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US Becomes Top Wind Producer; Solar Next

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the beneath-our-wings dept.

Power 388

SpuriousLogic sends along a SciAm piece that begins, "The United States overtook Germany as the biggest producer of wind power last year, new figures showed, and will likely take the lead in solar power this year, analysts said on Monday. Even before an expected 'Obama bounce' from a new President who has vowed to boost clean energy, US wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts — enough to power more than five million homes."

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The US was always the World's top wind producer (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706493)

and always will be.

Oh, you mean that kind of wind?

US Becomes Top Wind Producer (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706517)

You guys should stop eating so many beans.

Makes you wonder (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706523)

Kinda makes you wonder if government intervention is really necessary.

Re:Makes you wonder (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706531)

Of course it's necessary; if they could get all the congressmen and senators to speak all at the same time, I think they could at least double the amount of wind produced. :)

Re:Makes you wonder (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707227)

so hot air + cold harsh reality = lots of wind ?

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Insightful)

chalkyj (927554) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706551)

Yes, pat your selves on the back. America (9,161,923 SQ KM) has over taken Germany (357,021 SQ KM). Good work.

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Interesting)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706601)

Well, locations where these 'wind farms' are both out of eye sight and ear shot (as they can be quite loud) are rather rare.

But good news, because with the current economic crisis, there are fewer homeowners to do the NIMBY.

I think there was a story last year, where some rich community in Florida managed to get a off-shore wind farm denied because the towers would just be visible on the horizon...

Re:Makes you wonder (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706629)

Well, locations where these 'wind farms' are both out of eye sight and ear shot (as they can be quite loud) are rather rare.

But good news, because with the current economic crisis, there are fewer homeowners to do the NIMBY.

I think there was a story last year, where some rich community in Florida managed to get a off-shore wind farm denied because the towers would just be visible on the horizon...

They shouldn't be using huge towers. they should be using the newer helix models. They're more stable in turbulent wind conditions and can be plunked pretty much anywhere.

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Insightful)

qc_dk (734452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706771)

The helix towers are also less efficient. And,
the higher up you go the more wind there is.

Finally, I like the standard windmills. I think they are a beautiful monument to human ingenuity.

Re:Makes you wonder (3, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706905)

The helix towers are also less efficient. And,
the higher up you go the more wind there is.

Finally, I like the standard windmills. I think they are a beautiful monument to human ingenuity.

They're also a massive repair bill waiting to happen off the florida coast.

The helix ones don't have to be as efficient, they can be clustered in phalanxes and placed ANYWHERE.. this means they can be included on skyscrapers, placed on the sides of interstates, put in your back yard, on your roof, etc.

(not sure how well they'd do in water, but, if you'll allow me to make an arse out of you and me, i'll assume their resilience in turbulent winds would make them fairly resilient in water with minor modifications)

Re:Makes you wonder (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706815)

But good news, because with the current economic crisis, there are fewer homeowners to do the NIMBY.

Sadly, the current economic climate isn't having the same effect in the UK. NIMBYism is still rife, and our governments in so much debt I can't see renewables getting any meaningful investment.

It's times like this that I wish local government was more autonomous, I'd love to see a system where local tax accounted for the number of positive and negative public amenities nearby. Thus if someone wants to live near the local school and hospital, but doesn't want wind turbines or prisons anywhere near they would pay higher local tax (council tax) and people who lived near the prison and further from the school would pay less.

You might think if a system like this was put in place then it would unfairly lead to poor people getting a crap deal, well my counter to that is that they already do, and at least this way they pay less tax in return.

Re:Makes you wonder...not so much (1, Interesting)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707247)

Yeah, as one of the older Slashdotters here, I clearly remember the first ecology movement in America. Everything about it was "green" (why I'm sick of it, now).

Back then they pushed wind, solar, nuclear....but those same liberals that wanted to uproot people and put in a solar or wind farm can't be bothered to consider nuclear any more. FCOL, FRANCE leads us in nuclear power generation, getting something like 70% of their power from it. We get 60% of ours from coal, and now Obama wants to 'bankrupt the coal industry'. (So which way is the price gonna go?)

And I concur- the venerable Teddy Kennedy was the one that chased that windfarm outta HIS back yard.

