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Do you think Kansas University should build turbines for wind energy?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on August 14, 2005

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Photo of Bonni Higginbotham

“Yes, I do. It’s so windy here, and it’s a waste not to use that natural resource. I know it would be expensive, but it would eventually be worth it in the end.”

Photo of Ron Hayes

“Yes. My friend owns Kansas Windpower, and he says that it’s a great source of renewable energy.”

Photo of Robert Babcock

“Sounds like a good idea. From what I’ve heard, windpower is an economically viable source of energy, so it should be exploited.”

Photo of Jerri Johnson

“I guess you would have to balance it against how fast they could recoup the cost. If they could do it in a reasonable amount of time, then I say go for it.”

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Comments

tomgray 8 years, 8 months ago

Fangorn writes that wind turbines are "interesting to watch but not very efficient." Actually, they are very efficient--the wind is inherently not a very dense energy source. At the same time, we have plenty of space to put them, and many farmers and rural counties should be happy with the income they provide. That's something that can't be said about the denser, "more efficient" energy sources.

Tom Gray American Wind Energy Association

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tomgray 8 years, 8 months ago

Wind turbines are indeed very large machines--bigger than a 747--but they displace the use of quite a bit of fuel.

A single 1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbine generator will produce approximately 4.3 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year (equal to what some 400 average American households, with 1,100 residents, consume). Over a 25-year lifetime, the turbine will generate about 99 million kWh. To generate that same amount of electricity, it would be necessary to burn 55,500 tons of coal (5,550 10-ton truckloads, or 4 truckloads every week for all 25 years) or 173,000 barrels of oil (19 barrels a day, every day, for all 25 years). To say it another way, the turbine is over 300 feet tall, which is indeed large. However, it is in effect replacing an 21-mile-long line of 10-ton dump trucks filled with coal.

Tom Gray American Wind Energy Association

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jimurich 8 years, 8 months ago

If you wish to find our more about renewable energy in Kansas, Kansas Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency '05 will be held in Topeka on September 20 and 21. See: www.ksrenew.com for details.

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l_eustacy 8 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

Shoot, I'm getting hungry now........

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Fangorn 8 years, 8 months ago

The wind turbines in Wyoming are actually just west of Cheyenne. They're interesting to watch but not very efficient. Let's see if we can get Ted Kennedy to throw his considerable weight into getting wind turbines built off of Martha's Vineyard. The limosine liberals there have been fighting their construction for years.

Nuclear energy is very efficient and has a proven track record of safety. (I'll point out that at Three Mile Island the disaster was contained and the damage limited despite all that went wrong. And Chernobyl was a government-run plant in a socialist nation, food for thought for those who always think the government is the solution to every problem.)

Beatrice: Which is more likely? That "industrialists" actually want to destroy the planet that they also live on? Or that some group of self-appointed elites (Nazis, "environmentalists", "earth Nazis", whomever) decide they know better than everyone else and take steps to force their preferences on everyone else?

rhd99: Do you have any idea how many different gasoline formulations are mandated by the government? Or how much this adds to the cost of fuel? Do you know how much of the price of a gallon of gas is taxes? Do you know how long it's been since anyone's been allowed to build a new refinery, the dearth of which bottlenecks our production of fuel, thus driving up its cost? I seriously doubt it. Bush proposed an energy policy in 2001. Blame rests on him for not pushing harder for it sooner, despite the change in priorities 9/11 required. But even more blame rests on the short-sighted Democrats in Congress who cared less about the energy needs of the nation than they did about opposing anything and everything Bush proposed. Besides, I thought liberals wanted high gas prices! Isn't that what Al Gore advocated? Or didn't you read "Earth in the Balance"?

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

spam haikus

Ears, snouts and innards, A homogeneous mass. Pass another slice.

Pink tender morsel, Glistening with salty gel. What the hell is it?

Drop a pig in a blender, Add salt and dye: The recipe for Spam.

