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Unleashing Offshore Wind Power:

The Department of the Interior is preparing to lease portions of the Outer Continental Shelf for offshore wind farms. The WSJ reports here.

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service expects to finalize its proposed rule governing leasing of offshore acreage for alternative-energy production by the end of the year, clearing the way for development to start soon after. Already, the agency is doing environmental analyses on 10 offshore parcels that it is considering leasing this fall for wind projects. If the agency approves the leases, companies could begin exploring the areas for possible wind-turbine sites. . . .

wind accounts for only about 1% of total electricity generated in the U.S. And so far, all the wind power in the U.S. is produced onshore. The states that crank out the most -- Texas, followed by California -- boast vast stretches where the wind blows hard and where there is enough land to install hundreds of turbines to catch it.

But the onshore wind industry in the U.S. is beginning to be hampered by a lack of electrical-grid capacity to carry the power from the isolated places where wind typically blows hardest to the population centers that need the juice. Offshore wind provides a potentially big source of energy close to major coastal cities. . . .

Big obstacles remain. Wind power is more expensive than fossil-fueled energy. In the U.S., the tax breaks necessary to make it competitive are due to expire Dec. 31. Several proposals to renew the wind-power tax breaks have failed to pass Congress, typically because the bills also included controversial measures to remove existing tax breaks for other industries, notably oil producers. Whether Congress will resolve the dispute and extend the wind-power tax breaks when it returns from its recess is unclear. In the past, it has let the tax credits expire three times, prompting a lull in wind-power construction until the credits later were renewed.

Once the rules are finalized, they could help make offshore wind a reality in the U.S., particularly in the northeast. Unlike projects closer to shore that have been held up or delayed by local NIMBY organizations, federally authorized wind farms on the Outer Continental Shelf would not face such obstacles. Still, without the renewal of federal tax credits, it is unclear whether wind power will be able to compete in the marketplace.

Joe Kowalski (mail):
Floating off shore wind does look to be a promising way to turn wind into juice. The winds about 30 mi. offshore are fairly steady, solving some of the intermittency problems and the floating rigs can sit below the horizon (from shore) so that they don't ruin anyone's view. Construction costs can be cut since the towers &rigs can be constructed in one place and then towed out to position. The big problem though is scaling up capabilities of underwater power transmission. Underwater power cables are capable of transmitting on the order of several hundred megawatts, (see here for info about a Maine to Boston install) but these cables are huge projects in themselves.
9.6.2008 12:08am
John (mail):
Has anybody seen analyses of what sapping offshore winds of their strength--by taking their energy and transferring it to the turbine blades--will do to the areas closer to shore, and onshore, that used to experience vigorous wind? I can't believe current ecologies in the ocean and land haven't evolved to need what strong winds do. But who knows?
9.6.2008 12:17am
TruthInAdvertising:
Maybe McCain will actually show up for the vote this time.
9.6.2008 12:17am
Hoosier:
Sounds great. But a plan like this is going to keep SOME species of endangered animal from having sex. Mark my words.
9.6.2008 12:43am
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
Still, without the renewal of federal tax credits, it is unclear whether wind power will be able to compete in the marketplace.

Is that an example of an oxymoron?
9.6.2008 12:51am
FantasiaWHT:
I wonder if anyone has studied the effects of massive wind farms on climate and weather? Logically, the energy from the moving air is transferred to the spinning turbines, so that the areas "behind" the turbines get less air movement than they would normally.

I would laugh so hard if it turned out that anthropogenic becalming had a greater effect on the earth's client than anthropogenic warming.
9.6.2008 1:07am
FantasiaWHT:
Must not post late at night without using preview. Client = Climate
9.6.2008 1:08am
Albatross (www):
"Anthropogenic becalming."

Ha ha!

That would have to be one hell of a lot of wind turbines to slow down the Earth's atmospheric movement, and we know the Kennedys would never stand for that.