The sad truth is, solar power will *never* be more than 50% effecient in the atmo. It's really not worth it.

Bring on the nukes!

Re:Makes you wonder (2, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707275)

Well, locations where these 'wind farms' are both out of eye sight and ear shot (as they can be quite loud) are rather rare.

Much more so in a relatively densely populated country like Germany, though.

But they don't need to be out of sight or ear shot, you just put them in a place that's noisier and uglier than windmills. Along motorways, for example. And that's something that Germany has a lot of.

No idea if they actually put them there, though. Much of Germany is probably too hilly. Along the coast is more efficient, but Germany is rather short on coastline.

I think there was a story last year, where some rich community in Florida managed to get a off-shore wind farm denied because the towers would just be visible on the horizon...

So they don't have power lines, highways or railroads in Florida? Or, I don't know, ugly apartment blocks? Wind farms are benign in comparison. But hey, put them wherever the oil platforms are.

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706723)

Well, but the real shame is that Germany is actually no.1 in solar power and was no.1 in wind power (I say this as a German).
Given the climate and the size of Germany, it's quite a joke.

Re:Makes you wonder (4, Interesting)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707069)

it is not, really, combined with this technology [wikipedia.org]

Re:Makes you wonder (4, Informative)

devonbowen (231626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707191)

I rode through Germany last weekend and couldn't believe all the solar cells I saw. Balconies, rooftops, entire sides of buildings. It's quite impressive. I'm not surprised that they generate so much power even with their climate.

Devon

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Informative)

checkup21 (717875) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707217)

Most of the "solar stuff" you see at the roof is not solar-power, it's "solar-thermie". To produce warm water while the sun is shining. cheers

Re:Makes you wonder (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707301)

Exactly. For the moment, the political and societal will to do something is a much bigger factor than land area or climate. Germany is the front runner, but as soon as everybody else finally catches up, it'll be overtaken in solar by sunnier countries, and in wind power by windier countries.

You'd think Netherland (my country) would be quite good at wind power, but apparently we suck.

Re:Makes you wonder (3, Insightful)

master_p (608214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707373)

If you want to talk about shame, then here is Greece we are last in solar and wind power...and we have sunshine 2/3 of the year and winds all over the season (because Greece is surrounded by sea)...

Re:Makes you wonder (-1, Flamebait)

Rewind (138843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706745)

Yes, pat your selves on the back. America (9,161,923 SQ KM) has over taken Germany (357,021 SQ KM). Good work.

I don't really see how that is informative. The size of Germany was not really under debate, the title was not "US found to be larger than Deutschland", and I think most had at least some idea it wasn't as large as the US... The things don't just SPAWN, they have to be built. Otherwise we would all be chasing the Russian record.

But going straight for the numbers, I have to assume you are German. In that case, I must point out that Germany would be much larger if we hadn't won a certain war. That and we don't know about yer fancey smancey kilometre over hur!! :)

abosulte figures vs relative figures. (2, Informative)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707093)

Of you are lager by sqare kilometers, population and power consumtion then is is just easy to have the larger wind farms as well. Comparing absolute figures between countries is just plain unfair.

Divide by any of the three and the US won't be the winner any longer. But then Germany probably won't win either any more...

Re:Makes you wonder (1)

Rewind (138843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707223)

Modded "flamebait"... Ok, I guess that pointing out that the largest country in terms of KM does not = the largest wind power producer is obvious trolling and Germans don't get any form of negative or black humor... To be fair I guess these are both things known by most of the world, though apparently not Germans.

Re:Makes you wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707267)

I think the real point is that Americans don't get any form of negative or black modding and that any comment should always be in the form of a blanket statement.

Re:Makes you wonder (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706751)

I wonder how the USA compares to the EU overall?

Re:Makes you wonder (0, Flamebait)

Instine (963303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706763)

Exactly. US becomes biggest wind bag. Or producer of hot air might be a better title... I know troll/flame/whatever. But please the rest of the world is kinda sick of this empty brovado. Real results please. Then we'll get back to admirring you as a nation. (and don't get me wrong - I already admire you as a poeple, many of you anyway)

Re:Makes you wonder (1, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706783)

Yes, pat your selves on the back. America (9,161,923 SQ KM) has over taken Germany (357,021 SQ KM). Good work.

