Windpower affordable?

Recommended Posts

Economics

First of all, the real calculations start after this paragraph. This paragraph is a bit of a test for me. It might contain mistakes. I just wish to learn about investment - I know little about it, but I have some ideas that need testing.

I believe that wind power has an added value (saving the planet and humanity). Therefore, I think that we should look at the construction of wind power not from a point of view of competitiveness with fossil power, but from a point of view of a stand-alone investment.

In addition, while fossil energy will cost money all the time for exploration, production, transportation and so on, wind electricity will have a certain pay-back time, and after that, its costs are greatly reduced (only maintenance). The total economics of any project are divided into operational costs and the initial investment. I believe that the initial investment for wind are higher, but the operational costs are lower when compared to fossil energy. Therefore, the longer the project runs, the cheaper it gets in comparison to fossil energy. I do note that I have no source for this comparison.

I believe (but I have no source!) that most economic comparisons of sustainable power and fossil power are taking a relatively short life time of wind/solar into account... and that is why I just want to see how much it actually costs to get a 100% sustainable economy before 2020 from wind power.

(Yes, I also know that it's a stupid idea to use only (100%!) wind - but it's just a lot easier to calculate, and the outcome is interesting I believe).

Calculation

1. Energy consumption Netherlands

http://www.milieuennatuurcompendium.nl/indicatoren/nl0201-Stroomdiagram-energie-voor-Nederland.html?i=6-40

2. Price windturbine (1998)

http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/econ/index.htm

3. Gross National Product Netherlands

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lijst_van_landen_naar_bnp

(1) Energy consumption

The Total energy consumption in the Netherlands is 3311 PJ/year.

3311*10^15 / (365*24*3600) = 104*10^9 J/s

Or: 104 GW.

Assuming an average windturbine is 2 MW, and works about 30% of the time because of no wind or maintenance (0.6 MW average), then we need 173,000 turbines. With a total land surface of 44,000 km2, that is not unrealistic.

(2)

Let’s also assume:

1 kW windenergy = 1000 dollar (1998 price)

Conversion to 2007 and euros: 1 kW = 1000 euro (2007: inflation but also economy of scale using larger than 2 MW turbines. The euro / dollar conversion is irrelevant because we will not purchase turbines in the USA).

Unfortunately for this comparison, I cannot find how many years of maintenance are included, but the turbine companies give a few years of maintenance included in the price. Also, I do not have a decent estimate for wind turbine maintenance. The fact that turbines do not produce any power due to maintenance is included in (1).

So, a turbine of 2 MW costs an estimated 2 million euro.

So, 173,000 windturbines of 2 MW cost 346,000 million euro, or 346 billion euro.

Energy storage costs money too: it doubles the price (assumption, no source). A lot of options are possible: from batteries and hydrogen to storage in artificial lakes both in the Netherlands or abroad. We will just assume it doubles the price.

So, the total is now 692 billion euro.

(3)

The Gross National Product of the Netherlands is 630 billion euro (2005 estimate).

So, until 2020 we have 12*630 = 7560 billion euro to spend (about).

So, to replace all energy supply by windenergy before 2020, will cost 692/7560 =9.2% of our Gross National Product.

The question is now: What happens to our lives if we actually do this? What does it mean if you apply this much money on 1 project? I don’t know, because I don’t really know what the money is spent on now, and what the effects would be on the economy. (In other words: I don't understand economy).

Steel needed for all these windturbines

Some people say that there is not enough steel for this massive plan.

Including the gearbox and blades, I'm assuming that a windturbine is 100 tonnes, and is made of 100% steel... I did a simple estimate myself, but added a link to a relevant article in case anyone wants to do a detailed study of this [4].

Estimate:

A wind turbine is 100 m high, 5 m wide at the base, and about 1.5 m at the top, and using 1 cm thick steel plating for the tower, you have an 80 ton tower. The blades are much thinner, and are actually not 100% steel.

173,000 windturbines of 100 ton each.

Total need for steel: 17 million tonnes.

In a 12 year period:

On a yearly basis we will need: 1.4 million tonnes steel.

Global steel production is: 900 million tonnes / year

We will need 0.15% of the world’s steel production, for a period of 12 years.

