Tivoli: Powered by wind

Posted Monday, December 14, 2009 11:55 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Tivoli has traditionally made strong efforts at recycling and energy efficiency — and early next year it will be powered by a wind turbine. The turbine — which is undergoing final tests now — is supposed to provide enough energy to power the park, including its many restaurants and shops. But of course, the wind does not blow all the time, so Tivoli is plugged into the Danish electricity grid — which still relies heavily on coal-fired plants (though it is also 20 percent wind, the highest share in Europe).

Read more from The New York Times.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12:43 PM

Maybe you know something that the folks I work with who fund wind projects don't. They talk a lot about transmission/distribution issues and have maps of the US which show that the best sustained wind levels are far away from the population centers where the power is needed.

You can build a nuclear, natural gas or coal plant where ever you need the power without having to consider transmission issues. With wind, solar and hydro, location matters for the generation process itself and the best location for generation may be far from the location of the need for power. Pickens' wind project included $2 billion for transmission facilities to connect to the grid. That puts you at a huge cost disadvantage compared to other types of generation that can be built on the grid.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:45 PM

Its only a cost disadvantage if your financial success depends on wind NOT becoming a viable option.

Coal generates 2,460 kWh per ton (at 40% efficiency), and each ton costs about $70. In the US, we use coal for about 50% of our energy,so we're looking at an annual coal bill of almost $171 billion.

Now, since both wind and coal facilities require maintenance and so on,we'll ignore those costs. Wind is free, so if it costs $2 billion to run some wire, then its plainly easy to see how rapidly wind power pays for its installation costs.

In short, all the "oh, it costs too much" nonsense you're hearing is exactly that - nonsense.

Last edited by djDaemon, Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:46 PM

Brandon | Facebook

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:51 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

djDaemon said:
...we'll ignore those costs.

Not saying I disagree or agree with you in any way, but when I see that statement in any arguement, I tend to immediately dismiss it as invalid.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:54 PM

Wow. Ever take algebra? When comparing two (or more) equations with identical variables, its common practice to omit those variables, since they're totally irrelevant to the result. Exact same thing here. Its not a complex concept, is it?

Last edited by djDaemon, Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:54 PM

Brandon | Facebook

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:57 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

So you're saying the cost of maintenance and so on (whatever "and so on" is) is exactly the same or at the very least negligible?

1. I'm not sure it is

2. If it is, wording it as "we'll ignore that" doesn't add much credibility to your argument.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:00 PM

1. Prove it.
2. To you, perhaps not. But to someone familiar with math...


Brandon | Facebook

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:20 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

1. I'm not the one making the argument. Seems to me it's up to you to prove the costs are the same - otherwise we have nothing more than "we'll ignore those costs" - which I think anyone with a basic understanding of presentation knows is laughable. The fact that you're asking me to find the info says to me, you're not sure the costs are the same in the end.

2. Someone familiar with math would know you need to know the numbers to work the equation. You seem to keep dancing around those numbers and trying to assure me the problem is on my end.

I'm convinced less than ever. :)

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:22 PM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:27 PM

Look, I'm making a quick-and-dirty comparison to show that the infrastructure costs quite likely pale in comparison to the total fuel costs encountered over the life of each plant. You know, "percentages" and stuff. I don't know those costs, but it doesn't take an IQ of 150 to do some simple comparisons.

Coal & wind power plants both have similar energy management and distribution systems. There are personnel costs, taxes and so on with both systems.

With coal, however, you have the additional burden of dealing with the waste - not an insignificant cost. And, if our Country wasn't so ass-backwards, the external costs of pollution would be included in this analysis as well. Of course, we don't hold these polluters accountable. Because, you know, our kids can just deal with it, like everything else, right?

So yeah - you got me. I don't have the figures in front of me, so I suppose that means I'm totally wrong. Because Gonch says so. :)

Last edited by djDaemon, Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:28 PM

Brandon | Facebook

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:29 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Only as much as it means you're totally right because djDaemon says so. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:31 PM

Hey - at least my side of the argument actually required math, rather than simply saying "nah, I don't think so."

Brandon | Facebook

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:41 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I don't have a side of the argument. I never disagreed with you. In fact, I made a point to say I didn't disagree, nor agree - just that it wasn't very convincing when part of your argument is "we'll just ignore those costs" - that's not very reassuring to me as someone who doesn't have an opinion and might actually be swayed.

Seems you mistook my wanting more answers before forming an opinion as disagreement.

At the very least you motivated me to look up some stuff on my own and it seems that according to this page from the DOE, you listed the price of a ton of coal ($70) at about double what it actually is.

From the DOE page:

In 2007 the average delivered price of coal to power plants was $35.56 per ton for coal sold under contracts and $39.87 for spot purchases.

In the end, the fact that you both

1. Don't have all the numbers

2. Have some of the numbers wrong

makes me think (as someone who doesn't have an opinion either way)that your argument seems broken.

Which is all I was saying in the first place.

And what part of

"And, if our Country wasn't so ass-backwards, the external costs of pollution would be included in this analysis as well. Of course, we don't hold these polluters accountable. Because, you know, our kids can just deal with it, like everything else, right?"

requires math?

Sure sounds like the same "nah, I don't think so" rhetoric you accuse me of.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:32 PM

$171 Billion dollars of coal at $70 per ton equals approximately 2.45 billion tons of coal. That amount of coal would produce, at 2460 kW per ton, approximately 6 trillion kW of electricity.

At 50% of electricity generation, total electrical output in the US would be approximately 12 trillion kW.

This article says otherwise.


Something doesn't add up.

Now, I am doing this on the fly, feel free to correct my figures if I am wrong.