I guess the US-haters are having a field day (+4 Informative? WTF?), but could you tell me what the heck does your comment have to to with the GP? In what way was the GP "patting itself"?

If you want to make cheap shots at the US, why not do it in your own thread - at least it's somewhat logical. This way you seem like a retard.

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Insightful)

cheetah_spottycat (106624) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706935)

It puts the achievement into the right perspective. Outperforming a country with less than 4% surface (and similarly smaller number of citizens) is not quite as relevant as the headline wants to pretend. Whats next? "Russia outperforms Principality of Monaco in natural gas production! Film at 11!"?

Re:Makes you wonder (3, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707349)

It puts the achievement into the right perspective. Outperforming a country with less than 4% surface (and similarly smaller number of citizens)

Number of citizens isn't quite that much smaller. I think Germany has about 30% the population size of the US.

But Germany is quite clearly a front runner in clean energy. It's inevitable that larger countries will eventually overtake it in absolute numbers. And I'm glad the US is already doing that. Good job!

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Informative)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706811)

It would be more fair to calculate per inhabitant, not per square meter. A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that the US has 82 Watts installed capacity per inhabitant. Spain has 3.5 times as much, Germany 4.4 and little Denmark outperforms the US by 7 to 1. Denmark would like to get 50% of its electricity from wind power in the future. Denmark uses cross-border trading with Norway to balance supply/demand. The Norwegians have a lot of hydro which they can turn on/off rather quickly. So denmark sells power to Norway when there is wind, and buys it back when there isn't.

Re:Makes you wonder (2, Informative)

Mattsson (105422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707265)

The fun thing about Denmark as a wind-power user, is that most of what they don't produce with wind are produced with coal, which is just about the worst energy-source there is. =)

Re:Makes you wonder (1)

jlar (584848) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707337)

As a side note the Swedish energy company Vattenfall (which owns a lot of the Danish coal plants) are currently undertaking large scale experiments with CO2 neutral coal plants (also one in Denmark):

http://www.atlantic-times.com/archive_detail.php?recordID=1532 [atlantic-times.com]

So who knows. Maybe coal will be the next green energy source (or maybe not).

Re:Makes you wonder (2, Interesting)

the_one(2) (1117139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707361)

Yeah and Denmark gets pissy about Sweden's nuclear power plant and we have to shut it down.:(

Re:Makes you wonder (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707273)

It would be more fair to calculate per inhabitant, not per square meter.

Or as a percentage of overall energy use. The US is the worlds largest consumer of energy, so it shouldn't be surprising to see it becoming the world's largest producer of clean energy.

Per use, not inhabitant (4, Insightful)

grimJester (890090) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707387)

I'd argue that wind power per inhabitant is also wrong, since it doesn't take into account that the average American uses 1,460W while the average German uses only 753W. As a fraction of consumption, Germany has about eight times more wind power. Link [wikipedia.org]

Re:Makes you wonder (4, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706839)

Yes, to get close to Germany the US needs five million homes / 25 gigawatts = 5kwh / home.
I live alone in a 3 bedroom home in Australia and use ~1.2Kwh (yes I have a dishwasher, dryer, ect. gas heating, cooking, hot water. )
Germany is more energy efficient than Oz (who are up near the top of the least efficient list along with the US), so say each 5kwh mansion has 5 people = 100% for 25 million people.
That's just under 1/3 of their population getting 100% of their residential power from wind alone.
I don't know how many buildings are powered by solar in Germany but I do know they were pumping almost a gigawatt of excess solar back on to the grid last summer.

Population (0, Redundant)

krischik (781389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707041)

Yes, pat your selves on the back. America (9,161,923 SQ KM) has over taken Germany (357,021 SQ KM). Good work.

Right on. And the US has 2.8 times the population as well. And we don't even start speaking of totel power consuption.

it's a little more proportional on new capacity (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707063)

The U.S. is coming closer to pulling its weight on new capacity: in 2008, it installed 8.3 GW, while Germany installed 1.7 GW, or about a 5x factor. Not quite the 30x factor of land area, but hey, 1.7 million of those sq km are in Alaska, which is kind of inconvenient for electric transmission (same reason Canada's wind power is fairly low, despite massive land area).

