Weather Dependent Wind Power: Leaves Hurricane Victims Powerless

Oh, the irony.

In one breath we’re told that the climate is changing so rapidly – although, these days, most climate alarmists don’t seem prepared to lay a bet on whether things are getting hotter or colder – that carpeting the world in wind turbines and solar panels – which cultists believe will solve the ‘problem’ – is a matter of the most pressing urgency.

Then, we’re being told by the likes of Australia’s most notorious wind power outfit, Infigen that it can’t spin a dollar because of ‘poor wind conditions’; not just once, but year, after meteorologically miserable, year.

The thing about irony and its cousin, sarcasm, is its ability to make idiots look like idiots, without them realising it.

It’s this simple, really: when your power supply depends wholly upon the weather, expect it to vary entirely at the whims of Mother Nature.

Which brings us to this article from The Australian in which Mark Schliebs gets so close to the point it almost hurts. But, notwithstanding its proximity, it completely evades him (we’ll fill in the gaps in a moment).

Giant wind farm blades make landfall in the path of Cyclone Larry
The Australian
Mark Schliebs
29 September 2017

The first of the 57m-long blades for a $380 million wind farm project in the area where Cyclone Larry once caused devastation to farmland have been unloaded in Cairns.

The blades, made by Danish company Vestas, eventually will be trucked 50km inland to be mounted on 53 turbines being built for the Mount Emerald Wind Farm. The farm is under development by renewable energy company Ratch Australia to produce 180 megawatts of power.

The site, on the Atherton Tablelands, is where buildings were damaged and crops wiped out soon after Cyclone Larry made landfall as a category-4 storm in 2006.

The project has already met resistance from many in the nearby farming community of Walkamin who are angered by the rock-blasting and clearing of vegetation, and concerned about low-frequency noise it will generate.

Ratch Australia said another of its wind farms, at nearby Windy Hill, had suffered “minimal damage” when Cyclone Larry delivered wind gusts of up to 187km/h in March 2006. A spokesman said the turbines, each about 30 storeys high once the blades were attached, could handle “extreme conditions” — including cyclones.

“During a high-wind event or cyclone, the turbines go into survival mode, where the blades are rotated to provide the minimal area facing the wind, and are then locked in place,” he said.

The spokesman noted the wind farm was more than 50km inland, and cyclones diminished significantly in force once they crossed the coast. But he was unable to say what wind speed the new turbines and blades were designed to withstand, and a Vestas representative did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2013, Vestas executive Anders Vedel said its turbines at the time were designed to “survive” winds of up to 60m per second — about 216km/h.

Respected wind engineer Leighton Cochran said the project would have to meet Australian standards. He said those standards could allow a turbine to be built to handle up to 237.6km/h.

In 2013, eight turbines were blown down and a further nine had blades broken off when a ­typhoon hit China.
The Australian

Turbines tumble in Taiwanese Typhoon…


Nice to think that Ratch’s Vestas turbines might be able to survive a brush with a howling cyclone like Larry.

But here’s the point that Mark Schliebs and the wind cult completely miss: the purpose of a power generation source is, funnily enough, to generate power as and when it is needed; not merely to withstand the vagaries of the weather.

At the wind speeds referred to, no wind turbine (no matter how brilliant the engineering) will generate any electricity at all.

Instead it will be drawing power from the grid in order to keep its nacelle facing into the wind, blades feathered and brakes locked up, to prevent the kind of chaotic destruction seen in this video:


Indeed, wind speeds barely need to reach gale force and these things go into automatic shutdown, as appears on German turbine maker, Siemen’s website – which has this to say about the automatic shutdown of wind turbines when wind speeds hit 25m/s (90km/h):

Nature presents us with different kinds of challenges. High wind can create extremely high loads, and as a result wind turbines are normally programmed to shut down if the 10-minute mean wind speed exceeds 25 m/s. This may pose a significant challenge for the grid system – for example, if turbines in large wind farms shut down simultaneously.

It was precisely that feature of their ‘design’ that led to South Australia’s Statewide blackout on 28 September last year.

A month back, Texans were walloped by Hurricane Harvey.

Despite having the largest wind power capacity in the USA, it was nuclear power that supplied Texans with the electricity they needed throughout the tempest and deluge: its wind power fleet automatically shutdown, going into self-preservation mode, while its nuclear generation plant never missed a beat.

Wind power outfits across the globe, Ratch in Far North Queensland no exception, are gifted with a ‘to hell with you, you’re on your own’ attitude, when it comes to delivering power to customers around the clock.

And, STT is far from convinced that Ratch’s whirling Danish wonders would survive a direct hit from a tropical cyclone.

Here’s a story from the archive on the fate of Suzlon S88s in Nicaragua, which failed to stand up to a big blow.

One Suzlon turbine destroyed and two badly damaged
Wind Power Monthly
Mike McGovern
8 December 2014

NICARAGUA: A Suzlon 2.1MW turbine nacelle caught fire and later crashed to the ground on Sunday in an incident involving three damaged turbines at the 63MW Amayo complex in Nicaragua, the country’s first wind project.

“There were no injuries and the site has been secured,” Suzlon told Windpower Monthly in a written statement, confirming the affected turbines to be S88-2.1MW machines.

Suzlon declined to comment on the possible cause, pending further investigation. Nobody at the US-based owner company, AEI Energy, was available for comment.

