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MidAmerican upgrading wind turbines early


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https://electrek.co/2017/10/16/new-wind-turbine-efficiency-so-great-utilities-repowering-farms-early/

 

I thought this was pretty cool.

 

Warren Buffett owned MidAmerican Energy is upgrading wind turbines in Iowa early in their lifetimes in order to take advantage of the newest innovations in gear boxes and blades. Since only small parts of the already developed wind farms need be upgraded – these moves will increase the profitability of the farms. Wind turbines are evolving at a fast enough pace that waiting for standard end of life (30 years) means leaving money on the table. [...]

 

MidAmerican estimates that repowering the farms would increase output from the turbines by 19-28%. [...]

 

With capacity factors around 40% on the newest projects (33% on older projects) – combined with 1,000MW of upgraded hardware – there will be an additional 613 million kWh/year coming from these turbines.

 

Just cool to see the tech keep getting better and better, not only on brand new turbines, but with the ability to retrofit old ones.

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It is pretty cool. 

 

I never saw this coming.  While I dont expect wind to become as big as other renewables, I never expected it to be viable at all.  Solar I can understand having been in some hugely expansive arid areas in the western states, and Europe. 

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Guest longinvestor

From the anecdotal data provided in the article, $50M incremental revenue over the lifetime of the blade (30  years) is pretty damn cool.

 

Solar is great but has been hyped too much. I'm curious as to the impact of dirt on panel efficiency; And would be interesting to see how rooftop installations fare after 10, 15 years. Cleaning cost has to be a factor. Wind turbines have some maintenance for sure but there seems to be a lower maintenance cost advantage. Also off-shore versus on-shore installations? Would love to see side by side comparison.

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Would love to see the subsidies too...

 

For example, out in Quebec Canada, the province has mandated Hydro Quebec to buy all power from wind producers, even if more expensive than producing their own via hydro which is another renewable and in place since decades...

 

Absolutely ridiculous. So much for saving the planet! At least if they were exporting the surplus but, it seems like in place only for the few times when water reservoirs run low.

 

Then Hydro mothballed a nuclear power plant a few years back due to cost of upgrading but, no talk of decommissioning costs... Then they have companies spend billions on wind farms. Lots of geniuses working there and in the government.

 

In the end the consumer pays for make work projects. That is what happens when free markets do not exist.

 

Cardboard 

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It is pretty cool. 

 

I never saw this coming.  While I dont expect wind to become as big as other renewables, I never expected it to be viable at all.  Solar I can understand having been in some hugely expansive arid areas in the western states, and Europe.

May I ask why you didn't see this coming?

 

I always thought that wind is the superior technology to solar. Just one turbine can make a lot of electricity. Also most of the cost comes from installing the turbine. So I thought that improvements in the process will result in lower costs as time goes on.

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This is pretty cool.  I'm surprised to see the efficiency gains. 

 

I'm probably one of a few people on this board at least that can say they have climbed up one of these.  I'm not afraid of heights and I was nervous.  Previously I had told my wife that if the world goes haywire and we get a great recession I'll go get certified to be a tech on these (1 year program in Oklahoma) but after that I'm not so sure.

 

My FIL was a farmer and due to cancer could not talk and therefore directed all the engineers etc to me when they wanted to build a few on his land.  They ended up building 2 on his land (6 total) and he got a nice annual check until the farm was sold.  From day 1 when they optioned the land to him - it took 7 years for it to get built and we thought it was dead 2-3 times.

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Hey all:

 

I've read somewhere that when you factor in the energy it cost to smelt the metal (and it's mining, transportation & such) for turbines and the gas & such to move them and install them, they can never recoup the energy expended to build them.

 

I almost find this hard to believe...has anybody else seen/heard of this?

 

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Hey all:

 

I've read somewhere that when you factor in the energy it cost to smelt the metal (and it's mining, transportation & such) for turbines and the gas & such to move them and install them, they can never recoup the energy expended to build them.

 

I almost find this hard to believe...has anybody else seen/heard of this?

I've heard of that. It's on of those things peddled by the anti green energy crowd. It's also total B.S.

 

Firstly, you can tell it's false with a back of the envelope calculation. But if you want to get a little more precise there was an article in the International Journal of Sustainable Manufacturing that looked at the energy payback of 2MW turbines and found that payback to be 5-7 months. Now even if they're a bit off somewhere it tells you how B.S. the original claim is. I don't have the full article but you can read the abstract here:

 

http://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1504/IJSM.2014.062496

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I know nothing about wind turbines, but at first glance I always assumed that because they are generators with moving parts (as opposed to solar) that there must be some upkeep/maintenance/repairs required.  Is there lubrication required, are there bearings that wear out, etc?  Are there any costs after installation?

 

I've also heard the argument that it takes more energy to make them then they generate, but I too find that almost impossible to believe.  Especially if they have a 30 year expected life.