On the other hand, that might mean fewer hurricanes. Hmm...
9.6.2008 1:43am
Freddy Hill:

a plan like this is going to keep SOME species of endangered animal from having sex.


My bet is that offshore wind farms will make great artificial reefs, and within 20 years they will be teeming with life. Divers will spend lots of money and time riding in small bouncy boats just to see the life growning on their undersides. The Kennedys will complain at the unsighty view above the water but recreational divers will love them just like they love offsore oil rigs today.
9.6.2008 1:44am
ChrisIowa (mail):

I wonder if anyone has studied the effects of massive wind farms on climate and weather? Logically, the energy from the moving air is transferred to the spinning turbines, so that the areas "behind" the turbines get less air movement than they would normally.


Wind farms get their energy from a very small part of the atmosphere, the part within a couple hundred feet of the ground. That leaves several vertical miles of air with a lot of wind energy unaffected, so any effect on the climate will be small.

Even so, small undulations in the ground surface (hills) can affect nearby rainfall and wind patterns, so I would guess that a wind farm would do the same.
9.6.2008 1:57am
Tatil:

Still, without the renewal of federal tax credits, it is unclear whether wind power will be able to compete in the marketplace.

I think it is unfair to disregard the subsidies oil industry gets through our military budget. Without our military, it is not clear whether Middle East would be stable enough for the free flow of oil. Apparently, there are other tax breaks they get as well, which is clearly unnecessary when oil prices are this high. Of course, they also don't have to pay for the environmental effects.

In the end, I'd rather we spend $100 billion less on military and spend that amount on alternative energy instead.
9.6.2008 4:44am
Fub:
ChrisIowa wrote at 9.6.2008 12:57am:
Wind farms get their energy from a very small part of the atmosphere, the part within a couple hundred feet of the ground. That leaves several vertical miles of air with a lot of wind energy unaffected, so any effect on the climate will be small.
Miniscule beyond immeasurable, even assuming that every turbine extracts every last erg of kinetic energy from the air column that it intercepts.

Did the Great Wall of China significantly affect the weather in China? Its total frontal area is comparable to that of a humongous wind farm, vastly larger than any ever built, or even conceived.
9.6.2008 5:37am
Smokey:
I would laugh so hard if it turned out that anthropogenic becalming had a greater effect on the earth's client than anthropogenic warming.
I saw an article [too lazy to search for it at 3:30 a.m.] that explained the effect of tens of thousands of wind turbines on the Earth's rotation.

It's like a tiny brake on angular momentum -- very little added friction, but constant over time. The effect would be something like 1 - 2 seconds lost per day per century, depending on the number of turbines.

In addition, windmills can not compete in the marketplace without really enormous taxpayer subsidies [which are, BTW, the reason that T. Boone Pickens, the Elmer Gantry of the 2000's, is currently infesting the airwaves].

Here is a chart showing the miniscule energy contribution -- at a very high price -- that wind provides. Note that renewables are 7% of the total energy produced by the country, and wind is only 4% of that.

Without the federal 10% tax credit, wind would be laughed off the stage. But with a 10% tax credit, scamsters like T. Boone Pickens show up like flies around the butter churn [Pickens' motive is pumping the Ogalalla Aquifer dry, not providing wind power; wind is just to get water rights-of-way and those juicy tax subsidies. See the Business Week article on Pickens, There Will Be Water].

Oil companies earn around a 9% taxable profit margin. Federal and state governments take a lot more money than our energy producers earn. Anyone who doesn't see the problem with that is letting emotion overrule reason.

Face it, wind power is stupid. If the government would subsidize it enough, everyone could hook their bicycle to a generator and we could peddle our way to wealth. Instead, con artists like Pickens siphon tax money into their pockets, the same way a subsidized bicycle generating electricity would, only on a huge national scale. Pickens isn't doing this out of the goodness of his heart. His past record at Mesa Petroleum clearly shows that. He generally failed to produce enough oil to be profitable, but made his millions instead by greenmail. In other words, by scamming other companies.

