Japan Turning to Wind Power after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Accident in 2012

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 19th, 2013

Week in Review

Japan suffered a close call in 2012.  The nuclear power plant at Fukushima survived the massive earthquake.  But the resulting tsunami led to electric problems in the backup power systems.  Which led to the core meltdown.  Something that never happened before.  And is not likely to happen again.  Because they saw what that tsunami did.  And now can prepare these plants to handle future tsunamis.  Still, the Japanese are turning their back on nuclear power.  After it served them so well all these many years (see Japan to build world’s largest offshore wind farm by Rob Gilhooly posted 1/16/2013 on New Scientist).

By 2020, the plan is to build a total of 143 wind turbines on platforms 16 kilometres off the coast of Fukushima, home to the stricken Daiichi nuclear reactor that hit the headlines in March 2011 when it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.

The wind farm, which will generate 1 gigawatt of power once completed, is part of a national plan to increase renewable energy resources following the post-tsunami shutdown of the nation’s 54 nuclear reactors. Only two have since come back online…

The first stage of the Fukushima project will be the construction of a 2-megawatt turbine, a substation and undersea cable installation. The turbine will stand 200 metres high. If successful, further turbines will be built subject to the availability of funding.

To get around the cost of anchoring the turbines to the sea bed, they will be built on buoyant steel frames which will be stabilised with ballast and anchored to the 200-metre-deep continental shelf that surrounds the Japanese coast via mooring lines…

Another contentious issue is the facility’s impact on the fishing industry, which has already been rocked by the nuclear accident. Ishihara insists it is possible to turn the farm into a “marine pasture” that would attract fish.

The earthquake didn’t hurt the Daiichi nuclear reactor.  It was the tsunami.  Which flooded the electrical gear in the basement that powered the cooling pumps.  That same tidal wave that swept whole buildings out to sea.  Which it will probably do the same to those buoyant steel frames.  Which means instead of replacing downed power lines after another tsunami they will be replacing windmills.  Making the resulting power outage longer.  And more costly.

The wind farm will not generate 1 gigawatt.  It may have the potential to generate 1 gigawatt.  But that will be only when the winds cooperate.  They have to blow hard enough to spin the windmills fast enough to produce electric power.  But not too fast that they damage the windmills.  Which typically lock down in high winds.  Providing a narrow band of winds for power generation.

Buoyant windmills and underwater power cabling in fishing waters?  Sure, that shouldn’t be a problem.  What are the odds that a boat will run into a windmill?  Or snag an underwater power cable?  The odds of that happening are probably greater than another Fukushima-like accident.  And yet they’re shutting down their nuclear power.  To use floating windmills.

Incidentally, 143 windmills at 2 megawatt each only comes to 286 megawatts.  Not 1 gigawatt.  No, to get 1 gigawatt you’ll need 500 windmills.  Three and half times more than the 143 they’re planning to build.  If the one they start with works.  And they have the money for more windmills after they install the first one.

India has more wind and solar power than anyone else.  Yet they’re adding nuclear capacity because their wind and solar just can’t meet their power needs.  The Japanese should probably reconsider their position on nuclear power.  For even though wind power is green power and it will provide a lot of jobs it will result in massive debt.  And unreliable power.  That money would probably be better spent making improvements to their nuclear power.  Such as getting electric gear out of basements.  And providing a more failsafe power source for their cooling pumps.  For their nuclear plants can survive earthquakes.  And with these improvements they’ll be able to survive a tsunami.  All while providing reliable electric power.  Something windmills just can’t do.

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Windmills, Rotational Energy, Wing, Lift, Rotary Wing, Angle of Attack, Variable-Pitch Propellers, Drag, AC Power and Wind Turbine

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 27th, 2012

Technology 101

When an Aircraft Rotates for Takeoff it increases the Angle of Attack of the Wing to Create more Lift

Early windmills turned when the wind pushed a sail or vane.  Thereby converting wind energy into rotational energy.  Mechanical linkages and shafts transferred this rotational motion to power a mill.  Or pump water.  As well as an assortment of other tasks.  Whatever the task it was important to regulate the speed at which the shaft rotated.  Which meant turning the windmill into the wind.  And adjusting the amount of sail catching the wind.  Much like on a sailing ship.  At first by shutting the windmill down and manually adjusting the sails.  Then later automating this process while the windmill was turning.  If the winds were too strong they’d lock the windmill to prevent it from turning.  To prevent damaging the windmill.

