From http://www.nrwc.ca - some new neighbors of ours along the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario. And that's just so darn cool - the world's highest quality wind turbines, within an easy drive...
Spring construction season is approaching, and it (Spring) WILL get here, eventually. This is generally when wind farms start to get installed from scratch in this part of North America. Not many wind farms will get installed in NY this year, though hopefully the Orangeville one (near Warsaw in Wyoming County) will get initiated, and there may be a large one started northeast of Watertown (Cape Vincent), but the effect of the super-depressed electricity prices may prove too damaging. We will know by this fall…. However, in Ontario, things are very different, and two projects (South Kent and Niagara (Smithville)) are good examples of this. The list of Ontario wind energy projects includes 423 MW that will be put into operation this year and 1904 MW by next year. At lot of those 2014 completions need to get started this year, and in particular, this spring. FWIW, this is close to $6 billion of new energy infrastructure, all done with zero tax avoidance subsidies or grants...
The effects of the Green Energy Act (October, 2009) and the core of that law - Feed-In Tariffs - are quite evident to anyone driving through rural Ontario - lots of small (~ 10 to 25 kw) PV units - usually a 20 foot square array or so installed on a sturdy support can be seen. And sometimes some wind farms - big and small - can be observed. But locally made commercial scale wind turbines have a much longer planning horizon than "micro-renewables", and the same goes for the permitting process. Plus, the factories where these are to be built also take a while to get going as well as the factories to supply those factories, and product orders have to get arranged. But after 3.5 years, much of this preparation has been done, and its time to start installing Made in Ontario renewable energy systems. There has been around 1600 MW worth of wind turbines installed in the last four years in Ontario, but most of these systems were made elsewhere - either in the US (GE wind turbines - lots of them) or Europe (lots of those, too). More importantly, some very impressive electrical grid infrastructure has now been completed to allow several GW of wind based electricity to get to markets - mostly in the Toronto region - and in the process, coal will no longer be required to provide any electricity for Ontario. But the really tough battles - kicking natural gas and eventually nukes out of the grid "mix" - will have to be put off until after 2016… For those who are curious, the list of new wind projects to be installed in the near future can be found here: http://www.canwea.ca/farms/PDF/Pipeline-List.pdf. From a NY point of view, what is surprising are not the few large ones but the large number of small "community" arrays of 2 to 10 of them.
For a wind farm project, usually the first things that need to get built are the roads, which then allow the construction equipment to get to the eventual turbine sites. Next, the foundation hole gets dug and then the foundation gets constructed - a maze of rebar which then has concrete poured into it/around it. Big turbines need a a big counterweight so that they don't tip over, and modern 2+ MW units with tall towers need at least 500 tons of concrete (250 cubic yards) in the foundation. This has to cure for at least a month or two (temperature dependent) before the foundation can get the turbine installed on it. In the meantime, the underground cables can be installed, and the sub-station(s) can get installed. Finally, the big day arrives, the tower section, blades and nacelles get brought to the site, followed by the cranes. Large projects tend to be very involved logistical affairs, with tight schedules of people and equipment constantly messed with by the weather. On a good day, one turbine (the tower, nacelles and rotor) can be installed, depending on the tower type.
Closer to Buffalo, the Niagara Region Wind Corporation (http://www.nrwc.ca) is proposing a 230 MW array based on 77 x 3 MW Enercon E-101 turbines. These units feature a low speed gear-less generator (like the turbine in Toronto, only a lot bigger) and "winglets" on the end of the blades which aid in efficiency and keep things quieter. These units will use concrete (not steel, which is too flexible for the height/weights/forces for these turbines) towers ranging in height from 124 to 135 meters (407 to 443 feet), and these will be the tallest wind turbine towers in North America (such systems are quite common in Europe). As part of the deal, Enercon will build an electronics/control systems as well as a concrete tower factory in the Niagara Region, and this $550 million project will also add $80 million to the local economy via lease payments. Cool. At their tallest, these will reach 608 feet above the ground, and they will be visible for a long distance, weather permitting.