Re:Makes you wonder (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707447)

Aww, it sounds like you are bitter that your right to be morally self-righteous has been taken away. Seriously America is damned as hydro-carbon chugging, global glutton on one hand and on the other is shit upon when it shows a modicum of success when weaning itself off of them. Admittedly it didn't need to be positioned as a competition, but in case you hadn't noticed Americans are motivated by competition.

All of the being said, it is only a modest success with a lot of work still to be done. There are still 105+ million households that still need energy from a "clean" source.

Re:Makes you wonder (4, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706589)

Kinda makes you wonder if government intervention is really necessary.

We have roughly 4x the population of germany, which means, per capita, we are far behind the rest of the industrialized world in development of renewable energy.

If the disposition described in this article were applied to housing, it would be like declaring the wealth gap had closed because everyone who worked minimum wage pooled their resources and lived 4 families to a single family house.

In other words: our renewable energy production is not up to pace with the rest of the world, which various international organizations say is STILL not enough.

Re:Makes you wonder (5, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706761)

The German model of subsidising renewables is not without its problems

http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10961890 [economist.com]

Most of Germany's electricity comes from coal-fired and nuclear plants. But the former are unpopular because of their relatively high greenhouse-gas emissions, and the latter because of the fear of a catastrophic accident. So in 1991 Germany adopted a renewable-energy law, now known as the EEG, which encourages investment by cross-subsidising renewable electricity fed into the grid. The law is popular with those who support the rapid introduction of new clean technology. Stefan Schurig of the World Future Council, a green think-tank in Hamburg, calls it "the best law of its kind worldwide".

The law says electricity produced from renewable sources must be purchased by utilities according to a generous "feed-in tariff" that sets higher-than-market rates and fixes them for 20 years. Roof-mounted photovoltaic systems installed in 2007, for example, can sell power at €0.49 per kilowatt-hour, or about seven times today's wholesale price, until 2027. The fixed rate allows investors to calculate returns and removes uncertainty over financing.

The utilities that buy power at these higher rates pass the extra costs back to their customers in the form of higher electricity bills. This added an average of 1 euro cent per kilowatt-hour to the price of electricity last year, increasing the typical household electricity bill by 5%, or €3 a month. For the country as a whole, the cost was €7.7 billion in 2007, up 38% on the year before. Enthusiasts consider that a small price to jump-start a new industry and start decarbonising the power supply.

Clouds on the horizon

But the government is not so sure. It has proposed a revision to the EEG, which calls for a shift away from solar and towards other forms of renewable energy, and offshore wind in particular. As things stand, the feed-in tariff for solar goes down by 5% every year. But new proposals call for a cut of 9.2% next year, and 7-8% thereafter.

The problem is not just the expense of the existing law. Cheerleaders for solar had hoped that the increased demand for panels would help manufacturers reduce unit costs, and thus make solar more competitive in the long run. Instead, the rush into solar has led to a shortage of the high-grade silicon used to make the cells, which has soared in price from $25 per kilogram in 2003 to around $400 today.

Indeed, such is the demand for solar panels in Germany that it has kept prices high globally. This is wonderful for manufacturers, but makes it more expensive to install solar capacity in sunnier parts of the world, where it would generate more electricity. The EEG's generous rates for solar amounted to "picking winners on a grand scale", says Dieter Helm, an expert on energy policy at the University of Oxford. A euro in cross-subsidies spent on wind power, rather than solar, produces more generating capacity and a larger reduction in carbon emissions.

Basically if you subsidise the wrong thing, you can potentially hurt more than you help. Picking the right things to subsidise is non trivial.

Hell if planned economies worked, India and the UK would have grown faster than free market places like the US in the 50's and 60's. Actually, despite being poorer, they grew more slowly until they implemented free market reforms.

Now traditionally greens seem to see economic growth as some kind of problem because it usually leads to more pollution, but in the case of the renewable energy industry, more growth actually means less pollution.

And actually the EEG is a fairly lightweight piece of government intervention, adding only 5% to bills.

To misquote Socrates "True knowledge exists in knowing that the Government knows nothing."

Re:Makes you wonder (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706821)

Well, you have to consider the long term goals of this.
The main problem is that there is a chicken-egg problem with solar energy: with high panel prices is there is no demand and without demand the prices will remain high in the long term.

