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Power Science

Optimize Offshore Wind Farms Using Weather Modeling 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from a Stanford news release: "Politics aside, most energy experts agree that cheap, clean, renewable wind energy holds great potential to help the world satisfy energy needs while reducing harmful greenhouse gases. Wind farms placed offshore could play a large role in meeting such challenges, and yet no offshore wind farms exist today in the United States. In a study just published in Geophysical Research Letters, a team of engineers at Stanford has harnessed a sophisticated weather model to recommend optimal placement of four interconnected wind farms off the coast of the Eastern United States, a region that accounts for 34 percent of the nation’s electrical demand and 35 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. ... Among its findings, the Stanford model recommended a farm in Nantucket Sound, precisely where the controversial Cape Wind farm has been proposed. The Cape Wind site is contentious because, opponents say, the tall turbines would diminish Nantucket’s considerable visual appeal. By that same token, the meteorological model puts two sites on Georges Bank, a shallows located a hundred miles offshore, far from view in an area once better known for its prodigious quantities of cod. The fourth site is off central Long Island."
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Optimize Offshore Wind Farms Using Weather Modeling

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  • by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @06:06PM (#39419945) Homepage Journal
    You can't have pristine landscapes, a non-petrol economy AND several kilowatts of electric power at your fingertips, to be switched on whenever you come home. We here in Europe are making choices. We know we have to. So will you, so will you.
    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      It's not a race to the bottom, or in your case, a race to see who can abase himself and sacrifice more. Europe has neither pristine landscapes or a non-petrol economy, so how's that working for you?

    • by Bomazi (1875554) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:37PM (#39421555)

      Yes you can. It is called nuclear energy.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        All that waste has to go somewhere. We still need mines to dig up the fuel in the first place. You can't build a nuclear plant off-shore. And, most importantly of all, for many countries nuclear isn't an option because they don't have the infrastructure, don't want to be reliant on other countries for material and expertise or we simply don't trust them with it (non-proliferation).

        • by rickett81 (987309)
          An offshore floating nuke plant sounds awesome actually . . .

          An endless supply of cooling water. No NIMBYs. and in case of a meltdown, just drop it . . .

      • Unless you live in Iran, then the US government will bomb you if you try and 'have it all'.
    • by hairyfeet (841228)
      Sure you can friend, come to AR! here we have hollows up the butt where the wind whips like a mother, and with a depressed economy we'll be happy to tear shit down left and right! Rich folks don't want that shit, bring it to us, we bust our asses and are cheap too! Why these companies don't come to the south where folks are more than willing to work with them without all that NIMBY shit I'll never know, but you want wind come to the Ozarks, its wind city!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by greg_barton (5551)

      You can't have pristine landscapes, a non-petrol economy AND several kilowatts of electric power at your fingertips, to be switched on whenever you come home. We here in Europe are making choices. We know we have to. So will you, so will you.

      Of course you can have all of those things.

      Nuclear.

  • Of course (Score:4, Funny)

    by VP (32928) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @06:21PM (#39420091)

    Authors on the West Coast propose wind farms on the East Coast ;-)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There are physical limitations - like the Pacific shelf being much more like a cliff than the Atlantic's. Where practicable in the W., go ahead and install wind turbines. I believe; however, that the E., as a whole, is better with wind as a renewable where the W. is better off with solar.

      And if you think a wind turbine is an eye sore, think about those acres and acres of mirrors involved in large scale solar. We might also have to relocate some endangered species of tortoises and cacti for true wide spre

    • Re:Of course (Score:5, Informative)

      by goodmanj (234846) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:38PM (#39421575)

      I'm from southeast Massachusetts, and I agree with the authors: the east coast is the best location. Here's why: 10 miles offshore from Cape Cod, the water is 25 feet deep. 10 miles offshore of Los Angeles, the water is 2000 feet deep.

  • cheap, clean, renewable wind energy

    Won't. Happen.

    Wind is diffuse and intermittent. If it really were "cheap", there would be a sound business case for it. As it is, the costs of storage are forever elided.

    • The Real Problem is, it can't be cheap, as if the wind stops, something has to generate the the power like gas turbines, which are expensive. We need some form of baseline renewable energy. Until we get that every solution we come up with is going to be expensive due to having to have to supplement the power when the primary energy driver stops (ie wind/solar/waves/etc).
      • by DamonHD (794830)

        The necessity you imply just ain't so.

        Reserve is always carried because even nuke and coal and gas plants go off line unexpectedly: I think our (near) biggest nuke in the UK may be running at a capacity factor of ~60% over the last couple of years having tripped out again very recently; only twice as much as wind for example. We don't cover every nuke plant with 100% gas backup.