 

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I know nothing about wind turbines, but at first glance I always assumed that because they are generators with moving parts (as opposed to solar) that there must be some upkeep/maintenance/repairs required.  Is there lubrication required, are there bearings that wear out, etc?  Are there any costs after installation?

 

I've also heard the argument that it takes more energy to make them then they generate, but I too find that almost impossible to believe.  Especially if they have a 30 year expected life.

 

The last part is just wrong.  Using that argument you would have to use the same argument for all power generation sources: coal plants, nuclear, hydro, solar, gas, etc.  The ones that use combustion would run through parts much faster, and tha parts all require the same smelting as a wind turbine.  There would also be some type of mantenance for all generation systems. 

 

The lowest would likely be solar panels which need to be cleaned periodically and have modules replaced as needed. 

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It is pretty cool. 

 

I never saw this coming.  While I dont expect wind to become as big as other renewables, I never expected it to be viable at all.  Solar I can understand having been in some hugely expansive arid areas in the western states, and Europe.

May I ask why you didn't see this coming?

 

I always thought that wind is the superior technology to solar. Just one turbine can make a lot of electricity. Also most of the cost comes from installing the turbine. So I thought that improvements in the process will result in lower costs as time goes on.

 

Mostly due to the inconsistency of the source and the scale.  I have driven through huge windfarms in France and elsewhere when no turbine was moving.  Conversely I have seen people using solar in third world places successfully.  Just didn't see it being as viable as it has been. 

 

Both would benefit from better storage capability. 

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If you see wind turbines not turning there are usually three reasons.

 

1. They're being serviced or installed and must be turned off for the safety of the engineers.

2. They have rotated to follow the wind too much and have to rotate to 'untwist' the high power cable that runs up the column.

3. There is too much power generation at present - e.g. more solar than can be used by the grid. At such times the instantaneous cost per kWh may well have gone negative.

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If you see wind turbines not turning there are usually three reasons.

 

1. They're being serviced or installed and must be turned off for the safety of the engineers.

2. They have rotated to follow the wind too much and have to rotate to 'untwist' the high power cable that runs up the column.

3. There is too much power generation at present - e.g. more solar than can be used by the grid. At such times the instantaneous cost per kWh may well have gone negative.

 

Or there was no wind. 

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Quebec gets about 5% of its electricity from windpower, paying about 10c/kWh when it could have paid 5-6c with gas - it was a decision to start developing know-how in an industry that may have a future. It costs a little more than it needed to, because of a policy requiring sourcing half of the components from the Gaspe region, and has contributed to lowering unemployment significantly there. Closing the one aging nuclear plant, instead of spending billions on prolonging its life (see Point Lepreau for an egregious example of this) probably saved more money, with one decision, than the whole cost of the wind program. Quebec occasionally gets it right.

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"Quebec occasionally gets it right." LOL!

 

Let`s look at your statements to see how a government almost never gets anything right:

 

"Quebec gets about 5% of its electricity from windpower"

 

And 90% from hydro which is a renewable and not producing CO2? 

 

"paying about 10c/kWh when it could have paid 5-6c with gas"

 

Right away, you have a government picking a winner and forcing its citizens to pay double the price based on their judgement of what the future should look like. More like cult following actually. And with such a high percentage already on hydro or renewable, not CO2 producing, why losing money on wind vs other cheaper sources as you mentioned?

 

"It costs a little more than it needed to, because of a policy requiring sourcing half of the components from the Gaspe region, and has contributed to lowering unemployment significantly there."

 

Now we have subsidizing employment in a Region where it would likely be more profitable to simply relocate its citizens?

 

Closing the nuclear plant may or may not have been a good decision. You would have to look at cost of upgrading, decommissioning (huge) vs spending on other things. And if you believe that creating jobs in Gaspe was a good thing, then what about the jobs that were lost shutting down that plant. What about losing learnings in another industry that has a future???

 

Then Hydro Quebec has to be one of the worst managed enterprise the world has ever seen. They spent billions researching lithium batteries, electric motors for vehicles, new high power lines, etc. and nothing ever came out of it. Well, maybe that some companies including Mitsubishi, Siemens or others got research for free...

 

Cardboard

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"Quebec occasionally gets it right." LOL!

 

Let`s look at your statements to see how a government almost never gets anything right:

 

"Quebec gets about 5% of its electricity from windpower"

 

And 90% from hydro which is a renewable and not producing CO2? 

 

"paying about 10c/kWh when it could have paid 5-6c with gas"

 

Right away, you have a government picking a winner and forcing its citizens to pay double the price based on their judgement of what the future should look like. More like cult following actually. And with such a high percentage already on hydro or renewable, not CO2 producing, why losing money on wind vs other cheaper sources as you mentioned?

 

"It costs a little more than it needed to, because of a policy requiring sourcing half of the components from the Gaspe region, and has contributed to lowering unemployment significantly there."