This country has plenty of untapped oil reserves, enough to provide almost of what we need. North Dakota alone has reserves equivalent to Saudi Arabia. ANWR -- in only about 3 square miles -- has tens of billions of barrels of easily recoverable oil. But the enviro lobby, and their wholly-owned string puppets in Congress, have brought about $4/gal gas by refusing to allow the U.S. to produce our own oil.

The cost of gasoline could easily -- easily -- be cut more than in half, simply by allowing oil production from known U.S. reserves. Instead, we're plagued by Elmer Gantrys, promoting really stupid ideas like wind power in order to line their pockets at the expense of U.S. workers, who are being crushed by exorbitant gasoline prices.
9.6.2008 7:42am
Smokey:
Oh, and Fub provides an invalid comparison. With wind power, wind energy is taken away and converted to electricity. The Great Wall simply re-routes the wind, with no loss of energy.

But the effect of entirely removing energy from the wind is similar to a spinning ice skater moving her arms slightly farther away from her body; she spins more slowly as a result. Removing energy from the wind, unlike converting solar energy to electricity, has a small, but detectable, and continuous braking effect on the rotation of the Earth.

Wind power is a classic case of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
9.6.2008 7:57am
Sam H (mail):
One of the problems with wind power is that it isn't dependable. For every megawatt of wind power you put on the grid, there has to be spinning reserves of some fraction of that at a fossil-fueled or nuclear plant. This cost needs to be considered when discussing wind power.

No Breeze: The Day the Wind Died in Texas
9.6.2008 8:39am
Hoosier:
"Did the Great Wall of China significantly affect the weather in China?"

I don't know. But their butterflies have been wreaking havoc on the weather in Central Park.
9.6.2008 9:25am
Randy R. (mail):
Wow! I didn't know that people who are against wind energy are doing so out of concern for the environment! Who would have thought? Well, better late to the party then never to come!
9.6.2008 11:01am
SenatorX (mail):
Wind power...yawn.
9.6.2008 11:18am
Curt Fischer:
All these weather-based objections to wind power sound fishily post-hoc to me. After all, the Earth's winds are powered by solar energy. Wouldn't diverting more of the incident sunlight into electricity, rather than letting it become wind, similarly affect the weather?
9.6.2008 11:46am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Why yes, so we should ban solar too. The precautionary principle - not just for liberals and environmentalists anymore!
9.6.2008 12:37pm
Sebastian (mail) (www):
My bet is that offshore wind farms will make great artificial reefs, and within 20 years they will be teeming with life.

Definitely. Most likely sharks from all the sea birds the wind turbines will kill.
9.6.2008 1:03pm
Josh644 (mail):

Still, without the renewal of federal tax credits, it is unclear whether wind power will be able to compete in the marketplace.


"Compete", "marketplace" - I do not think these words mean what you think they mean.
9.6.2008 1:21pm
Mike Naught Relevant (mail) (www):

Maybe McCain will actually show up for the vote this time.


Maybe Kerry and Kennedy won't employ every corrupt practice they can find in the Senate including enlisting soon to be felon Ted Stevens to sponsor blocking legislation. Oh wait, that was only to stop their precious Natucket Sound views from being barely affected by the Cape Wind Project.

This the worst case of "NIMBY'ism" I have ever seen.
9.6.2008 1:26pm
Sam H (mail):
Seems like Denmark built 160 megawatts of off-shore wind power (about 20% of their load), but found that they can't handle that much so they sell half of the power at a cut-rate price to Norway.
Too Much Wind Power
9.6.2008 1:59pm
Dan O (mail) (www):
I would suppose that if Edison was alive today he would wait for the tax credits before the light bulb.

