefore false, while that which opposes it is more likely to be honest, since it has no bunch of crooks to please and therefore stands a better chance of being correct.

        1. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: Hardly a scientific approach.

          But obviously this isn't true for existing vested interests in fossils and nukes.

          Those would never dream of buying governments and running propaganda campaigns to protect their profits.

          Not even when they're called ALEC, and they lie for a living:

          http://www.skepticalscience.com/putting-an-end-to-renewable-energy-too-expensive-myth.html

          No - it's only those evil renewables that do this, and would ever think of doing it.

          Now, I'm not suggesting the Register takes Koch coin to keep publishing this crap. But for a magazine staffed by intelligent people, it certainly makes a habit of distorting the truth on a regular basis.

          Those poor, saintly, put-upon, innocent nuke and fossil lobbyists must be crying into their subsidised hundreds of billions at the rank unfairness and immorality of it all.

          As for the 'science' - anyone who thinks the wind industry has any serious interest in covering the entire earth's surface with windmills is a few developers short of a product launch anyway.

          Pretty much everyone with more than a couple of working neurons understands that 'renewables' includes a mix of modes, and always has done.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Hardly a scientific approach.

            Anything with "Koch" in it should be disregarded, unless it is ALSO accompanied by the picture of the Koch Brothers torturing Progressive Damsels in an underground lair in Montana while stroking white fluffy cats and reading Ayn Rand.

          2. Sirius Lee

            Re: Hardly a scientific approach.

            You may or may not like ALEC but the article to which you link is severely flawed: it doesn't take into account state and central government subsidies. Of course there appears to be no correlation between the amount of renewables and the cost per unit of power because that's the subsidy. What moron legislator would propose an expense renewables project and not include a lot of state funding for it?

          3. DaBilk

            Re: Hardly a scientific approach.

            YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

            This study does not meet up to SkepticalSc....(whatever) ideology of PAL review and that any arguement against the holy doctrine of CAGW is blasphemy.

            Burn the witches.

            Don't forget to tithe to the almighty Goreacle.

    2. TedF

      Re: I'm shocked, shocked...

      or connected even...

      1. Rob 5
        Happy

        Re: I'm shocked, shocked...

        Well spotted! Similarly, "is is" should have read "it is".

  6. Jon Green
    Holmes

    This should not be a surprise.

    Our main and best power source, on this planet, is the nearby star. Wind power is a ridiculously indirect and inefficient way to harness it. We can and should do better than this.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: This should not be a surprise.

      Let me get this perfectly clear so there's no doubt.

      Collecting energy caused by the sun causing air currents to move around is a hopelessly indirect method of harnessing the sun's energy.

      Collecting energy caused by the sun's light being collected by forests growing over hundreds of years which then die and rot and over millions of years are converted into coal/oil which we expend tremendous effort digging up and treating and transporting all around the world, and then burn, is sensible and efficient.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: This should not be a surprise.

        Just because leaping off a cliff is madness, doesn't make climbing the cliff sane.

        Burning oil is foolish - if nothing else, it's far more useful as a raw material than a fuel.

        However, building wind turbines is also foolish.

      2. Rob Carriere

        Re: This should not be a surprise.

        Collecting energy by burning straw men is even more efficient.

        Exactly where did OP mention coal or oil? He may have meant that, or he may have been referring to solar, or, for all I know, to a secret scheme to build a 150 million km pipe and suck the heat right out of the sun...

        1. JDX Gold badge

          build a 150 million km pipe and suck the heat right out of the sun...

          You don't need a pipe, the vacuum of space works quite well.

      3. Jon Green
        Boffin

        Re: This should not be a surprise.

        @JDX - you might think that; I disagree. Burning fossil fuel is dumb, cubed. We're only still doing it because (1) highly vested interests are forcing political hands, and (2) for countries like China with large reserves of low-grade coal, it's a cheap way to feed an insatiable demand. In both cases, with scant consideration for the effects on the planet.

        If we made use of even a tiny proportion (one ten-thousandth) of the direct solar energy hitting the Earth - and that's at ground level, after the atmosphere, Van Allens and so on have attenuated it - we'd satisfy current global energy demand. Orbital energy harvesting centres could do far better on less, if we can find a way to transmit the power safely to the ground.

    2. Blofeld's Cat
      Childcatcher

      Re: This should not be a surprise.

      "Our main and best power source, on this planet, is the nearby star."

      Yes, but at 620,000,000 tonnes of hydrogen per second, shouldn't we be looking for something a bit more economical?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

    ... and have it rotate so it always faces the sun.

    Is this idea mad? Yes - but it only as bloody mad as using wind power - wind power is massively inefficient, costs a fortune, takes up too much space, has to be off-lined if too windy and only works if there is wind....

    The only zero carbon, scalable, power-efficient solution is Nuclear Power

    But that gets all the Guardian-reading, leather-elbow-patched, left-wing, bleeding-heart-liberal-hippies knickers in a twist, because the fail to understand anything about required power output and risk!

    1. Blank Reg

      Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

      Space based solar power has been proposed before now. The idea was to put the solar panels in space where they would be able to operate much more efficiently due to the lack of any pesky atmosphere blocking their view. And since stringing huge cables from the surface up to space is somewhat inconvenient they would use a high powered energy beam (microwave? laser?) to send the energy back down to a receiver on the ground.

      To me the most obvious problem with this solution, besides the outrageous cost, is what would happen if this multi-megawatt death ray misses it's intended target? Surely cities bursting into flame can't be good for the environment :)

      1. proto-robbie
        Holmes

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        'Cos we've got enough trouble disposing of heat already?

        Personally, I'd place a Titanic-sized manifold over a cluster of mid-Atlantic black smokers and pipe the gigawatt rich hot water upwards until it turns to superheated steam, and with one or more underwater steam turbine generators, plus an HV DC conversion plant, cable it straight in to Iceland, Penzance, the Azores or wherever.

        This would have the useful side-effect of cooling down the oceans and reducing the average severity of hurricanes. There's also a stack of useful minerals in the black soup. Might screw up the North Atlantic Gyre though - it's cold enough in Scotland already without turning off the hot tap...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        For 'much more efficiently' read three or four times more efficiently. And for only a thousand times the cost of a land based array! Sign me up to this economic winner!

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        " Surely cities bursting into flame can't be good for the environment"

        THANKS SPACE OBAMA!

      4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Boffin

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        "To me the most obvious problem with this solution, besides the outrageous cost, is what would happen if this multi-megawatt death ray misses it's intended target? "

        The power level for that "death ray" as you call it was set to be about the leakage power level of a microwave oven. The system needs a unit on the receiving end to focus the beam and de-focuses if it drifts off. The focussed beam is still about 2km square and was designed to allow people to stand underneath it.

        Microwave converters run around 95%+ efficient but sunlight -> AC conversion is around 70%. BTW above c800Km altitude the system generates 24/7.

        Voted down because you were ignorant enough to make the comment without a few minutes (or even check the ElReg) to find out the real story.

    2. Cipher

      Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

      France has 56 working nuclear plants, generating 76% of her electricity. She gets 12% from hydroelectric.

      All the reactors are American Pressurized Water Reactors designed by American Westinghouse.

      What do the French know that the rest of the world doesn't? Why aren't they afraid of it?

