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An interesting phenomenon has been noted at several coastal wind farms in the western UK that are located along the Irish Sea. On clear days over the eastern Irish Sea, the wind turbines generate mist and fog on land. The swirling movement of the turbine blades apparently churns the cooler air above the warmer moist air that passes across the turbine blades. It is as is some British wind farms are creating mini climatic zones in the general vicinity of the turbines.
The phenomenon of mist and fog blowing in from the sea occurs along the coast of Chile, Peru and western South Africa. The warmer winds that blow over the cold ocean currents that flow northward along those coastal regions collect large amounts of moisture over the ocean. The moisture easily condenses on fog fences that have been installed in several valleys of coastal mountains in Chile and Peru. The offshore winds that blow toward land in these regions have been insufficient to warrant any large-scale investment into wind farms.
There is a region of the world that shares some common characteristics with the Irish Sea, the Southern Pacific and Southern Atlantic oceans plus the west coast locations of the wind farms of the UK the regions of Chile and Peru where fog fences collect moisture from winds that blow in from the ocean. James Bay is located on the same northern latitude as the Irish Sea while Hudson Bay is located further to the north. During summer, the water temperature of Hudson Bay and James Bay is a few degrees cooler than the Irish Sea. The UK, Ireland, and the regions of Canada to the east and west of Hudson Bay and James Bay all record similar summer temperatures over land.
Prevailing summer winds blow over Hudson Bay and James Bay toward the western coast of Quebec, Canada and carry moist air toward the watershed areas of the James Bay hydroelectric dams and the Churchill Falls power dams. The winds are sufficiently powerful to warrant the future installation of wind turbines on most of the 1600 islands located on the eastern side of James Bay and Hudson Bay, at offshore locations as well as shore based locations. Most of these turbines would be located within close proximity to the transmission lines of Hydro Quebec's James Bay hydroelectric power dams.
Tower-based wind turbines with hubs placed at 100m to 120m in elevation, may be located between the reservoirs of the hydroelectric power dams and 2 massive bodies of water. The turbines could duplicate the phenomenon that occurs at wind farms along the Irish Sea in the western UK and generate mist and fog at lower altitude and upwind of the watershed areas of the power dams. Additional wind turbines may be placed at higher elevation near the power dams and near their watershed areas. The mini-climatic zones created by the wind turbines offer the potential to increase rainfall in the watershed regions and raise water volumes in reservoirs.
Quebec and Labrador export a significant amount of electric power into the Northeastern U.S.. A minor increase in water volume in the reservoirs of the power dams can enable the power market to more easily adjust to additional demand for electric power during hot summer weather. The increased hydroelectric generation capacity plus the additional wind energy could offer an economic case to justify the installation of the wind turbines. The precedent of wind turbines generating fog in the UK combined with winds blowing moisture from the ocean toward land in Peru and Chile offers Hydro Quebec a possible future opportunity to generate more hydroelectric power output from the same facilities.
An increase in generating capacity in both Quebec as well as Labrador could offer greater energy security in Northeast U.S. power markets. Over the long-term future, advanced undersea power cables could carry electric power from Quebec and Labrador to Greenland, with additional connections to Iceland and on to either Scotland or Germany, or to both. There is a possible future choice to either export the electric power or to place it into temporary storage, including pumped hydraulic storage, air pressure storage or chemical battery storage involving thousands of electric cars.
The potential for increased precipitation in watershed regions of Quebec's hydroelectric reservoirs also reduces the potential for pumped hydraulic storage between reservoir #2 and reservoir #3. The lack of storage capacity at Hydro Quebec's power dam #1 and its distance from James Bay eliminates the potential to operate a pumped hydraulic installation by pumping water from James Bay to inland reservoirs located at higher elevation. The list of alternative energy storage concepts will include underground pumped hydraulic storage, compressed air storage using emptied salt domes or to pump water to higher elevation from Lake Ontario into Lake Erie, at Niagara Falls.
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Hydro plays a big part in Sweden and Switzerland - not to mention Norway. Having lived in the first two, my conclusion is that superb engineering provides for the energy security that is required, rather than expensive experiments with wind power. Yes, wind has something to offer, but not as much as the TV audience has decided to believe.