They regulated the speed to protect the equipment attached to the windmill, too.  To prevent a mill stone from spinning too fast.  Risking damage to it.  And harm to the people working with the equipment.  Or to protect a water pump form pumping too fast.  Even the small farm windmills had over-speed protection.   These sat atop a well.  The windmill drove a small piston to pump the water up the well shaft.  To prevent this windmill from flying apart in high winds over-speed features either furled the blades or rotated the windmill parallel to the wind.  Shutting the pump down.

But wind just doesn’t push.  It can also lift.  A lateen (triangular) sail on a sailing vessel is similar to an aircraft wing.  The leading edge of the sail splits the wind apart.  Part of it fills the sail and pushes it.  Bowing it out into a curved surface.  The wind passing on the other side of the sail travels across this curved surface and creates lift.  Similar to how a wing operates during takeoff on a large aircraft.  With the trailing edge flaps extended it creates a large curve in the wing.  When the aircraft rotates (increasing the angle of attack of the wing) to take off wind passing under the wing pushes it up.  And the wind travelling over the wing pulls it up.  These lift forces are so strong that planes carry their fuel in the wings and mount engines on the wing to keep the wings from bending up too much from these forces of lift.

A Pilot will Feather the Propeller on a Failed Engine in Flight to Minimize Drag 

When an aircraft carrier launches its aircraft it turns into the wind.  To maximize the wind speed travelling across the wings of the aircraft.  For the faster the wind moves across the wing the great lift it creates.  Commercial airports don’t have the luxury of turning into the wind.  So they lay their runways out to correspond to the prevailing wind directions.  As weather systems move through the region they often reverse the direction of the wind.  When they do planes take off in the other direction.  If the winds are somewhere in between these two extremes some airports have another set of runways called ‘crosswind’ runways.  Or trust in the highly skilled pilots flying out of their airports to adjust the control surfaces on their planes quickly and delicately to correct for less than optimal winds.

Helicopters don’t have this problem.  They can take off facing in any direction.  Because that big propeller on top is a rotary wing.  Or rotor.  A fixed wing airplane needs forward velocity to move air over their wings to create lift.  A helicopter moves air over its rotary wing by spinning it through the air.  To create lift the pilot tilts the rotor blades to change their angle of attack.  And tilts the whole rotor in the direction of travel.  The helicopter’s engine runs at a constant RPM.  To increase lift the angle of attack is increased.  This also creates drag that increases the load on the engine, slowing it down.  So the pilot increases the throttle of the engine to return the rotor to that constant RPM.

Propeller-powered airplanes also have variable-pitch propellers.  To create the maximum possible lift at the lowest amount of drag.  So it’s not just engine speed determining aircraft speed.  When running up the engines while on the ground the pilot will feather the propellers.  So that the blade pitch is parallel to the airflow and moves no air.  This allows the engines to be run up to a high RPM without producing a strong blast of air behind it.  A pilot will also feather the prop on a failed engine in flight to minimize drag.  Allowing a single-engine plane to glide and a multiple engine plane to continue under the power of the remaining engines.  A pilot can even reverse the pitch of the propeller blades to reverse the direction of airflow through the propeller.  Helping planes to come to a stop on short runways.

By varying the Blade Pitch for Different Wind Speeds Wind Turbines can Maintain a Constant RPM

Thomas Edison developed DC electrical power.  George Westinghouse developed AC electrical power.  And these two went to war to prove the superiority of their system.  The War of the Currents.  Westinghouse won.  Because AC is economically superior.  One power plant can power a very large geographic area.  Because alternating current (AC) works with transformers.  Which stepped up voltages for long-distance power transmission.  And then stepped them back down to the voltages we use.  Power equals voltage times current.  Increasing the voltages allows lower currents.  Which allows thinner wires.  And fewer generating plants.  Which saves money.  Hence the economic superiority of AC power.