They want to break this cycle by creating artifical demand. While the prices go up in the short term, the increased production capacity and investments into new technologies will drive them down in the long term.

Re:Makes you wonder (2, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706887)

Hell if planned economies worked, India and the UK would have grown faster than free market places like the US in the 50's and 60's. Actually, despite being poorer, they grew more slowly until they implemented free market reforms.

And yet everyone who lives there has adequate healthcare and the same standard of living without massive national debt.

Go figure!

As for subsidies, the US subsidizes a lot, and the US manufacturing sector has died because of a LACK of subsidies: specifically, the insistence that the government should not be providing healthcare, leaving it to businesses to pick up the slack.

Re:Makes you wonder (2, Interesting)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706643)

Kinda makes you wonder if government intervention is really necessary.

The summary uses words like "Surged", and "biggest" which is more than a little misleading for the overall renewable situation, given the tiny fraction renewable energy makes up of the total energy market (7% in 2006, wind 1% of that):
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/prelim_trends/rea_prereport.html [doe.gov]

Re:Makes you wonder (2, Insightful)

Anspen (673098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707073)

Yes it is, since this increase is the *result* of government intervention. The guarantees a minimum feed-in tariff which makes building wind installations commercially viable (not just because of the subsidy but also because it makes the large up front investment predictable). What's more, the past has shown what happens when it's left to the free market. Since the law has to be renewed every two years political wrangling means it's sometimes in place and sometimes not. When it's not, investment immediately collapses (see the graph at the end of this article [theoildrum.com] ).

And since so far it hasn't been renewed installation this year will most likely be significantly lower.

Beyond that total installad capacity is only important when looked at relatively. Total population is almost four times as large in the US than it is in Germany, energy consumption per household it much higher in the US and even Germany only gets a relatively small percentage of it's electricity from wind (7% according to this [wind-energie.de] ). So overall: good start, but most of the work is still to do.

Interesting story title! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706553)

McDonalds giving a free burger to every American, to commemorate the massive fart winds generated.

winning by numbers (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706559)

hardly surprising when you see just how many turbines [openstreetmap.org] some places have installed

Re:winning by numbers (1)

pisto_grih (1165105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706753)

Weirdly, I was thinking of exactly the same patch of the planet as I was reading this story.

I visited the Bay Area last year as a tourist (from London, UK) and was marveling at the hundreds of turbines on the hill as I drove towards Yosemite.

Per capita (2, Insightful)

moonbender (547943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706573)

So that comes down to 300W of solar power per capita in Germany, 83.3W of solar power in the US and 20.2W of solar power per capita worldwide. Just about enough to drive a netbook. ;)

Re:Per capita (4, Informative)

feyhunde (700477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706727)

I prefer looking at Hydro electric. 317,686 million Kilowatt-hours for the US versus 26,944 million Kilowatt-hours. Or about 4 times as much per person. I live in the Northwest though, and 82% of the power for the region is from Hydroelectric. The rest is either natural gas or nuclear and mostly for Seattle.

Nothing New (0, Redundant)

zabzonk (1467209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706581)

Americans have always been famous for producing wind.

Re:Nothing New (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706855)

Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh come to mind.

For those of you keeping track at home... (5, Funny)

SwabTheDeck (1030520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706587)

US wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts

...that's 20.66116 flux capacitors and at least as many Libraries of Congress.

Re:For those of you keeping track at home... (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706677)

And what about rods to the hogshhead then?

Top wind producer my arse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706619)

Given enough beans, I can see how the US can produce a great deal of wind, however, from where I sit on the other side of the pond, I can't really envision seeing more light from somewhere where the sun doesn't shine. ;-P

Biggest producer of wind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706627)

Look, we already know that Americans are the biggest windbags in the world...

LOL at desperate attempt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706671)

You guys must be pretty desperate to attempt this kind of spin. The comparison is obviously flawed.

Re:LOL at desperate attempt (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706707)

But.. But.. We ARE the leaders in per capita waste production [nationmaster.com] and incarceration [wikipedia.org] !

USA USA USA!

Re:LOL at desperate attempt (1)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707009)

How dare you mock your country! YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL!