      1. PyLETS
        Mushroom

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        "What do the French know that the rest of the world doesn't? Why aren't they afraid of it?"

        Don't know what they know that we don't, but maybe the Fukushima or Chernobyl evacuees know something the French don't.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

          Giant tidal waves exceeding all reasonable engineering defense mechanisms are not an argument against nuclear per se. The Tjernobyl incident on the other hand, is certainly an argument against mismanagement and antiquated/bad design.

          As for the French, IIRC they only have about 2 models of NPGS. Big and Small. They didn't try and invent 36 different systems, they chose one and manage to operate them all optimally.

      2. TheVogon Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        Because genetic damage to French geonomes could surely only bring improvements...?

      3. Lord Voldemortgage

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        "What do the French know that the rest of the world doesn't? Why aren't they afraid of it?"

        The French have a policy of self-sustainability for energy that overrides other concerns (and I applaud them for it).

        Along with their large investment in wind and hydro generation they also have nuclear (and again I applaud this).

        This doesn't mean they are not afraid of it though, just that they are able to bribe and bully their poorer areas like Normandy into accepting nuclear. (Incidentally the reactor at Flamanville is going to be at least twice as expensive as the original estimates, is already late, and won't be operational for at least another four years).

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

          Once on a holiday to the Cotentin (Normandy), we found this lovely beach, lovely sands, perfect surf, completely deserted, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours body boarding. When we got out, an old local boy, resplendent in his beret, wandered up to us and said Êtes-vous fou? Le site nucléaire est à 5 km là!

          I did wonder why the water was so warm.

    3. John H Woods
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

      Your point is correct that it would be just as mad to build that solar panel as to cover the world in windmills.

      Nuclear power is safe. In the Fukushima "Nuclear Disaster", approximately 0 people died despite a catalogue of misadventures and failures at fairly old nuclear plants which had been subjected to an *enormous* environmental event - an earthquake and tsunami which killed 25,000 people.

      As a result, I have started to ignore, or at least question, anyone who suffixes the words "Nuclear Disaster" to "Fukushima" because I consider it to be an empty phrase. Although I'm not sure "bleeding heart liberal hippie" is a very meaningful phrase, either - it certainly doesn't apply to many of the liberals I have ever met.

      Let us rise above the stupid point scoring and ad hominem attacks of our political 'leaders', and actually use hard fscking science and actual fscking facts. Now excuse me whilst I return to my (ever sceptical) reading of the Guardian, albeit sans elbow patches.

    4. Jim Wilkinson
      Mushroom

      Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

      The only zero carbon, scalable, power-efficient solution is Nuclear Power

      ATM, through fission only. But if fusion can be harnessed, we'd all be in clover and could ditch those massively inefficient and unreliable generation methods such as wind and solar power.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        We talk of Nuclear as being a clean sustainable power source but surely the one thing it is not is sustainable. Even coal and oil are continually being regenerated (slowly) but the very nature of radioactive material means it is always downhill... supernova creates heavy elements which accrete to a planet and then you have a fixed time span until the radiation is all gone... even if we don't use it it's disappearing (even more slowly)

        Are there any sums on how much useful material we have?

        1. Cipher

          Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

          JDX:

          As a poster here has already said, 3000 - 10000 years of fuel remain. While we look for an alternative.

          Waste containment/disposal is the issue we need to get a grip on. I understand the French have opted not to call it "disposal" but rather "Storage." They have their boffins working on ways to use it or render it safe, a good course IMO, and it makes for a new career track for the boffins... :-)

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

            And the primary reason we have a waste problem is that people are afraid to reuse the fuel. We ALREADY have reactor designs capable of reusing the fuel and getting more energy out of them. The problem with come is stated concisely in their name: BREEDER reactors. A necessary byproduct of reusing the waste is you end up with more potent waste, and to keep the cycle going, you have to take it out once in a while to reprocess it, which inevitably raises concerns of weaponization and proliferation.

            A number of the Generation IV reactor designs DO take breeder reactor concepts into consideration to try to maximize their fuel use.

        2. MrXavia
          Thumb Up

          Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

          I would say nuclear(fission) will last longer than fossil fuels at our current consumption, but I agree solar seems sensible, just stick it on an orbital power station and beam it down to earth, even with horrendous losses it would be very practical...

          but I think switching to Fusion will be key to our long term power needs..

          And eventually figuring out a way to get past of that damned 2nd law of thermo dynamics, who thought of that stupid rule, I have a closed system full of nice and hot particles at the same temperature bouncing around, and I CAN'T convert that thermal energy into something more useful? What an annoying universe!

        3. Benjol

          Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

          Start reading here

          <a href="http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c24/page_161.shtml">http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c24/page_161.shtml</a>

          Don't stop till you get to the end, then go right back to the beginning and start again.

          <blockquote>"It’s very possible this is an underestimate of uranium’s potential, since, as there is not yet a uranium shortage, there is no incentive for exploration and little uranium exploration has been undertaken since the 1980s; so maybe more mineable uranium will be discovered. Indeed, one paper published in 1980 estimated that the low-grade uranium resource is more than 1000 times greater than the 27 million tons we just assumed."</blockquote>

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        "massively inefficient and unreliable generation methods such as wind and solar power."

        Utter bollox!

        If solar is so bad then why do I earn money for generating electricty? Why is my bill next to nothing?

        Maybe we should harness the hot air the English produce every minute of the day? I would be enough to power the entire planet!

        If we ALL had our own micro generation there would be no need for lots of massive generating stations. And don't forget just how wasteful the grid is! We waste a power station of output just through transmission.

        People, stop slating current solutions and be a little more productive.

        1. Zog The Undeniable
          FAIL

          Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

          Because you are receiving an artificial subsidy (paid for by me and most other electricity consumers) out of all proportion to the true value of the power generated.

          And I'm not even on Lewis' side in this debate.

          1. Green Nigel 42
            Alert

            Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

            Pro Nuclear as I am, does not the cost of R&D, construction & disposal incurred over the past 60 years running into billions mostly paid by the governments on for stategic needs (military & economic) count as a subsidy?

            When the Power companies were privatised, the nuclear side was split off & sold without the disposal costs to make it attractive to the Stock Market

            Solar panel subsidies were grossly excessive, but are only temporary & there to kick start the market ( as seen by ever lower cost/watt by economies of scale + r&d benifits at the rate of Moores law towards parity with coal generation rates ). If only the intermittent nature & night time/winter problems could be sorted by storage!

            Please note that people with micro generation match their consumption to their genetation & so effectively reduce grid base load & storage needs.

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

          You earn money on solar by stealing it from the poor.

          You get between four and five times the going rate for your electricity generation, and the Grid is forced to buy whatever you generate, regardless of whether the Grid actually needs it or not, or even whether it gets any of it in the first place.

          - Yes, this is the same as Tesco paying you £5 for each cucumber you grow and eat yourself.

          It's almost certainly the most regressive taxation to ever come out of the UK's central Government - it drives the poor into fuel poverty while handing money to rich landowners.

          Yet it was a Labour idea. So much for their "core values".

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The only zero carbon, scalable, power-efficient solution is Nuclear Power

      And as soon as we find a sensible, long term way of dealing with the waste from Nuclear we'll be all set...