From: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~ddgarcia/spam.html#CreamOfSpam

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

Make two for me, dip them in Crisco & fry 'em up brown. BTW, tomorrow is the 96th anniversary of the introduction of Crisco. From: http://www.foodreference.com/html/html/august15.html

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

Only when it is served with two slices of cheese, two scrambled eggs, two sausage patties, a heavily buttered french roll, and is called the "Enormous Cauliflower Sandwich."

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

On the new Food Pyramid, isn't bacon a vegetable?

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

I'll go with one from column 3. Yup. Veggie is the way to go.

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gccs14r 8 years, 8 months ago

"The most efficient conversion of solar energy is accomplished by plant life.

And they only usefully convert about 10% of it."

No and no. The last time I looked into it, photovoltaics converted 36%. Plants convert 1%. What's really bad is that each higher trophic level gets only 10% of the energy from the one below, so growing a cow for food is a much less efficient use of sunlight than is eating a plant directly.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

I bet a bunch of them little hydrogen atoms will have Texas brands on their flanks.....

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

The most efficient conversion of solar energy is accomplished by plant life.

And they only usefully convert about 10% of it.

Hydrogen fuel is in the works. My chips are on how that fabrication process can be streamlined into an endless supply of clean fuel energy. Sorry Texas. Your days are numbered.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

Solar is still out there, it's possible to generate electricity from tidal action, there's hydroelectric (which seems to have greatly fallen out of favor). Out west I drove by one of the facilities that had a field of mirrors focusing the sun onto a tower creating fiendishly high temperatures. They must have been calibrating or something because just above the tower there was a shimmering, almost plasma-like spot of light. There's also that old devil, nuclear power. Every one has its own set of advantages & disadvantages.

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm with you, beatrice. A little more editing would be nice ;)

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rhd99 8 years, 8 months ago

E_M, WHAT liberal campaign?! I have not heard anyone from both parties come forward with ideas on energy & the savings WE could have WITHOUT paying at the gas pump. Now that I have gone on my tirade, I calmly ask you & others this: What energy alternatives are worth exploring if wind energy is not an answer?

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm thinking that in the absense of a new 'magic bullet' technology, we should be developing multiple non-fossil fuel energy sources. There ain't gonna be a one size fits all solution, IMHO.

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

You've gotta be kidding, right? Do you know how many fossil-fuel BtUs go into the manufacture and 'erection' of wind turbines? All the diesel-powered equipment required in the construction and transportation processes? All the natural gas used up in the manufacturing of massive amounts of concrete required to support the masts, turbines and huge blades? How much energy will go into the required scheduled maintenance and repair?

Before jumping to any rash conclusions that it is a good idea to buil wind turbines, do you not suppose it would be prudent to explore just what energy returns could be accurately be anticipated throughout the expected life cycles of such equipment?

Look, this has to do with our energy future not some liberal-arts PR campaign.

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rhd99 8 years, 8 months ago

No, gravity is the ineptness of NASA & Bush, along with the intelligent design people of the KS. Board of Education like Morris. As Ross Perot puts it well a "giant sucking sound". The sucking sound we need to hear is not from the above mentioned things. The sucking sound should be from wind, thus building wind turbines that will save us money & not get screwed by legislators in the future.

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Maybe there's an up and coming Law and Order episode.

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Joker 8 years, 8 months ago

Hey luuny.... Isn't your defintion of a Nazi all who don't think like you? Oh- sorry, that was your brother Jonhy1945.... Lawrence is by far the greatest concentration of intelligent people in the state, yet we are always attacked by those of lesser value in the name of thier none existant god.... WHY?? Why must idiots be in charge>???

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beatrice 8 years, 8 months ago

gccs: gravity is just "Jesus holding us down." ? I thought Jesus was suppose to be uplifting? Now I'm really confused.

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beatrice 8 years, 8 months ago

Sorry, it isn't "intelligent pulling," it is "intelligent sucking."

I hate it when I come up with a better punch line after I've already posted.

omb: Know why Texas doesn't fall into the Gulf? Answer: Because Oklahoma sucks.

