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Energy return on investment  RSS feed

 
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Everything impacts the planet. Breathing impacts the planet. You, right now at this very moment, are emitting carbon dioxide, which is a major component and contributing factor to global warming.

The first order analysis, if you really want to stop harming the planet, is to stop breathing right now.


It's a silly solution of course.

Saying that wind is bad or wind is green is more of a political statement than a useful observation about exactly what impacts the manufacture of a wind turbine have, especially in comparison to what environmental impact a nuclear or coal generating station has.

Everything has an impact. None of the grand scale solutions is as good for the environment as plain old conservation.

So, go convince your fellow man, woman and child to insulate their house better, and turn all the damn lights off, except the one you're using at the moment. And switch from incandescent to LED lights.

Drive your car less. Drive gently, you can improve your fuel economy by 15 to 50% (nice plug for ecomodder.com where they talk all about driving smart).


There are two persistent internet rumors that just won't go away, even though they have been exhaustively disproved many many times.

Wind turbines never pay back their embodied energy

and...


Solar photovoltaic panels never pay back their embodied energy.


I have to think that the people who invented these lies and who work very hard at keeping the lies alive are connected with the fossil fuel conglomerate.

The rest of us get caught up in the discussion innocently enough, but let's lay it to rest now.

Solar panels and wind turbines pay back their energy investments in 3-5 years typically, and after that (for decades) it's all an energy surplus.

Likewise, many of the materials that are used to make these products can be and are recycled, reducing the environmental impact even further.

I promise you, when the tower or generator of an old wind turbine is retired, they don't just go bury it in a landfill. It's too valuable.

We feel bad about bird strikes, but statistically, it's a drop in the bucket. Again, if you feel you personally are responsible for damaging the planet too much, you should stop breathing. Or get very serious about conservation.

 
Posts: 31
Location: Alberta, Canada
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Olga Booker wrote:It is true that cats are bird killers, they usually kill small birds, same for windows. Turbines kill large birds, mostly protected, endangered species like the American golden eagle for example. As more and more turbines will be built, more and more large birds will disappear.



Not really.

Original turbines had higher bird fatality because A) They were new and birds didn't know diddly about them. B - and even more importantly) They were trestle framed. Many, many, many birds, especially predatory birds, built their nests in the trestles. This left them more open to injury and death.

Current windmills are constantly being improved for efficiency, profit and environmental impact. Now no turbines are made with trestles and fatalities of predatory birds cratered. There's also a LOT more research put into locations of wind farms. Bird migration routes are taken into account as well as species, as different species travel at different altitudes.

There is a theory that turbulence caused by the turbines are what effect the birds and cause them to crash. If you're around windfarms now a days though, you may notice a marked difference in their formation. Older farms tend to be row after row after row of turbines. Newer set ups tend to be clusters spread around a larger area, not in rows. This helps diffuse air disruption which doesn't just help birds, but also makes the turbines more effective. Also, the height of many turbine models are higher than most predatory birds fly when hunting. Therefore they're not going to be above a turbine and accidentally glide into an air pocket causing them to crash. Not to mention, many birds of prey generally rely heavily on their ability to glide and hover. Any bit of air disturbance will make this harder and thus, they aren't going to prefer to hunt in such an area. So a wind farm with no trestles to perch on to nest or scan for prey and bad air to glide in to hunt make them less than ideal areas for raptors to hang out. I live on the edge of a wind farm and there are plenty of birds of prey around. But to be fair, I don't walk into the fields and pastures with the turbines to see if there are large amounts of dead hawks and eagles there. I highly doubt it though.

There is concern regarding bats being unable to predict the rotation of the blades leaving them at a severe disadvantage. However, again, sites are researched and most try hard not to build in locations putting large bat populations at risk. But there are other management techniques as well. Some areas that have shown serious fatalities may shut the turbines off at night so they aren't a risk to bats. This method is also used in other areas with other birds.

Turbines are constantly works in progress, as with all things. They've come leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Any concerns with them are generally fairly miniscule, as I think this thread has highlighted out. It's usually more a case of rumour and insinuation vs actual problems.
 
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Location: Haut-Rhin, France
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Olga Booker wrote:
There is concern regarding bats being unable to predict the rotation of the blades leaving them at a severe disadvantage. However, again, sites are researched and most try hard not to build in locations putting large bat populations at risk. But there are other management techniques as well. Some areas that have shown serious fatalities may shut the turbines off at night so they aren't a risk to bats. This method is also used in other areas with other birds.

