Category Smart Grid

Nuclear and carbon capture aren’t scalable compared to wind energy

There’s an enduring myth related to wind energy and nuclear energy that needs to be put to bed. That myth is that only nuclear can be scaled to sufficient capacity to reduce the impacts of global warming, and that wind energy is much less scalable so it should be ignored. And there’s another myth related […]

Why are wind turbines put so close to people?

One of the perennial themes of anti-wind campaigns is that wind turbines are great anywhere other than near the people complaining. However, many also believe that they shouldn’t be put near people at all. So why are wind turbines put up nearer rural towns rather than further from them, all else being equal? In general, it’s easier […]

Solar Energy Towers: harvesting R&D dollars for decades

Recently, energy towers have been back in the hype cycle, specifically with the misnamed Solar Wind Energy Tower which is actually a downdraft tower which has nothing to do with solar power. There are two variants of energy towers: water evaporation driven downdraft and solar updraft towers. Both propose tall hollow towers to create movement of air […]

Sheerwind Invelox: an informed look

Recently, several people have brought a published paper by Dr. Daryoush Allaei, inventor of the Invelox ducted wind generator, to my attention. Here’s the opening statement of the published paper to get a sense of why it might be worth questioning: A new concept in wind power harnessing is described which significantly outperforms traditional wind turbines […]

Vertical axis wind turbines aren’t replacing horizontal axis offshore turbines

Over the past few months, an interesting wrinkle on the vertical-axis-wind-turbines-are-better mythology has surfaced: that they are superior offshore and that many countries are investing heavily in offshore VAWTs. Over the course of several discussions, numerous named countries and companies were thrown at me, always without links or documents proving assertions. A little digging found […]

Airborne wind energy: a collection of challenging compromises

Last update: March 3, 2014 Recently, a correspondent asked me about the strengths and weaknesses of Kitegen’s Stem concept for airborne wind generation. This provided a useful opportunity to formalize my thoughts regarding design choices and the compromises that they typically entail around airborne wind energy systems. This shouldn’t be read as complete and encyclopedic, […]

Energy Crisis? What energy crisis? And where?

Recently on Quora, someone asked Is there a fundamental reason for the energy crisis in most countries? My globe-trotting answer is below. What energy crisis? Which country? Really, there isn’t much of an energy crisis that can be observed around the world. Most countries with energy problems have had energy problems for decades and will for the […]

EWICON: a wet-behind-the-ears wind ‘innovation’

Recently on Quora, someone asked Delft University’s EWICON wind generation device.  My detailed answer is below. It’s always worth looking at the actual history of these wind energy “innovations”. The Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter: electrical performance of a high voltage prototype, Djairam, D., Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, Dissertation, 2008-12-10, ISBN: 978-90-8559-482-6, uuid:e1cfdada-85ea-45c4-b6e4-b798abf5917e The Electrostatic […]

Windstrument: another off-key wind energy ‘innovation’

On Quora recently, someone asked “Windstrument – yet another revolutionary wind turbine. Have they got it right?“. I answered, there and have reposted my answer here. I have a set of 13 questions I always ask when confronted with yet-another-wind-energy-innovation to give it a quick sniff test. I asked these questions of the Windstrument based on publicly […]

How do you maximize profit with a wind farm?

There are several factors to consider but it boils down to wind resource, new (or very cheap old) wind turbines, an effective economic regime to sell wind energy into, relatively cheap connections to the grid and highly optimized management and maintenance. Wind Resource A reasonably large factor in the amount of energy a wind farm […]

Wind turbines survive hurricanes; what a blow to doubters

An occasional complaint against wind turbines is that they don’t work or self-destruct when there is too much wind. It might be scraping the bottom of the oil barrel, but it’s worth debunking this as well. What does the history of wind energy really show? Well, the best evidence is from Superstorm Sandy: On the […]

Sky Windpower’s high-altitude wind generation system will likely fail to launch

Last update: January 8, 2014 A recent assessment of Google’s Makani flying wind generator led to a suggestion to look at other suggested approaches. Sky Windpower was one of them and has sufficient public material for an initial analysis to look for challenges and opportunities. Sky Windpower’s proposed high-altitude wind generation solution raises major concerns: For […]

Google’s Makani airborne wind generator flies a bit lower when you look at it closely

Last update: February 17, 2014 For a few years, the leading company in the hunt to harness higher altitude wind’s greater energy has been Makani. After the unfortunate and early death of its founder in 2012, Google upped its stake in the fledgling company to 100%, which certainly didn’t hurt its profile. Close assessment of […]

Why wind energy is the pragmatic choice, and nuclear isn’t

Last update: August 6, 2014 Many nuclear energy advocates have devoted a considerable amount of time in the past few years to bashing wind energy, making a remarkable number of claims against it, some of which contain grains of truth, many of which don’t. The arguments for nuclear are good: it has very low full […]