Anyway, that's how you can grow an economy - perhaps we should take a lessen? Of course, a single payer heath insurance system (their Medicare) is also helpful, as this means that employees and employers don't have to feed the parasite that is private health insurance companies, and even paying higher taxes for this government run system results in a higher standard of living and lower costs for all. In Ontario, it costs 60% of what NY'ers have to fork over to get heath care that leads to an average lifespan that is 3 years longer than what occurs on our side of the border, and no one EVER goes bankrupt in Canada as a result of heath care costs (it is one of the more common reasons for bankruptcy in NY State). But who says that we are all that civilized in this country, anyway?
We've all heard that people can do the most outrageous (and humorous) things when they are hypnotized - its a staple of many magicians and other entertainers. And then there was the premise of the Rocky & Bullwinkle movie, where Fearless Leader (Robert DeNiro) broadcast a horribly bland and boring set of TV programs which also lulled viewers into following Fearless Leader's every wish, at least as communicated via TV. But, maybe this was not just fiction - witness the witless Fox TV and how viewers tend to be rendered more stupid by viewing this infotainment.
In recent history, the power of the press, especially the paid for press, to do bad things is very well established. The relentless campaign of the Cheney-Bu$h administration to invade Iraq (leading to "IraqNam") was thoroughly in the book "Hubris" as well as the recent Rachel Maddow TV special based on that book. And lots of other books, too. This has cost our country 4400 lives, with many times that number of "dreadfully wounded, probably over $2 trillion so far (ignoring Afghanistan also cost us a bundle). It also has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (http://necrometrics.com/wars21c.htm#Iraq03) and perhaps worse - a veritable rape epidemic as that society fractures in numerous ways - http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/23/world/fg-iraq-woman23 and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2008/1124/p07s01-wome.html. And yet, to this day, Bu$h, Cheney, Rummy, Wolfie, Condi, Pearlie and a whole gaggle of intimately and nebulously interconnected "neo-cons" still stalk the earth as free men and women. But at least some of them supposedly can no longer travel to Europe, as there are warrants for their arrest for war crimes. But so far, War Crime has paid very well for them and their "friends" in the "Offense" , "security", "contracting" and consultancy (= ex-CIA/NSA/DIA, etc) fields. And, after all, anything is fair game in pursuit of oil and dreams of Empire and other neo-con fantasies, or nightmares, depending if you are among the lucky few or the many…
And now comes a series of reports that shows how a concerted press campaign can "poison the waters", so to speak, of communities that might have or do have wind turbines in them. We know that at least $120 million of "anonymous" money has been laying down quite the "propaganda barrage" instill doubt about anything wind turbine related in both the US an the UK (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/14/funding-climate-change-denial-thinktanks-network). Then there are the more direct efforts, such as by the Heartland Institute and the Koch fiend funded Americans for Prosperity - including a very concerted effort to keep the ITC/PTC tax incentives - which mainly benefit extremely well off entities and individuals like (but not actually) the Koch Brothers - from getting renewed. We had something similar with Tom Golisano's well funded efforts to set up a bunch of "Industrial Wind Watch" groups all across rural NY State a few years ago http://www.green-trust.org/wordpress/page/36/?s=led), and also the efforts aimed at generating the appearance of opposition to NYPA's offshore wind efforts. Compared to the atrocity inflicted upon Iraq - often by Iraqis against other Iraqis based on greed, particular version of a major religion or "tribes"/ethnic or regional affiliation - it seems like small potatoes, but there's a connection….
But all that was advertising, propaganda, multi-media campaigns, with nebulous results funded by people and corporate entities with money to burn. Where's the proof that such campaigns could actually work in statistically significant ways? Well, that may have been provided by some recent experiments in New Zealand (http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/03/14/research-finds-wind-farm-health-concerns-probably-caused-anti-wind-scare-campaigns), with results published here:
Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbines?