Somehow the acceptance of the necessity of government getting involved in free enterprise system shows how far we have traveled away from original intent.
9.6.2008 2:30pm
J.Perulfi (mail):
The supposed renewable energy bill SB3335 was expected to have a ten year treasury cost of $122 billion. Of that amount, a whopping $17 billion was due to renewable energy items. It would be nice if the Congress actually voted on renewable and alternative energy sources.
9.6.2008 2:42pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Wind power is déjà vu all over again. California gave tax breaks for wind power investment in the 1970s, and interest pretty much waned after breaks went away. The Altamont Pass Wind Farm was one of the first and largest wind farms in the world. I drive through the pass about 3 times a year, and I always notice that even on windy days many turbines are not operating for some reason.

The taxpayers should not be subsidizing wind power because this is not an infant technology that needs nurturing until R/D makes it economic. Wind turbine designs have already achieved efficiencies near the theoretical maximums for currently available construction materials. A tax subsidy at this point is a give away. Does it really make sense to pay your electric bills through your taxes? Note the following.

1. The efficiency of wind turbines will not significantly improve in the future because we are already near the theoretical maximums. The Betz Limit provides the maximum fraction of the available wind energy a turbine can extract from the wind, and that's 0.59. The best of the modern turbines achieve about 0.5, which is 85% of the theoretical maximum. Bear in mind a Betz limit turbine could never be built because it's an idealization like the Carnot cycle heat engine. So I suspect we are about as efficient as we are ever going to be for an individual turbine. Additional R/D will yield little.

2. With a few exceptions, people don't live near windy places. This wind map of the US tells the story. The windy places are isolated places, and that means expensive transmission costs to get the power to where it's consumed.

3. The wind energy you get from a turbine is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, and wind speeds are extremely variable making wind turbines a highly intermittent power source. This fundamental fact limits the economic viability of wind power except at special locations. When the wind isn't blowing you end up with dead capital. You need to either store the energy, transmit to a large grid, or fill in the gaps with gas generators. All this raises the costs of wind power on a large scale tremendously.

If the power industry wants to put its own capital at risk, that's their business, but don't make the taxpayers take the risk; we have had enough of that already with the banks.
9.6.2008 2:59pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
They're just tax farms.
9.6.2008 3:12pm
Sam H (mail):
At one time, there were windmills all over Texas. They were used to pump water from wells into stock tanks. This is a great application for wind power since only the average power is of concern.

However, once the ranches got electric power, the windmills were replaced by electric pumps. Here we have thousands of people that each decided that windmills were not a good choice, even for pumping water.

Now the government wants to force those same people to spend money on wind power. Doesn't make sense to me.
9.6.2008 3:19pm
dearieme:
Wind power is much too dilute to be economic because "dilute" implies excessive capital costs. You can look on the wind's variability as just a temporal dimension of this diluteness. That's why people started looking at wave power decades ago; the technology would have had to be new but at least wave power was denser, spatially and temporally. Wind power is a complete no-hoper.
9.6.2008 4:55pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Wind turbines are another form of solar energy generation. How do the others do? Solar roof panels have a 100 year payback time, according to RICS. Since the their useful life is 30 years, you lose big time. Of course the solar industry disputed the RICS claim, but their objections seem lame.

I did a present value calculation a long time ago to see if an installation of a solar heating system would cut down on my gas bills enough to give me a positive net present value. It didn't. I even allowed gas to increase in price at 10% per year, but it was so far off as to be laughable.

The solar industry claimed RICS didn't include return on investment from a solar installation. But that's what a present value calculation does.
9.6.2008 5:29pm
Smokey:
Curt Fischer:
Wouldn't diverting more of the incident sunlight into electricity, rather than letting it become wind, similarly affect the weather?
No.
9.6.2008 5:54pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Thanks to A. Zarkov for the wind maps. Interesting viewing. Highest winds seem to be in the Rockies, but the upper western mid-west, notably Eastern Montana and North and South Dakota appear to have the most continuous areas of reasonably high wind speeds. Power from there might be feasibly shipped as far as Chicago, but likely not beyond that.

