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Gales wreck wind turbines, North Ayrshire, United Kingdom

Friday 09 Dec 2011

Combustion in the wind

Gales wreck wind turbines by WAN Editorial in North Ayrshire, United Kingdom
© Orclimber 
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07/10/12 Scot Beaton, Rochester Hills MI
At 25 megawatts to 1500 acres for a nice wind farm of 60 to 70 turbines, you would need 60,000 acres and 2400 to 2800 wind turbines to equal 1,000 megawatts. Of course, these wind turbines only produce that much power when the wind is blowing just right. That only happens about 25% of the time, so you really need four times as many wind turbines and four times as much space to produce, on average, 1,000 megawatts of electricity per hour. So that's, 240,000 acres and 9,600 to 11,200 turbines. 240,000 acres is 375 square miles.

At 5 acres of solar panels per megawatt, you need 5,000 acres of solar panels to equal 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Those solar panels only work at peak power levels during the sunny times, so, on average, they only put out about 25% of their rated capacity. That means you really need 20,000 acres of solar panels to generate 1,000 megwatts of electricity per hour, on average. 20,000 acres is 31.25 square miles.

We aren't going to put them anywhere. They are way too expensive and they don't provide a stable enough power supply to rely on. Anyplace with enough open spaces, enough wind or sun shine to be a good candidate is too far away from the east and west coasts where that power is needed most.

By comparison, the Fermi nuclear power plant near Monroe, Michigan sits on a site of about 2 square miles and produces 1,150 megawatts of electricity 24 hours a day for 18 months straight. Then it needs to be shut down for a month for maintenance and refueling and it can go right back to making power 24 hours a day, rain or shine. They are even thinking about adding another reactor that will double the output of the plant on the same amount of land.
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24/01/12 Richard, Johannesburg SA
yeah, much rather have a coal mine in your backyard.

I don't get the resistance - every swing of the blade is another square meter of land that doesn't need to be plundered for its coal, is another black cloud we don't need to release into the atmosphere, another salmon stream that doesn't need to be walled, another atom that doesn't need to be split.

It is free energy - it is the most beautiful thing on the planet. Really, I would rather live with the risk of a wind turbine blade going AWOL than the risks associated with all the existing technologies !!
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These two incidents highlight the critical need for the not unreasonable two kilometer set back from people's homes for safety as well as health and visual impact reasons. I am led to believe this is what the Scottish planning guidance states so why are there so many applications made where turbines are closer to peoples homes? I would encourage all those able to demand for this set back to be laid down in law to do so now. EDWARD HURST.
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09/12/11 Ben, Melbourne
You are blowing these wind turbine incidents out of proportion (pardon the pun). Such incidents are few and far between. I'm sure as an architecture publication you're familiar with the common damage to other structures caused by large storms. In this instance, the turbine that caught fire extinguished itself before the fire brigade even arrived. Turbine fires are not new; anti-windpower websites will show you as many pictures of them as they can get their hands on.

And if you look at the figures, although the wind is occasionally too strong, and often not strong enough for full capacity, overall wind turbines mitigate a significant quantity of greenhouse emissions.

I don't see why an architecture publication should produce such a negative view of wind power. It would have been interesting to look more at the design and aesthetic considerations mentioned in the first paragraph (many people also consider them elegant to look at).
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Questions are raised over wind turbine safety, as Scotland experiences serious cases of malfunction 

Heralded by various incumbents as an important element in the global drive for renewable energies, the solution proffered by wind turbines has often proven a divisive issue. Usually though, what gripes the most for those brought into direct contact with these green sources of electricity, is the aesthetics; people consider them an eye-sore, and it’s all too often a case of ‘not in my own backyard’. Now, it seems, a new reason for aggravation may begin to be given for wanting away with expansive wind-farms.

During the recent extreme weather conditions in the UK, experienced most keenly throughout Scotland and the Northern regions of England, several instances of serious mechanic failure have been witnessed amongst the turbines. Fears are growing about the safety risks that could be caused once wind speeds exceed expected levels. In North Ayrshire (a town on the West coast of Scotland) amazed spectators have been recalling the ‘spectacular’ moment when their £2m, 100m-tall wind turbine burst into flames. Despite an internal mechanism correctly responding - designed to halt the blades movement in severe gales - breaks in electrical connections caused this fiery result, as burning shards of metal were blown across the hillside.

In a separate incident in Coldinghan in the Scottish borders, large pieces of a malfunctioning turbine went crashing to ground, landing mere metres from a nearby road. Fraser McLachlan, the Chief Executive of GCube (a wind turbine insurer), has worryingly predicted that instances of this ‘rare phenomenon’ could rise over the upcoming period; on trying to dissect the cause of the failure, he explained: “It can catch on fire for a whole multitude of reasons. It can be the mechanism going into overdrive. It can be to do with the connections or oil catching alight”.

Earlier in 2011, it was revealed that for at least 38 days every year wind turbines would be shut off as they struggled to cope with drastic power surges caused by influxes in wind levels. Raising concerns caused by this necessity, Martin Livermore, Director of Scientific Alliance, said: “What we should be worried about is the fact these wind turbines cannot generate electricity when the wind is too strong so a lot of the time, they are not actually saving any fossil fuels.”

Last night 60,000 Scottish homes were without power. For those with dependencies on wind turbines this winter, an all too familiar return to fossil fuel energy may be forthcoming. With government proposals aiming to see the creation of a further 32,000 new turbines, adding to the current 3,500 already in place, wind turbines look set to become an increasingly common feature across the British landscape.

Tom Aston

WAN Editorial

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