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. offshore turbines

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.

HVDC Converters

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.

Investor Worries

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.

Real “Alternatives”

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  Bio Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser Most recent columns

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts

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Comments (7)

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    In the book “The Hydrogen Economy” it explains that wind turbines were originally planned to be connected to hydrogen production plants that could store excess electricity in windy times and then use it in calm times. Effectively the whole project has only been half set up. Wouldnt it be a good idea to use wind farms as they were intended and they would be able to supply a steady amount of electricity year round.

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    Val Martin


    No generator produces DC, it can be converted to DC. The AC output of a group of turbines cannot be brought into phase and has no inertia of its own. That’s why only about 45% wind can be allowed into the system See valmartinireland you tube. About 35% of payments to wind farms in Ireland and Britain are to turn off. Wind farms are net consumers of electricity and this one has already used a lot of oil.

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    John Marshall


    I can not, so far,find any reference to whether AC or DC is produced by turbines in the UK. But thinking about the varying consistance of the power DC is possibly best because phase and frequency matching with an intermittent input would be impossible.

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    Given the colossal investment involved, I can’t begin to conceive why the technical challenges were not identified and solved prior to installation. Wouldn’t most rational investors have insisted on this after due diligence? But then, I suppose if one is a beneficiary at a politicised green government financial spigot why rock the boat? Less well endowed investors know better. And then again, unfettered political ‘forcing’ led to rapid completion before all the technical unknowns and uncertainties were identified let alone solved. Fascinating. Sounds like a projection mirror of “climate science.” Same people, different project?

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    The battle of Direct v Alternating Current, between Edison and Tesla/Westinghouse was over in the 1880s. Wind mills generate DC current which is then inverted and phase matched to the normal AC distribution system. The defects and inefficiency of this system cannot be resolved.

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    John Marshall


    The UK does not use DC transmission but 3Phase AC at 420Kv for the supergrid and 120Kv for the rest. Why convert to DC if you generate in AC? This imposes more losses into the system. The country wide AC transmission ensures frequency and phase stability. Imposing differing phase power screws the system and annoys your customers by causing phase sensitive equipment to fail.

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