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Why windmills aren't a good energy solution

Friday, January 14, 2011 · Category Environment · comments 0

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There is some controversy in the Netherlands about the biggest windmill turbine park yet to be build. Prime Minister Rutte from the centralright party VVD has always stated that windenergy is nothing more than energy running on government grants. Yet with the CDA (christian party) in the government he is forced to agree upon building the largest windmill turbine park in the Netherlands.

The case: Largest windmill turbine park in Urk, North of Holland

After 12 years of study (how much did that cost the taxpayer?) the decision is final. One of Europe's largest windmill turbine parks will be build in the visinity of one of the most idyllic villages in the North of Holland; Urk. From the original 93 there will be 86 windmills, 38 on shore and 48 of shore. The maximum height is almost 200 meters. The cost of each windmill is around 15 mln and the government grant totals 916 mln. So about 73,6% of each windmill is paid directly by the taxpayer. The renevues of the whole windmill park will largely slip into the pockets of some 60 farmers, all fans and backers of Maxima Verhagen (Frontman of the Christian Democratic Party). And this in only one of the controversies. Many studies have shown windenergy from windmill turbines is nothing like it seems.

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  • Windmillturbines_Dutchocean.JPG
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The main problems for getting energy from windmills

Fluctuation of wind speed

Electricity can be turned off and on, yet the supply of electricity can not and needs to be delivered continuously. The main problem with windenergy is that it can not be controlled as necessary to get continuous current at 50 HRZ. The Wind turbines are connected to the Net. The Turbines Propellers are turning in a certain speed so that electricity is generated to stream 50 HRZ. With a windforce of about 3,5 meters per second, the propellers spin fast enough to stream 50 HRZ generation. This is called the "cut-in-speed". When the wind gets too high, the propeller speed needs to be limited or shut down. Running the propellers faster, makes no sense, because it's the frequency of the current - 50 HRZ - that determines how fast the propeller should turn. In fact, if the propellers would turn faster because of high speed wind, they would actually "blow themselves up". The "cut-out speed" lies at some 25 meters per second. Here is a small movie of a windmill exploding.

Windenergy cannot be "stored"

The second problem is that we cannot store "electricity". To cover up the ineffectiveness of wind farms the Government will be forced to build emergency back-up power plants, the cost of which will be paid by industry and consumers (again us taxpayers). General Electric has seen and understood this problem. GE is planning to build - together with PowerBalance - 7 smaller energy generators for this "unbalancemarket". The 7 energy generators will each have a capacity for generating 8 to 10 MegaWatt of energy. The combination of 5 windmills of 2 MegaWatt and GE powered gasturbine of (5x2) 10 MegaWatt energy generators can supply a continuous energy of 10 MegaWatt, with 10 being necessary in case there is no wind or to much wind.

So energy from wind is natural. Unfortenately the wind itself is never a constant factor. And since we cannot store energy surplus, we just shut down the windmill. In case of no wind, we have to supply energy through our coal power plants. The problem of the coal power plant is that these factories is that they are "must run" machines. You can't run them slower or faster when you need, because they operate much like a diesel engine in your car. If you use your diesel powered car in the city where you constantly need to break down your speed and accelarate, you burn a lot more fuel. The highest efficiency is reached at a constant speed of 90 km/h on the highway. Much like that coal energy fabric.

Windmill energy contribution to the total energyneed in the Netherlands

Let's take a look at the real energy supply and contribution from windmills. Our total energy use in 2007 was 13.000.000 kW. If we consider the windmill park in Egmond aan Zee in the Netherlands with a maximum capacity of 3.000 kW for a windmill and the highest possible production factor of 36% (this is really the highest possible return from a windmill), the total production of this windmill is 1.080 kW. The total contribution of one such mwindmill to our Dutch energy needs can than be calculated as 1.080 / 13.000.000 = 0,000.083 %. Windmills on land have a much lower production return of around 25% contributing some 0,000.058 % to our energy needs. So to produce 1% of the Dutch Energy Needs we are looking at 175 of these monster windmills. Considering the governments goal to have some 30% of our energy from alternative naturla resources without or lower production of CO2 we would be looking at some 5.250 windmills and (5.250/5) and 1.050 GE gasturbine generators.

Last but not least: maintenance of windmill turbines costs considerable, especially for the parks build at Sea. If you take the costs of special waterproof machine rooms, underwater cables, the use of helicopters and special platforms for maintenance and the fact that an average windmill needs at least 3 services a year......all the CO2 reduction from those windmills is virtually lost again.

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