Murray Ellis 3.24.10
Perhaps the title would have been better as using Hydroelectric Power to enhance WindPower. There has been a discussion about using thermal generation to backup windpower, especially in Germany. It has been argued that all the fuel saving from windpower supply there is being offset by reductions in thermal station efficiency due to the increased volatility and unpredictability of the demands on those stations, leaving no benefits to put against all the costs. This may well be an exaggeration, but the effect is clearly substantial and generally ignored. Hydro, on the other hand, can do a much better job of backing up wind as the efficiency penalties in stopping and starting sets is much lower and the time required to do this is much smaller, so that sets on standby need not be consuming water.
Fog creation by wind turbines is a new one for me. I don't doubt that it happens but find it hard to believe that this will noticeably change rainfall. Storage is always going to be in short supply in a system with a lot of windpower, but I hope we never get so desperate that sea water is pumped into freshwater lakes.
Don Hirschberg 3.24.10
Interesting. I had never considered this before. No numbers?
I made a wild-ass calculation with the purpose of seeing whether it's worth the trouble to make a good calculation.
My wild calc says the additional hydraulic energy (100' head) could be about 12% of the associated wind-generated energy under favorable condition - which might be rare. Don't take this number too seriously but I think it says a good estimate should be made.
Malcolm Rawlingson 3.24.10
The creation of fog or mist is not the same as the creation of clouds and I suspect that the effect is miniscule. Clouds are created by the evaporation of large volumes of water by the Sun which elevates the water vapour to heights far above sea level from which it can then fall as rain. I very much doubt that the effect is anything more than a tiny percentage of the energy required to make clouds and therefore will have no perceptible effect on the volumes of water in hydroelectric dams.
Undersea cables from Quebec to Greenland? Why? No-one lives there except a few soldiers in US military bases. I think the Government of Quebec would be wiser to invest in increased dam capacity - not windmills. Can you also explain why would anyone run a multibillion dollar underwater cable to Iceland from Greenland? Icelanders have lots and lots of undeveloped hydroelectric capacity of their own - I think one would have to be something of a fruitcake to move power from Quebec under the sea to Greenland and then to Iceland. The total population of Iceland is only 300,000 or so...just a small US towns worth. No one in their right mind is going to invest a few billion to service that market from Quebec or Labrador. In any case it is far less expensive to develop geothermal and hydroelectric on Iceland which it has in abundance. Finally I am quite sure that the Icelanders have no intention of being dependent on Quebec or Labrador for their electricity...they are far too smart and independent for that.
Niagara Falls is already used as you describe. In fact as we speak a large tunnel is being bored beneath Niagara to carry water from the Niagara River upstream of the falls to a storage facility near Queenston Heights. It is used for peaking loads. Water flows over the falls are reduced at night to slow erosion of the falls and the water diverted to the storage lagoon overnight.
Regarding using salt domes to store compressed air. The losses sustained by compressing air are very large and the efficiency of such a system will be terrible. Note that when you pump up your bike tires (compressing air) the pump gets hot. This mens that a substantial amount of the muscular energy expended goes to heat and is dissipated to the surrounding air and unrecoverable when the air is decompressed. The same thing happens when you compress air on a larger scale. Large amounts of energy are lost as heat and cannot be recovered. Anyone who proposes compressed air storage really needs to go and take basic thermodynamics again because it is a non-starter.
Len Gould 3.25.10
Well, I certainly agree with Malcolm on CAES.
Malcolm Rawlingson 3.25.10
Thank you Len, I did not want to be too hard on Harry Valentine, the author of this piece as he comes up with some very thought provoking ideas at times. But I have yet to see any serious engineering calculations on the idea of large scale compressed air storage. It defies engineering fundamentals and I suspect it's efficiency would be around 30% or worse. The effort should go to making power systems more efficient not less efficient.
But here is a thought provoking idea. Currently only about 35 to 40% of the energy in a nuclear fuel bundle (or a lump of coal for that matter) is used to make electricity. The rest is rejected as waste heat to water bodies or through cooling towers to the air.
