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Earth Power News

Texas Tells Cape Wind "You're Not First Yet" 374

Posted by kdawson
from the y'all-come dept.
longacre writes "Cape Wind is making headlines for being the first offshore wind farm to earn federal approval, but it still has plenty of legal hoops to jump through before groundbreaking. Texas, on the other hand, requires no review — state, federal, or otherwise — to build wind farms off its shore. Texas energy expert and Popular Mechanics senior editor Jennifer Bogo talks to Texan energy leaders who are confident they will beat Cape Wind to the punch for the distinction of having the first functional US offshore wind farm. 'I was about to write a press release to congratulate Cape Wind for getting their approval,' says Jim Suydam, press secretary of the Texas General Land Office, 'and let them know when they're done jumping through hoops up there they can come build off the Texas Coast.' Despite its reputation as an oil-addicted, non-environmentally-friendly, conservative state, Texas's existing land-based wind farms actually produce four times more electricity than California's."
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Texas Tells Cape Wind "You're Not First Yet"

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  • by burni2 (1643061) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @05:56AM (#32082844)

    Perhaps there are many mech. engineers on /.

    Beeing a mech. eng. in the wind power industry is not bad at all, you have to do much of your work with a computer and Excel/VBA ;)

    I for myself am one off them :)

  • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Informative)

    by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @06:06AM (#32082874)

    Wind farms have another endearing quality:

    They don't explode. burn, and piss hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean.

    The NIMBY folks who snivel about wind turbines are welcome to a deep draught of "Deepwater Horizon" (or Exxon Valdez, or to go way back, Torrey Canyon) to go with their oily fish dinner.

  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Informative)

    by hcpxvi (773888) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @07:05AM (#32083076)
    I noticed there's another large one in the waters between Ireland and Wales
    That would be North Hoyle [wikipedia.org] and Rhyl flats. The UK has an advantage when it comes to building these things: the seas around it are shallow. Texas may have a similar advantage actually, I'm not sure how deep the Gulf is. California is less lucky: the Pacific gets quite deep quite quickly as you head away from the shore.
  • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @07:13AM (#32083106)
    I missed posting this in the last Cape Wind Farm story. I read this book a couple of years ago and its description of nimby politics is chilling.

    Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound [amazon.com]
  • Re:Yeeeeeehaw! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jaysyn (203771) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @07:51AM (#32083310) Homepage Journal

    No, that is just common sense that any given state in the US has zoning laws for urban & suburban areas.

  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Informative)

    by SethJohnson (112166) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:05AM (#32083390) Homepage Journal
    It's related because electricity is the number-one competitor to gasoline for powering automobiles. Can't even think what the number-two competitor might be. Maybe horses?

  • Re:Whoever... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:26AM (#32083534) Homepage Journal

    The problem comes when the goal of 'economic' becomes secondary to the goal of 'being first'.

    You have to be careful with 'green' or 'renewable', because there's a certain amount of FUD out there.

    Recycling programs that don't actually recycle. Recycling programs that create more pollution than they prevent. Lost a bit of my innocence when I found that out.

    Same deal with carbon credits, not ALL 'green' power sources are actually green, especially when you look at some of the specific implimentations out there.

  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Informative)

    by Temkin (112574) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:37AM (#32083592)

    Texas has a fully deregulated electric grid. Not unlike what California tried to do, but with safeguards against the kind of shenanigans Enron pulled. Add to this, it's almost completely isolated from the rest of the country. Last I heard there were three interconnects. They're building a fourth superconducting DC interconnect up near Amarillo, specifically to export panhandle wind energy to NM and the western US grid.

    All this wind power has had some interesting side effects. A couple months ago I was looking at switching providers, and I could have purchased a 6mo contract of 100% renewable wind energy for 9.8 cents/kwh. I'm still kicking myself. However, the wind forecasting and spinning reserve backup issue is very real. Texas very narrowly averted rolling blackouts a couple years ago when wind generation dropped off quite unexpectedly. They have emergency plans in place for large industrial users to shed load. It almost wasn't enough.

    You can't just shutdown those other production facilities. Some of them need to be fired up in spinning reserve, ready to shoulder the load while additional plants are brought online. Wind can disappear in 5 minutes. It takes hours if not days to start a coal plant from a cold state. Natgas turbines 15 to 20 minutes.

  • Re:Yeeeeeehaw! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Temkin (112574) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:50AM (#32083688)

    Actually, a lot of the Texas wind potential is up around Lubbock & Amarillo. Not exactly desert, but not far from it. It's actually the one of the biggest cotton producing regions in the US. The farmers are used to the concept of leasing out the "energy rights" of their land, and providing access to contractors to perform work, etc... Driving a tractor around a jack pump and a windmill is pretty the same thing.

  • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:06AM (#32083802) Journal

    Not only do they have a fair amount of wind, it tends to be consistent and no extreme.