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gccs14r 8 years, 8 months ago

<>

Beatrice,

Many years ago I had a fundie tell me his theory of gravity. He said that he thought that the reason we don't fly off into space is because Jesus is holding us down. There is no way to have an intelligent discussion with someone like that.

Lunacy knows no limits.

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gccs14r 8 years, 8 months ago

What we're burning now is stored solar energy from the Carboniferous Period. Over the last couple of hundred years we've managed to smoke through most of that. When it's gone, we'll be back to living with a real-time energy budget.

We receive approximately 1300W/m^2 from the Sun at the top of the atmosphere. Most of that is needed to run the weather system and for photosynthesis for the plant life that makes it possible for us to breathe. We will have to make do with what remains, because there simply won't be any other power available.

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rhd99 8 years, 8 months ago

I don't know how far off this is, but I admit it is. "Intelligent pulling" & "gravity is only a theory". that scares me. It scares me not by what ANYONE here said, but that the aformentioned quoted phrases show how LITTLE our Connie Morris types on the Kansas Board of Education know about science. Do THEY even know (given their love & support for Bush policies) about the benefits of wind energy vs. foreign oil? DON'T THINK SO!

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beatrice 8 years, 8 months ago

That's right e_m, gravity is only a theory. Remember, from now on we call it "intelligent pulling."

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rhd99 8 years, 8 months ago

Sorry for the mix-up. Thanks, EM. I do stand by what I said earlier, Bush's appearance on the world stage & his lack of an Energy Policy is why we are in this mess. BUILD THOSE WIND TURBINES!

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

rhd, "...our independence on foreign oil." Good thought, anyway.

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rhd99 8 years, 8 months ago

Wind Energy Turbines CAN help cut our independence on foreign oil. My emphasis on CAN is because of one question: How WILLING are we to continue with the status quo in this country? By status quo, I mean that you & I all know that the oil companies are getting richer by the second because every single day, America pumps gasoline into cars, etc. With prices as high as they are, I wonder, though, if there is a bubble that could burst. That bubble burst could spell DISASTER for the big oil companies here in America if demand drops significantly. Then again, we can't blame the oil companies, the blame MUST be directed at Bush & his energy policy (or lack of) & how he conducts himself on the world stage (which popular opinion thinks he sucks at the world stage).

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beatrice 8 years, 8 months ago

lunacy: "earth nazis." ?? Who are you trying to criticize, people who care about the earth and want to protect the precious and limited resources of our planet, or industrialists who show almost total disregard for the planet's resources and want to destroy it the way the nazis tried to destroy a race of people? Either way, it is silly.

With the continued use of wind power the systems will likely become more and more proficient over time, thus making our reliance on finite resources less of a necessity. I'm all for it.

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

Here's a textbook question for you:

Since electricity is generated in anticipation of peak demand, why not find a way to utilize the 'non-demand' electricity (i.e. often lower demand at night) to pump water up the hill to some type of reservoir?

During the day (i.e. usually higher demand) the water could be allowed to gravitate back down hill through a turbine generator in order to re-generate more electricity.

Oh, that's right. Gravity is only a theory. My bad.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

ms_canada, in at least some states, the electric companies are required to buy extra power generated by people with their own systems. It doesn't seem that there is enough pay-back for that yet to attract massive amounts of private investment.

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ms_canada 8 years, 8 months ago

When I was a wee lassie, 125 yrs ago, living on a farm in Saskatchewan, we had a windmill in the yard and we had electric lights. What a joy! BUT, we had to turn it off when it got really windy and one night my mother forgot to turn it off and in the night a big storm blew up and the windmill blew down, hit the corner of our roof and the large rain barrel that sat there and that was the end of our electricity and my father was so angry at mom. We have a lot of wind towers and turbines in the south of Alberta where there is a lot of wind. My question to this topic today is, why are there not more private companies taking advantage of this source of power? Here the private companies sell the energy to the gov. electric company. And if more wind source energy became available, what would the oil guys do about that? I don't think they would be to happy to see their income drop, if people turned to wind power.