The South and the eastern mid-west appear to have no wind energy to speak of. There is some up the Atlantic Coast, and, surprise, surprise, seems to be best off the coast of Mass. Kennedy and fellow travelers appear to have killed wind energy in one of the best locations on the East Coast.

At a gross level, it appears that the best wind in Calif. is just offshore.

My native Colorado, west of I-25 or so, is interesting as it is almost entirely class 6/7 intermixed with class 1. On one color map, that part of the state is almost entirely black (6/7) and white (1). After reading the summaries from NREL, it appears that a lot of those Class 6/7 areas are mountain ridges that do not lend themselves to wind turbines due to the extreme weather there. I assume that this is probably consistent for all the black class 6/7 areas north through the Rockies.

The maps reinforce the point that wind power cannot be the solution to all of our energy needs. The best areas for wind power are far from the areas that need power, and there is a serious lack of transmission capacity in between, with no relief to that in sight. Pickens may be building transmission capacity in Texas, but much of that state doesn't have the best areas to generate wind power AND the state has apparently studiously separated its transmission grid from the major regional grids.

As a note, I hadn't been on the NREL site for awhile, and the picture of the lab brought back fond memories of riding our horses while we were growing up where they later built the lab. Most of our riding was on the mesa behind the lab, but would come down there every week or so.
9.6.2008 8:56pm
Doc W (mail):
A Zarkov--I remember reading a long time ago that solar panels to pre-heat your hot water (for bathing etc not heating the house) would pay off. They would heat the water part-way and then your regular heater would do the rest. Do you know the story on that?

By the way, regarding your earlier post: "The taxpayers should not be subsidizing wind power because this is not an infant technology that needs nurturing until R/D makes it economic."

You had me at "The taxpayers should not be subsidizing." Period.
9.6.2008 10:03pm
davod (mail):
"Seems like Denmark built 160 megawatts of off-shore wind power (about 20% of their load), but found that they can't handle that much so they sell half of the power at a cut-rate price to Norway. Eu referendum - Too Much Wind Power

The article discusses Denmark's use of wind power and some of the pitfalls. I do recommend you read the full article, but I will mention several points:

Denmark says that wind power accounts for 20 percent of its energy. Unfortunately, when the 20 percent is being produced it comes into the grid at the same time and cannot be fully absorbed. A good proportion of the energy from the wind power is transferred to Norway. Norway can absorb the spikes because it reduces the output from its hydro powered system.

The Danes can absorb only 9 percent (not thye 20 percent listed) into their system. The Danes have high electric bills, yet Denmark sells the excess wind power to Norway for a much lower price.

Does anyone know how the US utilities using windpower have solved the problem of peak loading.
9.6.2008 10:10pm
markm (mail):
Smokey:
"It's like a tiny brake on angular momentum -- very little added friction, but constant over time. The effect would be something like 1 - 2 seconds lost per day per century, depending on the number of turbines."

That's some seriously mixed up physics there. You do not lose angular momentum to friction; it can be transferred to something else, but to change the angular momentum of the Earth as a whole it has to be transferred away to somewhere outside the atmosphere. Tidal effects do that, but at a very low rate (a few seconds per a million years, IIRC). Transferring angular momentum back and forth between the ground, the atmosphere, and the turbines would have even less effect, even if the turbines were all spinning in the same direction.
9.6.2008 10:10pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Doc W:

I remember reading a long time ago that solar panels to pre-heat your hot water (for bathing etc not heating the house) would pay off.

I did an analysis to see if it would pay to use solar panels to assist my residential hot water system. I made generous assumptions in favor of the solar panels and they still fell far short of a good investment. Swimming pools might be another story.

Repair and maintenance could be a real show stopper with these systems. Unless you can do it yourself, I suspect you will pay a bundle for service.