      Except that's not going to happen, it's poisonous for thousands of years and will be a blight to the planet long after the last nuclear power station has shut down.

    6. nanchatte
      Mushroom

      Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

      Why does everything bad come down to "lefties" liberals and commies in the Reg? I am certainly NOT right winged and I DO support nuclear power wholeheartedly, even though I live not that far from Fukushima...

      Please don't tar us all with the same brush, you effing, George Bush dick-sucking, gun-toting, right-winged neo nazi. (as an example of stereotyping, you understand... Nothing personal).

      I really have to stop reading Lewis Page articles' comments.

      1. Cipher
        Headmaster

        Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

        nanchatte spewed forth:

        Why does everything bad come down to "lefties" liberals and commies in the Reg? I am certainly NOT right winged and I DO support nuclear power wholeheartedly, even though I live not that far from Fukushima...

        Because the politics of the world, which ultimately decides policy for us all, is split along these lines.

        Please don't tar us all with the same brush, you effing, George Bush dick-sucking, gun-toting, right-winged neo nazi. (as an example of stereotyping, you understand... Nothing personal).

        When you have something besides vulgarity and crude ad hominem, please come come back and try again.

        Clue: Reason and Facts combined with a civil tone. Try it next time...

        I really have to stop reading Lewis Page articles' comments.

        Yes, no need to let facts confuse you, you have your mind made up...

        1. nichomach
          Thumb Down

          @ Cipher

          Given that nanchatte was responding to:

          "But that gets all the Guardian-reading, leather-elbow-patched, left-wing, bleeding-heart-liberal-hippies knickers in a twist, because the fail to understand anything about required power output and risk!"

          ...your whingeing about "vulgarity and crude ad hominem" is, at best, misplaced. The "politics of the world" are a lot more compex than you allow, and nanchatte makes a very good point, which your own response tends to support. nanchatte is posting in support of nuclear power (despite living near Fukushima, and adopting a commendably calm and balanced approach), and merely noting that there appears to be rather a lot of lazy stereotyping with regard to the issue. But, one supposes, you have "no need to let facts confuse you, you have your mind made up..." eh?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: this thread

            I raised the issue of how to deal with the waste. No one want to engage with that one.....?

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Re: Why not just build a solar panel that covers half the world....

      "The only zero carbon, scalable, power-efficient solution is Nuclear Power"

      Just as well you didn't mention cost-effcient. EDF are reported today to be seeking guarantees from DECC of £95/MWh in order to build new nuclear. Current wholesale prices are around £45/MWh. So long as you're happy for your energy prices to double then nuclear is certainly a good bet.

  8. fixit_f
    Mushroom

    "that would seem to be the effective end for the dream of a renewables-powered future for humanity" - we REALLY need to start considering the reality that we need to either have many fewer children, another massive world war to decimate a few billion people or shift a load of us off this rock altogether.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "shift a load of us off this rock altogether."

      That would require just as much energy as keeping us here...

      http://what-if.xkcd.com/7/

      1. Green Nigel 42
        Thumb Up

        The B Ark awaits

        Probably best to keep the telephone sanitiser' s this time!

  9. Himalayaman
    Holmes

    "that would seem to be the effective end for the dream of a renewables-powered future for humanity"

    If true that would also be the end of humanity.

    "The only zero carbon, scalable, power-efficient solution is Nuclear Power"

    True... but ofc you know we can't power the earth for very long (we will run out of fuel rather quick) with that unless we get fusion going soonish.

    1. chrisf1

      Only if by quick you mean 10,000 years or so with fission alone.

      http://www.mcgill.ca/files/gec3/NuclearFissionFuelisInexhaustibleIEEE.pdf

      Ok more conservative estimates give 3000 years or so but I'll take that level of breathing room to get something better and more resources including off planet.

    2. Tomato42 Silver badge
      Boffin

      Even if we take the lowest estimates for uranium deposits (no geological survey to search uranium was funded since the '70s, stuff is just so common) assume geometrical growth in energy needs *and* switch all energy needs to electricity (including transportation and heating) we would still have more than several hundred years on fission plants.

      By then we certainly will have working fusion plants, which can provide, for all intents and purposes, infinite energy.

    3. itzman

      Re:If true that would also be the end of humanity.

      There is enough nuclear fertile or fissile material easily available to power current levels of population for at least 5000 years. Civilisation itself is not that old.

      And its arguable that we can sustain this level of population anyway, even given the energy.

      People who are trying to develop energy solutions for 5000 years time are a bit silly if they ignore much easier solutions for the next 100.

      Somewhere stirs a distant memory of a story about an astronomer who spend all his time at night wandering around gazing at the stars.

      He fell down a well and broke his neck.

    4. strum
      FAIL

      How many zeroes?

      "zero carbon"

      Can we please knock this piece of nonsense (non-science) on the head.

      Every nuclear facility requires fuckloads of concrete, which creates fuckloads of CO2. And, to have any impact on global energy demand, we'd have to built fuckloads of nuclear facilities - pretty damn quickly.

      That ain't 'zero carbon'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How many zeroes?@strum

        "Every nuclear facility requires ***loads of concrete, which creates ***loads of CO2"

        So do wind turbines, Only more so, because the cumulative number of turbines is so great that they'd have several times the volume of concrete as an equivalent nuclear plant. My suggestion: Accept there is no free lunch for renewables, get used to it, stop bleating about carbon.

  10. ratfox Silver badge
    WTF?

    Makes no sense to me

    The world contains many things that impede the wind from blowing. Apart from the windmills, there are trees, houses, skyscrapers, mountains…

    I fail to see why a windmill would slow the wind more than any fixed structure of the same size… And frankly, we are very far from windmills being even a small percentage of all the wind-impeding crap we have built. Without even mentioning the mountains.

    1. chrisf1

      Re: Makes no sense to me

      Stand behind a skyscraper on the opposite side of the prevailing wind direction ...

      They aren't saying it does more than a fixed structure but that it affects the density with which you can harvest the wind energy.

    2. Flatpackhamster

      Re: Makes no sense to me

      Mmm, but when you have a wind farm, you have wind turbines relatively close to each other. They need to be relatively close because of all that cabling you have to have to transmit their power. And if the turbines in the wind farm are disturbing each others' air, then the efficiency of the farm falls. So you either spread out the turbines, occupying more space and wasting more energy as the power has to be transmitted further, or you accept the loss in power.

      Either way, wind isn't a good solution to the world's energy needs.

      1. catprog

        Re: Makes no sense to me

        So turbines a few km apart lose power from transmission of the power.

        How much power is lost from centralized power stations transmitting over tens of kms of power lines?

    3. Amonynous

      Re: Makes no sense to me

      On the one hand, yes. The Southern Ocean is a graveyard for sailors precisely because there are none of those pesky mountains, trees, skyscrapers or any other crap to prevent the wind from going round the planet.

      On the other hand, there is no such thing as a free lunch, so if you want to get x Terawatts of power from the wind, it follows that there is less wind (in the short term at least). That energy didn't appear by magic, it came from turning kinetic energy in the atmosphere in to electrical energy.

      On the third hand, that energy has to go somewhere, and as a previous poster has pointed out, our energy harnessing, storage and usage systems are pretty good at turning useful energy in to heat (some by way of useful work, a lot by way of inefficiency).

