Rotterdam's skyline will soon feature the world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine.
GE Renewable Energy announced on Wednesday it will install the first 12-megawatt Haliade-X prototype in the Dutch city this summer. Although it's an offshore wind turbine by design, the prototype will be installed onshore to facilitate access for testing.
The world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine will test its wings at an innovative facility in northeast England.
The 12-megawatt Haliade-X, developed by GE Renewable Energy, stands 853 feet tall, or about three times the height of the Flat Iron building in New York City. Its massive rotor diameter of 722 feet is roughly the tower height of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge above water.
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Wind energy had a banner day in Scotland. Thanks to an unseasonably windy Sunday, wind turbines generated more electricity than the country actually needed.
Gale-force winds helped provide a record 106% of Scotland's electricity needs on Aug. 7. Flickr
After analyzing data from WeatherEnergy, the environmental group WWF Scotland announced that wind turbines generated more than 100 percent of the total amount of electricity used in the country on Aug. 7.
As per the Guardian:
Turbines in Scotland provided 39,545 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity to the National Grid on Sunday while the country's total power consumption for homes, business and industry was 37,202 MWh—meaning wind power generated 106% of Scotland's electricity needs.
"Electricity demand during weekends is usually lower than the rest of the week," Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said. "Nevertheless, the fact that wind power was able to generate the equivalent of all Scotland's electricity needs shows just how far
renewables have come."
"While it's not impossible that this has happened in the past, it's certainly the first time since we began monitoring the data in 2015 that we've had all the relevant information to be able to confirm it," WWF Scotland's director Lang Banks said. "However, on the path to a fully renewable future, this certainly marks a significant milestone."
Incidentally, Aug. 7 was possibly the " windiest summer's day on record," prompting the Met Office to issue yellow "be aware" warnings. Wind speeds clocked in at 115 miles per hour at the Cairngorm mountains and roughly 60-miles-per-hour gusts in northern towns, disrupting train and ferry services and causing power outages.
Despite the weather mishaps, Banks said that the particularly windy day had a silver lining.
"While Sunday's weather caused disruption for many people, it also proved to be a good day for wind power output, with wind turbines alone providing the equivalent of all Scotland's total electricity needs," he said. "This major moment was made possible thanks, in part, to many years of political support, which means that across the year now, renewables contribute well over half of our electricity needs.
"However, if we want this ensure we reap the many benefits of becoming a low-carbon economy we need to see this political support for renewables continue."
Wind power is not the only renewable power source Scotland has at its disposal, Banks pointed out. "If we continue to take steps to reduce our energy demand, invest in storage, and increase our use of renewables we can hopefully look forward to many days that are fully powered by nature," he said.
Environmentalists believe the goal is within reach since Scotland's impressive energy mix already achieved a number of milestones, including:
• For homes fitted with
solar PV panels, there was enough sunshine to generate an estimated 100% of the electricity needs of an average household in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
• For those homes fitted with solar hot water panels, there was enough sunshine to generate 100% of an average household's hot water needs in Aberdeen and Dundee, 98% in Inverness, 97% in Edinburgh and 94% in Glasgow.
• Wind turbines in Scotland provided 692,896MWh of electricity to the National Grid, enough to supply, on average, the electrical needs of 76% of Scottish households (1.8 million homes).
• Wind turbines generated enough electricity to supply 100% or more of Scottish homes on ten out of the 31 days of May.
• Scotland's total electricity consumption (i.e. including homes, business and industry) for May was 1,938,785MWh. Wind power therefore generated the equivalent of 36% of Scotland's entire electricity needs for the month.
According to Banks, "These figures underline the fantastic progress Scotland has made on harnessing renewables, especially to generate electricity."
"However," he added, "with less than 13 percent of our total energy needs coming from renewable sources, it's now time to widen our attention on de-carbonizing our economy beyond just our power sector."