Last edited by Bozman, Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:34 PM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:19 PM
Jeff's avatar

GoBucks89 said:
Maybe you know something that the folks I work with who fund wind projects don't. They talk a lot about transmission/distribution issues and have maps of the US which show that the best sustained wind levels are far away from the population centers where the power is needed.

You mean like Nowhere South Dakota, the place I drove through with the wind farms?

The "grid" gets power to places that need it, and as the blackouts of 2003 (2002?) showed us, many areas of the country get power from from several states away. That there aren't transmission lines today doesn't mean they can't build them. A nuclear project slated for Florida would cost $14 billion to build and $3 billion for transmission upgrades (link). Your quote without context means nothing.

I recently learned that Seattle area power is something like 95% hydro, which sure is neat. I'm kinda surprised the tree huggers here were OK with that.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 6:03 PM

Hydro power was around a long time before tree huggers.

My author website: mgrantroberts.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 6:32 PM

There are windy places that are close to the power grid. Take coast lines, for example. Now if the PITA NIMBY types would relax a bit and quit bellyaching how a "turbine blacks my ocean view," we'd be okay.

Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:30 PM

You can't look at the total amount all US utilities spend on coal per year (even if its not inflated) and compare that to the cost of transmission system improvements needed for one large wind project which would have powered about 1 million homes (digging a little further, the transmission costs for the Pickens project appear to be estimated at $5 billion -- $2 billion appears to have been the estimated costs for just one county) and draw any meaningful conclusions about how quickly the additional up-front costs of wind projects can be recovered. You need to look at all of the costs of construction and operation of each project and make comparissons to other alternatives. The "blah...blah....blah" in this case matters.

What I said initially was that a problem with wind is that the best locations for wind power production are far away from the locations that have the large power needs. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the following states have the best wind energy sources:

  1. North Dakota
  2. Texas
  3. Kansas
  4. South Dakota
  5. Montana
  6. Nebraska
  7. Wyoming
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa

Those are not the huge population centers (particularly when you look at where in Texas the wind is best). The Department of Energy has maps that show wind resources as well. http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps.asp That info again shows the wind being away from the population centers. Offshore wind is close to some of the larger population centers but the costs of offshore wind are significantly higher. Its my understanding that the Cape Cod waters are viewed to be one of the best locations for offshore wind because the water is relatively shallow. Deeper water will mean higher costs for construction of the towers and transmission systems and moving further from shore will increase costs as well. And I suspect there will be a lot of red tape to worth through with respect to impacts on marine systems with offshore wind projects. I suspect none of those issues are unsurmountable but cost and time will be an issue.

And the wind farms Jeff drove by in South Dakota are a good example of the issue. Folks are looking at transmitting wind generated power from the Dakotas to Chicago. Estimated costs (which are always lower than actual costs) to construct the necessary transmission lines are $10-12 billion and the system wouldn't be online until 2020. http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/may/09/travel/chi-ap-sd-exchange-harnessi

We can build transmission lines (never said we couldn't). But it will cost a lot of money and take a lot of time. And until you can get the power you generate to the grid, you can't really install wind turbines at least not on a large scale. Costs for wind technology will likely decrease over time. And costs for fossil fuel generated power will likely increase (particularly if carbon legislation is enacted). And recent legislation enacted by many states mandating a certain percentage of power being generated by "renewable" sources in the next 10-25 years will help push the renewables as well. Though at the moment there are a lot of pushes to broaden the definition of "renewable" to include things that I don't think were ever envisioned (such as plants fueled by the burning of vehicle tires).

The grid needs to be updated in any event which will be a huge cost that we really have no choice but to incur. Its not capable at this point of handling the increased expected demand loads in the years ahead. And the current grid is subject to attack with consequences much worse than the 2003 blackout. And grid improvement should include upgrades that make renewable sources of power more viable. So in addition to addressing transmission issues, you also need to address the intermittent nature of sources such as solar and wind. The system right now can handle scheduled outages for repairs/maintenance and it can handle non-large scale emergency outages. But with wind and solar, you are likely to have large scale unplanned outages because you have calm and cloudy days that cannot be forecasted. The issue can be addressed going forward but not without careful planning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 8:42 PM
Jeff's avatar

Who cares? Relative to the cost of construction of energy producing facilities, the transmission lines aren't that expensive. Smart companies who want to take advantage of the opportunity will. If that's not the case, then why would you even bring it up?

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:04 AM

Who cares about the cost of getting wind generated power to end users? How about investors, lenders, regulators and consumer/watchdog groups who appear at rate case hearings?

And you can view the costs of transmission lines as not being expensive relative to the costs of contructing energy producing facilities if you want. But for the costs of the transmission lines from the Dakotas to Chicago, you could buy and install enough turbines to have a huge wind farm. And those not-that-expensive transmission systems were a major factor in the cancellation/postponement of Pickens wind farm earlier this year.

And there are a lot of folks (some smarter than others I suspect) looking to take advantage of wind energy. My guess is that most people would say that Pickens is smart when it comes to investing and energy. But all of those folks need to deal with the issues/challenges presented with wind energy (including transmission issues). And the resolution of those issues/challenges will need to be satisfactory to investors, lenders, regulators and consumer/watchdog groups.

Why bring the issues up? Seems to me that an issue that is acknowledged by folks in the industry, in trade publications, etc. (by both wind power friend and foe alike) is germane to a discussion about wind power. But maybe not.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:34 AM
a_hoffman50's avatar

I am still waiting to hear how the cost of maintaining two completely different types of power plants can be assumed to be the same. It is like assuming two computers will coast the same simply because they are computers. Or here is another analogy for you: maintenance on a steel coaster costs the same as a wooden coaster. They are both coasters right?

NIMBY is a factor, no matter what type of electricity generator you are talking about as well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:37 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Clearly you've never taken algebra, Andy. ;)


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