Wind Turbines Wear and Tear

Overview

As a design Engineer and having personally spent many years flying complex mechanical machines with propellers, transmissions, gears, turbines, all subject to vibration and overall wear and tear has provided an instinctive sense of relevance as applied to design, operations and maintenance of such interesting machines.

It has always struck me that this whole mechanical wind turbine farm idea would likely end up as a very expensive proposition on a life cycle cost basis due to the inherent mechanical and physical complexity, regardless of whether it is approached on a preventative or breakdown maintenance strategy. There are the wind turbine wheels, the articulating blades, complex vibration management, bearings in the gearboxes, the gears in the transmissions, the generator, lubricating systems for the entire low speed and high speed shaft sides (yes, even wind turbines need dirty carbon based oil to operate, as well as ongoing routine oil changes, no different than other rotating machinery), yaw systems, computer control management and on and on.  Just to complicate the O&M support effort, all of this has to be carried out while balancing on a high pole on land or rolling sea.

Couple that idea with the relative low density of wind power for the large logistical footprint and the typical low load factor of direct wind based energy over the long haul drags the net economic return even lower.

Because wind farm turbine power cannot be relied on as part of the baseline grid power due to its intermittent and variable nature, it needs to be backed up 100% by solid high inertia predictable generating sources. Thus, the incremental capital costs for wind turbine farms (including grid modifications) must stand on their own merits for the full life cycle renewable cost analysis added to the grid. That is, wind power can’t be considered (subtracted) as capital replacement for taking existing predictable inertial grid capacity offline. (Although you can’t seem to tell the political scientists that to date. Fortunately, real physics, like gravity can’t be legislated).

The Cracks are Beginning to Show

In looking at sample literature online for large scale turbine specifications, industry and the government have the commercial turbine life optimistically  estimated at 20 to 25 years.  Just recently, the Telegraph has reported on a recent large scale study of 3000 onshore wind turbines that has found the actual lifespan in service is only 12-15 years. Compounding the bad news, the measured load factor drops to just 11% over that shortened span.  For the platforms at sea, it drops to 15% in just over 10 years because of the harsher environment.

See the full Telegraph Article here.

Quote: Dr John Constable, the director of REF, said: “This study confirms suspicions that decades of generous subsidies to the wind industry have failed to encourage the innovation needed to make the sector competitive.

“Bluntly, wind turbines onshore and offshore still cost too much and wear out far too quickly to offer the developing world a realistic alternative to coal.”

In Conclusion

You don’t need to be an accountant to see how the political push to wind farms has weighed economically on every place that has gone to scale in the rush to renewables at all cost. Regardless of how various governments might try to bury the accounting and taxes on executing their master renewable plan (and history says the will), big increases for the cost of Electricity are already ending up at the last mile lapping on the doorstep of the impoverished consumer. As a Canadian, its easy to see the very real economic pain this ‘rush to please’ on things like the Paris accord have inflicted on the citizenery.  Consider the current grief caused to our Ontario brethren. You can fool all of the people some of the time, etc.

It’s plain to see that the government there is on the run, but it can’t hide from the growing backlash.  I’m pretty sure there will / must be other international governments in similar boats rowing madly away from the dock .

Rub-a-dub-dub.

mauiturbinesTurbines on the hill

Unprecedented Global Warming. Not Really.

You are here, 400,000 years later:

theearthinthepast2Source: EPA’s Climate Change Indicators (2014) and Petit et al. (2001). They are based on the Vostok Ice Core from Antarctica.

Over the last 400, 000 years, we’ve only touched this current and relatively short but pleasant (for thin skinned mostly hairless humans) temperature spike five times. This time (for the last approximately 10,000 years) we have barely made it back near the scheduled top temperature. Forget the 0.04% CO2 trace gas that gets accused of driving the climate to the current very ordinary peak. There are obviously much bigger and intense physics and thermodynamics at play looking on the four hundred thousand year scale.

What you are absorbing as the modern version of Climate Change Angst is carefully orchestrated by those who want to surgically frame the climate argument by arbitrarily scaling and smoothing  the discussion window to match what these  Merchants of Fear want you to believe.