The Scottish government states on its website that it has a renewable energy target of generating the equivalent of 100 percent of gross annual electricity consumption and 11 percent of heat consumption by 2020. But a statement from a spokeswoman suggests that government may be considering a new renewables target after the record-breaking weekend.
"Scotland's abundant energy resources play a vital role in delivering security of electricity supply across the UK," a Scottish government spokeswoman told the Guardian . "The Scottish Government is committed to supporting onshore wind, which is one of our most cost-effective low-carbon energy technologies.
"We remain fully supportive of low-carbon technologies, which offer a huge economic opportunity for Scotland and have a key role to play in our fight against the threat posed by climate change to our society and natural environment.
"We have a clear policy for an energy mix to provide energy security for the future and will set out our ambitions for an integrated approach to low-carbon technologies within our draft energy strategy later this year. This will include exploring the option of setting a new renewable energy target."
Wind energy is one of the cleanest, most abundant, sustainable and cost-effective ways to generate electricity. It’s also one of the fastest growing U.S. electricity sources. At the end of 2013, there were enough wind turbines across the country to power 15.5 million typical American homes and cut annual power sector carbon emissions by 4.4 percent. That amounts to 96 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 20.2 million cars off the road.
Regardless, wind has its detractors, and one of their biggest complaints is the threat they say it poses to birds.
In fact, compared with other culprits, wind turbines are way down in the pecking order. The top human-built environmental threat to our feathered friends—besides habitat degradation and destruction—are buildings. As many as 970 million birds crash into them annually, according to a June 2013 study in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology. Other studies estimate that every year as many as 175 million birds die by flying into power lines, 72 million are poisoned by misapplied pesticides, 6.6 million perish by hitting communications towers; and as many as a million birds die in oil and gas industry fluid waste pits.
Conversely, a study published late last year in Biological Conservation estimates that land-based U.S. wind turbines kill 140,000 to 328,000 birds annually. That’s not insignificant, but certainly not the scourge that wind foes contend.
What about wind energy’s threat to eagles? A study in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Raptor Research found that wind turbines in 10 states killed 85 eagles between 1997 and the end of June 2012—79 golden and six bald. That’s fewer than six a year on average, but most of the deaths occurred between 2008 and 2012 due to industry growth, and the study’s authors were quick to point out that the number of turbine-related eagle deaths is likely much higher. The study didn’t include wind industry-related eagle deaths in three other states as well at the 1980s-era Altamont Pass in Northern California, which has been killing an average of 67 eagles a year.
For discussion’s sake, let’s add the 67 eagle deaths a year at Altamont Pass to the 85 the study confirmed, which amounts to 1,124 dead eagles over a 15-and-a-half-year period. How does that compare with overall non-natural eagle deaths?
When an eagle is killed and people find a carcass, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) asks them to send it to the National Wildlife Property Repository near Denver, CO. About 2,500 show up every year, according to FWS, although certainly more go unreported. Using that number as a benchmark, the number of dead eagles annually from 1997 through June 2012 would amount to approximately 38,750 birds. Based on these admittedly crude estimates, only three percent of the eagle deaths were attributable to commercial, land-based wind turbines. Poachers, transmission lines, pesticides and lead poisoning from bullet-ridden carrion killed significantly more.
Prosecution as the Last Resort
Wind opponents also allege that the Obama Administration is playing favorites, treating the wind industry with kid gloves when it comes to bird deaths while aggressively prosecuting the oil and gas industry for similar infractions.
Until last November, however, no administration had ever prosecuted a wind company under the two main federal bird protection laws, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. That’s when the Justice Department reached a settlement with Duke Energy, which pleaded guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms. And more prosecutions may be in the wings. FWS is currently investigating 17 wind industry-related bird death cases and has referred six of them to the Justice Department.