Turbines are constantly works in progress, as with all things. They've come leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Any concerns with them are generally fairly miniscule, as I think this thread has highlighted out. It's usually more a case of rumour and insinuation vs actual problems.



If you see a turbine that is not spinning there is a big chance that it is not defective but turned of as the energy is not needed at the moment. The electricity grid is a delicate balance act between to little and to much energy. Guess at what time of the day the least energy is needed - right at night. A lot of turbines don't spin at night.
I don't know how high bats normally fly but I see them mostly around ground level where there are the most bugs.
 
Posts: 114
Location: Tyler Texas
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Just happen to be passing through these today.
IMG_20160415_102631.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20160415_102631.jpg]
Texas bird killers
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Wind turbine
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Texas tax power
 
Posts: 180
Location: Boise, Idaho (a balmy 7a)
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Gee. I was thinking that a good old windmill like they had on the ranch might be just what I needed...

Little permie info on how to make a wind powered pump (appropriate technology - AT?), but much hosility towards people who make you angry.

I was hoping we could nail down the AT-ness of pumps, and Wind power is proven to have work throughout the settling days of the west, why is it treated as a curiosity now? Why new fangled three blade monster turbines to power monster electric pumps, when we could lift the water with wind?

I am really surprised at the dearth of info on pumps on Permies. Aside from getting water with your property, how to move it seems to be the next big thing that we deal with in design. Not everyone will be so fortunate as to have a site on a slope from top to bottom with enough 'head' to make a RAM pump work. So what's left? Grid driven electric? Fuel driven electric? Solar driven electric? Hand power? Gravity?

What I have discovered is that a RAM pump is pretty cool, but takes at least 18 inches of head pressure to run, And then, very slowly. This means that a storage tank or basin will be required in addition to 'head' Or you will need to use a water wheel of some sort. In Boise there is a lifting wheel design on display that was used years ago before electricity. Nothing else?

Windmills, manual or electric? This means storage too.

Screws, Siphon, Sprials...the Rife River Pump (no successful copies by DIY yet. No testimony by Permies on these either! Still storage issue.

I guess this is one of those places where electricity driven pumps is the most AT?

Thoughts?
 
Posts: 400
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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I have a spring down in the hollow that puts out about 3 gallons per minute of cold, clear water. But it needs to be lifted 500 vertical feet or so over about a quarter mile, so a windmill isn't going to cut it. I ended up buying a Dankoff solar pump that will do about 5 gpm with 970 watts. It's not set up; sitting in my basement, but supposedly it's rugged and dependable. It was also very expensive. I figured I'd buy it while I'm still getting paychecks, because I figure they won't be getting any cheaper. It runs directly from solar panels; no batteries necessary, just pumps away while the sun is shining (which is most of the time up here in summer). I plan on using it to fill cisterns/ponds up top so I can stockpile enough for winter, when it's dark and frozen. Not very low tech, but hopefully it will meet the need.
 
master pollinator
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Ty Morrison wrote:

I was hoping we could nail down the AT-ness of pumps, and Wind power is proven to have work throughout the settling days of the west, why is it treated as a curiosity now? Why new fangled three blade monster turbines to power monster electric pumps, when we could lift the water with wind?



Typical wells these days are too deep to work with the old Aermotor windmills. If we decrease the depth of the water tables all over by using swales, etc, to rehydrate the landscape, we can probably go back to using the old style windmill.

 
pollinator
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@Ty M.:"I was thinking that a good old windmill like they had on the ranch might be just what I needed... "

Could you explain a bit more about what your needs are and if windmill water pumps were common in your area? Also, are you in Boise proper or in the area? Would an ordinance be prohibitive in the Boise city limits to install such a well and pumping system? What is the water table estimated at your location? What are the rules regarding using water from the canal system in Boise...seems when I lived there that many yards had access through the sub-divided canal system that went through town, but that was some years ago. We've thought of using a shallow sand-point with windpower for watering crops/plants alone and using our deep well just for clean water.

Maybe some information here: http://www.backwoodshome.com/water-pumping-windmills/
 
Posts: 117
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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The poster in question is a prime example of telling the truth with the intent to make people believe a lie.
It is a direct quote from carbon shift. just check the quotation marks. it is actually two quotes.
If a person has to stoop to this type of deception to get a point across, that person should be disregarded until more, credible, evidence comes up whether their view is correct or not.
Also, it is akin to conspiracy theories and sceptical science.
With all the many years and multitudes of small models tested, I think they have a pretty good idea if the return on energy invested is worth it.
 