    Other places have higher winds, but they can damage the turbines. Other places have steady winds but they are interspersed with calm periods.

    I went to W. Texas a few years ago and there seemed to be a steady stream of trucks carrying turbine parts down the roads. I heard of land owners forming associations (a "Wind Union" so to speak) to negotiate with the power generation companies for better leases.

  • by careysub (976506) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:37AM (#32084130)

    I'd say, first of all this is pitch by the natural gas industry to build many more gas-fired power plants. And this is not an accusation, or an inference, or a suspicion, if you read the TFA this is exactly what the report is and claims to be.

    That being the case, their methods of analysis could use some critical outside examination.

    Second, the daily power load already has a 30% day night variation that is largely handled by coal plant throttling already, and coal plants spend about 6% of their time in unplanned outages (planned outages are extra). Wind power won't contribute any additional significant variation over a grid that already has to adapt to fluctuating supply and demand until it exceeds the 10% level. Since this already routine, and independent of wind power, I suspect that this coal throttling issue is already well understood and likely to minimized with further plant improvements

    Third, the gas industries suggestion is actually a good one. Bringing more gas peaking plants online would be a good way of improving grid load handling, if they displace coal (it also somewhat less carbon intensive).

    Fourth, this is actually an example of a repsonsible criticism to wind power, even if the claim is exaggerated or wrong. It points out a potential problem, and proposes a viable solution. This is how potential problems are dealt with - you identify them and you plan to address them.

    And fifth - all of FUD I seen thrown at wind power (and most of what I see thrown at solar, or electric cars) is based on the absurd proposition that their will be no other changes -- to the distribution grid, to power balancing, etc. - to accommodate the introduction of wind. This is basically taking the first half of point four, and pretending nothing can be done to fix it. It is certain that there will be many changes in the national power system going on in the years ahead.

  • Re:Yeeeeeehaw! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:39AM (#32084158) Homepage

    Okay lets put the next wind farm beside your house.

    Sorry, there's no room, since I already live within spitting distance of the largest onshore wind farm in Europe [wikipedia.org]. And I love it. There's no noise from the turbines - unless you physically stand under them - and I think they're elegant and quite beautiful. How can you hate something with a "nacelle" on it?

    Oh, sorry, did I spoil your tiny pig-ignorant point? Go on, try again.

  • Re:Yeeeeeehaw! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lakitu (136170) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:48PM (#32087216)

    Government doesn't make anything.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_dam [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Smart move (Score:3, Informative)

    by Almost-Retired (637760) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @01:08PM (#32087582) Homepage

    Well, speaking from the ancient engineer's viewpoint, I would be willing to bet that turbines design was killed not by the designing engineers stupidity, but by some bean counter that removed the feather-able blades feature to control its ultimate rpms. Since that is a fairly complex mechanism, they were 40% cheaper to build that way.

    And of course all the engineers were fired when the design was done, so the bean counters were free to do as they damned well pleased, which was to screw up what was probably a good design on paper.

    And I would hope that the bean counters attempts to sue the engineers get thrown out of court.

    Defective brakes my ass. Brakes waste energy, and that whole pylon does not have enough surface to dissipate the heat that would be generated by trying to control the blade speeds with nothing but mechanical, or electrical (suicide type) braking. One feathers the blade pitch, to reduce its coupling efficiency to the movement of the air past them. Even turning the head out of the wind can only done very slowly, and with great force required because of the gyroscopic moment of that size of a spinning wheel.

    That minor detail was ignored 70 years ago by the Win-Charger people, who kept putting ever bigger tails and control mechanisms on them as speed regulators. It worked, usually. But in swirling winds could easily generate sufficient force to break the then wooden propeller blades off at the hubs. I watched my grandfather carving new blades for his on at least 2 occasions, but after the second one he understood the failure and put the old rusty, much smaller tail back on it. Then the blades lasted long enough to make giving them a good coating or 4 of marine varnish worthwhile. Battery overcharge was not a problem as he was always rigging another 32 volt light bulb someplace that didn't have light before, making that one less place he had to carry a kerosene lantern for evening chores. He tested the sp of his batteries daily and grandma's wash day was often put off a day to charge the batteries as grandma had the only electric washing machine in Madison County IA (yeah, the county that the movie Bridges made famous) all during WW-II. Why? The old Maytag gas motor on it had kicked back and broke her ankle, and in 1939 that was a major blow to running a farm well. Grandpa said that isn't going to happen again and much of the next 2 years crops went to buy that 32 volt system.

    That short movie makes me ask once again: If sense is so common, why is common sense so darned scarce? Boggles my mind.

    Cheers, Gene
    "There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:
      soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order."
    -Ed Howdershelt (Author)
    You have literary talent that you should take pains to develop.

If you didn't have to work so hard, you'd have more time to be depressed.