Alternating current works with transformers because the current alternates directions 60 times a second (or 60 cycles or hertz).  Every time the currents reverse an electrical field collapses in one set of windings of a transformer, inducing a voltage in another set of windings.  A generator (or, alternator) creates this alternating current by converting rotational energy into electrical energy.  Which brings us back to windmills.  A source of rotational energy.  Which we can also use to generate electrical energy.  But unlike windmills of old, today’s windmills, or wind turbines, turn from lift.   The wind doesn’t push the blades.  The wind passes over them producing lift.  Like on a wing.  Pulling them into rotation.

The typical wind turbine design is a three-bladed propeller attached to a nacelle sitting on top of a tall pylon.  The nacelle is about as large as a big garden shed or a small garage.  Inside the nacelle are the alternator and a gearbox.  And various control equipment.  Like windmills of old wind turbines still have to face into the wind.  We could do this easily and automatically by placing the propeller on the downwind side of the nacelle.  Making it a weathervane as well.  But doing this would put the pylon between the wind and the blades.  The pylon would block the wind causing uneven loading on the propeller producing vibrations and reducing the service life.  So they mount the propeller on the upwind side.  And use a complex control system to turn the wind turbine into the wind.

When it comes to electrical generation a constant rotation is critical.  How does this happen when the wind doesn’t blow at a constant speed?  With variable-pitched blades on the propeller.  By varying the blade pitch for different wind speeds they can maintain a constant number of revolutions per minute (RPM).  For a limited range of wind conditions, that is.  If the wind isn’t fast enough to produce 60 hertz they shut down the wind turbine.  They also shut them down in high winds to prevent damaging the wind turbine.  They can do this by feathering the blades.  Turning the propeller blades parallel to the wind.  Or with a mechanical brake.  The actual rotation of the propeller is not 60 cycles per second.  But it will be constant.  And the gearbox will gear it up to turn the alternator at 60 cycles per second.  Allowing them to attach the power they produce to the electric grid.

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All Men are Created Equal. And, no, Liberals are NOT more Equal than Others

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 4th, 2011

The Rule of Law and Contract Rights

This is the 4th of July.  A big holiday in America.  In most places.  It fell out of favor for awhile in Vicksburg, Mississippi, what with that city falling on the 4th during the American Civil War.  Some said that the Union‘s win kept the spirit of the 4th of July alive.  Many in the South said it killed it.  Especially those who have reframed the Civil War as a struggle between federal power and states’ rights.  And it is those who say states’ rights lost.  And the spirit of 1776 died.

Of course, the Civil War wasn’t about maintaining states’ rights in the South.  In fact, the South was all for a strong federal government to overrule states’ laws when it came to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  When northern states refused to send back escaped slaves to their southern owners, they asked for the federal government to enact a law to compel them to do so.  You see, the southern planter elite (a small percentage of the southern population who owned the vast majority of the slaves) was all about making the law favor them.  Much like the land-owning aristocracy had done it for centuries in feudal Europe.  Which is decidedly not in keeping with the Spirit of ’76.

The American colonies had already been at war with the British Empire for about a year when Thomas Jefferson presented the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress.  The cornerstone of that document is that all men are created equal.  Endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.  Key to these rights is the Rule of Law.  Simply stated, it means the new nation would be a nation of laws.  Not of kings.  Or an aristocracy.  And the law would rule supreme.  No one would be above the law.  Not the planter elite.  Kings.  Or presidents (see Missing the Point on July 4: The Right to Vote Was Not The Main Achievement in 1776 by Warren Meyer posted 6/30/2011 on Forbes).

For about 99% of human history, political power has been exercised at the unchecked capricious whim of a few individuals.  The great innovation of western countries like the US, and before it England and the Netherlands, has been to subjugate the power of government officials to the rule of law.  Criminal justice, adjudication of disputes, contracts, etc. all operate based on a set of laws known to all in advance and applying equally to all.

And key to the Rule of Law are property rights and contracts.

Today the rule of law actually faces a number of threats in this country.  One of the most important principles of the rule of law is that legality (and illegality) can be objectively determined in a repeatable manner from written and well-understood rules.  Unfortunately, the massive regulatory and tax code structure in this country have created a set of rules that are subject to change and interpretation constantly at the whim of the regulatory body.  Every day, hundreds of people and companies find themselves facing penalties due to an arbitrary interpretation of obscure regulations.