To put that in perspective: Netherlands has 0.26% of the world’s population. The Dutch steel mill “Corus” in IJmuiden yearly produces 7 million tonnes. Note that after the 12 years, even Corus’ steel production runs on wind energy! Railion (freight train company) yearly transports 125 million tonnes of steel through Europe.

[4]

Wind turbine weight.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V2Y-4M2XFD6-2&_user=198995&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000013938&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=198995&md5=6afd641bded8fe2f7d20ae92dc6a76f0

[5]

Yearly production of steel (Corus / world)

[6]

Steel transport

http://www.railion.nl/site/logistics/railion/railionnederland/nl/branchenkompetenz/montan/montan.html

Edited by CaptainPanic
finishing an unfinished sentence in the post
Share on other sites

Any adjustments I could suggest would just be quibbling over what seems like a pretty valid exercise. All in all it seems like it would be a relative bargain to do this.

Share on other sites

That's the point I try to make...

There are undertakings of countries and governments that carry a similar price tag. Perhaps 100% sustainable energy is just worth this price?

Share on other sites

If you are considering real economics, there are more factors to be considered. for example:

1. The cost of the power collection system/network, and the distribution of the aggregated power.

2. The necessity of backup power generation, still reliant on traditional methods.

This surely means that windpower, however much, would only ever be an additional power source, not a replacement.

3. Political economics: international conections and tarriffs.

I consider that windpower is only a partial solution. A system that fully integrates all available alternative energy sources must be considered. I wait to see figures indicating the total energy available from geothermal, wavepower, tidal power, photovoltaic and solar heating.

A detailed cost analysis is useful, but only in as much as all Factors are considered. This means listening to the awkward squad as well as the wishful thinkers.

Share on other sites

If you are considering real economics, there are more factors to be considered. for example:

1. The cost of the power collection system/network, and the distribution of the aggregated power.

2. The necessity of backup power generation, still reliant on traditional methods.

This surely means that windpower, however much, would only ever be an additional power source, not a replacement.

3. Political economics: international conections and tarriffs.

I consider that windpower is only a partial solution. A system that fully integrates all available alternative energy sources must be considered. I wait to see figures indicating the total energy available from geothermal, wavepower, tidal power, photovoltaic and solar heating.

A detailed cost analysis is useful, but only in as much as all Factors are considered. This means listening to the awkward squad as well as the wishful thinkers.

I agree with all your points, except the one I underlined.

It was not my goal to make a complete realistic model for replacing all fossil based energy sources with the cheapest possible sustainable source, taking into account the geographic location and climate, and all additional investments necessary to make this successful.

I have read reports that were made by large research groups that spent years on this... and the first conclusion I had was: "Hey, they forgot to include this-and-this, and they oversimplified the world".

The underlined statement is impossible. A detailed cost evaluation can be made for 1 location, for 1 application and for 1 moment in time. Since there are 6 continents, hundreds of applications and a continuous progress in technology, such a report of a cost analysis will never exist.

That's why I made this oversimplification... Although it's a bad idea to switch to 100% wind power (note that I never said we should do that), I want to show that a lot of sustainable power is actually affordable.

The question I had is: is it worth the investment (taking into account that we'd need more than just wind, but that other sources might be roughly equally expensive)?

Merged post follows:

Consecutive posts merged

I find it interesting that a country such as the Netherlands spends about 20 billion euro per year on oil alone (depends heavily on the price)... and that nobody questions that, but an investment in sustainable power is usually considered expensive.

Calculation: consumption of crude oil is 1204 PJ/yr ([1] in Opening Post), or about 215E6 barrels/yr. The value of that oil (now) is 7.5 billion/yr (35 euro/barrel?)... but at 100 euro/barrel, this is 21 billion euro.

Note that this does not include import of other sources of fossil origin (coal, gas). Also note that investments in oil-industry (except the oil-well itself, which are ultimately paid by consumers, are not even included in the money spent on oil. A refinery isn't cheap.

Yet, suggesting to invest 57 billion on a sustainable source of power causes all kinds of protests. - Note that this is a one-time investment, not a yearly payment!

