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Posts Tagged ‘wind power’

Vortex Tools looks at Japan’s decision to return to nuclear energy a month after shutting down their last nuclear reactor. 

By Nife (Nife's photo) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAlthough Vortex Tools covered Japan’s decision to shut down its last nuclear reactor in May 2012, over the weekend, the Japanese government approved restarting two reactors at the Kansai Electric Power Company in Ohi.

Here’s a quick recap up to this point:

  1. In the aftermath of 2011’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, four nuclear plants in Fukushima were damaged, leading to three meltdowns and radiation leaks. As this was the worst civilian nuclear disaster since Chernobyl — killing nearly 16,000, leaving 3,000 missing and evacuating 160,000 more — public concern shot up, and Japan had no choice but to make it through that time without heavily relying on nuclear energy.
  2. Since that time, as each of Japan’s 54 reactors have shut down for scheduled maintenance, none have been restarted due to public opposition. The thinking was that if they could make it through peak summer usage without major blackouts, this could spell the end of atomic energy in Japan.
  3. However, prior to the shutdowns, nuclear power provided almost 30% of the electricity to keep the $5 trillion economy going. After years of deflation, in 2011, Japan suffered its first trade deficit in over 30 years as oil and gas was heavily imported for extra power generation capacity. (As Japan has very little native oil and gas, this mass importation cost billions.)
  4. With the risk to $1.5 trillion of Japan’s economy from nuclear power, many politicians are pro-atomic energy; though with the split parliament and a lack of alternate energy sources, there’s no good solution at this time.

Kyodo News reported that 60% of Japan is opposed to restarting the nuclear reactors. Despite this public opposition, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he gained “public consent” to do so. In trying to balance out this ill-favored move, he also set the premium price of solar energy at triple that of conventional energy to spur a projected $9.6 billion in new solar installations. The immediate effect was a rebound in solar stock prices.

As reported before, wind power and solar energy only make up 1% of Japan’s alternate energy sources combined, meaning that even if Japan is successful in doubling their solar energy, it probably won’t be enough to shut back down the two restarted nuclear reactors (even if the hoped for growth in solar power could cover three nuclear reactors, projections have yet to meet reality). With $1.5 trillion of Japan’s economy in the balance, it is likely that more of the 52 remaining reactors will be turned back on.

Prime Minister Noda has other problems, too, as there’s large opposition to his goal of doubling Japan’s 5% sales tax to cover their large debt and welfare costs. As several politicians have been booted out every year for the last five years, many think Noda’s chances of getting reelected in August 2013 are slim. However, like most major problems in the world today, Japan’s struggle over nuclear energy won’t be solved simply by a change in political persuasion.

For now, Japan is learning to juggle safety with the need for a stable economy.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at recent allegations (and refutations) that wind power causes global warming.

Earlier this week, Fox News published an article entitled, “New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming“. It noted:

The world’s wind farms last year had the capacity to produce 238 gigawatt of electricity at any one time. That was a 21 percent rise on 2010 and capacity is expected to reach nearly 500 gigawatt by the end of 2016 as more, and bigger, farms spring up, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany (analyzed) the satellite data of areas around large wind farms in Texas, where four of the world’s largest farms are located, over the period 2003 to 2011.

The results, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, showed a warming trend of up to 0.72 degrees Celsius per decade in areas over the farms, compared with nearby regions without the farms.

“We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms,” the study said. The temperature change could be due to the effects of the energy expelled by farms and the movement and turbulence generated by turbine rotors, it said.

Not surprisingly, conservative pundits picked up on the story and mocked the green poster boy of wind power for not following the environmental standard. This isn’t wind power’s first not-so-green scandal either, as it has been criticized (and refuted) for causing bird deaths.

In this case, environmentalists rightfully pushed back that the study was taken out of context. One of the scientists at the University of Albany, Liming Zhou, called the media coverage of his study “misleading”:

As Zhou himself explained in an accompanying Q&A (pdf) about his paper: “the warming effect reported in this study is local and is small compared to the strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes. Very likely, the wind turbines do not create a net warming of the air and instead only re-distribute the air’s heat near the surface, which is fundamentally different from the large-scale warming effect caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

And there’s the problem: The study found that wind turbines move some warm air around the surrounding areas in Texas. That’s not the same as global warming, although that term — much like “green” — can mean just about anything you want. For all the fair wind power criticisms, this one feels more like prodding someone in the eye with their own terminology.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at a potential breakthrough in wind power: the wind lens.

I’ll admit it: I’m not a big fan of wind power (oh, pun).

Like electric car batteries, it’s making progress, but thus far, fails in a) the ability to store a sufficient amount of energy; and b) returning enough energy value for the energy it takes to create it — the fancy term is EROEI: energy returned on energy invested — making it unreliable as anything more than a niche power source.

That said, I still like to keep track of the progression of green technologies, because the world is changing, and if it changes rapidly enough, some of these alternate energy sources could be sustainable long-term. Of course, this will likely require a dominant energy industry to crash — as need is a great developer of technology — so in the mean time, we get to enjoy the smaller developments along the way:

If you’ve driven through North Dakota, Texas or Wyoming, you’ve probably seen those giant three-pronged wind turbines up on a hill. Even though they’re placed in areas where they should catch the wind and spin, you’ve probably driven by them when they’re not turning. As a result of that, wind power technologies are looking for ways for turbines to spin more efficiently, while being safe and cost-effective.

Japan has invented a wind turbine that could triple the output of a standard wind turbine, potentially making it more cost-efficient than nuclear power ($80 per MWh for wind versus $90 per MWh for coal). As usual, I italicized the terms that highlight the difference between a success and a raging failure.

new wind turbine

Looks like a Dyson bladeless fan -- uh, with the blades put back in

Speculators have determined that with a mere (whopping) 2,640,000 wind lenses, wind power could completely replace nuclear power. You know, if it actually works as planned, and if people somehow sign off on turning over a combined land mass area a quarter the size of Alaska. Minor details, especially considering wind turbines aren’t aesthetically pleasing enough for many environmentalists.

That’s one of those hypocritical standards that pops up in environmentalism: As wind power gets more mainstream — and therefore more visible and hopefully more reliable — the less it is embraced by the hardcore green crowd who initially champion just about any potentially green technology that could be more efficient than big oil or nuclear energy. In the end, green or not, there is no more inefficient energy resource than fantasy.

Wind power has some hefty price tags ahead, too — like the proposed multi-billion dollar TWE Carbon Valley project in Wyoming (note that ‘proposed’ is italicized, whereas ‘multi-billion dollar’ is not) — but at least it’s progressing in a way that even I might agree with one day.

More on the wind lens:

More innovative wind turbine designs: http://www.ecofriend.com/entry/7-innovative-wind-turbine-designs/

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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One of the things that throws me off about energy resources is that it seems as though there are different standards for favored power resources. For example, I’ve heard offshore oil rigs slammed as being an aesthetic blight on the beauty of the ocean, yet that same standard doesn’t seem to apply to giant wind turbines on the landscape (though to be fair, the aesthetics of wind turbines do come under fire from time to time).

That's one fine lookin' energy resource

Maybe it’s that states like Texas, Iowa and Wyoming — leaders in wind power — just aren’t as darn well perty as California, or maybe oil & gas is still too dirty of an industry, but I still don’t get how the aesthetics argument can apply to one resource (or really to any if the energy is good and safe enough) and not the other.

Can someone explain this to me?

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with a 3.5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) 

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