The answer, my friend, isn’t blowing in the wind, after all, by Karoleena

This was not written by me. I found it in Saturday’s paper and thought it was very interesting, especially since Horsedooty has posted some threads here about alternative energy options. I am like most of you; I am trying to read and find out for myself what I think would be a good alternative to our dependence on foreign oil and also take into consideration the protection of our national seashores and wildlife when drilling so close to them. We’ve all talked about T. Boone Pickens and his wind mills. It would be interesting to hear what he and McCain had to say about that yesterday when they met privately behind closed doors. Maybe it was just a political meeting!!

Anyway, I thought about calling Mr. Sykes to tell him I was planning to provide this to BackChannel for discussion, but it is already public appearing in today’s Dispatch. So, whether you agree with him or not it would seem he has credentials to talk about the subject. Everyone who is for one kind of energy alternative or another seems to have their preferences. Maybe some of you know more than Mr. Sykes about this subject.

The answer, my friend, isn’t blowing in the wind, after all

Saturday, August 16, 2008 3:08 AM

I was disappointed to see that the very large negative effects on both Ohio’s economy and environment were not discussed in the July 27 article “Wind power likely to blow in,” on the wind-power projects in Champaign County.

The first issue is the high cost of wind power, which is about 2.5 to three times the cost of coal-generated power. Large wind-power projects exist only because of large government subsidies. Otherwise, wind power would be restricted to a few applications where the physical isolation of the electricity demand precludes extending the transmission network to the site.

The other major issue is the intermittency of wind power. Even on the best of sites, wind turbines generate usable power less than 30 percent of the time, and the experience of E.ON Netz Co. of Germany, which operates a large number of turbines, is that long-term availability for large sets of turbines is closer to 4 percent.

This suggests that the installed capacity of 300 megawatts in Champaign County will, in fact, produce as little as 12 megawatts of power on an annual average basis. The suggested license fee of $15,000 per year per landowner is more likely to be only $600 per year.

Intermittency means that wind turbines require backup from conventional power, meaning nuclear, coal, oil, gas or hydroelectric. In general, the engineering studies conducted by both the German company and by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering indicate that 1 watt of wind-power generation requires 1 watt of conventional generation as backup.

T. Boone Pickens’ claim that wind power will reduce the need for natural gas in electricity generation is spectacularly wrong. Wind power intermittency means that the backup unit must be very quick-responding, and this requires natural-gas-fueled turbines. So wind power means more natural gas will be needed for electricity generation, and since gas turbines are not as thermodynamically efficient as coal-fired power plants, more fuel will be required.

So, we will require two complete power generation systems: wind power and conventional, when we only need one, conventional. At present, wind turbines are few in number, and they get a hidden subsidy from our conventional plants’ excess capacity.

As electricity demand increases, this excess capacity will slowly drain away, and the full negative impact will become apparent. E.ON Netz also notes that intermittency of wind-power supply reduces the stability of electricity-transmission networks, leading to more frequent power blackouts. The blackout of a few years ago was because of network failures as power plants were taken off line to protect them.

All in all, wind power will substantially increase our power costs and increase the frequency of power blackouts. What absolute madness.


Professor Emeritus

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ohio State University



Filed under Uncategorized

75 responses to “The answer, my friend, isn’t blowing in the wind, after all, by Karoleena

  1. dnd

    This just in: Gore to speak at DNCC. Thursday I think.

  2. horsedooty

    HI Karolenna,

    While I don’t know Professor Sikes, I have to assume that he is only referencing the state of Ohio with this article. Pickens only said that he is looking for about 20% of the power in the Midwest. The wind blows hard in West Texas. I was in that part of the world the first part of the month and can testify that that wind power is up and running in the farm and ranch communities out there. Also, I don’t believe that Pickens is thinking this is the only alternative or that it is necessarily a long term solution. Still, the good prof has an interesting take on the situation.

  3. Thanks for the post Karoleena, I tried to find some info on Robert Sykes but except for the fact he’s an expert on bio waste disposal couldn’t find out too much, and frankl I’m not enough of an expert on the topic to say he’s right or wrong. However I do take exception to something he says, and that has to do with the cost of energy. If we are going to get serious about cleaning up the environment we have to accept that we are going to be paying more for our electricity.