 

Now we have subsidizing employment in a Region where it would likely be more profitable to simply relocate its citizens?

 

Closing the nuclear plant may or may not have been a good decision. You would have to look at cost of upgrading, decommissioning (huge) vs spending on other things. And if you believe that creating jobs in Gaspe was a good thing, then what about the jobs that were lost shutting down that plant. What about losing learnings in another industry that has a future???

 

Then Hydro Quebec has to be one of the worst managed enterprise the world has ever seen. They spent billions researching lithium batteries, electric motors for vehicles, new high power lines, etc. and nothing ever came out of it. Well, maybe that some companies including Mitsubishi, Siemens or others got research for free...

 

Cardboard

 

I will try to correct some points about the Cardboard bashing everything that is not the total free market...

 

First of all, it was not HQ decision to install those wind turbines, it was a government decision. Like it or not, the governement make it mandatory to buy the wind turbines production. I am not her to judge this, I am just explaining it from HQ point of view.

 

Second, if they were to bid for new energy today, HQ would probably buy wind turbines, and not hydro ones, because the best sites have already been developed and even in Quebec, the cheapest way to produce electricity right now is quite probably wind production.

 

HQ has not invested billions in R&D on battery. Something under 100M$, and with the licensing royalties they got, they are probably even. Not great, but not catastrophic either.

 

HQ makes about 3 billions in profit on 12 billions in revenue..not so bad for a business that is so badly managed. And this even though they have to take some decisions to please the government. And even if 2/3 of the business is in regulated market with prescribed return. Oh and all of this is achieved with the cheapest electricity rates in North America.

 

HQ does export a lot of electricity. Actually, exportation account for about one-third of the overall profit, on about 15% of the energy sold.

 

Finally, an opinion. Some people, like me, do agree to pay a bit more to have 100% renewable energy than to invest in gas. There is just not your way.

 

 

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Guest longinvestor

"Quebec occasionally gets it right." LOL!

 

Let`s look at your statements to see how a government almost never gets anything right:

 

"Quebec gets about 5% of its electricity from windpower"

 

And 90% from hydro which is a renewable and not producing CO2? 

 

"paying about 10c/kWh when it could have paid 5-6c with gas"

 

Right away, you have a government picking a winner and forcing its citizens to pay double the price based on their judgement of what the future should look like. More like cult following actually. And with such a high percentage already on hydro or renewable, not CO2 producing, why losing money on wind vs other cheaper sources as you mentioned?

 

"It costs a little more than it needed to, because of a policy requiring sourcing half of the components from the Gaspe region, and has contributed to lowering unemployment significantly there."

 

Now we have subsidizing employment in a Region where it would likely be more profitable to simply relocate its citizens?

 

Closing the nuclear plant may or may not have been a good decision. You would have to look at cost of upgrading, decommissioning (huge) vs spending on other things. And if you believe that creating jobs in Gaspe was a good thing, then what about the jobs that were lost shutting down that plant. What about losing learnings in another industry that has a future???

 

Then Hydro Quebec has to be one of the worst managed enterprise the world has ever seen. They spent billions researching lithium batteries, electric motors for vehicles, new high power lines, etc. and nothing ever came out of it. Well, maybe that some companies including Mitsubishi, Siemens or others got research for free...

 

Cardboard

 

I will try to correct some points about the Cardboard bashing everything that is not the total free market...

 

First of all, it was not HQ decision to install those wind turbines, it was a government decision. Like it or not, the governement make it mandatory to buy the wind turbines production. I am not her to judge this, I am just explaining it from HQ point of view.

 

Second, if they were to bid for new energy today, HQ would probably buy wind turbines, and not hydro ones, because the best sites have already been developed and even in Quebec, the cheapest way to produce electricity right now is quite probably wind production.

 

HQ has not invested billions in R&D on battery. Something under 100M$, and with the licensing royalties they got, they are probably even. Not great, but not catastrophic either.

 

HQ makes about 3 billions in profit on 12 billions in revenue..not so bad for a business that is so badly managed. And this even though they have to take some decisions to please the government. And even if 2/3 of the business is in regulated market with prescribed return. Oh and all of this is achieved with the cheapest electricity rates in North America.

 

HQ does export a lot of electricity. Actually, exportation account for about one-third of the overall profit, on about 15% of the energy sold.

 

Finally, an opinion. Some people, like me, do agree to pay a bit more to have 100% renewable energy than to invest in gas. There is just not your way.

I do as well. At about $10 to $15 incremental per month, it doesn't get better than that to make a statement.

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I've also heard the argument that it takes more energy to make them then they generate, but I too find that almost impossible to believe.  Especially if they have a 30 year expected life.

 

Don't believe the FUD propaganda by the fossil fuel lobby. That industry has gotten hundreds of billions in direct an indirect subsidies over the decades but now they feel threatened because they suddenly have competition from a few sources that relentlessly keep getting better every year...

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