Jotham Bessey
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Olga Booker wrote:It is true that cats are bird killers, they usually kill small birds, same for windows. Turbines kill large birds, mostly protected, endangered species like the American golden eagle for example. As more and more turbines will be built, more and more large birds will disappear.


I've seen several pictures of birds that were killed by Cats, windows, cars, high voltage wires. I saw a picture of a peregrine falcon that broke it's neck running into a window. I've never seen a picture of a bird that was killed by a windmill. hmm...

There is one convincing picture in that first article though. If it is true, it could be because of the height.
 
Posts: 315
Location: Amtkel – Abkhazia · 400m elevation · temperate climate
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As Ty Morriso said, pumping water is one of the better use cases for wind turbines.

Storing power in batteries is very expensive and requires a lot of resources due of their limited lifetime.
And when the position of the well or pump is also a good spot for a wind mill, using direct mechanical transmission makes a lot of sense.
Otherwise one could still transmit the energy with electric cables.

About rare earth metals:
While the generator of most modern wind turbines requires a lot of rare earth metals, this is not strictly necessary.
It is possible to build one without any magnet, using only conductive material (copper) and iron. (An initial source of energy of a small magnet is still required.)

Size
I prefer many small wind turbines over one big one. Repairing a small wind turbine probably doable within a small community. Fixing a big one is impossible without heavy, expensive equipment.
Also many small ones are more reliable. If one fails it only means there is less power available not no power at all.

Time
There is enough energy available… the challange is to use it when it is there. The abundance of solar energy in summer is not going to help you on a cloudy winter day.
The best wind mill can't help to irrigate your plants in summer without a breeze.
Most of us are used to the idea that there is always any quantity of energy available. This will not stay that way. The size of your grid cannot change this.
A local grid is probably the best: Not a lot of extra wires and no high voltage needed. Yet it is possible to use the neighbors solar power to run an electric saw that requires more power than you alone can produce.

Then there is a decision to make:
a) attempt t to balance power production and consumption with batteries (spend little money on a wind mill and solar power and a lot on batteries)
b) produce more power than needed, make the spare power aviable to your neighbor and use what is left to produce hydrogen
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Sebastian Köln wrote:
I prefer many small wind turbines over one big one. Repairing a small wind turbine probably doable within a small community. Fixing a big one is impossible without heavy, expensive equipment.



I think the main purpose of large wind energy projects is to concentrate wealth/power in the hands of a few. If the same resources were distributed amongst communities or individuals, big corporations would not have control of those resources.

I hope that was not too political a statement.

 
Jotham Bessey
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Cannot you, in the US, set up a reverse metering system? When you produce more energy than you need from your private wind/solar system you can have your grid tied meter actually run backwards?
If so, each land owner can already pitch in to create a decentralized system of many small renewable energy systems. In fact, neighbourhoods and strata people can also do this.
 
Troy Rhodes
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It depends on the state. Some allow it and some screw you, the clean energy producer.

Some require 2 meters, one for buying and a second for selling, and the rate structure can vary from very favorable to you the clean energy producer, to "we'll give you the cheapest wholesale price there is, .031 cents per kwh" because that's how we got our state law written.

Some do exactly as you say, if you make more than you use, the meter runs backwards so to speak.

 
pollinator
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The statement is false, and is information desig ed to be consumed by idiots and nay-sayers. The problem remains that most of these people only have programing that comes directly from the industrial centralized power providers who need to deploy their renewable capacity in order to stay in business because they absolutely know that the prices they pay for fuel and infrastructure are artificially propped up and as volitile as future availability is getting to be.

They will lie hand over fist in order to avoid push-back that could cause us to ban their business model worldwide as we discover the truth about energy and people rediscover conservation and renewables. Part of that plan is blackballing renewables with one pen and signing checks purchasing renewable capacity with the other.

"See, we really put all the best people on it, tried it, and it cant work"

"In the mean time, buy this stuff i got here by the meter or gallon while it goes out of style."
 
gardener
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True net metering (your meter just runs backward when you are producing more than you use) is a wonderful statement of public policy, but actually an unfair plan. By paying the solar/wind/whatever-connected producers full retail price, all non-producing customers have to pay more for their electricity because of the high-priced source. This rational complaint gives those who want to end all power buyback leverage, as they have something patently unfair to campaign against. If the small renewable producers are paid a wholesale rate (exactly what that should be is an open question), they are supporting the grid and themselves and giving no reasonable cause to fight their connection.