      Most of it gets radiated back in to space where it came from (if it didn't, we'd be living on Venus and reading this with rapidly melting eyeballs). Along the way, some of it causes convection in the atmosphere, creating wind!

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Makes no sense to me

        Simply using the argument "taking energy MUST reduce the wind" isn't enough. You have to show how much. Is it like me diluting the ocean by running my garden house onto the beach, or something reasonable? We have several Km of atmosphere, how much difference does clogging up the bottom 30m make?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Makes no sense to me

          "We have several Km of atmosphere, how much difference does clogging up the bottom 30m make?"

          To the atmosphere in general not much. But as the original article points out, this is about the density of energy harvesting from the atmosphere, and that is affected by the removal of wind energy - not just what the turbine captures, but the turbulence losses that trail behind it. The wind shadow of a single turbine is well known, but limited. But once you start building huge matrices then the collective effect builds, because you can't keep extracting the same energy from the atmosphere, and what goes on at higher altitudes takes time to drive the lower levels. And there's the problem, if you take energy out of the lower atmosphere too quickly, then you have to wait for the energy to percolate down (if you'll excuse the analogy).

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Makes no sense to me

            You can make a convincing hand-waving argument either way, there are two many hard facts which make an intuitive answer very hard. We need proper empirical or theoretical work - build a scale model or simulate it on a nice super-computer.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Makes no sense to me@JDX

              "build a scale model or simulate it on a nice super-computer."

              Yeah, you want more of those vast over-complex fairy/horror story climate models that can't predict anything accurately? Scale modelling would suffer similar macro-complexity concerns, although at a micro level both can work well.

              You'll doubtless approve that a more interesting, risky and vastly costly experiment is already taking place in Europe, where vast build out of wind is going to unintentionally test this on a regional scale. In broad terms we're talking about Europe spending around £100bn or more on this experiment. That includes about half that amount on land-based wind turbines, most of which have appalling capacity factors and low efficiency compared to large offshore units, and show the perils of jumping into renewables when the technology is not fully developed. From an engineering point of view I certainly admire the latest wind turbines - for those who haven't followed it closely, a search on Haliade will show the majesterial scale that is the cutting edge of wind turbines - a pity that it still won't turn when there's no wind.

              The pro-wind lobby, the renewables lobby in general, and the high priests of climate change (including DECC & the BBC in the UK) fail to understand that immediate action on renewables is far less important than effective action on renewables. So the best plan would be to stop all these crappy subsidies and boondoggles, scrap short term carbon targets, keep using existing plant, and in the meanwhile actually work on research to make renewables cost effective and useful, rather than relying on generational improvements in production engineering to eek out a few extra percent. Instead these people are intent on bankrupting Europe, driving industry offshore, doubling household bills for a technology that won't solve the problem.

              I think that's because the problem they are trying to solve urgently is "carbon", rather than a more measured approach to solve the real problem for humanity that is "finite fossil fuel resources". But hey, it's not their money that is being wasted, so why should they worry?

              1. itzman

                Re: Makes no sense to me@JDX

                They are not even solving the 'carbon' problem.

                There is no study that actually has measured the emissions impact of massive amounts of renewable energy on electrical energy generation when co-operated with fossil backup.

                Its a very hard thing to model, since there are a lot of unknowns . But it would be easy to - for example - meaure fule rates into power stations on windy and non windy days and correlate the results..

                Why are the renewable lobbies not insisting on this to prove their point?

                Ho hum. You know the answer..

                Windy days add huge uncertainties into actual power production. Its not unusual for the wind output forecast to be over a gigawatt out with respect to the actuality. That's a whole power station worth or more. The prudent thing to do is burn fuel in spinning reserves and hot standby kit...

                The long and the short of it is that massive amounts of renewable energy in the absence of massive and efficient storage that we don't have simply adds to the dispatch demand of generators increasing the amount of fuel wasted to cover fluctuations and contingencies. It may even totally or more than totally negated the effect of the renewable energy, no one knows, and if they do know, they are keeping it very quiet.

                1. catprog

                  Re: Makes no sense to me@JDX

                  >There is no study that actually has measured the emissions impact of massive amounts of renewable energy on electrical energy generation when co-operated with fossil backup.

                  http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3596892.htm

            2. itzman

              Re: Makes no sense to me

              dont have to model it. Its already been measured on large wind farms.

        2. itzman

          Re: Makes no sense to me

          very simple. Betz law states that about 47% of the energy of the wind over a given rotor diameter can be extracted. The result is that the wind is slowed. That causes turbulence outside the cone of the turbine slipstream.

          Turbines stacked close to maximise fraudulent income from small land areas suffer capacity factor degradation. really you cant get closer than about 7 rotor diameters to the next windmill without losing power. 10 is better.

          That is why - together with ground effect turbulence and the like, windfarms typically average out at around 2W/sq meter power density. Less on land.

          that is 2MW per square kilometer, and so to make it to a big power station - like say Fukushima or Drax, which are 5GW installations, you need an area of something like 2,500 square kilometres. So a wind farm slightly bigger than the exclusions zone around Fukushima now, would (because almost nowhere would be less than 200m from a turbine) be totally uninhabitable permanently.

          And you would still need the same amount of conventional power for when the wind didn't blow.

          I live in Suffolk, and one factoid I am found of quoting, is that if Sizewell C is ever built, it would with Sizewell B deliver power to the level where an equivalent windfarm would have to cover every single square meter of Suffolk. The county would be uninhabitable.

          Whereas Sizewell is tucked onto a couple of square kilometres of rather boring coastline behind a bank of trees and a bird sanctuary.

          Its time people stopped saying silly things like 'would you rather have A windmill or A power station'. No. the reality is would you rather have 10,000 windmills and one power station (for backup) or just ONE power station.

          1. catprog

            Re: Makes no sense to me

            >So a wind farm slightly bigger than the exclusions zone around Fukushima now, would (because almost nowhere would be less than 200m from a turbine) be totally uninhabitable permanently.

            But would be very useful for a farm.

    4. itzman
      FAIL

      Re: Makes no sense to me

      I suggest you do a few things like asking farmers why they plant banks of trees as wind shields, study the wakes of turbines, and talk to a few people who fly aircraft about boundary effects, ground turbulence and so on, and ask yourself why windmills get built on hilltops not in valleys.

      There is only one thing that seems silly to me, here...

  11. Why Not?
    Facepalm

    Just a little load of old wind

    surprise, surprise ask any sailor why you rig sails a particular way.

    Now can we have our money back? Many people suggested wind power was a distraction.

    Solar electric power with hydro,battery, hydrogen etc storage would be perfectly acceptable.

    Just as Solar thermal can store heat for days.

    Solar can also be used as a pre heat for industrial processes or heating.

    1. itzman

      Re: Just a little load of old wind

      More hot air. The numbers don't stack up on ANY renewable technology.

      All this wind/wave//solar/storage/hydrogen is hand wavey bovine excrement. None of it stacks up when you start to ask the questions about how you are going to build it,. make it reliable, and cost it out.

      the land areas required alone are monumental.

      Its only sustained by government legislation.

      Once governments cant fund it and taxpayers refuse to pay it will all collapse like a house of cards.

      1. Green Nigel 42
        Alert

        Re: Just a little load of old wind

        Only governments could support the development, waste disposal & decommissioning of nuclear stations.

