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Wind Turbine scale and ROI

post #1 of 32

 I was down in Texas not that long ago observing the wind farms.  Since I was down in Odessa, Tx, near the permian basin, they had many wind farms scattered about on the mesas and valleys.  I can attest to that regions ability to sustain large wind farms, as the wind never stopped blowing while I was down there!  You really don't get a feel for how massive these systems are until you are next to one.  Wow!  Just as a point of reference; one of the maintenance tasks is an inspection of the turbine blade, from the inside!  There is a ladder in each blade, that you can climb down from the central hub area.  

On a side note, seems that the original generation of wind turbines suffered high maintenance requirements due to a design flaw.  Seems bugs were gunking up the turning blades as they cut through the air.  Obviously, that flaw has been fixed, as there is no discussion of this issue.  I'm assuming they allowed for turbulence on the blade front which makes it difficult for bugs to get injured.

While these systems look fairly majestic and immovable, they are very dynamic, moving in nearly all directions as they generate power.

post #2 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by greenhybrid:

 Just as a point of reference; one of the maintenance tasks is an inspection of the turbine blade, from the inside!  There is a ladder in each blade, that you can climb down from the central hub area.  
 

 

Wow, that is unbelievable. Has anyone seen any good data on how long it takes for a turbine to make up the energy costs of its own manufacturing? Would be interesting...

post #3 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deej:
Quote:
Originally Posted by greenhybrid:

 Just as a point of reference; one of the maintenance tasks is an inspection of the turbine blade, from the inside!  There is a ladder in each blade, that you can climb down from the central hub area.  
 

 

Wow, that is unbelievable. Has anyone seen any good data on how long it takes for a turbine to make up the energy costs of its own manufacturing? Would be interesting...

Excellent, excellent point!  I will investigate this a bit and see if I can come up with anything.  I have often wondered that same point myself....
 

post #4 of 32

 Ok,  so in order for the wind turbine to offset the manufacturing energy, the wind turbine should need to operate for <12 months.  The average EROI is on the order of 5-35 (avg. 18).  Additionally, some of the newer generation wind turbines have EROI of greater than 35.  This is pretty phenomenal.  

For a quick look at this information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power

 

 

I think I will continue researching this issue and work on a wiki for wind turbines.

 

post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 

That is unbelievably cool. I still can't get over the scale of the blades...granted the picture below is the largest turbine in the world, but still - each blade is 413 feet long! The thing could power almost 2000 American homes for a year...wild.

 

post #6 of 32

So, I'm trying to figure out costs. 

 

If a 1 MW windmill costs around $300,000 fully installed (I don't remember where I saw that, so please verify).  That 1 MW windmill really only produces .35MW (based on the Wikipedia link above).  So, how many houses is that?  If the average home produces what, 900 KW/month X 12 = 10,800 KWh per year. 

 

1 MW = 1,000,000 watts

1 KW = 1,000

 

.35MW = 350,000

 

Does this mean a $300,000, 1 MW windmill can produce enough electricity for aorund 30 houses per year?  PLEASE help me with my math. 

 

Here is where I'm going with this.  MD wants to give a nuke plant a $350M tax subsidy.  If they did this for wind instead,  how many houses/how much electricy/how many turbines could be built?

 

Jim
 

post #7 of 32

Your numbers are correct. Now let me help you do the rest of the math:

 

The proposed nuclear reactor would produce 1,600 MW of electricity. That's 1.6 GIGAWATS. Let's be conservative. Let's assume it ONLY produces 1 GW.

 

1GW * 8760 hrs/year = 8,760 Gigawat hours per year which is 8.7 MILLION kwh per year. That's enough to power roughly 811,000 homes based on your figure of 10,800kwh per year per household.

 

To match this output with wind turbines, you need 2,800 of them (1 GW per plant / 350KW per turbine). The cost of these turbines will be $840M. But that's not all. You have to find sites for these 2,800 turbines. That's not as easy as it sounds, especially in the East Coast where population density is high and public land is scarce.


Edited by petera650 - Wed, 09 Jul 2008 18:57:26 GMT
post #8 of 32

The average output of one megawatt of wind power is equivalent to the average electricity consumption of about 250 American households.

 

The average wind turbine in the US is now 1.65 MW.  Installation costs are about $1.4 million per MW.

 

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy08osti/43025.pdf

 

So for $350 million you could build 250 MW worth of wind power.  This is 166 1.5 MW turbines, and would power 62,500 homes.