Crichton, Fiona; Dodd, George; Schmid, Gian; Gamble, Greg; Petrie, Keith J.
Health Psychology, Mar 11 , 2013, No Pagination Specified. doi: 10.1037/a0031760
Here is the abstract, which, like a good abstract should, says it very succinctly: Objective: The development of new wind farms in many parts of the world has been thwarted by public concern that sub-audible sound (infrasound) generated by wind turbines causes adverse health effects. Although the scientific evidence does not support a direct pathophysiological link between infrasound and health complaints, there is a body of lay information suggesting a link between infrasound exposure and health effects. This study tested the potential for such information to create symptom expectations, thereby providing a possible pathway for symptom reporting. Method: A sham-controlled double-blind provocation study, in which participants were exposed to 10 min of infrasound and 10 min of sham infrasound, was conducted. Fifty-four participants were randomized to high- or low-expectancy groups and presented audiovisual information, integrating material from the Internet, designed to invoke either high or low expectations that exposure to infrasound causes specified symptoms. Results: High-expectancy participants reported significant increases, from preexposure assessment, in the number and intensity of symptoms experienced during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. There were no symptomatic changes in the low-expectancy group. Conclusions: Healthy volunteers, when given information about the expected physiological effect of infrasound, reported symptoms that aligned with that information, during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. Symptom expectations were created by viewing information readily available on the Internet, indicating the potential for symptom expectations to be created outside of the laboratory, in real world settings. Results suggest psychological expectations could explain the link between wind turbine exposure and health complaints. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
In other words, it is possible to engender complaints about infrasound simply by raising the possibility that it wind turbines CAN or MIGHT make sound that cannot be heard by humans that will cause bad health effects upon neighboring humans. The key to making this happen is a skillful anti-wind turbine media campaign. Cool, eh? Here is a concluding comment from the lead author:
The findings indicate that negative health information readily available to people living in the vicinity of wind farms has the potential to create symptom expectations, providing a possible pathway for symptoms attributed to operating wind turbines. This may have wide-reaching implications. If symptom expectations are the root cause of symptom reporting, answering calls to increase minimum wind-farm set back distances is likely to do little to assuage health complaints.
Here's another study from across the pond in Australia: http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/8977. And the money quote: ''Wind turbine sickness'' is far more prevalent in communities where anti-wind farm lobbyists have been active and appears to be a psychological phenomenon caused by the suggestion that turbines make people sick, a study has found."
Some surprise, eh?
In chemistry, there are a lot of chemicals that do not behave well in the presence of either air or water vapor, and so the correct way to handle them is to put an inert atmosphere (such as with nitrogen gas) over them. For example, sodium metal oxidizes on contact with oxygen, and can ignite in the presence of water and air. But this is the kind of blanket without any threads, and you can't knit it into completion. It's basically air, or a least the pure form of the largest component of air, considered to be inert in most cases. You just can't knit a nitrogen blanket…. and yet, these anti-wind turbine groups seem to be doing that with their claims of adverse health effects due to the sounds coming from commercial scale wind turbines...
Now, it turns out that the one form of renewable energy that is putting a nasty hurt on the profits obtainable from selling coal and nuke based electricity where natural gas is also part of the mix (like a lot of NY State) is wind turbine sourced electricity. Furthermore, over 1.5 trillion cubic feet per year of natural gas is NOT burned nowadays because wind is now the source of 20 GW of our country's electricity. And this lack of a larger demand for natural gas can have amazing effects on the price of natural gas. A subtle discrepancy between supply and demand can make all the difference between $3/MBtu and a higher price, such as $6/MBtu (the exact price rise is hard to say, dependent on the moment it happens, and whether it is a supply shock/surge or a demand shock/surge - it was close to $10/MBtu in 2005). For example, that $3/MBtu times the 25 trillion cubic feet per year of gas sold could be worth $75 billion/yr.