  4. dog's eye view

    Fingers crossed that maybe VP will be Jim Webb. Please please please. The
    “not interested” could have been a head fake and Obama campaign has got a stop in Martinsville VA planned. Webb territory.

  5. dnd

    Sykes knows sludge, though I can’t say his web page had a very impressive c.v. Looks like he hasn’t published anything of interest in a dozen years.

    His analysis if flawed. The premise that wind will be the sole source if false. He doesn’t understand distribution and demand. If his claims were true, you’d see a lot more similar claims. He seems to have a hidden agenda, but it’s beyond me to figure it out.

    But it’s always good to hear these critiques. Alternatives need to be thoroughly vetted.

  6. Chef Sheila

    Good thoughtful piece Karolenna,

    But I think he’s just a great counter view. For one thing, other alternative power structures are going to be expensive until they are perfected.

    But the likes of nuclear power plants? The public will absorb the cost in high electricity bills for about five years.

    The telephone and electricity were considered a luzery when they were first on the market. Television was a rich man’s pleasure.

    So yes, it may be that wind power is expensive and not all together good? The state of Washington has been supplimenting its electricity by 20% for the last twenty years. The result is lower heating and electricity bills.

    We will be looking and correcting and defining alternatives until we get it straight. I for one am open to it.

  7. Karolenna

    Doots and others, I don’t entirely agree with Mr. Sykes as well. There seem to be some arguments here in Ohio about wind technology. Much of that may be due to the money put into and the influence of giant electrical company political PACS. I know about them having to organize events for them as a contractor for several months. Talk about conflict of interest, but it put bread on the table for a while.

    I agree with Doots that the middle of the US seems to be where wind technology would be most useful and we do need to explore more alternative technologies. Since his letter dealt with wind alternatives from a different perspective, I thought it might be helpful for a post on a “slower than usual” day (as I mentioned to Brian).

    From what I found about Mr. Sykes, we probably would not agree on too many things, but it’s always good to get other ideas. I’d bet Mr. Sykes is not an Obama supporter either because he doesn’t seem to want the government involvement to help with our energy independence…something the government will need to do if we are to get any independence from foreign oil.

  8. Karoleena is Ohio a big coal producer?

  9. Karolenna

    Ohio is not as big a coal producer as it used to be. It pretty much declined in the 80s. My father owned strip mines in Ohio and WV and a trucking company of 18 wheelers to haul the coal. He got in it when you had to post thousands of dollars of bond money for reclamation, something he was totally for; but, many got in before that was a requirement and it made them millions and millionaires. I worked for Dad filing state reports, getting permits, etc. Much research goes into stripping. What Dad found out, unfortunately, was that the state mining records and mappings were not accurate. There were deep mines throughout Ohio and specifically SE Ohio that were not on any maps or records. So, Dad socked thousands of dollars into operations only to find that when he got to the level where the coal was to be there was nothing but already mined holes. You lose a lot of money that way. There is talk of going after those mines, though, to get what coal is left. Some of Dad’s reclaimed areas are photographed and photos hang in the Department of Natural Resources buildings. We know because my brother is an state inspector for that particular area and sees them all the time. Dad wanted to protect the land and worked hard to do that. In WV he mined in NE WV around Buchannan where the mountains are higher and costs are higher.

    One thing against Ohio coal is the sulfur content. Working at the big think tank, I worked on projects involving multi-fluidized bed combustion systems, which were supposed to remove much of the sulfur from the coal. I don’t think it has all that successful, though, because a company started just for that purpose went under. But, there is supposed to be revival of the coal industry here. Even though Dad had millions in his operations, it now takes larger companies to do this kind of work. It also involved a lot of crooks, as has been identified in some mine safety reports.

  10. Karolenna

    Brian, you might want to remove one of those posts. It took forever and I don’t know why there are duplicates because I only hit submit once.

  11. horsedooty


    please understand that I was just rebutting the good professor’s stance. Thank you for posting the article.

  12. dnd

    I too appreciate the post. It got my blood pressure up 😉

    Two things that disappointed me, other than the thin, flawed argument was the lack of citations for his claims (tax subsidies, natural gas turbines, etc.), and the lack of imagination for what might be possible in the future. As Sykes has spent his entire career in academia, those two things are the hallmark of all research. The article sounded more like talking points than a critique of wind power.

