Wind Turbines but no Power
Written by Dr Klaus L.E. Kaiser
The first large scale wind-power installation, some 100 km (65 miles) offshore the northwest coast of Germany has finally been connected to the grid. The Offshore-Windpark Deutsche Bucht is a wind farm with a total of 80 wind turbine towers, each with a hub height of 100 m (300 ft.) above the sea and a combined design output of some 400 Megawatts in electric power.
Connection to the Grid
Because of delays in getting the underwater cabling and connection to the power grid on land, the whole power park was standing idle for the last two years. In order to prevent potential damage to gear boxes and turbines, each tower was supplied with energy from small gasoline-powered electricity generators for that time.
Several years behind schedule, the Bard 1 wind farm finally came altogether in March 2014. The wind farm was connected to the electric grid and started to deliver energy. Alas, it did not last very long. In March, the separate AC-to-DC converter station at the facility suffered a “meltdown.” A new converter installed a few days ago was shut down not much later without explanation.
The alternating current (AC) coming from the turbines cannot be directly transmitted to the grid. Instead, it needs to be converted to high voltage direct current (HVDC) first. In principle, that is a straight forward task and has been solved for a long time. All the high-tension electric power transmission lines around the world use such HVDC converters. So what’s the problem with the wind farm converter?
In contrast to a steady one-source input, like from a nuclear or coal-fired power plant, a wind farm has many smaller sources with the output of each constantly varying with conditions like wind direction, wind speed and blade angle. Such variations lead to destabilizing energy-oscillations in the whole system that cannot be handled by the current converters. To make matters worse, the engineers have yet to fully understand the nature of the problem and to come up with any solution for it.
In short, the power that may be in the offshore wind (if and when it blows) cannot easily be controlled and converted into anything useful at this time. With Germany’s plans for another 10,000 offshore turbines some investors are getting a bit worried about the possibility of unsolvable systemic problems with such far-offshore wind power systems.
Of course, one has to ask why wind power installations have enjoyed the attention of investors to begin with. It was all based on the tax write-offs and guaranteed energy feed-in tariffs some governments in Europe and elsewhere bestowed upon them. Both in the U.S. and Canada such government schemes for “alternative energy” are still in full bloom.
In contrast, other countries have seen the light and are going in the opposite direction, building new coal-fired and nuclear power plants as fast as they can.
New Power Plants
While in the U.S. coal mines are closing down and the miners being laid off, the opposite is happening elsewhere on the globe. China, India, France and Hungary, to name a few, are building new power plants based on coal and/or nuclear fuel. Even Japan, which closed down its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima sea quake, is set to restart several reactors next month. On a global scale, however, coal is still the king in terms of stationary electric power generation.
Despite a consumption of 90 million barrels of oil per day, the world needs more coal than ever, about 8,000 million tons per year. Most of that is used for electric power, the rest mainly for heating. Obviously, with estimated reserves many multiples of that annual consumption, the world is not going to run out of coal tomorrow. In the long run though, I think nuclear power is the way to go for electricity generation.
The world has enough uranium resources to satisfy the demand for several hundred years alone. Then there is the potential for thorium-based reactors, with a potential fuel supply in the U.S. for another 1,000 years. The holy grail of energy independence, however, would be controlled nuclear fusion. If that can be achieved, the earth would have an unlimited power supply. Now that would really be “alternative power.”
The highly touted, government-subsidized, unreliable, intermittent and expensive “alternative power” schemes currently in vogue are nothing but a phenomenal waste of money. As evident from the described wind farm in Germany, the required technology is not in place at this time, perhaps may never be.
I suggest a simple solution for the problem: a truly “alternative government.”
Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts
Dr. Kaiser can be reached at: email@example.com