        Thats why the Nuclear was split of during privatisation & sold off subsequently with resposibility for operating costs.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Devil

        Re: Just a little load of old wind

        "Once governments cant fund it and taxpayers refuse to pay it will all collapse like a house of cards."

        How exactly will taxpayers refuse to pay? UK energy policy has been the same shambles under the present and last government, and you can be sure that the current opposition are equally bereft of common sense. So there's no electoral choice not to pay for DECC's expensive and ineffective toys, or the EU's destructive policies. And if you're on PAYE, then you can't even refuse to pay and be prosecuted.

        As for "governments can't fund it", if you look the majority of Western governments have been spending vastly beyond their means for decades, if not centuries now. If tomorrow is a nornal day, the British government will borrow about £480m to fund the gap between its revenues and its expenditure. But that's actually irrelevant here because the cost of renewables isn't paid by government from voter's taxes - you and I pay through higher energy bills for measures that government mandates the energy industry to implement, or where energy taxes (eg carbon taxes) are levied on businesses.

        So this situation is the bureaucrat's nirvana - spend other people's money without even the inconvenience of having to tax and borrow the money in the first place.

  12. Turtle

    Practical.

    "a 'practical' windpower system of the future - employing 4 million wind towers spread all round the world to avoid damage to the environment ..."

    Made me laugh.

    : )

  13. Mike Moyle Silver badge
    Coat

    Okay...So howzabout...

    If all the vertical turbines will slow the wind downstream from them, that means that there will be less convective cooling of those downstream areas, raising the temperatures locally.

    Therefore,we build HORIZONTAL turbines to catch the resulting updrafts.

    PROBLEM SOLVED!

    Take THAT, fancy Harvard-scientist-types!

  14. Catweazle
    Facepalm

    Stop the tea party

    "Crusading pro wind boffins"...

    The credo of most boffins is objectivity.

    If you look for a crusader, take this lewis page character.

    Constantly spamming the registry with one sided climate skeptic tea party views.

    Can't you get someone with a balanced view, at least then we can take the climate skeptic articles seriously.

    It is irritating to find stuff that belongs in the "advertise with us" section mixed with the articles.

    Drags the credibility of this site down.

    1. Seanmon
      Boffin

      Re: Stop the tea party

      No, the credo of most (ok, many) boffins is "find an argument that will increase my chances of getting funding." I know many, especially on debatable topics like wind power.

      I'm not wholly against wind power, it has a small, probably local, part to play. I don't even really object to the look of the things; I used to drive past the Glenlees array (biggest onshore windfarm in Europe) on my way home, and it really is actually rather lovely from the hills on the motorway. Hell, there's even a visitor centre there.

      Fact is though, wind is never ever going to be the solution. I wish I knew what the solution was; apart from anything else I'd be the richest man in the history of Earth by now if i did. But the realistic best we've got right now is fission.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Stop the tea party

      So where does the Tea Party come into this?

      Will the Gun Ownership Debate and Wind Power be linked by people trying to change physics by law? How about Violence to Women, BLG Rights and the Social Security Crater?

      Stay tuned...

      Also

      >2013

      >Not using NoScript

    3. SleepyJohn
      FAIL

      Re: Stop the tea party [break out the beer]

      Balance comes from having lots of different people with lots of differing views, not from one sanctimonious twat who thinks he knows it all. I believe the old Soviet government used to run a newspaper called 'Truth'.

      And I knew an old sailor who swore that the reason the weather is getting windier is that there are fewer sailing ships in the oceans sucking it all up.

      And I believe windmills are so unreliable they have to be backed up by coal-fired power stations constantly running in highly inefficient standby mode, probably producing more atmospheric pollution than if they just ran full power and produced the electricity themselves.

      And as for an energy source that can apparently power the whole country from the contents of a cup of tea, and has killed fewer people over the years than crazed donkeys on the way to the airport - who needs that?

  15. ecofeco Silver badge
    FAIL

    Peak Nothing

    Get back to us when every house has a wind turbine on its roof.

    1. Seanmon
      Thumb Down

      Re: Peak Nothing

      Back in 2005, I worked for a company that tried that; you may even have seen the things in B&Q (assuming UK poster). Worked out well, didn't it?

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Peak Nothing

      > every house has a wind turbine on its roof

      Hold on! Debt-laden families shelling out several cars of dosh for a turbine and its maintenance? How??

      1. Seanmon

        Re: Peak Nothing

        See above.

      2. ecofeco Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Peak Nothing

        > Hold on! Debt-laden families shelling out several cars of dosh for a turbine and its maintenance? How??

        That's my point. There's still plenty of room for growth. Only when everyone and their dog can afford it will the market finally be saturated.

    3. TeeCee Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: Peak Nothing

      I can't help thinking that must be a terribly bloody stupid idea. David Cameron's got one......

  16. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Flame

    Not a problem!

    The answer to ALL our problems, coming to a country near you soon.

    DEMAND MANAGEMENT.

    That's a cuddly way of saying that we're going to raise the price of energy to astronomical levels in order to force everyone to stop using it.

    Then we'll be at environmental peace with Gaia. And some politicians, energy business , bankers and environmental quangos will be rolling in riches...

    1. Turtle

      @Dodgy Geezer Re: Not a problem!

      "DEMAND MANAGEMENT. That's a cuddly way of saying that we're going to raise the price of energy to astronomical levels in order to force everyone to stop using it."

      Or install smart meters on your house and simply cut off your supply when it suits them. (And it's going to suit them very, very often.)

  17. IGnatius T Foobar
    Megaphone

    Sack the earth huggers. Build more nuclear.

    Global warming has been proven to be a lie and a scam. Wind power makes sense in isolated areas where there's lots of wind, just like hydroelectric makes sense in locations where flowing water is available.

    For the rest of us, nuclear makes the most sense. It's clean, safe, and inexpensive.

    Anyone who disagrees with this is a tree-hugging communist psychopath who should move to North Korea where they will be more comfortable.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Sack the earth huggers. Build more nuclear.

      Global warming in and of itself isn't a scam. What's the scam is the idea that we're influencing it in any significant way.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Tomato42 Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Sack the earth huggers. Build more nuclear.

      global warming isn't a scam, every climatologist agrees that there is at least a 1°C increase in global temperature in 3-5 sigma range (over 99% confidence)

      now, anthropocentric global warming is a completely different matter...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Green Nigel
        Flame

        Re: Sack the earth huggers. Build more nuclear.

        All this talk of Facts! One can only quote Probabiliies that we do or do not have an effect on global warming.

        I believe its less likely given the quality of the curreent evidence, the understanding of the climate is clearly not there yet, but the consequences of being wrong are potentialy disasterous so have some sympathy for precautionary measures.

        I'm more worried that we do not & therefore have little ability to correcting it!.

  18. tastysandwich
    Facepalm

    I just love it

    It fascinates me to see that just because wind energy won't be enough for the entire world, you people now think it is entirely useless.

    1. itzman

      Re: I just love it

      Er no, its not for that reason that people think it is entirely useless. It wont even work for a small country..

      But you must Do Sums to work that out.

      And who these days can do that?