(Please, note that the protests here are very mild, and I am referring to protests I heard outside this forum).

Edited by CaptainPanic
Consecutive posts merged.
Share on other sites

I am sure that such an undertaking would be considered impractical. The energy grid storage is something you simply doubled the price of but did not account for in any practical manner other than to double the cost. There is no commercially viable method that simply doubles the price. I have no idea what a typical houses uses in the netherlands, in fact I dont know what a typical house uses in the US. But I do know that a house in my neighborhood would use an average of about 1500 kWh per month. This works out to about 50 kWh per day or about 2 kW average with a max demand of about 4-5 kW. Since any system needs to handle the peak, a storage system must be sized with the peak in mind. Assume the house will use 5kW max with as much as 100kWh in a particularly busy day.

Now I know that you are wondering where this is going. We are calculating the cost of available technology. That is lead acid batteries (best to use AGM type for this) and inverters. We will skip the point of how to store the wind power in the batteries for now as what that would require is a complex system to connect to the grid to charge the batteries when wind is available and at the same time power up the house full time with the inverter. This will be a costly change to every user of electricity.

A group 31 battery (about 80 pounds nearly as big as they come for vehicles) will have about 120 Ah of capacity, which means it will run at say 12 Amps for 10 hours. You won't get much more efficient than about 90% when you store it and another 90% when you use it. So you need to store about 10% more or 110 kWh so the output is 100kWh. You will need to use 10% more to get that much stored but that is a measure of how many extra wind turbines you need and not relevant for this calculation. So the battery can output 12A at 12V for 10 hours this is 144 W for 10 hours or 1.44 kWh per battery. So you will need to buy 110 bateries to run this house. An AGM battery is going to give you many cycles but it will be unlikely to last more than 1000 which means you need to replace them every 3 years. So every house will need to buy 3 batteries a month that cost about $100 each. This adds$300 to the electric bill in the maintenance column and that is assuming that you can have them installed for the difference that you get the volume discount for. (I can buy 1 now for $100 but if you buy a million they will be a tad cheaper, but they need to be installed). I don't know what a 5kW inverter will cost but I imagine it would be along the lines of$1000. So now the question is, is there enough lead acid batteries and inverters avaiable? I can't imagine the electrical conversion to make each house feed from the system to charge a giant rack of batteries would be any less than $5000. This is just a huge undertaking. So you convert a house for$6000 plus $11000 for batteries or$17,000. Or better yet you install a 0.6 MW (30% of 2MW) wind turbine and convert 400 houses (600000/1500=400). The 400 homes cost $6.8 Million dollars which is much more than double the 2 million euros for the turbine. Plus the maintenance of the batteries. And the vastly inferior performance of the grid when each house has its own inverter and huge cost of battery replacement. As an alternative it would be much better to simply assume something like 10% wind power. Then you can store it in huge batteries and run it back into the grid as but a small percent of the total so the batteries simply don't need to store ALL the energy but only some of it and the other generation that currently exists will have to manage the varying need with far greater swings. You only store what you need to get other generators fired up or load dropped when the wind dies down. You can then store energy in all manner of crazy methods such as flywheels since it will only be stored for a short time. This will reduce the costs. Although if you want to get to 100% then you need to rethink how the electric grid works, cause generation has to meet load at all times. It will be very costly to add in devices to store any more than necessary. It will either be very costly or we get a drastic drop in reliability. We are simply not accustomed to having to think about electricity as a resource that may not be available at all times, yet if we go all green it becomes just that. Link to comment Share on other sites I have a number of things to say about storage: 1. I think batteries are a horrible way of storing energy. They're bulky, they're toxic, they have a relatively short life cycle and they're expensive. Maybe I'm being a bit too negative here, but I don't think it's the large scale solution we need. The current focus seems to use car batteries of (future) electric cars for storing the fluctuations. These will not require an additional investment, and the idea is that you plug it in while you don't need the car (almost nobody uses the car 24/7). It will require a smart grid, but I have been told that the price of a number of microprocessors (a number for every house?) are negligible compared to all necessary investments. 2. The main focus of groups researching this issue is to actually reduce peak demand and increase demand in the night. The simple technique used is to remotely turn on high demand applications such as a washing machine or a dryer. Already devices are being made that are informed about the price (which is directly coupled to the supply/demand)... and these devices then switch on the application when the price is lower than a certain set value. Again, the price of such devices is low. 3. Wind energy fluctuations will occur for larger areas, so storage should be for larger areas. Allow me to link to a previous post by myself about hydro power and storage in hydro dams. The summary of the post is that hydro power has both the right scale (power) and right capacity for large scale application of energy storage. The main argument that I learned in that thread is the large fluctuations that you can get downstream in the river, which might be unacceptable for people living there. I think that even this can be solved... 4. Hydro power is cheaper than wind power. Since your storage will be at most as much as the total power of the wind power, it's just impossible that the price of the storage alone is more than double the calculated investment. 5. Read the part under "experience" in the other thread to see that this whole idea is actually already being used on a gigawatt scale. 