Most natural gas sold these days is still "conventional" - a by-product of oil production or from gas fields where soils have decent porosity. This gas can be sold profitably at $3/MBtu, though the owners/producers would most certainly like the higher profits that come from higher prices. However, most fracking based sourced methane (about 40% of natural gas now made) produced loses money - at least $3/MBtu - at a price of $3/MBtu. They would really like the higher prices to AT LEAST $6/MBtu, and most fracking based gas is made under bizarre rules that specify that this gas must be produced as soon as it is possible to do so - regardless if the price is depressed due to oversupply.
Since the frackers generally cannot restrain their production as a result of the agreements they signed with Wall Street financiers, their only hope at raising prices is to increase the consumption rate - alias the demand for methane. If this means replacing coal or nukes to make electricity, so be it. And this most definitely means keeping wind out of the electricity production business. So far, the excess of methane has not been converted into oil products (Gas To Liquids, alias GTL), and at $25 billion per facility (140,000 barrels/day from 2 billion cubic feet per day), that is being put off for a while. But two GTL facilities (taking the better part of 5 years to construct) would use up 1.5 tcfy, which is the amount of gas not used because wind turbines are raining on the gas parade. But then those GTL facilities would be competing with crude oil, some of which is made at $20/barrel (Alaskan) or $80/bbl (North Dakota), or from Tar Sands in Alberta at $50/bbl.
In any case, spending a few hundred thousand dollars on an anti-wind campaign - even a 100 times over - to delay wind energy by another half a decade or a full decade could be so immensely profitable that a few billion dollars spent on propaganda and various "psy-ops" efforts is merely chump change spilled to get world changing profits. And of course, world changing they are. Take a look at our ecosphere's temperature future if we keep burning oil and gas like there is no tomorrow (top graph). Who'd that thought that something so cool looking (below, and a pretty nice neighbor, at that) would cause so much commotion…? From http://www.jimbush.com/Portfolio/gallerySlide/images/Architecture_Construction/Invenergy_Wind_Farm.jpg
A view of the Sheldon High Winds Array (Invenergy), Wyoming County, NY, 25 miles SE of Buffalo, NY.
Some of the most amazing engineering feats in the recent past are the North Sea mega wind farms recently made (East Anglia, at 630 MW soon to be 840 MW) or under construction, ones which will eventually be rated at several thousand MW. A recent example is the Rampion 3 wind farm, which will be part of a complex of them - see http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2253122/eon-s-700mw-south-coast-offshore-wind-farm-edges-forward. Rampion 3 see also http://www.eon-uk.com/generation/3861.aspx) will be a 700 MW capacity project, and cost over $US 3 billion, but at least it will be invisible from land (23 km out to sea). The really big ones will cost more than a full fledged nuke ($US 10 to $US 15 billion), and are located so far out to sea that you can't see them, even with binoculars, from the shore. Thank God almighty, as there can be no greater disruption to the giant avalanche of propaganda that viewers of Faux News (or in Great Britain, Rupert Murdoch owned TV) receive to get their fix of bigotry and prejudice than to know that the TV where this slime is emanating from is powered by renewable energy. Where's pollution sourced electricity (nukes, coal, natural gas) when you really, really need it?
But those way out to sea wind farms come at a cost. For example, if you are a nefarious neoliberal economist/capitalist, you won't like these projects - they stimulate the economy, employ lots of unionized skilled labor and replace coal and nuke electricity generation plants, which are often used as cash cows that hardly employ anyone anymore. Yes the winds are slightly better where land cannot interfere with the flow of air, and that is one of the reasons to head way out to sea. But it costs a lot more money to install the foundations, turbines, offshore substations and underwater cables. And nearshore, where waves might only be 15 feet tall on a bad day, looks like easy sailing compared to 15 to 30 miles offshore, where the waves can be 60 feet or more tall in nasty storms, and where storms are more intense (i.e. nastier). And it will also cost more to fix a turbine that gets temporarily disabled for any reason (software glitch or getting nailed by a lightning bolt where it hurts). Even though the far offshore turbines are equipped with helicopter landing pads, well, try landing in 40 mph winds, where any plunge into ice-cold waters (300 feet drop from the nacelle) is likely to be the last thing you ever do. That work is not rated "wimp". The next generation of turbines will be the 6 to 8 MW ones - with 150 meter diameter rotors, each blade being 250 feet or so long - doing blade inspection also might be described as exciting work, similar to rescuing stranded mountain climbers.