For example, the Canadian public broadcaster CBC in September 2011 put up this alarming journalistic headliner: “Arctic sea ice hits record low!”.  The opening paragraph purposely starts like this: “The amount of sea ice covering the Arctic is lower than ever before”. Turns out their “Ever Before” starts in 1972. Either the misdirect was intentional, or the CBC never bothered to apply a journalistic center line before publishing, or no one at the CBC knows or cares  anything about real Physics, thermodynamics or appropriate scales to determine a bona fide climate trend, or maybe no one understands math or logic over there.  Just saying.

You can find plenty of other examples of this skewed journalistic modus operandi, such as “Meteorological Year Warmest EVER!” , where ’Warmest Ever’ is only for the last 140 years that NASA kept records, when 140 years on the real climate cycle scale as a bona fide statistical  trend is not even close; its lost in the data noise. Apparently margin of error or journalistic context has no place in such  main stream pronouncements.

One doesn’t even have to understand the nuances of the chart’s gargantuan feedback / feed forward balance of primary forces that drive the ebb and flow of past climate change at scale, nor feel compelled to dissect the intense power of the historical trace climate cycles. The takeaway reality is that there are long (approximately 100,000 year +/-) cycle markers that recur in a periodic manner, just as reliable as summer, fall, winter, spring do for the tiny pinpoint limited lifetime scale of human understanding.

As you can see from the big picture, most of the earth’s timeline temperatures are spent in the frigid shallows and miseries of kilometers of glacial ice on top of current city locations such as Toronto. Why the gods of real climate physics choose to occasionally bless the earth with a brief interlude spike thaw to allow mankind to eat, reproduce and thrive for a while is still up for grabs.

Above all, don’t be hoodwinked into believing that the trace gas CO2 is the tipping point in this glacial story. It’s insignificant to the overall system dynamics at play, and in fact, actually lags somewhat behind the temperature rise and fall and even gets out of phase as you can see above. CO2 is just along for the ride on the same bus – and that’s a good thing; – It’s rise and fall with temperature is essential and critical to balance the mix for all life on this green planet, and incidentally, remains the circle of life mechanism of food and oxygen supply for the needy, dependent  human bags of  carbon based protein who need to eat, exhale CO2 and sporadically walk the planet during the warm spikes.

Don’t be fooled or become yet another willing parrot for “The Science of Climate is settled”.  You are being played. That’s all that’s wanted;  i.e., hand over your money and compliance, not your love.

greening

The Price of Certainty

The Price of Certainty

By DANIELE ANASTASION NOV. 1, 2016  (Op-Docs, New York Times)

An aside: I’m putting put this thoughtful piece  in the Climate Change Category, as we reflect  on  the simplistic hard line “The Science is Settled” proclamation,   but it could equally fit on the other side of this blog in the Category “What’s it All About..” as it’s universally relevant to our human journey on both counts.  You should make enough space away from your daily distractions to watch it to the end.

– the old man

Excerpt:

It’s alarming to see how polarized politics have become in the United States. The wider the gulf grows, the more people seem to be certain that the other side is wrong. Certainty can be a dangerous thing.

Two years ago, I met the social psychologist Arie Kruglanski while researching a documentary about extremism. Dr. Kruglanski, a professor at the University of Maryland, studies what motivates people to join terrorist groups like ISIS. My producing partner, Eric Strauss, and I had fascinating conversations with Dr. Kruglanski about the psychology of binary thinking, and decided to make a short film about his work instead.

Link to video here

Dr. Kruglanski is best known for his theory of “cognitive closure,” a term he coined in 1989 to describe how we make decisions. “Closure” is the moment that you make a decision or form a judgment. You literally close your mind to new information.

If you have high “need for closure,” you tend to make decisions quickly and see the world in black and white. If you have a low need for closure, you tolerate ambiguity, but often have difficulty making decisions. All of us fall naturally somewhere on this spectrum.

But during times of fear and anxiety — like, for example, right now — everybody’s need for closure increases. We tend to make judgments more quickly, regardless of the facts. We’re also drawn to leaders who are decisive and paint solutions in simple terms. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Kruglanski and his team of researchers found that as the color-coded terrorism threat system increased, support for President George W. Bush went up accordingly. The more uncertain our world seems, the more we compensate by seeking out certainty.

Dr. Kruglanski has spent his career studying the consequences of this psychology. This film is an effort to impart some of his wisdom as we navigate these uncertain times.

Link to the full Op-Doc here

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