6. I agree that the Netherlands does not have a lot of mountains, and I know that there are some problems with hydro power... but it is possible. We're already connected to the Alps and Scandinavia (which aren't all that far away). It will require some adaptations. People will notice that the world changes. But it's possible. Link to comment Share on other sites Well, one thing to keep in mind is that the larger your network of wind turbines, the less storage you are likely to need (replace some storage with larger grid). The idea of storing energy at each house is pretty much idiotic (unless talking about solar) as it would require storage for much sharper individual peaks rather than the average peak. An alternative to some of the storage is to run certain industries (aluminum, hydrogen, etc) at a time of low demand but not during peak times. However, regardless of how much you spend on storage, you also need some alternate generating capacity. Well, hydrogen storage might be an exception. But for most systems, the more storage you have the more the cost, and you don't want your grid to run dry if you have a month of calm or a storm destroys a section of turbines. Planning for months or years worth of storage is not such a good idea, so alternate generation is a requirement. This may simply be keeping the old fossil plants in good operating condition, and run them when necessary. This could also be another solution to some of the peak usage problem. Link to comment Share on other sites Captain Panic: Yet, suggesting to invest 57 billion on a sustainable source of power causes all kinds of protests. - Note that this is a one-time investment, not a yearly payment! More than somewhat misleading, surely? What about maintenance and replacement? I doubt whether the scheduled life of a turbine is more than 20 years. So your 57bn. would become an extra , say 100bn. in 20 years, allowing for very modest inflation. I have a suspicion that I would rather be an employee of the windpower industry than a consumer of the final product. ;)Might provide more jobs for the masses and revenue for the state though. Perhaps that is the hidden Green Illuminati agenda? Link to comment Share on other sites Captain Panic: More than somewhat misleading, surely? What about maintenance and replacement? I doubt whether the scheduled life of a turbine is more than 20 years. So your 57bn. would become an extra , say 100bn. in 20 years, allowing for very modest inflation. I have a suspicion that I would rather be an employee of the windpower industry than a consumer of the final product. ;)Might provide more jobs for the masses and revenue for the state though. Perhaps that is the hidden Green Illuminati agenda? First of all, even the massive prices that you mention above (in the quote) are equal to the price of just the imported oil in those 20 years. 20 years of oil will be a minimum of 20*7.5 = 150 billion, at the current price of 35 euro/barrel! Yes, you could rebuild all those wind turbines twice for the same price as the oil imports. (Thanks for this great argument!) But I disagree with the 100 billion price tag you mentioned. It's either a lower price, and/or a longer period until you need to invest it all. Maintenance is for a good part already included in the price. And by taking large error margins in cost estimates, I tried to leave some room for more. Maintenance is not going to bring down this idea... The life expectancy is a much better point (Thanks for that! It helps the discussion!). The scheduled life of a turbine is usually 20 years... So, indeed, after 20 years, the turbines need a pretty big fix, or a reconstruction. But a total deconstruction of all of those turbines after 20 years, including tower and foundation, and total reconstruction, including new studies, paperwork and whatever is included in placement of a turbine is an overestimate. The modest inflation is a good estimate though (3% per year is within the target for the EU zone). You can rebuild the wind turbines by replacing parts. This will mean that some expensive parts can be kept. Gearbox and blades are likely to require partial replacement. Foundation and tower are just sturdy and simple, but none the less a large investment. And refurbishment keeps technology going for much longer than planned, in pretty much any case. I agree that this still has to be proven for wind turbines... but allow me to compare to airplanes: apparently, the oldest Boeing 747 is from the mid 70's. If airplanes, which are somehow comparable to windturbines, can stay alive for about 35 years with some (major) repairs, then perhaps it's not unrealistic to expect a similar case for wind turbines. Anyway, wind turbines in many locations will require a less safe operation than an airplane (because often they are in unpopulated areas, and they are unmanned machines). Those old wind turbines won't be the shiny *bling* machines they are today, but they'll work... and that's what matters. Link to comment Share on other sites I do think that hydro is going to be a better way to go, but the basis of the thread was the assumption of the fact that 100% wind is the goal. A lofty goal that requires a lot of energy storage since the wind is not reliable at all. I also agree that batteries might not be the best way to go here. I thought it was rather humorous that you think batteries are horrible but then want to use electric car batteries (I mean this in a nice way, I mean its just ironic). Someone came up with this idea to use the electric car to reduce peaks and help out the grid, it simply doesn't work. Car batteries are very expensive because they have to be light to be mobile. They have to be small and so they cost a lot. The car itself has a lot more durable stuff in it than an energy storage solution would require. So I say build your energy storage system from heavier cheap batteries rather than the most expensive cutting edge ones on the planet that are super light for no reason. There are not enough electric cars and there will never be. Not to mention the fact that the peak electric usage is just after everyone drives home and the battery is already partially depleted. The only thing electric cars can do is to shave a small amount off the peak but mainly it will help to shift usage to the night time by charging them at night. So would an energy storage unit. Cars can't reduce the peak if they are coming up on empty at this point of the day, and who wants their car depleted just before the morning drive? The idea is one that sounds neat but when you dig in it is about as impractical as ideas come. I can install a unit to run my house for$17,000, but I need to spend twice that to get a car which if just used for storage will do 1/10th the job of my trusty giant pile of batteries for storing energy for use in my house to reduce the peak. They will put a dent in gas usage which is another point alltogether, offset by the fact that we now need to produce that much more energy on the grid to move all the cars. So the actual energy requirements from all these electric cars goes up. Sure they use the grid at night but they are not really shifting usage to night we are just requiring the grid to provide more juice.