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Liberty 8 years, 8 months ago

If they could harness enough solar power (for heat) to heat water to run a steam turbine to spin a generator, that would most likely be cheaper on a large scale. But it would only run during a sunny day. They would still need a backup energy source for night operation.

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Liberty 8 years, 8 months ago

Fishman, I have seen those wind turbines in Wyoming too. They are located on mountains and mounted on large towers. The article spoke of the cost of a wind generator being 1.5 million. To get the same amount out of solar panels (silicon), it would cost around 14 million unless they get a volume discount. They still have the cost of energy storage so they can use the power when it is needed. The batteries to store 3.2 million watts of power would be very expensive and these batteries have to be replaced from time to time. I think it is still cheaper to pay the electric company for now, unless you spread the cost over 20 or 30 years.

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Fishman 8 years, 8 months ago

About wind turbines being big. They are huge! The ones in Wyoming I've seen are in the middle of nowhere, and there are at least 100 of them. Solar panels can work. When I was a kid, my friends dad was into solar, and built one 4'x8' solar panel he stuck vertically on the side of the house. He had a pipe from the top that went through the wall, and during the day produced heat, and they close it at night. It was very simple, and cut their heating bills in half in the winter. This was over 30 years ago. Too bad our government didn't have the foresight to see that this day would come where energy prices, and supply could really hurt the economy. They say the economy is doing fine. I hope they're right, but we'll see this holiday season.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Sounds like KU has some worthwhile projects to pursue which could translate into new industry/employment. Can't wait around for the non-progressive federal government.

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kshaff03 8 years, 8 months ago

I think its cool, but people don't realize how BIG these turbines are. One blade will sit on a tractor trailor with no room for anything else. Anyone that lives near the things will fight it to their deaths.

What they ought to do is build a full blown wind powered plant and leave room for expansion if it works well.

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Liberty 8 years, 8 months ago

HKP is correct. The wind generators require large props (and need to be on a tower) to catch the wind to effectively generate usable amounts of electricity which charge large batteries. The large props can be hard on some birds as well. A better study for KU would be on the storage of generated electricity. An improved battery is needed to store the power so the generated power can be used at a later time and inverted back to alternating current when the power is needed. These storage devices need to be less expensive and lighter than the large lead acid storage batteries of today to be a worth while investment compared to the electric company's cost for power. Solar panels have no moving parts and are probably better for the Kansas area as the sun shines more than the wind blows here or perhaps a mix of solar panels and wind generators.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

"I remember reading somewhere that wind turbines don't really create all that much electricity..."

I remember reading somewhere that Bigfoot was pregnant with Elvis' love child.

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Hong_Kong_Phooey 8 years, 8 months ago

I remember reading somewhere that wind turbines don't really create all that much electricity, so in order to do any good, we'd probably have to have 100's of them. That'll look real good...

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

It's a no brainer...go for it and let me have some.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 8 months ago

Rain follows the plow! Oh, we were talking about wind power.... yes, give it a try.

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i_tching 8 years, 8 months ago

The wind is free, and we are not likely to completely run out of it.

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redbird 8 years, 8 months ago

And with as much hot air that blows out of Strong Hall,year around,there should be a quick recouping of the monies spent!!!!!

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Fishman 8 years, 8 months ago

Anything to help cut our dependence on foreign oil sounds good to me. Unfortunately, with the way prices for energy keep going up, it may not take as long to recoup the investment. There is what seems to be a pretty big wind farm just north of I-80 in the middle of Wyoming somewhere. There must be at least 100 of them. It's certainly worth a closer look, as is solar energy too. Fishman

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GreenEyedBlues 8 years, 8 months ago

What's a turbine? Who cares? BAN them sh*ts. They're bound to be bad, whatever they are.

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extreme_makeover 8 years, 8 months ago

Aw, come on. I've got friends in Hays. But they think it blows too.

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lunacydetector 8 years, 8 months ago

i'm all for wind farms, but what about the earth nazi's? some earth nazi's say wind farms are very bad.

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