The short version: Generous net metering schemes are counterproductive and will fuel a backlash against the whole concept.
 
Ty Morrison
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Which gets to the whole issue of storage.  Why isn't there a simple version of an Edison Battery hack that uses currently found nickel and iron material in a low cost approach that makes up in quantity, what it lacks in efficiency.  Either 5 gallon bucket model in series with some sort of Raspberry Pi software unit for charging efficiency in banks in the crawl space of your home, or maybe some pond/flow/turbine system (NO: not perpetual motion, but energy storage like the Nevada Rail Car - the inefficiencies are compensated for by using Wind, Water, Solar to make up the difference over a period of time since the raw energy is free).

If I had a windmill, I would want to keep all the energy I could use before I sold it on the grid, which makes me way different than a capital investment in producing energy for sale.  

So Wind, Water or Sun, I need a way to store it.

This is a cry for cheap, heavy, awkward, inefficient Nickle/Iron batteries that people can make at home instead of using Lead/Acid which is icky.
 
frank li
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Glenn Herbert wrote:True net metering (your meter just runs backward when you are producing more than you use) is a wonderful statement of public policy, but actually an unfair plan. By paying the solar/wind/whatever-connected producers full retail price, all non-producing customers have to pay more for their electricity because of the high-priced source. This rational complaint gives those who want to end all power buyback leverage, as they have something patently unfair to campaign against. If the small renewable producers are paid a wholesale rate (exactly what that should be is an open question), they are supporting the grid and themselves and giving no reasonable cause to fight their connection.

The short version: Generous net metering schemes are counterproductive and will fuel a backlash against the whole concept.



I contest this. The advantages are known to be neutral much of the time when we are not at peak demand. Extra power during peak demand helps the grid with capapacity on the generation side and the distribution side by enhancing efficiency and off-setting the stress of peak demand on the entire system even if its a small fraction now.

By that same token in return, people not adopting remewables for grid support or grid defection cost me money because you have made fuel resources scarce and increased my healthcare costs!
And, because we are off grid, you are costing me money because i do not have a service connection and our taxes still subsidize your power bills.

I do not think quite, that way.
I will lean in that direction when people pull the 'you cost me money by using equipment belonging to the company i pay for power' though...it gets my hackles up because there is a net benefit to all involved parties even though if they dont belong to the net metering agreement, they dont have interest enough to be heard in-between or over the parties who have a direct interest, the utility and the intertied systems owner. This gets thicker and trickier as we ARE talking state regulation of a utility and i do have a bias.

In michigan its more like an exchange than a person selling anything. One for one of the same material, and your system must be sized to limit overproduction beyond your usage. Renewables arguably have a higer value by extending fuel resources and reducing environmental impact. If we could put a number on it...

I think it is the utility double dipping and greedily raising rates because of percieved loss of profit in the face of...record profits that twists your abacus out of whack. That and being spoiled by artificially cheap energy.

And i am not directing this rhetoric at you so much, Glen, as the idea.

What i would actually rather see is, all subsidies removed from both fueled power and renewable energy and people pay the true price for energy.
That would shape up our priorities right quick.




 
Jotham Bessey
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Glenn Herbert wrote:True net metering (your meter just runs backward when you are producing more than you use) is a wonderful statement of public policy, but actually an unfair plan. By paying the solar/wind/whatever-connected producers full retail price, all non-producing customers have to pay more for their electricity because of the high-priced source. This rational complaint gives those who want to end all power buyback leverage, as they have something patently unfair to campaign against. If the small renewable producers are paid a wholesale rate (exactly what that should be is an open question), they are supporting the grid and themselves and giving no reasonable cause to fight their connection.

The short version: Generous net metering schemes are counterproductive and will fuel a backlash against the whole concept.


The term "Net Metering" means, to me, that you are charged for the total amount of electricity you cost the producer for that month. In other words, if you took energy one day and gave it back the next day, it is considered as if you never took it. You are not selling electricity to the grid. Rather, you are borrowing it and don't get charged if you give it back within a month.

A simple fix to the abuse of this idea is to pay only wholesale rate for any electricity produced causing a negative net metering. They could also charge a higher connection fee for met metering customers.
 