At the rather minuscule Teeside wind farm in England, EDF Renewables (Electricitie de France, owned mostly by the French government) is installing a nearshore wind farm of 27 x 2.3 MW wind turbines. Those are almost considered "mini-turbines" these days - only 40 (130 feet) meter long blades, really dinky. EDF is installing these very close to shore (see picture - http://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/update/2013-03-02/full-speed-ahead-for-teesside-windfarm/), and in the process they are getting practice for bigger turbines and bigger arrays (some of which they will be installing off the coast of France next year). This 62 MW wind farm also does not need an offshore substation (at a couple hundred million dollars per unit); the electric cables will be connected to the onshore substation, at a significant savings. But for those hardy folk walking along on the beach next to that always frigid water on the Scottish-English border, unless it is really foggy or rainy or snowing (which probably happens more often than it is sunny), you will not be able to miss them. So does that ruin the view, or will in attract hordes of tourists to look at something other than those eternal whitecaps on the water underneath generally very grey skies? We know such a vision is antithetical to the Human Hairball known as Donald Trump, who absolutely hates nearshore wind turbines. But that is probably the best recommendation for them that one could probably hope for….
Another near shore unit is being installed in Holland's inland lake called the Noordosstpolder - this is the Westermeerwind project (http://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1173303/Siemens-hands-Westermeerwind-contract). These will feature the 3 MW gearless Siemens (SWT-101) turbines placed in 3 rows paralleling the shore, ranging from 500 meters to 1100 meters from land (1640 to 3608 feet). So these will be VERY VISIBLE, almost deliberately so. But onshore, these units will be dwarfed by 38 of the word's biggest onshore turbines, the also fearless Enercon E-126 x 7.5 MW units that will have towed of 135 meters (probably 55 meters taller than the small Seimens units. This will become the Netherlands biggest wind farm at 429 MW. This is actually pretty small by US standards, but the Dutch live in a very densely populated country, where land is at a premium. Here is an artist's rendering of what it will look like on one of those rare sunny days in the Netherlands… (http://www.windpoweroffshore.com/2013/02/01/siemens_to_build_144mw_dutch_project/#.UTi5zqVgvdk).
Of course, we could do that in Lake Erie. There is 60 miles of windy coastline between Buffalo and the Pennsylvania (alias Fracksylvania) border. At about 4 per mile, 3 rows deep, that is around 2160 MW of potential for 3 MW made in USA turbines (though it probably won't all be done…especially at once). And at an average of a 45% net yield, that would average 972 MW, or roughly the quantity of pollution sourced electricity consumed in Western NY (plus the hydropower sold to industry and communities with municipally owned electric distribution systems, like Westfield and Jamestown).
Let's say by some miracle we all said "let's go for it" - besides, all we have to lose is a lot of air pollution and some of out unemployment. So just how much employment would be made at a cost of $4 million per MW of installed capacity (an estimate, since with nearshore turbines the wiring and offshore substation costs are minimized). Well, that would involve about 133,000 job-years of employment, somewhere. And if NYPA or an amalgam of governments owned it (with really low cost tax exempt bond financing), that might cost around 9 c/kw-hr for less or that electricity. Which is a bit pricey for around here as long as coal and natural gas prices are in the pits. But maybe it would be a bargain for LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority (also state owned, with tax exempt bond financing a possibility. From LIPA's point of view, this could be ideal, because nearshore Lake Erie turbines would be invisible to Long Island located Long Island residents (they could come up here for vacations to check them out), and evidently that is the main criteria for renewable power for Long Island - that the wind turbines not be seen. And they wouldn't be heard by anybody except those out in a boat near the units, probably fishing. And yes, fishing would be really good around the base of the turbines - way better than if they were not there.