  19. Steve Knox
    Boffin

    "Peak Wind" is a misnomer

    The term "peak x" implies that maximum production of resource x has been reached, and that production will necessarily decline after that fact. However, wind being a renewable resource, production would effectively remain steady rather than decline once the maximum has been reached (absent confounding factors such as more attractive energy resources.) "Maximal Wind" would be a more accurate term, but obviously wouldn't have quite the same negative connotation that Lewis clearly intended.

    However, Lewis is right about this: the concept of wind (or any individual renewable resource) as "the" replacement for fossil fuels is not very plausible (in the short term at least; most likely at all). Tom Murphy of UC San Diego has done a pretty good analysis here: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/02/the-alternative-energy-matrix/ (I've linked to the summary article, each section has links to a detailed blog post on the pros and cons of the individual resources.)

    Of course, even fossil fuels need help from each other (coal, gas, natural gas, propane, et al.), nuclear, hydroelectric, some solar and wind, geothermal, etc. in order to supply our society's current* thirst for power. It's absurd to posit a single "silver-bullet" solution to our energy needs, but it's equally absurd to discount any given solution simply because it's not comprehensive.

    *Sorry. Pun not intended, honest.

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      Re: "Peak Wind" is a misnomer

      while the amount of energy will reach a plateau (assuming we will keep on servicing them), the energy outputted as a percent of total energy use will definitely decline

      as such, it's not completely unreasonable to be talking about "peak wind"

  20. scatter

    If we get to the stage that we're sapping that amount of energy out of the wind then I'll be pretty happy, but in the meantime wind generation will have been lifted well out of the boundary layer and will be quite happily generating far more than its ground based cousins.

  21. Chris Cartledge
    Coat

    Professor David Keith

    This will be the same David Keith which leads the Carbon capture company Carbon Engineering...

  22. Don Jefe

    Cracked the Code

    If you take a research paper and change any could or maybe and into a will you get a Lewis Page anti-anything but nuclear article!

    Basically take scientific reporting, remove scientific language and highlight statements that out of context support unfounded personal assessments and get an El Reg article!

    Ha! Now I'd like a job here.

  23. Doug 3

    high pressure systems to low pressure systems

    winds generally move from high to low pressure systems so it's not like a turbine farm in CA is going to effect wind in Colorado. And besides, these turbines are relatively close to the surface where friction with land and vegetation down wind would also bleed off energy. Again, this is just surface energy and there's lots of atmosphere above a wind turbine.

    I'm thinking there are gross miscalculations on both sides now.

  24. madestjohn

    Wait,... Lunch isn't free?

  25. MacroRodent Silver badge
    FAIL

    Not wind only

    "And with wind very much the poster child of renewable power - it is cheap, scalable and practical compared to the other methods - that would seem to be the effective end for the dream of a renewables-powered future for humanity."

    That is only if you start from the silly assumption that all energy must be generated with one method only. In reality, a variety of energy sources will be used, just like we already do. Just avoid those that foul up the atmosphere and/or will run out in the foreseeable future.

    1. itzman

      Re: Not wind only

      Sorry. The same arguments apply to ALL renewables.

      Try growing potatoes in a field covered in solar panels.

      For example.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Not wind only

        Isn't that why the idea is to install solar plants in deserts? Particularly very arid or very windy deserts: neither of which are very conducive to vegetation and therefore mostly taking up empty space?

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Re: Not wind only

          In addition, solar panels can be put on rooftops or walls, which also are seldom used for agriculture.

  26. rich2201
    Thumb Down

    Read the paper...

    It will be more than the Ref author did. Previous estimates of potential wind power range from 58 TW to 400 TW. The 4.3 W/m2 is a theoretical upper limit. Keith refines it to not much more than 1W/m2. While cautioning that global capacity cannot easily be calculated, Lewis' implication that wind potential is maybe 1% to 3% of global demand (30TW) is NOT based on the research.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Read the paper...

      Isn't that 1-3% based on simple maths?

      Area of surface we are likely to build wind turbines on multiplied by watts per square metre an array can generate, compared with giving everybody a reasonable amount of electric?

      Sounds reasonable to me, given the paper's content.

      Of course, you can argue his area is too small, or that 2/3 of EU energy consumption for everyone is too large, but I rather doubt it's out by an order of magnitude.

      So even accepting that, the upper bound on global wind power would only be 10% or so.

      The huddled masses of the world's really poor aren't going to stay huddled forever - and the sooner they get to the "modern" living standards the better for everyone, because that's the only way the human birth rate will reduce to a steady state. You'd better hope that happens before peak energy and peak food, because human wave attacks are very messy.

      1. itzman
        Mushroom

        Re: Read the paper...

        The huddled masses are not going to stay huddled?

        No, Mr Bond, we expect them to die!

  27. nsld
    Mushroom

    This is a classic problem with windmills.

    As windfarms are the political plat du jour it is important to feed the paymasters with "research" on how wonderful they are.

    Politicians dont like nuclear purely becuase it is politically unacceptable so wind has been deemed the way forward, despite the fact even the most cursory examination of wind power shows its never going to be the answer as it has a huge environmental and operational cost.

    Research which puts a more realistic slant on the likely costs or benefits of wind power are always going to be unwelcome as its the equivelant of telling someone the new baby they have is ugly as sin, you might think it, but you are not allowed to say it.

    We need accurate representations of what the varying ways of generating electricity can genuinely do so we can plan properly and use appropriately. Overblown estimates simply end up costing more and delivering less.

    1. itzman

      Re: This is a classic problem with windmills.

      start here

      http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Renewable%20Energy%20Limitations.pdf

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a classic problem with windmills.

      "Politicians dont like nuclear purely becuase it is politically unacceptable so wind has been deemed the way forward"

      In the UK nuclear is actually very acceptable. The majority of the electorate are quite happy with the technology, and all the proposed locations for new ones are in areas where there are already nuclear facilities, and where the jobs would be welcome. The reason wind is being rolled out in this way is simply because energy policy (which originates more from the civil servants of DECC than from brain dead politicians) is formulated by faceless cretins who subscribe to unscientific Friends of the Earth nonsense about what constitutes "renewable". The amount wasted so far on solar and wind in the UK is about a billion quid on solar PV, and around £20bn spent and committed (ie under construction) on wind. Having run out of suitable sites in the UK, the criminals of DECC have signed an agreement to pay for wind farms carpeting the Irish Republic.

      For that £21bn (and rising) we could have built four nuclear reactors, or around thirty big CCGTs. The gas turbine solution would have been able to replace the majority of all existing UK electricity generation with state of the art high efficiency gas plant. Instead we've got a few crappy windmills providing at most 3% of UK electricity when it suits them.

  28. ForthIsNotDead
    FAIL

    Codswallop

    "Keith’s research has shown that the generating capacity of very large wind power installations (larger than 100 square kilometers) may peak at between 0.5 and 1 watts per square meter."

    So his estimate varies by +-100%. That's not really telling us very much is it?

    1. Benjol

      Re: Codswallop

      Of course it is: it's telling us that even putting the biggest error bars on possible, we can't get anywhere near the predicted 4+W/m2 .

    2. itzman

      Re: Codswallop

      its telling us a lot actually.

      -50% + 100% is a lot better than out by three to four orders of magnitude,. which is basically what renewable protagonists usually are.

  29. Potemkine Silver badge

    And?