Glenn Herbert
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I am totally in favor of distributed generation and being able to sell excess power back to the utility. If the utility is in a hot location and the generation is solar, it is likely to peak around the same time as peak load, thus lowering requirements for peak generation equipment. In other areas, peak distributed generation may not align with peak load, making it less valuable. Each region has its own dynamics and cost/benefit ratios.

My point was that paying home producers far more than any other producers is subsidizing their installations, which many are opposed to. They can use the subsidy as a wedge to argue against all net metering (arguments don't have to be completely factual or reasonable to be effective).

Now that renewables have been developed close to the point of parity with conventional generating sources, I would agree with removing all subsidies from renewables and conventional fuels and letting them pay their own way.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Exactly.  

I don't mind if they remove all subsidies for solar and wind electric in small distributed installations, like you or me.

IF they also remove all the subsidies for coal and nukes and natural gas.

Until they do that, it is not a level playing field and THEN  I'm ok with subsidies for small solar or wind.

Note that most of the subsidies for coal and nuke are invisible and built in.
 
Jotham Bessey
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I don't understand what location has to do with it. From a utility point of view, with electricity being fed to the grid by home producers, the demand on the fossil fuel fired generators is reduced and therefor those generators slows down and burns less fossil fuels. until enough electricity gets fed from small suppliers to enable the shut down of these fossil fuel generators, every little bit is a benefit to the utility.

With net metering, the small supplier still pays a connection fee and is given nothing for the electricity generated unless said supplier is consistently producing more than he/she uses.
 
Posts: 66
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NOT addressed to any particular person or post:

What we can see here -- very much like the past election cycle in the USA -- is that there is a lot of "information" out there from questionable sources, taken out of context, or just plain wrong, but strongly pushed by a group with an angle and an agenda.  The take-home lesson is that just because we see a fascinating post with really grabby graphics on social media, we still need to take the time to verify the source and validity of the information.

In one article cited, as soon as I saw reference to "massive subsidies" going to wind or solar, I knew I was reading an opinion piece written by someone with an axe to grind.  There certainly are instances of misused and maybe unwise subsidies, but since the fossil fuel industry gets the vast majority of the subsidies in the USA, not to mention the security and imperialism by the world's most powerful military (somehow always missing from those subsidy estimates!), I'd say RED HERRING to that one.

BUT, we really do need to look at not only the EROEI, but the life cycle costs and the environmental costs of making these various gizmos -- including the keyboard beneath my fingertips and the "cloud" that hosts all this information.  There are very real energy and environmental costs to all this.

There's just too much half-true or completely false click-bait out there, and you may regret having your name attached to it!

Clear skies,

Brad Vietje
Newbury, VT
 
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First off, in my opinion those big windmills is a waste of resources and sorry I do not have any factual post to back that up but here is what I do know. I have traveled the USA lots. I have seen many of these huge windmills of which many are either broken or take a lot of wind power to move them. They take away from the natural landscape and cost how much to put up? How much is given back in return? I read an article a few years back that some corporation made a killing selling them and many sit broken. Anyone else know of the article I refer too? Another one of those deals that is I will scratch your back if you scratch mine?

The only natural system that makes its money back from experience is when a person has a creek and can set up micro turbine. All other systems currently on the market has so many draw backs.

I live off grid with no creek. Virtually no wind even for a windmill to operate a water pump as a few suggested. Our sun hours are getting less and less that even during the summer our panels and battery bank must be subsidized with a small generator to charge the batteries and or a larger one to run a washer and water pump 1-2 times a week. If we had not set up with led lights and micro managed our home it would cost so much more in propane to run the generator just to live off grid.

Batteries do not work as well as one would hope. It does not take long before one has to replace the batteries. Then what does one do with all those wasted batteries? My husband spent lots of money on products that were suppose to bring the life back to a battery or bring it back to 100% if it did not drop below 50% yet we still have to replace the batteries. It took awhile to find and understand batteries and their true usage and capabilities. So we drained a few batteries to 60% and one set of batteries to below 50% in the process.  Hope to replace our batteries next year, a cost of 4000.00 and hopefully they will function well and much longer now that we understand so much more. By the way, regardless what anyone tells you DO NOT let batteries drop below 80%. Buy a bank of batteries that will do the job and go no less than 10-20 % discharge. Your batteries will last so much longer.