    It also dawned on me that economies of scale will bring the cost of wind power way down. You can stamp those things out like car bumpers. You can’t do that with nuclear, coal, oil gas plants or hydroelectric dams. Those for the most part are huge custom construction projects.

    My guess is that pretty soon we’re going to see huge amounts of research funding going into all things electric. We don’t need a manned mission to Mars. We do need to eliminate hydrocarbon usage as much as possible and replace it with clean, renewable sources.

    Ok, off the soapbox 🙂

  13. Chef Sheila


    We loved it! Give me something to think about!

  14. Chef Sheila

    Just another tidbit…..

    Obama’s campaign said Tuesday he plans an appearance Saturday in Springfield, Ill. The Illinois Democrat kicked off his bid early last year in front of the former Capitol where Abraham Lincoln once served.

    Obama likely will have made his choice of running mate by the time he returns to Springfield. There was no word Tuesday on whether his pick will appear with him. The Obama campaign remained in a near blackout for information about his decision and when exactly it will be announced.

  15. dog's eye view

    I suspect the running mate and runners up get the word today; will be interesting to see if their staffs are as leakproof as Obama’s.

  16. dog's eye view

    Apropos of nothing: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary near Kanab, Utah

  17. dnd

    The 527’s have been saturating TV with anti-Mark Udall, a Colorado dem running for senate. A local channel had debunked many of the claims in the ads, but they keep running them anyway. They must think people who pay attention to their ads don’t watch the news…

  18. Steve (AH)

    The complaints frequently registered here in the Appalachians about Wind Power is the ugly and large turbines that would mess up the view of the mountains. That’s my neighbors. Me? I think it is worth a look at last.

    I hope you all are well. It was somewhat good to be back at work.

  19. Steve (AH)

    I am hoping for Biden BTW…gotta run, wifey time!

  20. Sheila and I were chatting earlier and I said the one way certain we know it’s not Hillary, no one has leaked the info. If it was going to be Hillary one of her or Bill’s people would have leaked it. Keeping secrets is not a Clinton strong suit.

  21. dog's eye view

    Rachel Maddow gets her own MSNBC show; takes Dan Abrams’ 9 p slot after the conventions. He stays on for MSNBC and NBC without his own show.

  22. dnd

    Keeping with today’s energy theme, next time you fly into DIA, look down. You may see a huge solar array:

    Of course Sykes would probably say that it only produces power during the daytime 😉

  23. dnd

    Do they prefer to see strip mining to wind farms? Or is the coal mining there underground?

  24. Karolenna

    I believe Obama is trying to connect the people with him and Lincoln for various reasons. Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents with little experience. So, it would be a great place to announce the VP just as it was where he announced his candidacy. This site gives a study of presidential experience versus greatness.

    How Important is “Experience”? A study.

    Before I came down to my office I heard Jack McCafferty (I just love his bluntness) read a letter from someone who said they would be so glad when this election is over so maybe we would not ever have to hear of the Clintons again!!!

    Also, for those interested, Bill Maher is on Larry King tonight. He’s the only reason I signed up for HBO.

  25. dog's eye view

    again, totally off thread:

    The answer, my friend

    is a plastic steak and centrifugal force.

    The music on this video is mesmerizing.

  26. dnd

    Not to nitpick but centrifugal force is a “fictitious” force. This video demonstrates centripetal force, which is really a force requirement, in this case supplied by the arm and the frisbee to the pooch.

    Old physics majors don’t die, we just get more annoying 😉

  27. dnd

    ps. It’s a great video. That pooch has some strong jaws…

  28. dog's eye view

    LA Times: McCain ads have raised doubts and negatives for Obama, but he still has advantages McCain does not (more enthusiastic support; indies leaning Obama’s way by 11 points).,0,5506138.story

  29. dnd

    That’s a great chart showing greatness as a function of experience. Too bad they stopped at Reagan.

  30. Not to be the kill buzz, but a lot of dogs are injured from being swung around, it’s not good for their necks. Ok, I’ve done my duty, please return to your regular scheduled program

  31. Steve (AH)


    You would be shocked at how many greenies are around here, especially in Asheville.