Re:LOL at desperate attempt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707037)

I (as a European) am happy to find Americans like you on slashdot :) I've always wondered why many Americans - considering all your great accomplishments (in particular in science) - get ridiculously defensive at the slightest criticism of your country. IMHO such a reaction is a sign of insecurity - I mean, if we say that the rest of the world told you that it was a stupid idea to go to Iraq, we're not being condescending for the very simple reason that you didn't come back running with your tail between your legs. Anyway, this got off-topic but I just wanted to compliment you.

What are those gigawatts? (2, Interesting)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706685)

Is it the theoretical maximum you could get from the installed generators (i.e. when the wind blows optimally, you get 25 GW)? Or is it the average power? The minimum power continuously produced under normal conditions (i.e. under non-exceptional circumstances, you won't expect the power generation fall beyond that value)? Or what?

I must have missed something... (0, Redundant)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706689)

I thought Congress already held the record for wind production.

1.21 gigwatts! (1, Funny)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706701)

US wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts

I wasn't aware that live music had its own unit of energy consumption! Perhaps someone could tell me how to scale it to something SI, like gigawatts? I can't find the unit in Google calculator.

Re:1.21 gigwatts! (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706725)

Gig's are the biggest source of Summer-time Wind Power in the world, didn't you know that? that's why they're always held in the countryside

Enough to power (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706729)

20 Delorian Time Machines - with enough left over for a few thousand decent cups of tea

It doesn't surprise me... (0, Redundant)

JimboG (1467977) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706773)

It doesn't surprise me that the US is the top wind producer... what with all the large people you have over there. OH, I see. Top wind power producer. Sorry, my bad.

Efficiency (4, Insightful)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706781)

Unfortunately, the US is infamous for using vast quantities of energy and using pretty inefficient devices (as a whole, not saying it applies to everyone). So some pretty serious energy efficiency measures are also called for.

Re:Efficiency (2, Interesting)

eastlight_jim (1070084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707207)

The startling statistic is that 25GW is enough to power "more than five million homes" or around 5kW per home. A story a couple of days ago from Scotland said that 7.2MW is enough to power 9000 homes [slashdot.org] . This is only 800 watts per home; the American home is consuming 6.25x as much power as the Scottish one. It would have to be a *lot* more than five million homes from 25GW to come close to the Scottish requirements. I think it is this extragavant electric consumption that is one of the cruicial things to tackle before getting all exited about a few windmills.

Audit (1, Interesting)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706831)

A friend of mine who is a mathematician told me he rad an article that showed that the total amount of energy required to create a windmill would never be recovered by the device. So a couple of questions. First, does anyone know of where he speaks? Second, should we have a label on devices that audit how much power was used to create the device, not just how much it takes to use it? Third WTF happened to gyromills?

Re:Audit (4, Interesting)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706857)

He's totally wrong. the 'energy pay-back time' or EPBT of big windmills ranges from 6 months to a year.

Re:Audit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707131)

He says, you says ... got anything to back up your claims? From what I've read around the place, wind farms require subsidies to break even and the power generated by them is more costly than that generated by, say, coal-powered power stations.

I don't care one way or the other, I just want some real figures.

Re:Audit (1)

regular_gonzalez (926606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706967)

Never recovered? Even if it ran for 10,000 years? I find such claims to be highly suspect, as any ongoing routine maintenance must require less power then the windmill produces (otherwise, there would be no incentive to install it at all - it would be a drain on the current power grid instead of supplementing it).

Re:Audit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706999)

If by "gyromills" you mean the ones with vertical axis of rotation, those turned out to be not as efficient and did not scale up like regular windmills. I also heard they did kill a serious number of birds due to much higher speed and being near the ground.

Re:Audit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707001)

small rooftop windmills 'hurt' the environment.

http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2008/09/urban-windmills.html

"big" ones are okay as other poster stated

but, hello? windmills CHANGE THE CLIMATE -- they don't f' things up (or kill people) like hydroelectric, but they certainly change weather patterns

What a load of crap (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707039)

Your friend is an idiot. Do you really think people who have used windmills for hundred of years did so purely for the fun of it?

"Lets spend months building a windmill", they thought, "to saw lumber or grind corn. Who cares if it costs more energy to build it then it ever delivers and we could easily saw all that wood ourselves with the same energy".

Your friends argument is similar to those who claim we don't have global warming because it is freezing cold outside. It seems superficially true but comes from such a poor understanding of the issue you can't even begin to correct.