Too many people speak based on what they read and not from actual experience. I do not like those big windmills and besides the possible resources they take to build I do not believe they are practical. Better that each individual or community did what works for their area. Solar panels is a great way to go but only in areas that get enough sun year round. You can not buy enough battery banks to handle a load even from a single home when one can go months at a time with no sun or sun for 2-3 hours every month or longer.

Wood gas, well hubby wants to try that but how much wood to produce how much gas? Now we are contributing to the depletion of more wood. The lumber companies are already destroying this planet. Wish we could get rid of the people in charge giving billions of subsidies to the oil companies and monsanto and other corporations wanting to destroy for the sake of profit. Hemp is an amazing product that would then be a great resource for this keyboard, vehicles, building materials and so much more, maybe as fuel as well? What about biogas? That is another thing we will look into next year.

Anyway, that is my 2 cents




 
Glenn Herbert
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You're entitled to your opinion about wind turbines, but you might also consider that the companies that build them are not stupid, and know where to put them to get the best wind and will not pay for one that doesn't stand to earn their money back in a reasonable number of years. If small wind turbines were more efficient at payback, that is what the companies would build.

As mentioned before, turbines that are not moving are not necessarily broken; there may simply not be a call for their energy at a given hour.
 
Pamela Smith
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Glenn, we actually enquired since so many places had  these huge windmills not working. We were informed most did not work, otherwise I would not have said anything. Some people were ticked because they expressed how their government used taxpayers dollars to put them up. At least that was the consensus of the people we talked to.
 
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Satamax Antone wrote:what is your take?



I don't believe this. If you are comparing wind to Fossil fuels than this is not true. Wind mills don't cost tax payers 600 billion dollars a year, or require military interventions around the world which produce a lot more pollutants. If USA stopped spending so much on their military and started spending on alternative energy, there would be more skilled jobs in this industry than the military and poverty/unemployment in the USA would be greatly reduced. The trucking industry is already looking into electric alternatives to fossil fuels, which will reduce that issue with transporting these things, also I didn't know coal was still use in the metal forging industry I thought the industry has moved to induction heating.
 
Ty Morrison
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All of this discussion serves to highlight the fact that the basic element of electrical storage via batteries is the Achilles heal of alternative energy. This is sort of like the political discussion, where we talk about everything but the alarming and apparently devastating  effect increases in human population have to the earth.

Too bad we can't use people as storage batteries.
 
John Weiland
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@Ty M: "Too bad we can't use people as storage batteries."

It's the one silver lining in all of that population growth---we are literally growing batteries :

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/07/your-body-the-battery-powering-gadgets-from-human-biofuel/
 
master pollinator
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I am surprised that no one has pointed out the current Death Spiral that the current grid is in.

The death spiral is the simple fact that electricity is paid for by the amount consumed in a residence or business and expressed as cents per killowatt hour (1000 watts). The problem is, because of that pay structure, as more and more people turn to energy efficient light bulbs, appliances and motors to combat the high electrical costs, the electrical provider (in my case Central Maine Power) gets less income. However, the cost of maintaining the powerlines is actually going up. Labor rates are rising, material costs are rising, and general overhead. SO...central Maine Power goes to Maine's Public Utilities Commission and asks for a higher rate per Kilowatt Hour. That makes the price for consumers go up. So they in turn spend more money in energy efficiency to combat the growing electric bill, at which the power company again goes to the PUC and asks for another electrical rate hike. Now a person could (and should) go completely off-grid to avoid this nonsense, but admittedly that is hard to do. Even then it only makes it tougher for those that are still grid tied because it is one less household contributing to the overall system. That is what I mean by the Death Spiral.

Now Maine is considering a flat bill, meaning no matter how much electricity a residence or household uses, the bill will be the same to help avoid this death spiral. It is an answer, but a silly one especially since it will do nothing to encourage micro-grid tied electrical generators or electrical conservancy.

As for home generating users like my uncle who has a mini-windmill tied to the grid, he gets a great deal. Because we work on a credit system here with backwards meters, he is essentially getting retail prices for his excess power when he should be getting wholesale prices. Still, it is a minor issue. Unfortunately what is not really great is that most of these micro-grid tied generators are rather well off. My uncle is incredibly wealthy and has invested into several systems for grid-tied power. While that is great for him, and the many like him, it has shifted the high cost of electricity to the poor since he is no longer paying any electrical bill. These people, unable to buy energy efficient  light bulbs, appliances and motors...because of the pay-per-killowatt system that keeps the rates going upwards...are essentially paying the electrical bills of the wealthy.