  32. Karolenna

    “Not to be the kill buzz, but a lot of dogs are injured from being swung around, it’s not good for their necks. Ok, I’ve done my duty, please return to your regular scheduled program”

    Hey, I gave Noel a bath today and she would probably tell you that she was “swung around”, although she wasn’t. At least she’s getting better at it. I’ve taken her to PetsMarts many times but did it myself today. They must be getting her used to it. When I first started bathing her after leaving the shelter, all I got were bared teeth, growls, and you know the rest.

    Speaking of bathing dogs, my daughter was telling me this story about a lady who left her dog to be groomed. The place used a drying cage. She came to pick up the dog and it had been “cooked” to death due to the heat because it had been left inside too long. Might be a good idea to ask how they dry your dog.

  33. Karolenna

    Geeze, I meant to say Cafferty above instead of McCaffferty.

  34. horsedooty

    when I was in college I worked for a small animal vet. I did everything and that included bathing the dogs and cats. Yep, after a cat is wormed we would bathe them and it was not a fun job. We had a homemade drier cage. It was just a cage with a blower out of an old swamp box cooler. All it did was blow air on the animals. I guess things have progressed with newer technology these days.

  35. dog's eye view

    think of the pictures you could have gotten! Not many see wet cats.

  36. dnd

    Wet cats?

    I had a neighbor who’s cat would drink out of the toilet. Never fell in…

  37. Chef Sheila

    I just have to post this. Rather long but good for the moral.

    I think we’ll look back on August as when Obama won the election. August was when John McCain had the chance to define Obama and so cement a negative view of him that he could never recover. Now his time is almost up, the conventions are about to begin and we get into the full swing of the campaign. And what did McCain get out of his month? The Gallup tracking poll barely budged; most polls show Obama still with a modest lead, only slightly less than where he started a month or so ago. Obama’s negatives are up somewhat — no surprise after the pummeling he took — but hardly up to critical levels. Unlike with Kerry, no single message has stuck — he’s a flipflopper! No, he’s a scary leftist! No he’s an empty celebrity! With no single negative image, the effect is likely to diffuse over time, especially with a successful Democratic convention. I think Obama’s played this just right so far. Yes, lots of folks are complaining he hasn’t gone after McCain enough but it simply wouldn’t have worked. McCain has not been the story — Obama has been. Unfair, sure, but that’s the way it is. Obama’s the new guy in town and everyone is trying to figure him out. So instead of fecklessly launching attack after attack on McCain only to have them disappear into the ether, he sat back and played rope-a-dope waiting for his moment. Now his moment is coming. The VP choice, the convention, the post-Labor Day sharpening of people’s attention, the debates and the full onslaught of ads, money, and organization. Can he blow it? Sure. He’s new to this. He can make the wrong VP choice. He can give an empty, if soaring, acceptance speech (or it could rain!) Hillary and Bill (especially Bill) could add a sour taste to the convention and make that the story. He could fall short of expectations in the debate. But all (or most of those) are under his control. I would *so* rather be Obama heading toward November than McCain. It’s his for the taking if he just executes it right.
    –Josh Marshall

  38. dnd

    Rachael Maddow to replace Dan Abrams on MSNBC.

    Good for her. She’s really good. I hope she has Stephanie Miller on as much as Abrams did.

  39. dnd

    Found this on

    “Was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book.”
    — Mary Matalin, publisher of Jerome Corsi’s Obama Nation

    “The goal is to defeat Obama. I don’t want Obama to be in office.”
    — Jerome Corsi, on his book

  40. Yeah Rachel should make for a fun hour of TV

  41. Chef Sheila

    I will miss Dan though, too bad he couldn’t get an earlier slot. There are those of us who enjoy him.

  42. Sheila it’s not our demographic MSNBC is worried about, I suspect Dan did well with the over 45 set.

  43. Chef Sheila


    No need to explain it. Rachelle is going to be a pleasure. But don’t throw out the baby. A lot of us liked his show. maybe a 3 or 4. ;0)

  44. Chef Sheila

    Did you know that obama reads TPM? I’m glad. I think its more intune with the heartbeat of the proper questions and concerns.

  45. dnd

    Now if Obama would only read backchannel 😉

    Be great if he was a guest poster.

  46. Yeah he could tell us why he’s picking Reed!

  47. Chef Sheila

    …..Or why he’s “Biden” his time naming his Pick…..HAH!