Oh well, something to think about. That, and how we could squeeze more bucks out of the Long Islanders, who evidently are willing to pay up to 20 c/kw-hr to get electricity that is wind derived but which they cannot see spinning blades. Ever since Frankenstorm Sandy, their willingness to subsidize the economic basket case that WNY somehow devolved into is probably becoming strained, and can't be trusted to go on ad infinitum. Yes, there is a cost to maintaining a view that only a few get to see, since most of the beachfront is all bought up rich people - evidently, they are the only ones deemed worthy enough to watch the water and the sun setting upon it. With or without wind turbines upon the waters…. But still, 133,000 job-yrs of direct employment, of which we should be able to get a decent cut of that. For too many of us, the concept of a middle class job is but a figment of an imagination, or of a past no longer present. What would it be like to be employable, and employed again… Anyway, that's what is al;so at stake, though you'd hardly get an inkling based on the current ravings of so many politicians and Hedge Fund owners to plunge on down the insane rabbit hole of Austerity (Sequestration)…. and hurry up about it, too.
The monopille - basically a really big piece of steel pipe - has become the dominant form of offshore wind turbine foundation in water depths of 2 to 30 meters (6 to 98 feet). The one in the picture will be 60 meters long and appear to be 8 meters in diameter (four adults 6 feet tall), or translated into American text, about 26 feet x 197 feet long, and they weigh around 715 tons. These will probably have end caps put on them. Then they will be floated/pulled by tugs where they will be pulled out of the water by really big cranes, the caps taken off, and then the piles will be lowered onto the desired location. Great Britain now has more offshore wind turbines installed than any other country, but until recently, almost all parts of these were made in other countries. This article "celebrates" the manufacture (finally!) of the most rudimentary aspect of these ultra-high tech systems in England. BTW, that is 2 inch thick steel plate which was rolled from an 82.4 foot long section, and the documentation/paperwork on the materials/inspection (quality control) is just almost as impressive as the welding/metalworking. In fact, as the Fluor Corporation found out when it went with (supposedly) cheaper Chinese made monopiles, bad welding and even worse workmanship documentation can add on hundreds of millions of dollars in cost/wipe out that much in profits. They had to "uninstall" most of the 175 of them, get most re-welded/properly inspected/certified for their Greater Gabbard project at the insistence of the project insurer (part of the $US 2.2 billion financing package). Oops…
Once it has been determined to be as perfectly vertical as can be obtained, the pipe is rammed into the seabed, so that at least 100 feet is buried in the seabed. Then a transition piece is placed on top of the monopole, adjusted so that it IS perfectly vertical, and it is grouted/cemented onto the foundation. The transition piece has arrangements for the underwater electric/fiberoptic cable to be attached to the turbine (tower, nacelle, hub, blades) so that the product (electricity) can be exported to the onshore electricity customers. Unless the wind farm is located close to the shore, the cables will lead to an offshore substation (or 3 of them, for the record setting London Array wind farm). These contain offshore warehouses, housing accommodations and switchgear/transformers and quite often High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) converter systems (AC from the wind turbines to HVDC, DC from onshore to AC), and these HVDC units typically cost several hundred million dollars each. AC cables have 3 wires plus lots of fiber options, while HVDC only needs one wire (the ocean becomes the ground wire); the longer the line (distance to the turbines from the shore) and the greater the power flow, the more likely it is that HVDC will be chosen as the way to transmit the power to the shore.