Worse, with the growing power of the Federal government, it has become an increasingly accepted practice that Congress or the President may selectively violate the rule of law to benefit their particular constituents. Just ask secured bondholders at Chrysler (who had their legal rights wiped out by executive fiat in favor or the Administration’s pet union) or restaurants burdened with Obamacare compliance (whose competitors with better political access have gotten cost-saving waivers), what they think of the rule of law.

It’s a slippery path.  And it starts out small.  Little losses of liberty along the way.  Then the losses get bigger.  With the ruling powers always justifying that it was for the greater good.  Adolf Hitler rose to power through free elections.  And seduced the Germans.  People accepted his vision and willingly gave up their rights for the greater Germany.  With Germany ultimately becoming a dictatorship. 

Appealing to the greater ‘good’ is a powerful force.  It just takes a good speech to get the people to willingly follow you.  Such as when JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  You’ll be hard-pressed to find any such sentiment in any of America’s Founding Documents.  Because it goes completely against the American creed.  Americans don’t serve government; government serves Americans.  But this sentiment has prevailed.  And gave America the welfare state.  An explosion in the size of government.  And a loss of individual liberties ever since.  All to serve a greater good.  Such as when the president of the United States arbitrarily revoked the contract rights of those Chrysler bond holders.  So he could reward his friends and cronies in the UAW by giving them stock shares they had no legal claim to.

The central concept on which this country was founded is that an individual’s rights do not flow from government, but are inherent to all human beings.  Government in this context only legitimately exists to the extent that it is our servant in the defense of our rights, rather than as the vessel from which these rights grudgingly flow.

Statists of all stripes have tried to challenge this assumption over the last 100 years.   While their exact details have varied, every statist has tried to create some larger entity to which the individual should be subjugated:  the proletariat, the common good, God, society, the master race.  They all hold in common that the government’s job is to sacrifice the property and well-being of one group to another in the name of some vague meta-entity.

And they’re still doing it today.  But now it’s for the greatest greater good of them all.  The planet itself.  Without which none of us can live.

The Soothing and Incessant Whine of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy.  That’s the latest tool of subjugation.  We all must sacrifice.  Because if we don’t, the earth won’t be long on this planet.  So we’re seeing more and more wind farms.  Replacing a small percentage of reliable fossil-fuel produced electricity.  With a very unreliable but noisy windmill-produced electricity (see Noisy wind farm ‘drove couple out of their home’ posted 7/4/2011 on The Telegraph).

Jane and Julian Davis, moved out of Grays Farm, Deeping St Nicholas, near Spalding, Lincs, four years ago because of the strain of living with the incessant noise…

Mrs Davis, whose husband’s family cultivated Grays Farm for over 20 years before they were uprooted by the noise, said it had been a “nightmare living there”, and that they had no option but to leave.

Speaking before today’s High Court hearing, she added: “The noise is unpredictable and mainly occurs at night, you can never get to bed with the assurance that you will stay asleep…

“We want them to stop the noise so we can move back in,” she said, adding: “We want them to recognise that the noise is a nuisance so we can go back and get some rest and sleep like we did five years ago. “

You see, the problem with this couple is that they are not rich and/or famous.  Therefore, they have no rights to live peacefully in their homes.  Now on the other side of the pond, the rich and/or famous have fought to live peacefully in their homes.  Like the Kennedys.  Who are all Big Government liberals who support renewable energy.  Just not in their backyard.  And to date the rich and/or famous of Martha’s Vineyard have been successful in keeping windmills out of Nantucket Sound.

The Spirit of ’76

Liberal politicians and the planter elite have a lot in common.  For they believe they are above the law.  Yes, people should sacrifice so we can build windmills near their property.  But we shouldn’t build them where the rich and/or famous sail their yachts. Because that wouldn’t be right.  But writing laws that further restrict our lives while exempting themselves from those laws is perfectly fine.  Again, this goes completely against the American creed.  The intent of our Founding Fathers.  And the Spirit of ’76.  Which we should note well on this day of days.  July 4.  Independence Day.

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