  48. horsedooty

    I am over 45 and I didn’t care for Dan much to be honest about it. Sorta reminded me why I never wanted to join a Frat in college.

  49. I find him a tad self righteous and self impressed doots.

  50. Karolenna

    One last post before going back upstairs…I think Obama is “Biden” his time too. 😀 8) 😆

  51. GROAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

  52. horsedooty

    wrt Dan Abrams, I totally agree.

  53. Chef Sheila


    To each his own. Dan Abrams……cute and smart and cute 🙂

  54. horsedooty

    hormones sheila hormones that is what is effecting your decisions about Dan.

  55. Steve (AH)

    I’m glad to see Maddow getting her own show. I hope MSNBC gives her time to develop the show and build an audience.

    Good morning

  56. Steve (AH)

    I signed up for Obama’s text message. I got two texts yesterday and was all geeked up, but they were personal….I think its a great idea.

  57. Steve (AH)

    McCain has another good day of state polling:

    Depressing, and not a lot we can do about it, but this is still a pretty close race with Obama leading.

  58. Steve (AH)

    Ok, kids, I gotta get going!

  59. dog's eye view

    Maria Shriver hosts Women for Obama LA gathering for Hillary supporters.,0,6836567.story

  60. dog's eye view

    from LA Times, on history of VP selections:

    “…It used to be that running mates were selected by convention delegates, who were free to disregard the preferences of the candidate at the top of the ticket. That changed in 1940, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted, as a condition of seeking a third term, that he have Henry Wallace as his running mate.

    With that precedent, presidential candidates began choosing their own running mates, and the custom soon took hold. Just a few conventions later, in 1956, Democrat Adlai Stevenson was criticized for leaving the vice presidential selection up to delegates.

    “People expected him to choose his own running mate,” said Joel K. Goldstein, a St. Louis University expert on the vice presidency. “When he failed to do so, people said it proved he was not sufficiently decisive to be president.”

    Mark Barabak, “In announcing a running mate, timing and place are key”,0,6952524.story

  61. Kathy

    ok- I thought of something this morning that made me think Obama will choose HRC.

    1. Obama said that Team of Rivals has been a favorite book of his;

    2. It seems he will announce on Saturday in Springfield- yes, back where it started, another Lincoln reference, and Hillary is an Illinois native.

    3. It would be unconventional- she would be great on the attack, and she will bring in pumas and the rest who are wronged.

    4. Evan Bayh- yuck. I have met him a couple of times- our local state senator is form Indiana ,and he came through a few times testing the waters, I visualize Wonder bread when his name is mentioned. Boring, unimpressive- why would Barack make a “safe” choice?

    5. Biden I would like despite his penchant for sometimes saying too much. And am concerned choosing him may seem that BO “needs” someone with experience b/c he thinks he does not have enough.

    6. Kaine- I don ‘t know enough about him- but think he may accentuate the inexperience theme.

    7. Wild card- Richardson-I like him a lot though he never stumped well- also do not see him as an attack dog sort- but always thought he would add a lot to the ticket, and I really hated how Carville labeled his a Judas.

  62. dnd

    One thing I’m curious about is all the coverage about protesters at the Democratic Convention, but nothing about protesters at the Republican Convention. Outside of the PUMAs, what’s the beef?

  63. dog's eye view

    I could live with Hillary. If it must be done, so be it. Doubt seriously she would be Obama’s first choice, but he’s pragmatic.

    Oddly, though, she’s damaged goods after the Atlantic article; that was a wakeup call to those who care about competence and managerial skills. If you’re a PUMA, that article was water off a duck’s back. If you are not, you content yourself that McCain’s camp is just as rambling, I guess.

  64. Chef Sheila

    I agree that Clinton is the Dark Horse.

    And still I am “Biden” my time!!!! lol

    Dnd, you being in the land of Denver, What’s the talk about protesters? And what I’ve seen about Denver is how “Old” its becoming. Lots of elderly showing up there in the foothills?

    Steve! Have a great day Coach! Hope to see you this evening.

  65. Chef Sheila

    Oh and Kathy! You’ve been missed here. Glad to see you back.

  66. CNN just announced Lieberman aka scumbag will be speaking at the GOP convention.

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