        We have to learn to cut our suit to fit our cloth better: learn to use energy when it's abundant and trim our usage when energy is

        • by Scareduck (177470)

          The necessity you imply just ain't so.

          Reserve is always carried because even nuke and coal and gas plants go off line unexpectedly: I think our (near) biggest nuke in the UK may be running at a capacity factor of ~60% over the last couple of years having tripped out again very recently; only twice as much as wind for example. We don't cover every nuke plant with 100% gas backup.

          But you have to cover wind with 100% backup capability, full stop.

          • by DamonHD (794830)

            No.

            Wind is good for 10%--15% baseload IIRC.

            So at most you need to cover about 90%; there's demand management, etc, too.

            Rgds

            Damon

      • by goodmanj (234846) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:27PM (#39421463)

        The base load problem is a myth. It's an artifact of the fact that today, renewables are a small fraction of the total power stream. If you have a diverse enough set of large enough, widely-spaced enough power sources, you can ensure that at least a few are producing enough power to run the country. Any minor gaps can be filled in by voluntary demand reduction and intermittent / pumped hydro.

        • by Scareduck (177470) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:28AM (#39423905) Homepage Journal

          If there were a real business case for this, we would already be switching over to it.

          This is no "myth", it is a real consequence of energy diffuseness and intermittance. All pitches for renewables for baseload always end in the punchline, "And we could do it today, if only we find the political will." N.b., the key word "political". That is, the author wishes to force their ineffective, uneconomic solution upon everyone else.

          Hidden from view, of course, is the fact that switching to these energy sources will impoverish anyone dumb enough to use them.

          • by olau (314197)

            If there were a real business case for this, we would already be switching over to it.

            You are conveniently ignoring externalities here and direct and indirect (like wars) government subsidies. Noone is denying it will cost more right now. But you know what? There's more to life than money.

            Hidden from view, of course, is the fact that switching to these energy sources will impoverish anyone dumb enough to use them.

            That's hyperbole. You are not going to be impoverished from switching to other energy sources. Some renewable sources are not that far from being competitive these days. And the price is going down.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            All pitches for renewables for baseload always end in the punchline, "And we could do it today, if only we find the political will." N.b., the key word "political". That is, the author wishes to force their ineffective, uneconomic solution upon everyone else.

            Which is the same punchline nuclear pitches end with. What is your point? Aside from coal and gas pretty much all sources of energy need subsidy.

            Hidden from view, of course, is the fact that switching to these energy sources will impoverish anyone dumb enough to use them.

            Germany rolled the dice, let's see if that happens to them in the next decade, shall we?

          • by goodmanj (234846)

            Not my pitch. Mine ends with the punchline: "and we would do it today, if only fossil fuel weren't so cheap."

            We can argue all day about "political will", but I can say with absolute certainty that fossil fuel won't always be this cheap.

    • by owlnation (858981) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @06:40PM (#39420311)
      Yep. Without subsidies, wind is not economically viable at present -- probably never will be. A lot of people are making good money from the subsidies right now, including even (in Europe) being paid not to operate the farms.

      What people seem to forget is that this was also politically-fashionable in the 80's for a while too, there's plenty of rusting turbine hulks in California and Hawaii -- albeit of less efficient machines. When wind finally runs out of subsidies, it will die another death -- just like the last time.

      There are better, more efficient, sustainable sources of energy out there. Just all the money's being wasted on wind right now, because that's where the free lunch is. This is not a good thing.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Not sure which better, more sustainable things there are. Solar? Nuclear? We've already damned up just about every river, so there's not much more hydro to utilize.

        Sources I know about: coal, natural gas, oil, hydro, geo-thermal, nuclear, solar - both mirror based and "traditional" solar cell based, wind. Feel free to supply any I've forgotten.

        Coal, even "clean" coal is generally looked at as a dirty energy source. We're about tapped out on Hydro, far as I know, and it has significant environmental imp

      • by Dr. Tom (23206) <tomh@nih.gov> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:19PM (#39421965) Homepage

        The interstate highway system wouldn't have been built without govt money, but I think people find it useful now. Once there are enough turbines generating power people will probably forget who built the farms, like they seem to forget who built the roads, and the sewers, and GPS, and etc., etc.
        Just because it's costing taxpayer money now doesn't make it bad. Not to mention that apparently the oil industry is still getting handouts from the govt which they don't need.

      • by mathmathrevolution (813581) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:27AM (#39423313)
        Wind is already viable. I'm on the east coast and using 100% wind energy and marginal cost is a few bucks per month. It's a small price to pay for clean air. You can find a clean energy provider in your area from this useful page by the Department of Energy [energy.gov].
        • by Anonymous Coward

          what do you do for power when its not windy?

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        The subsidies are far lower than nuclear. 60+ years down the line and it still isn't economically viable without government support. Wind, on the other hand, will cross the threshold for non-subsidised profitability within a decade by most estimates.