Good and bad bets: new wind technologies rated

Last update: August 14, 2014 How do specific new wind energy innovations and products stack up? This post looks at eighteen technologies and companies that have been in the press or otherwise crossed my desk recently and assesses whether they are good bets or not. For context, one of the technologies with the most red flags […]

Invest carefully; wind energy ‘innovations’ are rarely kosher

Last update: August 14, 2014 Wind energy is a big business world-wide, with billions of dollars flowing around at various levels. And as in any large and growing market, a wide variety of people are attracted to it.  Most are solid, competent professionals. Some are superstars.  A slightly larger percentage than in other fields are engaged […]

Governmental incentives for renewables are necessary and provide great value-for-money

Last update: November 13, 2013 One of the arguments that anti-wind lobbyists pull out after the rest of their arguments related to economics and efficiencies of wind energy are shot down is that of economic incentives and market distortions favouring renewables. The argument goes like this: “If wind energy is so cheap and effective, why do […]

Are airborne wind turbines a plausible source of cheap clean energy?

Last update: November 7, 2013 One of the interesting things about wind energy is that while the market has spoken loudly and clearly about what makes economic sense for wind generation, every week there’s another news story on wind generation innovations such as relatively ineffective vertical-axis wind turbines that are going to replace horizontal-axis, three-blade wind generators. […]

How close is too close: meteors vs wind farms

Setbacks for wind turbines from homes are an unnecessarily controversial issue in many parts of the world.  While public health organizations, major utilities, the government and the wind industry have worked closely together to find a good balance, establish guidelines and laws, and to put in place modelling software to assist in site planning to […]

Wind farm end of life? Repowering or benign decommissioning

Last update: May 15, 2013 One of the scary myths that anti-wind lobbyists like to throw around is the spectre of a wind farm reaching its end of useful life and what will happen then. They like to claim that decaying wind turbines will litter the landscape and that rusting hulks will scar local vistas for […]

Anti-wind lobbyists falsely claim more than 1 in 20 wind turbines permanently inactive

Last update: September 13, 2013 There’s an anti-wind energy myth floating around that refuses to die. The most recent siting was in the official policy of an Australian political party, the Democratic Labour Party of Australia. [11] What is the myth? That there are 14,000 permanently inactive wind turbines out there somewhere. That last word, ‘somewhere’, […]

Parasitic power and wind turbines. Sounds scary, but what’s the real story?

Last update: April 17, 2014 There are about 300,000 wind turbines generating economically sound electricity world-wide today. But some anti-wind lobbyists claim that wind turbines consume 50% or more of the electricity that they produce. The claim appears to originate with Eric Rosenbloom, President of National Wind Watch [6] and creator of the wind disinformation […]

How much more efficient would powering our homes and industry be if a full-scale smart-grid was in place?

Last update: May 15, 2013 How will consumption change?  How will generation change? What unexpected efficiencies will be gained? And what does this have to do with renewables? Short Answer: Smart grid technologies can change peak demand deferring major capital expenditures, reduce enormously the manual labour required to manage the grid and prevent many more expensive […]

How much backup does a wind farm require? How does that compare to conventional generation?

Last update: February 11, 2014 A frequent statement by critics of wind energy is that it requires complete backup, usually by fossil fuels, as it is an intermittent energy source.  Most recently, that claim was made by Bjorn Lomborg in Slate magazine.  (…) How much backup storage is really required for alternative energies?  How does […]

Why aren’t vertical-axis wind turbines more popular?

Last update: August 9, 2014 Some groups and individuals tout alternative technologies for wind generation, especially vertical- as opposed to the horizontal-axis wind turbines normally used.  They make a variety of claims about power generation, noise, bird friendliness and others that in their minds make it a superior technology. So why aren’t vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWT) […]

What is the most efficient design for a wind generator?

Last update: May 15, 2013 It seems as if every week a new wind generator innovation is unveiled, sometimes in technology blogs, sometimes in TV segments, once even on a TED Talk.  They all claim to be better than the iconic, triblade, horizontal-axis wind turbines we are most familiar with.  So what is the most […]

Property Values? Evidence is that if wind farms do impact them, it’s positively.

Last update: April 2, 2014 Many people concerned with wind turbines have a specific fear: that the equity in their properties will be reduced or eliminated.  How real is this?  What is the actual impact of wind farms on nearby property values? Ten major and statistically reliable studies covering roughly 1.3 million property transactions by different respected […]

How effective are wind turbines compared to other sources of energy?

Last update: July 10, 2013 One of the things that anti-wind campaigners say about wind energy is that it’s ineffective and wouldn’t exist without subsidies. What’s the reality? Short Answer: Wind turbines are already at 5-7 cents per kWH or grid parity in the best sites in the US and the majority of installations in 2016 […]

The wind doesn’t blow all the time. Why doesn’t this make wind power ineffective?

Last update: July 10, 2014 A common refrain by people who question wind power as an effective part of energy grids is that it doesn’t produce the same amount of power all of the time. “On average, wind turbines are about 20% to 25% efficient”– Canadian Nuclear Association “annual outputs of 15-30% of capacity” – […]


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