 

It's important to note that the $350 million is a subsidy, but will not cover the entire construction cost of the nuclear power plant.  The cost per energy produced ($/MWh) for nuclear and wind is almost identical, and it takes 1.5 years to build a new wind power facility vs. 5 years for a nuclear power plant.

 

http://www.iea.org/Textbase/nptable/2007/tackling_t2_1.pdf

 

Of course the benefit of nuclear is that it can provide baseload power.  Turbines are dependent on wind speed, and also require more space than a single nuclear plant.


Edited by dana1981 - Wed, 9 Jul 2008 19:44:56 UTC
post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

The average output of one megawatt of wind power is equivalent to the average electricity consumption of about 250 American households.

 

The average wind turbine in the US is now 1.65 MW.  Installation costs are about $1.4 million per MW.

 

Interesting so that's an initial investment of $5600 per household. I might be willing to pony up for my 1/250th of a wind turbine. What's the yearly maintenance on those guys?

post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattress:

Interesting so that's an initial investment of $5600 per household. I might be willing to pony up for my 1/250th of a wind turbine. What's the yearly maintenance on those guys?


 

According to the first link in my previous post, annual operation and maintanance (O&M) costs are about $10/MWh.  So for your 250 MW wind farm producing energy for 62,500 homes, that's $6.6 million per year for O&M (or about $100 per person).


 

So not too shabby - pony up $5600 for installation and $100 per year for O&M and all your energy is covered by wind.


Edited by dana1981 - Wed, 9 Jul 2008 20:53:37 UTC
post #11 of 32

 

So not too shabby - pony up $5600 for installation and $100 per year for O&M and all your energy is covered by wind.


Edited by dana1981 - Wed, 9 Jul 2008 20:53:37 UTC

 

Nope. You're wrong. Do you know the meaning of the word "baseload"?

post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterA650:

 

Nope. You're wrong. Do you know the meaning of the word "baseload"?

 

Yeah, as a matter of fact I made the baseload point several posts back.

post #13 of 32

 

Of course the benefit of nuclear is that it can provide baseload power.  Turbines are dependent on wind speed, and also require more space than a single nuclear plant.


Edited by dana1981 - Wed, 9 Jul 2008 19:44:56 UTC

 

"More space than a nuclear plant" indeed. Let's quantify that a bit more. I'm a big fan of numbers as you may have guessed.

 

To produce 1GW of power (same as a modest nuclear reactor) with wind turbines, according to your data, you need 600 of them. I don't know what the optimal configuration would be, but I highly doubt that you can arrange them in a 60x10 matrix, right? What would be a realistic area?

 


 

 

 

post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterA650:

To produce 1GW of power (same as a modest nuclear reactor) with wind turbines, according to your data, you need 600 of them. I don't know what the optimal configuration would be, but I highly doubt that you can arrange them in a 60x10 matrix, right? What would be a realistic area?

 

 

 

About 3,000 acres.

 

In comparison, most nuclear plants take 500-1,000 acres, but some as high as 1,700 acres.  And of course nobody wants to be anywhere near them.

 

Wind and nuclear each have their pros and cons.  The cons of wind are obviously that it's dependent on wind speed and requires large land areas.  The cons of nuclear are numerous.  Radioactive waste and nowhere to put it, increased availability of weapons grade plutonium, chance (even if slight) of a meltdown, environmental damage of uranium mining, etc.

 

Bottom line is that we need both sources of energy, as well as solar, hydro, tidal, etc.


Edited by dana1981 - Thu, 10 Jul 2008 00:23:56 GMT
post #15 of 32

In fact, let's forget about the baseload argument. Let's assume the following:

 

  • We can place wind turbines anywhere we want with no legal hassles whatsoever
  • Wind can meet baseload needs
  • Wind turbine technology improves significantly. The average turbine can produce 5MW at the same cost as today
  • We can produce an infinite number of wind turbines

 

Would that cover us? If we could place any wind turbine anywhere in the US where it is scientifically justified, what percentage of our energy needs would we meet?

post #16 of 32

First, thanks for posting this info.  You can't find these kind of numbers on websites easily. 

 

While the space being used does seem like a lot, wind turbines also have the benefit of being able to be put out in the Bay or in the ocean where nukes can not.  No space taken there.  Some issues distrurbing the fish and laying the eletrical lines, but compared to the pollution from coal plants (and nuke plants) I would think it would be well worth the cost.