Is there any means by which this waste energy could be utilized for some practical purpose. Anyone that comes up with a solution to that question will be sougt after by every power plant operator in the world.
Don Hirschberg 3.25.10
Harry, have you run across any numbers researching this article?
Malcolm, that's why my favorite statement of the of the Laws of Thermodynamics is: I. You can't win, II. You can't break even. III. You can't get out of the game.
Len, LUATTMT. That is: Looking up acronyms takes too much time.
Malcolm Rawlingson 3.26.10
I like that take on the Laws of Thermodynamics Don - we live with those restrictions daily in power plant operations. The Laws of Thermodynamics always win don't they.
Sad thing is so many people in the alternate energy business propose ideas that flaunt these laws (like compressed gas storage). I liken it to the proponents of perpetual motion machines. But equally sadly politicians buy into these ideas because they look so tempting (politically) on paper. Using a CAES system really looks good to a politician trying to shutdown coal plants until it is realized that so much power is wasted in these systems that you now need more power plants than you did before.
So I correct people where I can but some are never convinced especially when ideology gets in the way of science and engineering....an all too frequent occurrence these days.
Ferdinand E. Banks 3.27.10
Malcolm, ideology doesn't get in the way of science and engineering as much as we might sometimes think, because science and engineering are things that most people stay away from. It gets in the way of economics, common sense, and access to and interpretation of evidence. One of the 'spokespersons' for the Swedish environmental party is a very intelligent woman, but to hear her arguing against nuclear is enough to bring tears to the eyes of sensitive persons like myself.
Len Gould 3.27.10
There's also another good one I've come across re thermodynamics.
Anyone who thinks they understand thermodynamics doesn't understand thermodynamics.
Len Gould 3.27.10
I've certainly found it applies to ma anyway.
Len Gould 3.27.10
(that's "me anyway")
Don Hirschberg 3.27.10
I have been fequently called a "negative thinker" or only "Thinking within the box." It stings. Thank goodness for the Laws of Thermodynamics and the mutiplication tables for providing boxes. The Patent Office is also thankful - quite some years back they refused to entertain applications that violated the Laws. They had been swamped.
In a broader sense I wish we could disavow the public and politicians of the notion that only positive results are valid products of science.
Ronald Lord 3.29.10
While I certainly agree that more focus should be put on increased efficiency, compressed gas storage is already "somewhat" viable.
In theory, you can better utilize baseload units by using the power rather than throttling them down due to the excess wind generation available. So, by "using wind power" to compress the gas, you make renewables more useful.
Granted, this is by no means an efficienct use of capital. But, with government madated renewble standards and the public money available for such endeavors, it is almost commercially viable.
Jim Beyer 3.29.10
Probably the best use of that spent fuel rod is to burn it up in an IFR (Integral Fast Reactor). Hazel O'Leary and Bill Clinton shut down the program in 1994, but the technology is sound. I don't think they do so much in terms of using Uranium more efficiently (though they do, to the tune of 98-99%) but that they are a good place to send what we now think of as nuclear 'waste'. The downsides seem to be higher costs for the plants and concern about intermediate products produced including Plutonium.
Len Gould 3.29.10
Jim. I noticed a press release recently from AECL, stating that in co-operation with the operators of the CANDU6's at Quinshan, China, they've begun test fueling the reactor with spent fuel from China's light water reactors mixed with depleted uranium from the enrichment process. According to the press release, the Chinese are so pleased with the process they've declared they wish to build more AECL reactors for the purpose. A start anyway.
"CANDU 6 has the highest neutron efficiency compared to other competing technologies and consumes about 30% less natural uranium. Our NUE fuel cycle opens up a sustainable development path leading to an overall extension of uranium fuel resources while, at the same time, reusing the spent fuel from light water reactors.
In December 2009, an expert panel comprised of representatives from China’s leading nuclear academic, government, industry and R&D organizations unanimously recommended that China consider building two new CANDU units to take advantage of CANDU’s unique capabilities in utilizing alternative fuels."
Jim Beyer 3.31.10
That's great news Len. Obviously using nuclear fuel more efficiently has some immediate short-term benefits that the Chinese see value in exploiting. Good for them, and good for the AECL.