In this particular instance, the Humber Gateway wind project is actually pretty small - 219 MW - and close to shore - 10 km (6 miles), so a 132,000 volt AC cable will connect the wind farm to the shore was selected. It is still a windy place with average winds of 8.75 m/s at hub height (http://www.4coffshore.com/windfarms/request.aspx?id=owsdb&version=2&windfarmid=UK10). But since it is close to shore, sort of small by present day standards and in fairly shallow water (11 to 18 meter depths, or 36 to 59 feet), it is not too costly - a bargain at $US 1.1 billion (736 million GBP). It will use the Vestas V112 x 3 MW "medium speed" turbines - not the ones designed for essentially constant gales (the V90 x 3 MW, which only average around 37% net outputs in mellow 20 mph average winds). The owner, German electricity giant E.ON, would obviously like the 73 turbines to be nice and productive. They will be installed over a 35 km^2 area - about 5 turbines per square mile, or 16 MW per square mile - ~45 to 50% net outputs should be possible with this turbine model and this wind resource. And for those concerned with intermittency, the blades should be spinning about 88% of the time…., and providing maximum power about 36% of the time.
The rate of offshore installations last year was close to double what it was for 2011. This graph shows how the this will accelerate during the next 3 years, in spite of the European economic recessions (almost all countries with a Euro currency plus Great Britain) and depressions (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Baltics).
In 2013, close to 7 GW - more than 5 times the record 2012 install rate - will go "on-line" at a cost of close to $US 30 billion. And while most of this will be in northern Europe - UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden - China will also bring several arrays online (> 500 MW), with 300 MW already operational (but losing money due to high costs and insufficient FIT prices). Meanwhile, 2015 looks to be epic - with over $US 100 billion worth of projects placed online in just a single year. Offshore wind, especially for Germany, IS intended to be an economic stimulus, and IS intended to employ lots of people - well over 100,000 Germans by 2020. After all, the $US 30 or $US1 00 billion investment is also income for a lot of people and companies, too....
Part of the reason for this apparently rapid progress is that the infrastructure in the form of installation vessels - personnel transport, survey vessels, underwater worker supports, cable diggers, cable layers, and even ordinance disposal units (lots of bombs/ammunition from two world wars) - has finally reached a critical mass. An example is the two jack-up ships now in operation by the company Fred Olsen Windcarrier - see http://www.windcarrier.com/brave-tern. Each vessel cost well over $100 million; they are 433 feet long, can carry 6000 tons of parts in one trip, and they feature a huge 800 ton rated precision crane as well as the ability to lift themselves out of the water by about 10 meters in 45 meter deep water. In this way, they can lift huge weights (a 350 ton nacelle, for example) up to 102 meters above the water while being unaffected by waves (that's the jack up part). These are very windy areas of ocean where the turbines are being installed, and that means big waves that will move even big boats around if they are floating. Vessels like the "Brave Tern" and "Bold Tern" can do an install - the assembly of the 3 tower pieces, nacelle and blades - in less than 24 hours, weather permitting. And these boats rent for more than a quarter million dollars PER DAY.
To do offshore installs in an economically viable manner, a very complex schedule of events has to occur, and with provisions that weather may put things off for close to half the days in a year (too windy!). Obviously, the correct staging of parts, personnel and equipment at nearby ports has to be in place and fully functional, as delays can add millions of useless expense in a very short time period. After the foundations are installed, checked and inspected, the transition piece (around 300 tons) has to get installed/inspected. Then cables have to be connected and above all, protected from "scour" - getting disturbed by waves and also tides (often pretty intense +/- 120 to 30 feet in a day in the North Sea estuaries). The offshore substation - often weighing many thousands of tons - needs to be put in place and connected to the mainland. Then comes the big day for the turbine install (repeated for each turbine) followed by many weeks of wiring, inspection and commissioning, plus documentation. Many projects also have parallel underwater ecosystem monitoring, too, and everything needs documenting. The North Sea is a nasty place to work - near freezing water, rain, snow, icing, nasty waves and always the wind and tides. On one wind farm, a worker had a heart attack and fell into the water, while others have been crushed by moving equipment. And then there is the seawater and at minimum, 33,000 volt (33 kv) electricity, and sometimes 150 kv. This is not work for the feint of heart, physically unfit, prone to seasickness, don't like being cold and wet, and untrained. Indeed, many of the skills developed in the offshore oil and gas industry in the North Sea are being put to work with offshore wind - and at least wind turbines don't blow up or pollute the ocean with spills. In work like this, often there is no such thing as a second chance….