However, presuming you ain't as big a moron as your friend, here is the reason this myth has come into being.

It costs X amount of energy to build a generator. This is far higher then you probably think because if it uses for instance aluminum. Simply put, if all energy was equal, a generator that costs X energy from the grid to produce should pump X+ energy into the grid over its lifetime.

Now comes the killer. What is its lifetime? Economic lifetime? Period it is written off in? Or shortened lifetime because it was demolished before it was obsolete/rundown?

It is very easy to claim a generator should produce its energy in say 1 year claiming that is its lifespan for whatever reason. In that case, the cost of producing it must be recovered in a year. Thanks to the way goverments work there have been projects where windmills were put up and torn down in a matter of months. Of course these never recouped their energy. The headline went into the newspaper, idiots didn't read the full article and myth is born.

This however also applies to nuclear reactors that are dismantled before they are ever brought online and countless other big projects.

A normal windmill produces far more power over its operational life then it has cost to produce. If it didn't it wouldn't make economic sense and countless windmills have come up for no other reason than that the owner wants to make money from them.

They have been doing this ever since the first windmill was invented hundreds of years ago.

Re:Audit (1)

tarscher (1000260) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707089)

How could these things then be economical viable? I think your friends article had it's math wrong.

Re:Audit (3, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707095)

A friend of mine who is a mathematician told me he rad an article that showed that the total amount of energy required to create a windmill would never be recovered by the device.

... and that's exactly why you pick an engineer or physicist if you need to solve real-world problems. ;)

Oh, and he "read an article"? I can write lots of articles that show all kinds of things. Did the article pass any plausibility checks?

Re:Audit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707107)

A friend of mine who is a mathematician told me he rad an article that showed that the total amount of energy required to create a windmill would never be recovered by the device.

If a wind turbine ever pays back its initial financial investment, then it must pay back its initial energy "investment". Say some turbine costs $20k to purchase. Then its production consumes less than $20k worth of energy, otherwise the manufacturer would be making a loss (and would not have sold it for $20k). If in its lifetime, it recoups at least $20k in energy costs, then it has extracted at least $20k worth of energy, which is at least as much as that consumed in its production.

Of course, having a wind turbine pay back its financial investment is not a given. If the turbine is improperly sited in (for example) a calm area, the financial and energy returns are more doubtful. I'm guessing the article your friend referred to was probably about a specific instance of a wind turbine in an inappropriate location rather than a general argument against wind turbines.

I had this great idea for green power... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706869)

The Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean are at different levels (that is why locks are needed in the Panama canal).

The idea is to have a hydro-electric plant between the two oceans, all you need is few miles of huge pipes and a turbine. Bingo! unlimited power, who needs wind?

Best discussions ever! (0, Troll)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706877)

Congratulations Slashdotters, you've outdone yourselves this time! Never in my life have I seen so much redundancy with so little benefit. I think it's safe to say that we could replace 95% of the comments in this thread with:

"America is teh ghay!"

without losing a shred of information.

And people call Vista bloated ....

Re:Best discussions ever! (2, Funny)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707035)

To be fair, I think it's more like 45% "America are teh ghay!" and 50% "Hur hur, farts are funny!"

Re:Best discussions ever! (4, Insightful)

bigmouth_strikes (224629) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707087)

Well it's good to see your valuable, thought-provoking, high quality comment complaining about worthless comments enhancing the signal-to-noise-ratio...

Clearly, Slashdot is a US-centric website where many articles and discussions are in the format of comparing the situation on a scientific or technological topic in the US versus the rest of the world. Nothing wrong with that, since there are many positive outcomes from that if one can raise oneself above petty nationalism.

In this particular discussion it is valuable to compare the statistics which are a bit skewed by the vast differences in size, population and population density. Nevertheless it is interesting to note that being able to power 5 million US homes by wind power is an astonishing number in itself, and brings hope for a brighter future!

Re:Best discussions ever! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707413)

I think it's safe to say that we could replace 95% of the comments in this thread with:

"America is teh ghay!"

Is it really slashdotter's fault that America loves the feeling of cock slamming into the back of their throat?

Enough Energy To... (1)

geordie_loz (624942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706885)

US wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts - enough to power more than five million homes.