 

I also read that many states actually have windmill cooperatives.  That is, the town joins together and purchases "shares" to fund the turbine and then are repaid as the turbine sells it's eletrical output to energy companies.  There are a lot of people in MD who I bet would buy shares.

post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterA650:

In fact, let's forget about the baseload argument. Let's assume the following:

 

  • We can place wind turbines anywhere we want with no legal hassles whatsoever
  • Wind can meet baseload needs
  • Wind turbine technology improves significantly. The average turbine can produce 5MW at the same cost as today
  • We can produce an infinite number of wind turbines

 

Would that cover us? If we could place any wind turbine anywhere in the US where it is scientifically justified, what percentage of our energy needs would we meet?



 

Well based on previous numbers, a 1 MW turbine can produce 2650 MWh (2.65 GWh) per year, so a 5 MW turbine could theoretically produce let's say 10 GWh per year.  US energy consumption is 29,000 TWh, so you'd need close to 3 million turbines.  At about 3 acres per turbine, that's about 10 million acres.  The US has a total land area of 2.3 billion acres.

 

So, under your theoretical scenario of wind providing baseload power, 5 MW turbines, etc., you would need 0.43% of the US land area to be suitable for wind farms.  And as jgroves notes, there's also the possibility of offshore wind.

 

In a more realistic scenario, with let's say 50% of our power provided by 1.5 MW turbines, you would have about 4 GWh per turbine per year.  Thus you would need about 3.6 million turbines.  So the land area required would be about 0.5% of the total US land area, and the cost would be $7.5 quadrillion.


Edited by dana1981 - Thu, 10 Jul 2008 19:40:20 UTC
post #18 of 32

So, in other words, it's not financially feasible. Even if all the conditions I mentioned were met, the total investment would exceed several decades of US GDP (@ 13 trillion per year). Even if the cost of wind turbines were to drop by a factor of 10, it still wouldn't be realistic. It would take a 100x drop in capital cost for this to look attractive. This will never happen.

 

According to NASA, wind power is capable of providing 10-15% of world needs: www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/quikscat-20080709.html. I don't doubt their figures, but I think we'll get better ROI elsewhere.

 

In retrospect, this makes sense. Any process that depends on Industrial Age economies of scale cannot possibly be disruptive in the 21st century. Without a major disruption, oil and coal will continue to rule and ruin our lives. At least now I know where not to look ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by petera650 - Fri, 11 Jul 2008 15:55:25 GMT
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterA650:

So, in other words, it's not financially feasible. Even if all the conditions I mentioned were met, the total investment would exceed several decades of US GDP (@ 13 trillion per year). Even if the cost of wind turbines were to drop by a factor of 10, it still wouldn't be realistic. It would take a 100x drop in capital cost for this to look attractive. This will never happen.

 

 


 

To provide 50% of our power from just wind in the near future?  No, it's not possible.  Nor is it necessary.

 

All we need to do is gradually decommission coal power plants and replace them with renewables (and maybe some nuclear).  We already get about 50% of our power from nuclear, natural gas, and various renewables.  Besides wind, there's also solar thermal, photovoltaic, tidal power, etc.


Edited by dana1981 - Fri, 11 Jul 2008 16:36:00 UTC
post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

In a more realistic scenario, with let's say 50% of our power provided by 1.5 MW turbines, you would have about 4 GWh per turbine per year.  Thus you would need about 3.6 million turbines.  So the land area required would be about 0.5% of the total US land area, and the cost would be $7.5 quadrillion.



 

Crap I screwed that up.  That cost should be $7.5 trillion, not quadrillion.  I knew that number didn't sound right.

post #21 of 32

What about technology getting better at converting the wind power to electricity?  Is that even a possibility or is that maxed out?  Can wind turbines be 65 - 75% efficient rather than 20 - 30%?  Well, I thought  I recalled hearing about breaking the norm with wind turbines and the solution being thrown around is to get off  the ground...literally.   Check this out - http://www.magenn.com/  --  or this one --  http://bexhuff.com/2007/04/wind-turbines-blimps.   Seems to me that since there has been pretty much no big money put into wind power research, the we are just at the beginning.  If we can get the efficiency double what it is today, that 50% of the country energy needs maybe very doable (if not more).

post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgroves:

What about technology getting better at converting the wind power to electricity?  Is that even a possibility or is that maxed out?  Can wind turbines be 65 - 75% efficient rather than 20 - 30%?  Well, I thought  I recalled hearing about breaking the norm with wind turbines and the solution being thrown around is to get off  the ground...literally.   Check this out - http://www.magenn.com/  --  or this one --  http://bexhuff.com/2007/04/wind-turbines-blimps.   Seems to me that since there has been pretty much no big money put into wind power research, the we are just at the beginning.  If we can get the efficiency double what it is today, that 50% of the country energy needs maybe very doable (if not more).