About 20 years ago I saw a home wind turbine to generate electric power. It was $50,000! Old more valuable dollars. I told the saleman that I will never spend that much on electricty, and he said I was right, the whole thing was "religion."
9.6.2008 10:22pm
davod (mail):
"A Zarkov--I remember reading a long time ago that solar panels to pre-heat your hot water (for bathing etc not heating the house) would pay off..."

A. Zarkov's 9.6.2008 4:29pm post links to a Wednesday, 3 September 2008, Belfast Telegraph article -"100 years to recoup cost of solar panel installation".

"Solar panels are one of the least cost-effective ways of combating climate change and will take 100 years to pay back their installation costs, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has warned."

This includes panels used to heat water. Hopefully, the cost of producing solar panels will reduce the time considerably.
9.6.2008 10:24pm
markm (mail):
davod: The percentage of power coming from wind in most US power systems is so small that the fluctuations due to it are smaller than the fluctuations in demand power companies always have to deal with. This changes as more wind and/or solar power is added. It takes hours to change the output of a large, efficient coal-burning steam plant by more than a few percent, and nuke plants are even less flexible, so when you get up to 5 or 10% of the power coming from a variable source, the power system has to add generating capacity that is designed to turn on and off quickly. This usually means smaller sources such as gas turbines, that are much more expensive per kilowatt - and then they're used only part-time. Or the power company may meet part of the requirement by keeping old steam plants that were much smaller and less efficient on standby to meet peak load when the wind dies.

The one thing that might work to meet large varying requirements without large cost increases, or increased carbon emissions from small inefficient fossi-fuel plants, is hydroelectric power. The main cost is in the dam construction rather than turbine+alternator capacity, and most hydroelectric systems are ultimately limited by the quantity of water trapped behind the dam per year rather than the capacity to turn it into power, so turbines can only run part-time anyhow. But hydroelectric is an answer only where the geography is right. Norway is close to ideal, that is, mountainous (providing many sites where a dam can trap lots of water), with heavy annual precipitation to refill the reservoirs, and too cool for much water to evaporate from the reservoirs. That also makes it an area unlikely to attract a dense population to use the available power...

And need I mention the ecological impact of dam building?
9.6.2008 10:44pm
Fub:
Smokey wrote at 9.6.2008 6:57am:

Oh, and Fub provides an invalid comparison. With wind power, wind energy is taken away and converted to electricity. The Great Wall simply re-routes the wind, with no loss of energy.
It is true that the Great Wall redirects mass flow upward as a mountain range does, but on a much smaller scale. However, the Great Wall has a greater effect upon downstream weather than a windmill farm precisely because it does not extract kinetic energy but redirects mass flow.

The Great Wall moves more atmosphere away from where it otherwise would be, and causes leeward pressure differentials greater than a comparably sized windmill farm. Yet no disastrous weather effects caused by the Great Wall have ever been reported. There is no reason to believe that a comparably sized windmill farm would have a greater effect on weather. The weather effects of both are miniscule at most.
But the effect of entirely removing energy from the wind is similar to a spinning ice skater moving her arms slightly farther away from her body; she spins more slowly as a result. Removing energy from the wind, unlike converting solar energy to electricity, has a small, but detectable, and continuous braking effect on the rotation of the Earth.
That analogy is incomprehensible to me. "Removing energy from the wind" involves dissipative fluid flow. The ice skater is an example of angular momentum conservation. The two seem to me inapposite and unrelated. But a citation to any actual measurement of the "continuous braking effect on the rotation of the Earth" might resolve my misunderstanding.

The fact, not analogy, is that the earth and its atmosphere both rotate about the same axis, but the atmosphere has locally differing angular velocities. Where the local atmosphere moves relatively against the earth's rotation it "drags" the earth. Where it moves with the rotation, it "pushes". The net drag or "push" on earth's rotation by the sum of all the locally different atmospheric angular velocities is always zero. Always. No exceptions.

