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wind power - where to focus effort?

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This would be a good project for a team of seniors or a graduate student. Consider prevailing wind as it varies over the face of the Earth and where to best deploy turbines. You can get daily data from about 15,000 stations from the NCDC server, which is operated by NOAA. It's in files called GSOD (Global Surface Summary of the Day). Information on the data sets and coverage are available on their web site. The animation below shows typical values over decades just for illustration. The other figure shows station locations. Most of the stations are in heavily populated areas.



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  • 10 months later...

Sorry for the long reply but the question is important and also complicated. Wind power is like a sneeze compared to a hurricane (supply to consumption). So is tidal power. I've been inside the power station at the Bay of Fundy, which has the largest tidal fluctuation in the world. Besides the fact that changing the resonance of the harbor (like stuffing a guitar with cotton) would diminish the tides, the thing is like a little lego toy compared to a real dam. I've crawled inside the turbines and generators of *real* dams, including: Norris, Fontana, and Chickamauga. The coal plant a mile from my house (which I've crawled through many times), Bull Run, was the most efficient power plant in the world for about 12 years in a row. It burns four carloads of coal per hour. That's a trainload every day of the year. When first built, the efficiency was 43.5%. A buddy of mine, Chuck Bowman, did the thermal design of the plant (and several others as well). When they added electrostatic precipitators (that cost more than the entire plant) to reduce the particulate emissions, the efficiency dropped to 40.5%. In 2009 they added a wet scrubber (to eliminate the trivial SO2 emissions), this cost more than the plant and precipitators combined and the efficiency dropped below 40%. The Bloomberg article on the Irsching plants (combined cycle gas turbine/heat recovery steam generator systems) isn't technically accurate, but interesting nonetheless. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-30/eon-files-to-close-two-unprofitable-irsching-gas-power-plants We can't expect journalists to appreciate the finer technical details. This so-called "most efficient plant ever built" was only slightly more efficient than old Bull Run. What all this means is… to generate the same kWhr it takes about the same BTU (or kJ) of fuel, whether it's solid coal or natural gas. Just because you don't see it flowing in the pipe underground doesn't mean you're not burning the same CxHy and producing the same CO2 and H2O. The public grossly under-perceives the vast amount of power western civilization consumes and how many people there are. I have also done the technical work (correction curves) and reviewed (if not authored) the contractual acceptance test reports for many of the large solar facilities in the world. The Company I work for, McHale Performance, is the largest third-party performance tester in the world. The second largest, Clean Air, is also here in town and both staffs used to work together for the same company, Environmental Systems Corp. So Knoxville, in addition to being the home of TVA, is the world hub for the science of power production. Solar looks pretty and sounds nice but is itty bitty teeny tiny compared to demand and shockingly expensive per yield. I'm all for change and better ways to do things but a solar cell on the roof of every car is not going to cut it—even if it were 1000% efficient. My master's thesis was on Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion back in 1977, so I got in on the ground floor of that effort too. We need serious strategies that are based on real science and not fluffy feel good sentiment. We also need to make some really tough (and economically painful) decisions on the energy front but nobody wants to hear that. Business as usual will end in a train wreck.

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Sorry to rant, but… Just to give you a little appreciation for size… It takes the total output of Norris Dam just to run the fans on the cooling towers at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. Think fan on the radiator of your car compared to the engine. I have published multiple papers on BFNP and the cooling towers. Chuck Bowman designed those too (steam system thermal and cooling towers) plus Cumberland Steam Plant, Paradise Steam Plant Unit 3, Watts Bar Nuclear, Sequoyah Nuclear, Bellefonte Nuclear, Phipps Bend Nuclear, Hartsville Nuclear, and Yellow Creek Nuclear. CRC Press just released Thermal Engineering of Nuclear Power Stations: Balance-of-Plant Systems by Chuck and son Seth. I speak from 40+ years of actual experience.

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  • 2 months later...

Dudley, you wrote your "rant" back before the recent catastrophe in Texas and the rest of the south central USA. That even just reinforces what you said about the inadequacy of wind power. It is all "feel good" and not engineering at all. The same can be said of solar.

We messed up (IMHO) back in the late '70s (or was it '80s?) when we walked away from nuclear power. By now, it is quite likely we would have solved the waste disposal problem, if we had continued to pursue it. As things stand, we are still on square one.

This was a good post. Thanks, Dudley.


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