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Monday, July 21, 2008

Is wind the answer?

Yesterday, Al Gore praised the development of wind power in West Texas and in some other plains states. One major problem with wind would seem to be the variability in wind and thus the variability in the generation of new electricity. This would, in turn, seem to require large batteries (which I thought didn't exist) or an alternative to the alternative energy - probably coal, hydro, or oil. However, how can you maintain a secondary system and the primary "alternative energy" system at the same time?

Moreover, today in Concord, NC, the wind is a whopping 1.3 miles per hour. It would seem that a windmill would have to be very light to turn in such mild wind, but such a light windmill would also seem to have a hard time generating any substantial power.

I wonder if certain states aren't a little more excited about wind - and possible subsidies for wind power. States like Texas, Oklahoma, and points north?

Here's the wind map for this afternoon from weatherunderground.com:

If this map is representative, there are a relatively few states that might get enough wind to make wind power seem reasonable. This, in turn, would lead to a wealth transfer from other states to those states in the form of federal subsidies (which are funded with federal taxes taken from other states) and in the form of higher energy prices paid to these states on an ongoing basis.

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Your map is not quite representative. 1) because their are a large number of 'H's out there, and as 'H's are at ~top~ of the pressure mountain, they are not known for wind (as the top of a mountain is not known for high skiing speeds).

Parts of the country are more susceptible to wind. SF Bay, for instance, receives 20+ knots every day of summer (due to a strong gradient in temperatures between the Pac. Ocean and Sac.) Other parts of the country receive a larger weekly differences Day-on-Day, but are more homogeneous throughout the year. Minnesota receives 11 knots on average every month, but as represented by your map, does not get that every day. It is run by jet stream currents, and so receives about 3 days of good wind, and then 3 days of dead air.

Wind densities also play a part, CO receives less dense air movement than Florida.

So that is a little information on wind, and its power to power.

By the way, I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work!
Your anonymous commenter is correct.

For example, the largest wind farms in California are in mountain passes in areas of almost continuous pressure differential.

San Gorgonio Pass (615 MWe peak) is where the air over LA cooled by the Pacific encounters the superheated air of the Mojave desert near Palm Springs. (It may work backwards in "winter" when the cold desert night air encounters the mildly warmer LA air).

There is also the Tehachapi Pass (710 MWe peak) between the coast and the Mojave, and Altamont Pass (576 MWe peak) between the coast and the California Central Valley.

The Texas and other central state farms are more dispersed than the California mountain pass sites.

You also could have more coastal farms that depend on daily temperature differences between the land and the ocean.

The Delaware Bluewater Wind proposed farm is expected to be 547 MWe peak. But this tends to freak out rich coastal NIMBY land owners - like the proposed Cape Wind project (454 MWe peak) on Nantucket Sound is.

I think the coastal farms are also going to have a lower percentage of delivered power to peak power because of diurnal temperature variation. The mountain passes have more continuous wind.
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