As far as the US is concerned, the Cape Wind project is now moving forward - some of the foundations might be installed this year, and the staging dockyard at New Bedford will soon be under construction. That project will use Siemens 3.6 MW x 120 meter rotors, tapping winds similar in intensity to those at Humber Gateway. There are even indications that a 20 MW array will soon be installed near Cleveland. Better late than never…. The neat thing about the Humber project is that it so SO transferable to lake Erie, and especially in NY State waters, where average wind speeds of 8.25 to 8.75 m/s are a lot better than those measure 3 miles offshore from Cleveland at their water intake ("Cleveland Crib"), which were 7.4 m/s at hub heights, and with essentially no vertical wind shear measured to date at that location. Units like the V112 or the SWT-3-120 - the so-called "moderate wind speed turbines", are ideally suited for such winds, while "fast wind turbines" like the V90 x 3 MW or the SWT-3-107 or the 5 and 6.15 MW RE Power turbines require average wind speeds in excess of 9 and even 10 m/s to justify their installation. Anyway, the V112 can be made in Colorado - American made, if Danish designed.
That's often the missing part of the equation - the economics work so much better if things are locally made, as is the case for the Danish Anholt wind farm (see http://www.dongenergy.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/wind/anholt/Anholt_offshore_wind_farm.pdf). That 400 MW project - due to be finished in a few months has foundations, transition pieces, towers, blades and nacelles all made in Denmark, and a huge local workforce doing the installation. And despite a spate of wretched weather even by Baltic Sea standards, it looks to come online on-time and under budget, justifying the faith of the pension funds who put up half the money for the $US 1.8 billion project. After all, pension funds aren't supposed to gamble… As for the company doing the project - DONG - well, it's owned by the people of Denmark (that's right, socialism), but they are still sticklers for the "on time under budget" phrase, something the the makers of the F35 fighter will never go near (as in, $35 billion over budget, years late). BTW, the F-35 may be a product ordered by the US Government, but it was built and designed by private industry, companies who sort of feel that the government really exists to service THEM.
Anyway, quite the contrast. An offshore wind rush in the North Atlantic/North Sea/Irish Sea/Baltic Sea, done with a mix of public and private savings as well as a lot of borrowing (= money creation) from banks, done with the multiple targets of job creation/industrial development/real wealth creation while at the same time making seriously large quantities of pollution free electricity, and avoiding a whole lot of CO2 pollution/importation of natural gas and corresponding export of money for that gas. Or in the US, our public works program, in this case the F-35 airplane, designed to battle.... who? And so expensive… and a pretty prolific consumer of jet fuel, if given the opportunity, but it's so expensive and so temperamental, management does not want it flown very much…. And F-35's don't produce anything, they just consume vast amounts of treasure (to build and operate it) and petroleum.
Meanwhile, Lake Erie waits. Those V112 units would "only" be spinning 82% of the time in WNY waters, and maxed out around 32% of the time with our 8.25 m/s average winds at 85 meters above Lake Erie. We could be making lots of electricity, employing lots of people in the process of making component and installing systems like the Vestas V112, building the boats to install them. And while there is not a lot of employment to maintain them, more jobs can arise from tourism - our version of "whale watching". Maybe we can even have sailboat races in and around the wind farm. And as for bass, walleye and maybe even trout fishing, those underwater foundations would serve as a catalyst to grow the things that big fish end up eating. Check out what happened in just a couple of years at this Dutch wind farm: http://www.offshorewind.biz/2013/02/28/video-underwater-life-on-offshore-wind-turbines/#.UTASITa11Zk.email (see embedded video):
A monopile for a 2 MW turbine now coated with sea life, and home to happy fish..