Local press reports, citing ground staff and fire fighters, said all three machines at the 23MW Amayo II plant — in service since 2010 — suffered failure in their emergency braking systems, leaving them helpless against high gusts of wind. No other turbines were affected, claimed Suzlon.

The turbines caught ablaze at 5.15am, just under an hour after a blackout hit the Rivas municipality, where the wind farm is located.

All three machines reportedly spun uncontrollably. Turbine 28 finally fell and all three blades of turbine 25 were flung off. A blade on turbine 29 was left broken.
Wind Power Monthly

If the story has an upside, it’s the successful bid for “freedom” made by the blades during yet another “component liberation” event (see our posts here and here and here and here and here).

If there’s one thing certain about living in the tropics it’s tropical cyclones or, as Americans call them, ‘hurricanes’.

A couple of weeks back, a particularly destructive Hurricane, ‘Maria’, belted Peurto Rico – a US Protectorate – that has placed way too many eggs in the wind and solar basket. Here’s what happened to its ‘wonderful, clean/green’ energy ‘supply’ when Maria came to town.

When we said that irony is lost on idiots, here’s a couple of classic examples.

Hurricanes Cause ‘Apocalyptic’ Devastation to Caribbean Power Grids
GreenTech Media
Emma Foehringer Merchant
26 September 2017

Last Wednesday, Hurricane Maria passed over Puerto Rico, bringing 140-mile-per-hour winds, pelting rain and extreme flooding. After the storm moved on, Puerto Rico was left with “apocalyptic devastation” and absolutely no power.

The island’s utility – already bankrupt before the storm – says it will be months before electricity is fully restored.

The dire circumstances in Puerto Rico echo similar troubles now enveloping the Caribbean, where hundreds of thousands have been left with no electricity as Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and to some extent, Harvey, pummeled grids this past month, leaving entire islands without electricity.

In the wake of the storm, renewable energy advocates have called for investment in distributed grids to avoid the same situation in the future.

“The tragedy of Hurricane Irma can be a catalyst for government and utility leaders and people of affected countries…to transform destruction into opportunity – an opportunity to build back better and cleaner through sustainable, resilient power and transportation systems,” wrote analysts at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Indeed, the opportunity for standalone solar and storage – or hybrid liquefied natural gas (LNG) and diesel systems paired with PV and storage – is getting more economically attractive. According to a new analysis of island markets from GTM Research and Wood Mackenzie, hybrid systems are already beating the cost of diesel, and nearing the cost of LNG.

Although many Caribbean islands are investing in renewables and experimenting with different kinds of microgrids, most still rely on imported fossil fuels. And it’s as yet unclear whether a distributed grid structure in Puerto Rico would have fared any better during such a drastic storm.

The storms did underscore, though, that climate change will impact these island countries disproportionately – and power grids will be under increasing threat, whatever the energy mix.

“Unfortunately, we had to wait for Irma and Maria to let the world understand what we’ve been saying to them for a long time – that we are very vulnerable. We are exposed to the ravages of climate change,” said Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, speaking to last week’s U.N. Summit. “We need access to resources to build more resilient societies and countries. We have been playing our part, but the extent of the resources required to put in the mitigation systems is beyond us.”
GreenTech Media

Wind worshippers wanted a ‘distributed’ generation system to overcome Mother Nature, and they got it: Hurricane Maria gladly distributed solar panels and wind turbine blades all over the Island (see above and below).

Puerto Rican Solar Farms Heavily Damaged By Hurricane Maria
The Weather Junkies
Dakota Smith
September 28, 2017

Hurricane Maria’s flooding rains and raging winds heavily damaged Puerto Rico’s solar farms – an emerging energy source for the U.S. territory.

In the first sixth months of 2017, solar surpassed wind as Puerto Rico’s top producer of renewable energy. This trend comes as several large solar energy projects have found a home in the Caribbean Island in hopes to help solve their energy crisis. It’s a trend in jeopardy, though, as new aerial imagery shows several of these farms destroyed after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island.

Puerto Rico’s second largest solar farm, located in Humacao, took a direct hit from Maria’s eyewall. The farm currently accounts for nearly 40% of solar-produced electricity on the island and is currently under expansion to produce even more. Unfortunately, a majority of the newly added solar panels were ripped from their foundation and completely destroyed by Maria’s strong winds. These panels are so recent, the “before” image seen below doesn’t include the expansion.

Another large solar farm, outside of Guayama, fared a little better but still saw some damage from Maria. This farm, dubbed the “Ilumina Project”, was built in 2012 and was the first utility scale solar farm on the island. At one point, the project was the largest solar field in the Caribbean but has since been passed by several other Puerto Rican projects. It is considered one of the main catalysts for Puerto Rico’s rapidly growing solar industry.

The fates of several other large solar facilities, including the island’s largest site, are unknown as aerial imagery has not reached the entire island yet. More imagery is expected as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) performs daily flights to collect aerial footage. This story will be updated as more images become available.

A smaller solar field attached to Humacao’s sewage treatment facility was found to be nearly completely destroyed by Maria (below). The demolished solar panels provided the sewage plant with 60% of its energy and was part of a two million dollar private investment approved by Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Padilla.

While the future of Puerto Rico’s energy industry is the last thing on anyone’s mind, Maria has undoubtedly setback one the island’s fastest growing energy sources.
The Weather Junkies

Direct exposure to the weather is NOT recommended …