        Most major new tech needs government support to get going, but some of it never learns to walk on its own.

      • by mk1004 (2488060)
        IIRC, subsidies for wind power that work out to less than $0.02/kWh makes all the difference between private companies starting wind projects or not. So it seems to me that wind is pretty close to being economically viable, and will eventually get there when the costs for producing coal/gas/oil gets high enough, considering that it's getting harder to extract those resources.
    • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @06:21AM (#39424823) Journal

      From the point of view of the UK National Grid, wind is NOT considered intermittent. But nuclear is. Why?

      From a grid management perspective, if your wind farms are generating 2GW of power now, they will likely be generating 2GW or very near that in 20 minutes time, and it's very predictable over the next few hours what the wind generation is going to do.

      However, Sizewell B could go offline in 2 minutes time meaning the grid suddenly loses well over 1GW of generating capacity in one sudden, enormous hit. This never happens with wind, because it's generated by thousands of small generators instead of one huge one, and the wind never *suddenly* stops, it always takes a few hours for the wind to slow down so you have plenty of notice. But you won't have any notice of a sudden shutdown of a large coal or nuclear power station, so you must keep enough spinning reserve online to cope with the possible sudden failure of one or more large power stations. If you don't have enough spinning reserve, well, you end up with something like the great north east blackout a few years ago in the United States if a large power station goes offline.

  • NIMBY (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trongey (21550) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @06:26PM (#39420157) Homepage

    As always, nobody wants this stuff where they will have to look at it. Then there's the political brilliance in the linked article: "...the advantage of sharing costs across several states, potentially increasing political support for the plan." Yeah, a bunch of New England states are gonna jump at the chance to pay for something that benefits other states.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      As always, nobody wants this stuff where they will have to look at it.

      How do you know? Cape Cod isn't a single person. Maybe the people who don't want a wind farm anywhere near it are the "drill baby drill!" crowd.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Lots of people like how wind farms look. Rich north eastern Americans seem to be an exception, not the rule.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This AC is not rich, lives on Cape Cod about five miles from proposed site, and is not a fan of the plan. Even if it did "look nice" the idea of my already-high energy rates going up because private entrepreneurs came up with yet another get-rich-quick scheme at our expense displeases me. It comes down to this: public waters given away to private individuals who will receive buckets of our cash for it. And in a decade when wind power is made obsolete by better technologies, they're gonna hand us the bag.

        • Wow then you must really hate fossil fuels, what with all those public lands being opened to private entities who receive buckets of our cash for it. And in a decade when fossil fuels are made obsolete by better technologies, they're going hand us the bag.
    • by Dr. Tom (23206)

      The people who say wind farms are eyesores are the same people who call CFL bulbs "pigtails". It's just propaganda. The fact is wind farms are much nicer to look at than supertankers leaking crude.

  • by Captainmarts (2530504) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @06:29PM (#39420197)
    I wonder whether they have considered using the WINDCSAN dataset. It's what I worked on for a couple of years developing much greater accuracies for offshore windspeeds than modelled data - and more accurate than the raw NASA data. We managed to achieve 95% accuracy when compared to in situ metmasts, far better than the 80% accuracy with the raw data. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WindScan [wikipedia.org]
  • The visual appeal is subjective at best - I for one think that offshore wind farms are very cool looking and wouldn't mind seeing a line of turbines off in the distance when I walk out of my backyard and onto my pier.

    This overwhelming sense of peace and contentment is probably because I have a mansion in Nantucket with a private pier.
    • Exactly! I for one cannot simply understand why Wind turbines look "ugly". You mean to tell me that coal-based, smoke spewing plant looks less ugly?

  • They used weather statistics to model their theoretical windfarms.

  • ...that it is nowhere near Cape Cod, or Ted Kennedy's ghost will haunt you for ruining his view!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Wind#Controversy [wikipedia.org]

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @07:31PM (#39420843)
    All previous proposals were based off pure guess work?
  • by Randym (25779) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:10AM (#39423831)
    ...a team of engineers at Stanford has harnessed a sophisticated weather model to recommend optimal placement of four interconnected wind farms off the coast of the Eastern United States...

    This map indicates that Michigan has wind resources consistent with community-scale production. The map shows that the land-based community-scale wind resources in Michigan are concentrated along the immediate shores of the Great Lakes (especially Lakes Michigan and Superior) and on islands. The Great Lakes themselves have good-to-outstanding wind resource.

    http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/maps_template.asp?stateab=mi

    Chicago (and Northern Illinois, Northern Indiana, Southern Wisconsin, and Western Michigan) would certainly benefit from these wind farms in Lake Michigan; they could be placed far enough from shore so that there is no 'Nantucket problem'.

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