02 January 2007

NIMBY Abuse of Power Ratings

An article by Richard Blackwell of the Globe and Mail discusses how opponents of wind are trying to use its capacity factor as an argument against it. While in reality the votility of wind power is a major strike against it the article implies that turbine manufacturers are essentially lying about how much power their systems actually deliver by listing nameplate peak generation instead of average. The manufacturers will no doubt counter by pointing out that the wind blows differently everywhere in the world but people not well educated on the fundementals of power production (the vast majority of the population) probably won't see it that way.

This is a gross simplification of the real problems behind wind and a dishonest debate tactic, but well, there it is. It's high time that the wind and solar power industries start changing their nameplate power from a peak to a standardized mean power production. For solar (and a lesser extent wind) producers would be well served to list mean annual energy production (for the US lower 48) in kW·h rather than power. That would allow laymen to much more readily assess their economic value, then a peak watt value that isn't immediatly obvious.

7 comments:

Robert said...

It would be far better if people were to learn the distinction between power and energy, and the relation of the two.

Robert McLeod said...

A lot of people are neo-luddites by choice, or otherwise. So while you can educate a minority of the population, you can't get to everyone. With not in my back yard opposition, a simple majority is not enough to push through a project.

Engineer-Poet said...

Unfortunately, the "standard" rating would require correction factors for the zone and ambient temperature (for solar) and even each individual site (wind).  Not gonna fly.

Besides, that's what the curves in the data sheet are for.

Auros said...

I'm wondering whether it might be possible to produce a web tool that would ask for your zipcode (so it would know your latitude and basic climate), and offer (with the proviso that you need to have decent southern exposure and not have lots of shade from nearby trees and buildings) a factor that you can multiply with the peak wattage rating to get an estimate of annual kWh production to compare against your power bill...

Robert McLeod said...

RETScreen already is basically capable of that. Someone would have to link the RETScreen database to a postal code lookup but that wouldn't be terribly difficult.

Auros said...

Re: RetScreen -- nifty, thanks!

I'm not sure how I'd go about doing that myself, but maybe I'll poke a couple of my friends at Google, and see if somebody might like to take it up as a side project. (Like how GapMinder got created...)

solar power said...

Many people believe solar power is unreasonable; it could be cloudy, it doesn’t produce enough energy, etc. But they’re wrong. Solar power is essentially infinite, so it never runs out, unlike fossil fuels. The amount of solar energy intercepted by the Earth every minute is greater than the amount of energy the world uses in fossil fuels each year. Converting solar energy into usable energy gives off no pollution. When combined with other technologies, solar power could be even more useful.