• Jun 3, 2010
It seems like a strange question, but have we run out of good places to build wind farms? On the face of it, one would think that a country as large at the U.S. is a long, long way from a time when we don't have the space to put up another turbine, but that's the question that Renewable Energy World is asking. Their answer?
It is no longer easy to find large pieces of land in advanced markets with all the right ingredients for a wind project: strong and steady winds, a welcoming community and easy access to transmission. Developers find themselves jostling for position, with four of five companies sometimes vying for the same sweet spot.
So, it's not that there's no space for wind farms, just that it's getting harder and harder to find areas where all the ingredients come together in just the right way. Still, we think that there's a lot of potential to build turbines on building rooftops and out in the desert. For people who want to keep the energy in their electric vehicles locally sourced, questions about the maximum potential of wind farms is something to keep an eye on. The U.S. government has, and it says that the, "maximum potential to generate wind power in the United States is more than three times greater than previously estimated," in part due to improvements in wind power technology.



[Source: Renewable Energy World via Domestic Energy, Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable | Image: the russians are here - C.C. License 2.0]


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  • 38 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      There's PLENTY of room for windfarms. It's just a question of what you want to move/remove to put them there.

      For instance, the entire nation's energy needs could be filled SOLELY by wind power.

      All we'd have to do is build wall-to-wall, border-to-border, north-to-south, east-to-west, windmills over the entire State of Texas. No room for anything else, just windmills. No people, no buildings, no roads, no trees, no animals, no lakes, no rivers, no nothing, ... just windmills. Of course, with prevailing winds from the west, the easternmost half of the windmills would likely sit idle; so, we'd then simply need to remove ALL of the people, buildings, roads, trees, animals, lakes rivers, some mountains, etc ... in the State of Colorado. If that doesn't work, there's lots of big States out west in flyover coutry out there. They're not really making good use of them anyway, right?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Electric cars would use surprisingly little extra electricity.
      This is because for 12,000 miles a year you might use
      • 4 Years Ago
      We'll build more transmission lines.

      We need to do more offshore wind though . . . that is sweet spot that isn't be exploited . . .probably because it costs more.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There's plenty of room left in the Dakotas, especially in South Dakota, for the erection of wind generators. North Dakota has been more enterprising than SD; there's a lot to be accomplished in the southern portion.
      The central and western parts of SD have been completely neglected. With the necessary infrastructure, the energy problems could be considerably reduced for the whole nation. And even further down south of the Dakotas, there's probably also lots of room left to improve the overall energy situtation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        But the wind may not be right. KILI a native American radio station on Pine Ridge put up one. It was in the news a lot. but the last time I went out there it was gone. tower and all and nothing in the news about what happened to it. The school of mines in Rapid city put a big one up on the hill over the collage. Once more lots in the news about them putting it up . But it seems to be stopped more than running because we think they lock it down when the wind it too fast. You need the RIGHT type a wind not just LOTS of wind
        • 4 Years Ago
        floorman:
        Prior to completion of the Big Bend Dam in the early sixties, e. g. , Aberdeen had to rely on its own coal power plant for electric energy. As soon as BBD went on the grid, the power plant was closed down. Aberdeen is completely supplied with hydoelectric energy, as well as many other major cities in SD, from the "Big Muddy". South Dakota has sufficient hydoelectric energy to satisfy its own needs.
        There are, however, vast regions in the Great Plains region that are ideally suited for wind power generation. Thinking selfishly, SD has no further need for additional energy forms at this time and need not invest respectively. The vast wind power sources of the Great Plains (SD) have not even been tapped yet. Considering the contribution that could be made in form of clean and sustainable wind energy it is really "high noon" for wind power in SD.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I see.

      So, um, how many BTUs to generate all of the electricity for an electric fleet vs. BTUs used by a petrol fleet?
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't use BTU's but at 3,000kwh and 12,000 miles a year the US light vehicle fleet of around 250 million cars and light trucks would use around 75GW a year - the US grid is about 500GW in base load, 900GW when everything is firing at full rate.
        Very little extra capacity would need to be added, as you would mostly work the existing stuff harder, although the grid would need upgrading.
        For powering it by wind if you assume 3MW turbines averaging 33% capacity that is 75,000 wind turbines
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ok, but at the average turbine spacing in a large windfarm; that would require covering the entire State of Washington with windmills ... with no people, no houses, no cities, no roads, no trees, no animals, etc.. I'm not sure that Washingtonians would be too keen.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Can't we use those more efficient small conacle ones that work in low wind areas and in turbulent winds?...stick a few on each building and then 25% or more of the energy is saved
        • 4 Years Ago
        The issue is that the good wind is usually 50-100 feet above the roof of a building. There are a few exceptions to this -- buildings on the sides of mountains, buildings on the coast, and maybe some very tall buildings. That pretty much describes parts of Hawaii, but it does not describe large parts of this country...

        But, at my house, the trees go a good 40 feet above my house, and my house is under the approach to an airport and in a dense 1950s suburban neighborhood. No kind of wind-power is well suited to my house. Fortunately, I live in the midwest, and the farmers in the surrounding areas are happy to lease their land to the windmill people. You see, they can still grow crops on the land AND they have someone paying them several thousand dollars per year per windmill, so it's a very nice way to increase the financial yield of their land. If you've ever seen the sea of GMO corn and GMO soybeans, you know that this is what farming at this scale is all about.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There does need to be a paradigm shift. Small turbines on homes and businesses that use newer tech like Enviro-Energy provides a method for putting this type of power just about anywhere because they work off of air pressure and require less wind to produce a fair amount of energy.