    I see El Reg's pro-oil dedicated writer continues his fight for fossils fuels *über alles*

    So, wind would not be sufficient enough to cover all our needs? What's the matter? We'll need several sources of energy anyway, this one has many advantages so why shouldn't we use it?

    1. itzman
      FAIL

      Re: And?

      Why do we need several sources of energy?

      Do we need several different shapes of wheels?

      Do aircraft fly on fermented bat shit, solar panels or rubber bands and clockwork?

      All the above are possible, but the fact remains that for sound physical engineering and economic reasons they all fly on one. Hydrocarbon fuel, mainly kerosene, with a few light aircraft operation on AvGas.

      Electrical power is best generated by using steam or gas turbines fuelled by coal gas oil or fissile materials. The rest are simply way less efficient and way more costly.

      saying 'diversity' as a sort of green mantra doesn't make it a good idea.

      1. Steve Knox
        Facepalm

        Re: And?

        Why do we need several sources of energy?

        Because we're already using several sources?

        From your post:

        1. aircraft use an oil derivative;

        2. power stations use coal derivatives, nuclear reactions [and stored geothermal energy, kinetic energy from moving water, wind, incineration of garbage -- basically whatever's convenient for that particular location]

        Not from your post:

        3. automobiles use oil-derivatives, natural gas, and increasingly electricity generated from their own excess energy and or (2) above.

        4. Home heating systems use all of the above plus wood and whatever else generates heat.

        So petroleum-based products are already inadequate for our current energy needs, and it's already been shown that petroleum oil is a finite resource. Whether you believe that will be next year, or ten, or 100 years down the road, the fact is our society will need to a) develop new energy sources, b) move to rely on those sources some of us are currently decrying as "way less efficient and way more costly", c) develop some amazing improvements in efficiency, d) drastically alter our lifestyle, or (most likely) some combination of the above.

        Yes, just saying 'diversity' as a green mantra is not a good idea. But it's a worse idea to ignore the known limitations of our current energy sources. And saying "diversity" as a reasoned conclusion of a balanced social, economic, and ecologic analysis of our energy situation is a very good idea.

  30. itzman
    Mushroom

    Peak wind is cl;oser than that.

    scientists ask the question 'is it possible?' They don't care about costs because they get grants.

    Engineers ask the question 'how can I build it, and what will it cost?'

    Here is one answer:

    http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Renewable%20Energy%20Limitations.pdf

    In short if you take the rent seeking and hysteria out of energy, and go for best cost benefit, renewable energy has no significant part to play whatsoever at all. Simply because the alternatives are cheaper and better in every single way apart from political acceptability to a gullible public.

    This means thin the limit that Darwin will take over and demonstrate to gullible societies that they are about to die from sheer stupidity.

    And the likes of China and India who are not so constrained by lunacy, will in the end take them over. If there is anything worth taking over.

  31. damo_al7
    Coat

    over two decades ago I attended a presentation at the Royal Institute, discussing the efficiency of wind turbines, where it was pointed out that for ultimate efficiency, the turbine would have to draw all kinetic energy from the wind, leaving it motionless at the trailing edge. Of course, if you do that, the incoming air mass can't go anywhere so stall the turbine. Therefore, some KE has got to be left to escape.

    Unfortunately, this trailing vortex/turbulent wind leaving the trailing edge and moving onto the next turbine makes the KE extracted even less efficient.

    So, if this discussion has only been going on for the last few years, and only become open knowledge now, what have those Harvard types being doing for the last decade? Pumping their trust fund students?

  32. Mostor Astrakan

    As far as I can tell

    There's two problems with windmills:

    1) Not enough juice comes out

    2) They work when THEY want to, not when WE want to

    This doesn't necessarily mean they're completely useless, because we can use them to charge up the batteries of those electric cars we all know and... well know, but to supply the UK's ~50 GW demand of electricity you need something you can just turn on and use whether or not the wind is blowing.

    A nice and free book I found on teh Interwebs recently is "Sustainable energy without the hot air" by David MacKay. And everyone should have a look at gridwatch.templar.co.uk for a nice dose of perspective. Ecotricity tweeted happily about their new 66MW wind park (up to 66MW if we use the highest rated capacity turbines for the height restrictions, was how they put it to me). Which compares to 48690MW (according to GridWatch at the time of writing) as "not even a tenth of a percent". Still, kudos to them for using SI units rather than "Enough For $BIGNUM Homes". Those numbers always look impressive until you compare them to the 60 million people on the Island.

  33. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    Pint

    An element of truth...

    "...the amount of energy it would require if it were to build and maintain a colossal worldwide grid of enormous steel and carbon towers sunk into heavy concrete foundations along with the necessary associated world-spanning interconnectors, grid extensions, transport access into remote wilderness etc etc."

    The short and mid-term effects of Green power. I hope that some boffin somewhere has checked the sums and made sure that we don't kill ourselves in the mid-term before the long term benefits eventually kick in.

    Those windmill factories are *KILLING* the planet!

  34. Identity
    Boffin

    Factors not considered

    I don't believe ANYONE has suggested that wind power can or should be the prime source of power. It must, of course, come in with other sources. Locally, it can be extremely useful. Recently, in New Mexico, the cost of wind powered electricity sank below that created with fossil fuels. Worldwide, we are approaching 1 TW output, with new generation rising (for the past few years, at least) at approximately 30%/yr.

    Personally, I favor distributed power generation. Not everyone is equal, but (for instance) were I to install solar panels on my roof (in New Hampshire!), I would generate more electricity than I use. Of course, it would (at current prices — though those are falling) take 17 years to pay back the installation. If prices come down, and traditional costs go up (and this goes for all alternatives) that shortens the payback period. Some will do better with solar, some with wind, some with geothermal, etc. New building standards can help, too...

    Around 1980 (!), Buckminster Fuller proposed linking the power grid globally, so that power generation on the night side could be used on the day side, with concomitant load balancing. Of course, that would require global cooperation. [stop laughing].

    Amory Lovins (of the Rocky Mountain Institute) has been saying for years that the cheapest power is the power we don't use, which he terms 'negabarrels.' It's simply reducing the need. After all, when the world ran on whale oil, you would have been considered a freaking fruitcake if you said we could power the world on fossil petroleum. Even then, the Dutch had harnessed wind...

    All in all, I suspect though cannot prove, that with adoption of these measures, we can created a sustainable energy environment, that meets our needs.

  35. michaelgoggin

    Flawed study contradicted by real-world data and experts

    This study errs in its assessment of potential wind energy resources by ignoring real-world data and experience and instead relying on crude theoretical modeling techniques. In reality, wind project developers and investors work closely with atmospheric scientists and other experts to make sure that their projects will produce as much as expected, and real-world data from large-scale wind installations in the US and Europe confirms that they do. Regardless of who is correct, the inescapable fact is that America's developable wind energy resources are many times greater than our country's energy needs.

    For more, see:

    http://www.awea.org/blog/index.cfm?customel_dataPageID_1699=21714

    Michael Goggin,

    American Wind Energy Association

    1. Turtle

      American Wind Energy Association

      Oh, an industry lobby. That's exactly where I'll go to get objective information and opinions.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      WARNING Lobbyist alert.

      Title says it all.