That is because the atmosphere is not anchored to an imaginary hitching post in the sky. A pre-Copernican immobile "crystal sphere" around the earth could cause a net dissipative drag effect. But I believe such theories were discredited long ago.
Wind power is a classic case of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
There may be unknown and unintended consequences unrelated to simple physics (for example: effects upon local flora and fauna). There may be even local physical consequences (for example: noise). But actual windmills' detrimental global physical effects upon atmosphere, weather, climate, or ocean are at most miniscule, ignorable, and likely unmeasurable with current technology; and some are simply imaginary.

I'll listen if someone makes a cogent and rigorous argument, presumably from chaos theory, predicting global disturbances in earth's rotation, weather or climate caused by currently physically realizable windmills. But I've never seen one.

I'll add that Zarkov at 9.6.2008 1:59pm outlines a sensible (and primarily economic) caution about windmills as a source of useful electrical energy.
9.6.2008 10:55pm
markm (mail):
The solar hot water thing does not involve expensive solar-electric panels, but just heat collecting panels that you either pass the water through to heat it directly, or run antifreeze through the panels and heat the water in a heat exchanger. So without semiconductors the panels don't cost much, but it still costs a lot to mount them on the roof securely enough to survive windstorms and the weight of the water or antifreeze. There's labor to assemble the system, and more labor to seal all the holes they've got to drill in your roof to attach it. You also need piping, pumps, and a big tank to store hot water overnight. So I figure you would spend several thousand dollars up front to save just part of $15 to $30 per month in water heating costs. And where I live, I suspect the system would turned off for several months a year because it was either buried under snow (requiring even heavier mounting hardware) or pouring more heat into the winter air than it could collect from our feeble sunlight. The ROI just isn't there - even without considering maintenance costs.

Maybe the numbers would work better in Arizona...
9.6.2008 11:00pm
Smokey:
markm and Fub:
It's like a tiny brake on angular momentum...
Not trying to be critical of you folks, but reading comprehension matters. Note the word 'like.' I used that word deliberately. My example was an analogy for the JD's who majored in Sociology or English Lit. IANAL. My background is in engineering [metrology].

I understand the concept of angular momentum, but some don't. At 3:30 in the morning [PST], I didn't want to get into a long winded discussion of wind. I can show that if enough windmills were placed all over the globe, that the resulting slowing of the wind around the planet would obey the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and have a noticeable effect. I can also show that this effect would not occur using solar panels. But I'm still feeling lazy, so...

...carry on.
9.7.2008 12:00am
Curt Fischer:
I said:

Wouldn't diverting more of the incident sunlight into electricity, rather than letting it become wind, similarly affect the weather?


Smokey's analysis of my question:

No.


It's hard to take that reply seriously, especially given the mixed-up claims about dissipation of the Earth's angular momentum that Smokey made earlier.

My question is simple: if wind power supposedly messes up our standard weather patterns, why doesn't solar power have the same effect? Winds, like all weather phenomena, are powered by solar energy.

I suspect the answer is that methods for solar and wind energy capture do not affect weather all that much, for reasons that many posters here have already noted: no existing technologies can harness all that much of the total available energy. Other technical objections to wind power are also dubious: how is the ingenious scheme created by Norway and Denmark to absorb spikes of wind power output a strike against the technology? Seems like proof that it can work to me.

Thus, I feel that many of the technical criticisms of wind are without merit. I agree with Fub and A. Zarkov, however, that the economic case for wind is far less clear.
9.7.2008 12:22am
r.friedman (mail):
Rather than build power lines from off-shore windmills, why not use the power at the site to desalinate water and pump it to shore? Or to convert water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and hydrocarbons?
9.7.2008 1:45am
davod (mail):
Mark M:

To summarize - The problem with using windpower on a larger scale in the USA is that we are being pushed to spend billions on diversifying without having solved the most basic problem - the energy spike.
9.7.2008 5:48am