Having to store up to a day of energy for the worst case scenario is a lot there will still be periods where there is not enough electricity to go around because the worst case I randomly chose is likely not the worst case.

As far as batteries and inverters, I was simply choosing a known way to go about it to find the costs to show that "double" is not enough. Everyone will understand how batteries and inverters work and the sheer size of it comes right out in the open when you realize that every home will need 110 of the biggest car batteries.

The whole idea of going 100% wind is simply not possible and the storage of the energy is the reason. There needs to be a base load and the smart grid needs to use the electricity at the best time to even energy usage out over the day. The only way to do this and not detrimentally impact the standard of living is to have enough storage to handle the use for when people want to. For example, getting people to do one load of laundry a day and set it up and let is start when the electric grid says so during the night sounds like a great idea, but it is an inconvinience. Distributed storage will help some, for those that are more bothered by these inconviniences they simply need to install more and those that want to live on the cheap with the inconvinience can do so. Another benefit is that distributed storage will reduce transmission losses to zero and the actual peak on the grid will drop because of thise while large area storage the peak will not be decreased. These losses can be as high as 20% so it is not insignificant.

Merged post follows:

Consecutive posts merged

<<The idea of storing energy at each house is pretty much idiotic (unless talking about solar)>>

Either its idiotic or it isn't. Energy is energy. Come on now.