According to FWS, prosecution under the two laws is always the last resort, regardless of the industry or technology in question. The agency tries to work with violators to fix the problem before it refers a case to federal prosecutors. For example, FWS inspectors routinely check for bird carcasses in oil and gas company waste pits. When they discover dead birds, they notify the responsible company and give it the opportunity to rectify the problem by installing netting. If the company pays a modest fine and corrects the problem, FWS will not file a case. That happens only after repeated violations, and even if a company is ultimately convicted and placed on probation, the fine is relatively small.
In 2011, FWS filed criminal charges against three companies drilling in North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation. One of those companies, Continental Resources, was indicted for killing a single bird in one of its waste pits. Wind opponents routinely cite this case when alleging the Obama Administration is treating the oil and gas industry unfairly. But they don’t mention that Continental Resources and the two other companies had been killing birds for years. The Justice Department charged them with violations based on the number of dead birds FWS agents found when they made their last site visit following years of imploring the companies to install nets. Wind opponents also don’t mention that a district court dismissed the charges, issuing a ruling that squarely conflicts with how the government has traditionally interpreted the MBTA.
Making Turbines More Bird-Friendly
Wind critics likewise overlook the fact that the federal government and the wind industry have taken steps to mitigate the threat turbines pose to birds. In 2008, a number of leading wind developers joined with conservation and science groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, to launch the American Wind Wildlife Institute to promote wind development and protect wildlife at the same time. Four years later, FWS issued new voluntary guidelines covering siting, construction and other key issues for wind developers to minimize harm to birds and their habitats.
Meanwhile, a number of remediation efforts are underway. As part of a settlement with the California state government and environmental groups, for example, the largest wind power company in the Altamont Pass is replacing thousands of outdated turbines with a lot fewer, taller, more-efficient ones that pose less of a threat to the golden eagles, hawks and other birds that patrol the skies in the area. So far those efforts and other modifications appear to be producing results.
Finally, there’s one last critical point wind opponents conveniently ignore: climate change threatens hundreds of migratory bird species, which are already stressed by habitat loss, invasive species and other environmental threats. A 2012 report by the National Wildlife Federation went so far as to name climate change the most serious threat facing America’s migratory birds today.
So if wind opponents were really concerned about the welfare of birds, they would be calling for more wind farms and other carbon-free energy sources to replace coal, oil and natural gas. In other words, their argument against wind is strictly for the birds.
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Wind turbines are here to stay. They are increasing in numbers every day, and industry figures show that the amount of energy they are able to generate has reached tremendous levels.
“This is the big one, the centerpiece, the dominant source of energy in the new economy is wind,” believes Lester Brown, a world-leading environmental analyst.
Jobs are steadily improving with the wind industry as well. Here’s one uplifting example: Jeff Metz was not a Green. He was a Republican in Michigan, the state hit the hardest in the recession. But he is a clean energy hero. He re-hired someone for every job that was eliminated (during the recession) to work for his wind manufacturing company. He tuned into what the industry needed, and in doing so, brought jobs back to the jobless. Problems with energy subsidies and tax breaks in the U.S. are still disturbing. The wind industry was particularly attacked by Republican congresspeople in the past year or so, despite local-level support for wind power by common Republicans. It’s worth noting that these problems turned this hardworking and enterprising entrepreneur from Republican to something else. He is voting differently now.
Peter Sennekamp, media officer for the European Wind Energy Association, says: “Worldwide installed wind power will exceed 300 gigawatts of power capacity this year.” The projection is based off of data collected by the European Wind Energy Association and the Global Wind Energy Council.
For a little more fun, the following video by Peter Sinclair and accompanying short article by Thomas Schueneman emphasize why wind is becoming an essential agent of change. The “Century of Wind Energy” is upon us. Wind power prices have dropped dramatically. Current prices make it competitive with all sources of energy. As Schueneman, Metz and Brown believe, wind is the cornerstone of the new energy economy.
This is a paradigm shift, and it is also an economic shift capable of bringing jobs and the U.S. middle class back at a highly needed time. And what a great video capturing all that.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.