Now please, don't read into this any more than it is. I DO NOT have the answers here, nor am I promoting socialism over capitalism, nor poor against the wealthy. I am merely pointing out the problem with a grid-tied system over-all. The system is in a major death spiral and few realize it.
 
Ty Morrison
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All of this discussion about wind as viable alternative energy is great.  I love conspiracy and big-business bashing as well as stupid system that don't deserve to continue as much as the next permie.  

So far we have concluded, Like Mollison, that self-domesticated cats are bad-news for birds.  Way more than windmills.  We have also concluded that windmills can't produce very much head pressure on their own, relegating them to electrical generation much more so than shallow water tables.

So, back to windmills and the necessary energy storage via batteries since we don't want to be on-the-grid,

Only one other participant has underscored the real 'nut' in this problem: the battery for storage.  Pamela has had the same experience I am afraid many of us have had or will have:  It's the battery that sucks.  

We have historical data that shows that the Nickle/Iron battery didn't really need improvement.  But alas, it is patented.  Is there a good DIY version of the Edison Battery that I can make for my own use?  

Seems like there was a company that was headed down that road in Montana, but I can't seem to find them now.  Other than as a home-science experiment, the DIY Edison Battery is not scale-able for an off-grid application.  The current wisdom seems to be, use lead-acid batteries and hover over them like a mother hen.

Whether wind, solar or hydro...it's the batteries, eh?

If there is a better discussion board for all things battery-like on Permies, please steer me to it, as I haven't found it yet.
 
pollinator
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I am of a similar mind as Pamela.

That the issue is trying to do too large a scale energy production. Giant wind mills in giant wind farms, or huge dams to create hydro electric, big solar farms, etc....

It all becomes invasive when done on such large scales. The reality is this set up is more about control of the energy and ability to meter it out to consumers than the energy quality and impact on the environment. Smaller scale from personal systems for homes to small scale community systems for neighborhoods would actually work much better and have less disastrous side effects. But of course it would take a very different out look and infrastructure to do smaller scale energy production. It would also take away the control over the masses if there was not only one central power supply.
 
Victor Johanson
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Zinc Bromide batteries sound promising:

http://redflow.com/
 
John Weiland
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Re: "Whether wind, solar or hydro...it's the batteries, eh?"

Didn't know if this concept had made its way here before.  Would be curious if anything new would make an "earth battery" more feasible today than when it was envisioned over 100 years ago.  For low wattage applications, looks interesting, especially if there is a more eco-friendly way to make it happen.

Excerpt below is from   http://www.slideshare.net/engpjk/three-kilowatt-earth-battery

EarthBattery.JPG
[Thumbnail for EarthBattery.JPG]
 
Troy Rhodes
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The main drawback of earth batteries is that they are essentially single use batteries.  The production of electricity from the battery "consumes" the electrodes and are not rechargeable as such.

 
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Something that I get as a takeaway from this thread is that some people do not grasp the concept of "relative" performance very well at all. Of course windmills involve mineral extraction and processing in the course of their construction.  So do coal plants, but once a windmill is running, it needs how much more extraction to keep it going? Occasional repairs, like anything else? But no fuel dug out of the ground and no exhaust fumes.  Is there really any room for debate about whether windmills are environmentally superior to coal fired generating plants?
While we're being concerned about the extractive processes for the steel in windmills, are we putting aside our steel shovels?

In a search for a perfect solution, do we need to denigrate incremental  steps along the path that move us toward better and better solutions?  In short, are we making perfection the enemy of progression?
 
Ty Morrison
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Now we are getting somewhere!

Earth batteries still seem to suck.

Why is there no DIY Edison Battery out there?

The Zinc/Bromide Flow battery is cool too, but I am look for DIY.

I am all about low efficiency, giant batteries that don't move.  Seems like all of this is moving towards the best, lightest, most efficient, compact...when my farm isn't goin' anywhere.
 
steward
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http://www.engie.com/en/businesses/electricity/onshore-wind-power/how-do-wind-power-plants-work/
 
Anne Miller
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What studies have been done on the impact of wind turbines on birds and bats?

The first-year study of the “Maple Ridge” facility on the Tug Hill plateau of New York estimated that 2,000 to 4,000 birds and bats were killed by 120 turbines during the 5-month study period in 2006

https://www.wind-watch.org/faq-wildlife.php
 
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permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
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