        In Hawaii you must have solar water heaters for instance included in all military housing and I believe in new construction. Why not this type of code around the nation where appropriate? Imagine small turbines on every building in New York.

        http://www.enviro-energies.com/products.htm

        The USAF is using wind power at some of its bases with great success. This isn't tough, it just takes leadership that we don't have in the US with a few exceptions.
      • 4 Years Ago
      And this is why we need to upgrade our damn grid already.

      Download the grid 2.0.1 RC3 patch, it's easy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        We would build out the grid, IF we had ANY control over our multi-national oil industry.
        What should BP be investing in Wind, Solar, Battery, Infrastructure?
        7 Billion Dollars.
        1/2 their yearly profit.

        What are they investing?
        100 Million. Window Dressing in Green Tech.
        Also,
        100's of Millions of dollars on "Regulatory, Legislative and Judicial CAPTURE".
        - Lobbying, Campaign Funding, Candidate Selection, and astro-turf literature and studies.
        Why? Because these company's are Controlled by Wall Street. Wall Street, through our 401K - Mutual and Index Funds controls OUR VOTES, and demands these companies produce CASH, Not Investment for the Future.

        We need some laws changed, to get Mutual fund managers to VOTE Green.
        We need to Get Back Control of these industries.

        This is the Wall Street Robbery Tax on America.
        Short term returns with NO Future Investment.

        How many jobs would be produced if these Companies spent 50% of their profits on Future Tech? Millions. It would lift us right out of our Recession!
        • 4 Years Ago
        But in all seriousness, it's not going to be easy to get off coal. We still have a crapton of it. We also have a lot of NG waiting to be tapped. It's not like the oil shortage where we are faced with hitting a brick wall in ~10 years. The urgency is not there.

        There needs to be incentive for companies to do wind energy in places where transmission lines need to be built. Profit is the thing standing in the way, i am sure.

        Hopefully, dwindling supplies of coal will not be the motivator. An electricity crisis would be even scarier.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Mike!!ekiM "What should BP be investing in Wind, Solar, Battery, Infrastructure?",

        I am trying to locate the article, but I recall that BP is the single largest manufacturer of solar cells (from their acquisition of Amoco and also a JV). I'll post the link when I track it down. Basically, Amoco realized many years ago that they needed to be diversified.

        • 4 Years Ago
        neppy,

        I agree that grid 2.0.1 RC3 patch (or RPM equivalent) definitely needs to be applied to the grid, but we could go a long ways towards using the existing grid by putting wind and solar generation right on the same land that our current coal and NG power plants are built on.

        Xcel energy is building wind and coal generation together in one project I know of, which is a perfect way to leverage existing power lines.

        Building on existing grid endpoints means we don't need no stinkin' patches to the grid in order to displace current coal or NG production right at the existing power plants.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Am I the only one worried that BP may be the largest manufacturer of solar cells? I mean, worried in a sense that Chevron/Texaco holds the patents to large format NiMH batteries and basically shut down the industry, even trying to sue Toyota to stop them from using the NiMH batteries in their RAV4 EV and hybrids. The suit entered arbitration, the agreement reached states that Toyota cannot build a large EV sized NiMH battery nor use the NiMH technology in hybrids that plug in. This agreement is binding globally until 2014.

        The wind industry needs to get on the stick in changing public perception. If people can begin to accept the turbines and other wind technologies (high altitude, off shore, etc), it would open up areas that might not be accessible with the public's current outlook. My attitude: I'd rather look at a field of wind turbines than a nuclear or coal power plant, and yet it seems like we're able to build those almost anywhere.
      • 4 Years Ago
      No. If you look at the wind resource map, we've used the the-best-of-the-best spots near my midwestern town but the other spots still look very good. The first turbines went into the most profitable location. The next round will go in a slightly less profitable, but still very profitable location.
        lasertekk
        • 4 Years Ago
        How soon we forget the old man's plans (Pickens). Before the Crash, he was ready to finance a band of windfarms east of the Rockies, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, one of the best wind zones in the world.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There's a bit more wind to be had here in Texas. We've just met our 2025 wind energy production goals this year! 15 years ahead of time. So that's a good thing but if you look on the wind resource maps there is a huge swath of excellent wind resources that runs from Canada to the Mexican border, right down the middle of the country.

      We've got to get the grid going first, though, or all that great wind power will just continue going to waste. A DC transmission grid is in the works that will connect the windy plains to distant population centers. DC transmission lines suffer fewer energy losses than AC transmission lines (the kind we have now, high voltage AC).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC#Advantages_of_HVDC_over_AC_transmission
      • 4 Years Ago
      Don't use Halliburton... leads to another Boston Tea Party :-)
      • 4 Years Ago
      For 95% of the homes in the US home wind power is a really, really bad idea, as average wind speeds are just not high enough.
      There is a reason commercial wind turbines are high, and that is because they have better wind.
      There are an awful lot of cowboys in the field, who want customers to spend thousands on equipment which will only ever produce trivial amounts of power.
      If you put it on your roof, some designs can also cause structural damage.
      OTOH, if you live on the great plains or somewhere, electricity rates in your area are high, and you spend a lot of time listening to the wind howl around your large property, then they can be fine.
      Here is a company which seems genuinely interested in sorting out if it will help you before installing, and makes realistic claims, providing all the info you need to assess it for your property:
      http://www.skystreamenergy.com/will-skystream-work/

      Because for 95% of homes in the US home wind turbines are a spectacularly bad idea, doesn't mean that nothing can be done with wind power.
      More on that in another post, if the posting system here actually lets me post - it was awful last night.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wind, it's never there when you want it... The subsidies could go to the existing farms, to replace what's already broken. Or use the cash to conserve energy... I have an epiphany, it must be the word, democrate energy then :-)
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