Or...
Hmm.. 25 / 2.21 = 11.31
About enough energy to travel through time 11 times, right?

Re:Enough Energy To... (1)

geordie_loz (624942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706891)

hmm. maybe 20 times, it's 1.21 isn't it?

Thank you, mods (1)

pcgabe (712924) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706895)

I would like to thank the mods for not upmodding the MANY bean- and politics-related "wind" puns that appear to be dominating the posts so far.

Stand fast, men. I fear it is only going to get worse.

the focus should be on energy consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26706913)

US citizens are 5% of world population and consumes 23% of the energy.

Nothing more to say.

http://worldpopulationbalance.org/pop/energy/

25 gigawatts (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706945)

25 gigawatts? Maybe this car analogy can help:

With last year's US wind power capacity, Marty McFly was able to drive back and forth to 1955 a total of 20.661 times, but since this capacity wasn't available in 1985 yet, you'll have to wait until 2013 to find out what really happened when Part IV will get filmed.

And per capita? (3, Insightful)

kitgerrits (1034262) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706981)

Wow, a country with over 300 million people, 9,629,091 square kilometers and sea on the east and west side
managed to produce more wind power
than a country with 80 million people, 57,022 square kilometers and sea on the (mostly useless) north side.

Call me when they reach 90 GW...

people seem to like nominal comparisons (2, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707031)

For example, there was a bunch of excited speculation about when China's GDP would surpass the U.S.'s, despite the fact that that would still leave China nowhere near the U.S. on a per-capita GDP basis.

Re:And per capita? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707157)

357,022, actually, not 57,022, although your point very much still stands.

That being said, hey! I *am* from mostly useless north side of Germany, you insensitive clod!

Re:And per capita? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707269)

Wow, a country with over 300 million people, 9,629,091 square kilometers and sea on the east and west side
managed to produce more wind power
than a country with 80 million people, 57,022 square kilometers and sea on the (mostly useless) north side.

Call me when they reach 90 GW...

You think 90 GW is impressive?

Geez, how much energy is generated and used worldwide every day? What is 90 GW? 0.00001% of that?

How much of all that energy that the world uses (and NEEDS to use to grow the food to feed 6+ billion people!) could possibly come from solar/wind power? What are you going to do? Use all the farmland on the planet for solar collectors?

So, 90 GW is an important to you?

No surprise - you seem impressed by empty gestures. Like per capita and per sq km production of wind power.

Why don't we just harness the hot air you're generating?

Original article (4, Informative)

pieleric (917714) | more than 5 years ago | (#26706987)

The original article can be found here [gwec.net] . It has more figures, including some on China, and an interesting remark that Europe in total generates 66GW, which is another way to the per capita computation to moderate this first rank of US...

Percent of total (1)

grimJester (890090) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707309)

66GW / 500M inhabitants gives about 130W/capita. US has 25GW / 300M inhabitants, which is about 80W/capita. According to this list [wikipedia.org] the US consumes 1460W/capita and the EU 700.

EU 18,5%, the US 5,4%.

Which is completely wrong because "The wind power capacity installed by end 2008 will, in a normal wind year, produce 142 TWh of electricity, equal to about 4.2% of the EU's electricity demand". Sigh. What did I get wrong here?

Irrelevant metric? (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707117)

Surely it's better to measure the amount of electricity generated by a particular method per head of population or total consumption of electricity or similar?

The US is a bigger country with a bigger population than Germany, it is therefore surely not that spectacular if it has overtaken a vastly smaller country in wind power generation. What matters is when it overtakes it in proportion to some other relevant statistic.

With the vast amounts of open land the US has it's more of a surprise it can't generate more wind, and particularly with states like Arizona, New Mexico etc. more solar than most other countries already.

Yeah right! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707219)

My butt is the top wind producer! But the sun don't shine down there, so I can't produce very much solar.

inconvenient truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26707231)

"a friend of mine" isn't that what al gore says throughout his masterpiece? I guess if you are important you must have important friends and no one will question you.

25 gigawatts! (1)

thepacketmaster (574632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707369)

That's enough to power the province of Ontario at peak times in the summer...can we please have your energy?

MSI (1)

tonywestonuk (261622) | more than 5 years ago | (#26707407)

I though MSI, were the top Wind producer, and they're based in Taiwan??...er.....

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