 

Yeah I did read somewhere that wind turbine efficiency has improved.  I don't know if 70% is possible, but I would think the efficiency of turbines can continue to improve.

post #23 of 32

Efficiency is irrelevant. What's more important, is whether the technology has disruptive potential. Disruption occurs when a technology is not really "good enough" but is easy enough and cheap enough to implement in a decentralized fashion and without scalability bottlenecks like the need for PhD level experts and billions in capital (see nuclear). If inexpensive wind turbines can be made by folks like www.otherpower.com then it might be possible for wind energy to cause a disruption.

 

What's better to have? 1 million GE turbines at 300K each, or 100 million DIY turbines at 3K each? And which is more likely to improve as the result of crowdsourced innovation? Wind turbines or solar panels?

 

PS. At 7.5 trillion (thanks for the fix) we are at 50% of our GDP roughly. That's for industrial quality, high cost systems though. I think this might be doable. We'll need storage though.

post #24 of 32

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/7/17/144426/316/203/553055

 

Great story on Wind Energy and if it's doable to the extent Al Gore pushed for yesterday.

 

Jim

post #25 of 32

Yeah that was really interesting.  Here's the conclusion:

 

While a goal of 100% of carbon-free electricity is probably unrealistic, it therefore seems possible to get pretty close to that, especially if nuclear and hydro are included in the mix. A plan that announced a specific goal of 40-50% of wind-generated electricity by 2020 and 10-20% of solar, with the appropriate feed-in mechanisms, demand guarantees for manufacturers and investment in the grid would therefore be realistic, make economic sense, and fulfill two major strategic goals: reduce carbon emissions, and lower fossil fuel demand.

post #26 of 32

I wonder what it will be like when/if  this country actually has 75% of it's electrical needs taken care of by renewable.  Gotta think that along with auto increasing mileage and decreasing use of fuel, we could be totally oil independent by then.  It will be really interesting to see what happens to the oil producing countries when there is less demand.  At some point China is going to pick up on the windturbines/solar (especially if USA is doing it) and it will only spread to other nations.  The increases in technology for solar is blooming recently to the point that may play a much larger role than the author of the article indicates IMHO.

post #27 of 32

For some extremely informative (and long) commentary on Gore's Proposal check out Next Big Future

post #28 of 32

A nuke would cost anywhere from 4 to 6 billion dollars to build.

It takes 20 years for a nuke to pay for itself.

The life of a nuke without NRC intervention is 30 years.

...and there's still no where to dispose of spent fuel (that cost would also have to be added in when a site is constructed/maintaned).

post #29 of 32

A nuclear power plant has been economic over the past years and would be in future years - one excellent reference plant was the Trojan plant out of Portland, OR. When it was decomissioned it was some of the cheaper power on the grid - outside of the hydro.

 

A few years back a gas turbine power plant cost about 300,000 USD per mW + land, permitting etc. Then the fuel cost is ongoing at market.

 

Cost for a wind turbine seems to be a complicated thing - see the web site of the Danish Wind Industry Association at http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/econ/index.htm

 

The theoritical limit (Betz' Law) for a wind turbine is 59% - an efficiency of 35% is considered quite good for small turbines. 

 

There are several references available on the web which point out the potential pitfalls with residential turbines - the first of those is that they are often rated with unrealistic wind speeds. Available average wind speeds are listed on US gov sites - rating a turbine at a wind speed of 25 to 30 mph is absolute BS when it is only available during strong storms - a percent of the time.

post #30 of 32
I've been looking at some different responses to this question, and doing some math, and here's what I come up with:
The average output of a wind tower is 1.65 MW, and costs 2.3 million to install - total.
The average maintenance on this average windmill would be $43,000 per year.
This average windmill would power roughly 410 homes.
In rough numbers, the ROI would be 10%

Of course, these numbers would vary due to the type of windmill, and where it's used, and so on. Can I get some feedback on this?

A friend of mine has brought to my attention that - due to new technology - an existing windmill can be updated, and subsequent ones can produce twice the electricity. This would raise the return to roughly 20%, making it a much more attractive investment.
Edited by Jonathan Fiorillo - 8/6/09 at 1:56am
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