You should look into distributed generation and look at the benefits and drawbacks and as in all cases there are going to be times when it is appropriate and times when it isn't. Distributed storage is no different. If your storage containers match you load and are located there then you have minimized transmission losses thats like getting free energy. Who can say no to free energy? Put another way if 23A is sent you your storage 24/7 and you use it in fits and spurts as needed you have as few losses as possible. Its current squared times resistance which is your transmission loss so it goes up parabolically. In addition as the line losses increase the line heats up which increases the resistance, so it is actually slightly higher than current squared but it is highly dependent on outside air temp so having transmission slightly higher at night is going to be the ideal if you want to work out all the math. The problem is consumers never see transmission losses and so it doesn't make sense to think about it, but as far as generating your energy it is a major factor.

to illustrate here is a sample. a bunch of houses are fed from a feeder that is 400A at peak and 80A at night. So the first group of houses to install storage to take 1A at night and reduce usage during the peak because it is running on battery power during the day at the peak will make the most impact making the numbers 395A and 81A. The next bunch will have about the same impact. Eventually we reach diminishing returns none-the-less returns they are. The first group though will have transmission losses drop by 96%. Assuming the transmission lines were of the length that 20% was lost during the peak the group of houses that take energy by night will reduce the losses to 1% because of when they had it delivered. Put another way if I need 1kWh during the peak, in this example 1.20 kWh need to be generated to send down the transmission line to get me my 1.0kWh. If I take it at night only 1.01 kWh need to be generated.

This, my friend who thinks I am an idiot, is why distributed storage cannot simply be written off as idiotic. You will actually have to make a point about costs of storage in bulk versus distributed rather than trying to debunk the idea because I drool a lot. That is where the main drawback lies, in cost. Yet if a utility's charges are based on time of use this is one method in which we can proceed without a large public outlay of cash, we can actually prepare an estimate of payback time and decide how much of a unti to install in our own home to actually save dollars off the electric bill which can be used to buy the system. If we wait for the large system to be installed by the people as a whole (government or major utility) we might be sitting and waiting quite a bit. (A skeptic, in the true scientific world sense of a skeptic should know better than to use faulty logic to shoot down an idea.)

Share on other sites

@ bbbrrr22

Sorry, I misunderstood you. From your describing a single household, I thought maybe you were suggesting to store and use electricity as each household sees fit. Then you might end up storing energy during peak demand, if your schedule were different from others'. In any case, the main issue with distributed storage is not that it is itself a bad idea, but that you don't get the economies of scale that you might get for larger storage systems. Batteries are expensive, heavy, and wear out. But at the large scale, you could store your energy by pumping water uphill, and remove it by letting it flow down. Due to the relation between volume and area, this turns out to be far more efficient at the large scale, and will mostly have to replace pumps/turbines rather than the whole thing. Likewise, many other systems can be done more efficiently at the large scale. If nothing else, the converter for grid<-->storage need only be one big one for centralized storage, which should be cheaper and more efficient than many small ones.

On the other hand, if you have distributed power generation (such as solar or small scale wind) then having distributed storage makes more sense as it saves twice on transmission. If we ever develop proper hydrogen cells, distributed storage will also become far more worthwhile, as it could store enough to function as a UPS for the whole house, which centralized power storage could not do.

Anyhow, sorry if I sounded belittling. I only meant that I don't think distributed storage will, in general, be a good idea.

Share on other sites

I do think that hydro is going to be a better way to go, but the basis of the thread was the assumption of the fact that 100% wind is the goal. A lofty goal that requires a lot of energy storage since the wind is not reliable at all.

[...]

I can install a unit to run my house for $17,000, but I need to spend twice that to get a car which if just used for storage will do 1/10th the job of my trusty giant pile of batteries for storing energy for use in my house to reduce the peak.[...] First of all - if$17000 is a decent and reasonable investment, then this discussion is over. In the Netherlands, we have 16 million people, who live in approximately 4 million households. The expense you just mentioned exceeds the total pricetag I mentioned (4,000,000 x 17,000 = 68 billion). I guess we can agree that batteries are not only impractical, but also bloody expensive.

Two points you missed:

1. In this particular thread I described hydro for storage, not generation of electricity. Please check out post #7.

2. I mentioned more than once that this is just an example of the price of sustainable energy. I totally agree that it's just stupid to use 100% wind energy because of several reasons, for example (a) the availability of other good sources of energy (b) the fact that plastics are pretty hard to manufacture from electricity © etc.

Then why did I propose this? Because it's impossible to make a reasonable estimate of the more realistic but far, far more complicated scenarios.

Create an account

Register a new account