  36. Hempy
    Happy

    Hemp

    All the more reason why Congress should get hemp out of the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp fuels can replace fossil fuels. Hemp is a renewable and sustainable resource. Hemp for fuels can be grown on about 6% of marginal land in the US. Hemp produces between 20% and 40% more oxygen while growing than carbon dioxide when burnt. Windmills don’t produce oxygen. Neither do nuclear power plants.

    Nor is hemp an unsightly eyesore that windmills are.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      Re: Hemp

      "All the more reason why Congress should get hemp out of the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp fuels can replace fossil fuels."

      You forgot that hemp is the 2nd fastest growing family of plants in the world.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hemp

      Maybe, but hemp only really grows well when the soil is itself pretty good (the results in less ideal soil aren't as productive). Furthermore, hemp oil is not as useful as other oil. For one thing, it can go rancid. For another, it lacks the energy density. Plus, hemp's use as a fabric or rope material is hampered by its hollow fibers (meaning they tend to wick unless you tarred them). That's why ships switched to non-wicking manila rope.

  37. Dave 15

    surely

    One thing that amazes me is the current turbines being used. They are basically huge windmills. They are complex - need to face the wind,, they are difficult to make when they end of the blades is so far from the centre the speed they are doing is massive and thus the stresses are high. The size of the blades also means the windmills can't be placed close together.

    What is wrong with the vertical turbines - a bit like those signs outside the shops that rotate. I would think they are probably easier to construct as well if we were perfectly honest. Certainly they should allow more windmills per area and I suspect all jesting apart that they are efficient enough

  38. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Wind out yer backside, non?@Boethius

      "I still think wind power is the way forward"

      You still think nonsense then. The whole point about any machine is that scale creates efficiency. Silly little "Community" scale wind turbines are incredibly cost ineffcient in the context of generating electrical power, and technology can't change that. As others have pointed out, you can't get more power out of wind without stalling it, and the bigger the turbines the further they have to be placed apart (and to an extent, the more you have, the further they have to be apart).

      If technology can improve to overcome the laws of fluid mechanics and thermodynamics, then you're right and I'm wrong. I shan't be holding my breath.

  39. heyneighbor

    get real.

    If you build a city it diverts wind.

    All this is blah blah blah like a bunch of hot air.

    Instead of this "proved the other wrong now I'm famous" b.s., what these brilliant minds need to get working on is how to store the energy wind and solar harvest, and get off 120v AC.

    All this power being stepped to 12vdc and under for all but a FEW appliances.

    No waste there, right?

    Here's how you solve the wind dilemma:

    Then one row of wind turbines, one row of solar, dump this into closed system electrolysis, store the hydrogen for later purpose, and agitate the high O2 water to reclaim atmospheric H.

    Wash, rinse, repeat.

    Does that guy work for BP?

    I'm not sure I trust a young scientist apparently missing teeth.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Boffin

      Consider the following: P = I * I * R and P = I * V

      Power lost = Current * Current * Resistance

      Power supplied = Current * Voltage

      If you don't understand why these two equations mean higher voltages are needed, you won't understand why the rest of that post wouldn't work either.

      Go do some research - it's very interesting.

      However, if you don't want to learn any physics or engineering, don't proffer opinions on them because you'll just look foolish.

  40. compdoc

    thats nice but..

    Arent we decades away from making any kind of impact on the wind? Its not like there's a windmill in every person's backyard.This conversation seems a bit premature. Please, build thousands more windmills and get back to me...

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: thats nice but..

      "Hey, let's spend billions buying underpants!"

      "Why? Will it help?"

      "Just buy billions of underpants and then get back to me."

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    **Estimates** of wind turbine generation?

    Why are people guessing when there are plenty of them around and all they need to do is see how much electricity they do generate.

    Studies show that research is useless when somebody knows the answer already!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The answer is blowing in the wind

    What a load of bull. Peak wind power. So for the 125 billions trees that were chopped down, that took up critical wind resource, you think 4 million windmills take up more wind? One mountain on this planet could take up more wind than all of them put together.

  43. colin the aardvark

    This article and the naysayers of wind power , including the deluded 'professors' referenced in this article who should know better (one does wonder who they are being sponsored by?) completely misses the point :

    1) Coal and oil WILL run out or become economically untenable within 50 years

    2) Wind cannot meet our energy needs on its own, this is stating the bleedin' obvious - doh

    3) Nuclear fission needs to be used in the short term - yes, stating the bleedin' obvious again

    But, and this is the point, at some point, *nuclear fusion* will go online. When this happens, and it will happen, it may take 40 years, it may take 60, it may take 100, mankind can simply pull down and recycle all those turbines that are so upsetting to you. The point of minimizing nuclear fission in the interim years (with a massive investment in renewables) is to minimize the huge amount of very dangerous waste that we will have to deal with, which

    a) can poison the environment for thousands of years

    b) doesn't seem to have any option on the table for safe storage

    c) represents a massive terrorism and proliferation threat

    d) is enormously expensive, the true costs not being factored into the price of electricity quoted for it - for example - how much per Kwh were the generators costing the Japanese public up to the point of the tsunami? And how much retrospectively did those Kwh's cost, once the tsunami costs to the state (paid for by taxes by the public) are taken into account? It will be astronomically higher than wind power. And in Britain, does the proportion of our taxes that go to the ongoing maintenance of Sellafield and other decomissioning projects, which we'll be paying for for 50 years, ever get added to the quoted cost of nuclear fission energy? I don't think so! When that is factored in, it becomes ridiculously expensive.

    However, nuclear fission in smaller doses (no pun intended) *is* needed for the next 50 years simply because the wind turbines and other renewables are not going to keep up with the planet's energy demands. But this is why - doh - we need to massively invest in renwables UP TO THE POINT where nuclear fusion comes online - the wind turbines will become obsolete at this point, but they will have done their job admirably which is to reduce massively the nuclear fission toxic waste legacy that future generations will have to deal with. And the nuclear fission plants will become obsolete at this point as well, so it's a win-win scenario.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge
      Boffin

      Heavy but not large

      "The point of minimizing nuclear fission in the interim years [...] is to minimize the huge amount of very dangerous waste that we will have to deal with"

      Actually, it isn't so huge amount. The tonnage may be scary, but we are talking about very dense material. Digging just a handful of nuclear waste tunnels is all we need, not thousands, so finding optimally stable rock for them should be manageable.

  44. David557

    Some people are generating their own green energy and even taking themselves off the grid. There are some great guides out there on how to do this, some of which are listed on this site www.diyenergyreview.com if you’re interested?

  45. Ian Johnston
    Thumb Down

    What publication is this?

    Normal the Register seems to have some technical nous, so why on anything to do with energy does it turn into the Daily Telegraph and start channelling the ravings of Delingpole and Monckton?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    I live in a place where isn't much wind, but the sun shines...

    It shines for almost twelve hours a day, almost fifty weeks of the year. There is a shortage of electricity, with daily rationing cuts.

    Still solar power is uneconomical, and some recent government subsidy hasn't changed that. There is no provision to sell excess power back into the grid.

  47. John Savard Silver badge
    Joke

    Hurricanes

    If we build so many windmills that we run out of enough wind to drive them, that could have the side benefit of reducing the damage caused by tornadoes and hurricanes!

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