Alternative Energy, Energy

Could Wind Power Be The True Answer To The Energy Crisis?

With the growing fear of fossil fuel depletion and that fossil fuels are destroying our planet, many people have been trying to determine a easy, safe alternative that can be as reliable as fossil fuels. Fossil fuels not only destroy our environment when burnt, but also can lead to pollution when extracting them. Specifically, offshore drilling for oil is a practice that has already shown can lead to catastrophic leaks into our oceans. What many people do not think about that can also be harvested offshore with no risk to our environment is wind power.

We have all heard about the wonders of creating renewable energy from wind. The idea of wind power is pretty amazing and it is a resource that will never run out. The one major draw back of wind power is that you can only generate power when you have wind. So this technology can only be utilized in places that are in fact very windy. This is the major set back of this technology that has kept it from being a major source of power for our country.

With many of the oil crisis’ that have occurred in our country, a push towards renewable energy has occurred from our government. Many market-based incentives, such as business and residential tax credits, created a market for non-utility-produced electric power through the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) in 1978. There were also many acts passed that supported the further expansion and use of wind energy, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Like I said earlier, the use of offshore wind power could help reduce our use of oil and other fossil fuels. On the Atlantic Coast alone, offshore wind has the potential to produce almost 30 percent more electricity than offshore oil and gas resources combined. The only problem with the offshore wind power is that it can be intermittent and unpredictable. Scientists at MIT may have found a solution for this problem called Ocean Renewable Energy Storage system or ORES. This system is essentially an underwater pumped hydraulic system. The key point of this system is the placement of concrete spheres on the seafloor under the wind turbines. These spheres can act as both an anchor and a storage device for the energy generated. Whenever the turbines produce more power than is needed at the time, the power is diverted to a pump which pumps seawater from the sphere. When the power is needed later, water is then allowed to flow back into the sphere through a turbine attached to a generator, and the electricity generated can be sent back to shore. One thousand of these spheres could replace a conventional on-shore coal or nuclear power plant.

What are your views on wind power? Do you think that it would be advantageous to utilize wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean? Have you ever heard of ORES? What do you think the disadvantages of these ORES systems or wind power overall? If not for wind, do you think that the technology for the ORES system would be advantageous to use with other forms of renewables?

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10 thoughts on “Could Wind Power Be The True Answer To The Energy Crisis?

  1. Wind power is something the country has put a lot of emphasis on as being THE ultimate / best renewable energy source around, so seeing more improvements on the technology is always refreshing. I think that the ocean has become this new “innovative” approach for a place to harness these alternative energy sources. I had not heard of ORES nor have I heard about placing these enormous wind turbines out in the ocean. The thing that bothers me about placing things in the middle of the ocean is the maintenance factor, as well as the change this will cause for our commerce routes as well as the environment. The I concept behind the ORES is very interesting, coming up with a way to harness the extra energy (even from on-land renewable energy sources) and being able to compensate for the times of “low wind”. the problem I see with this system, though, is that this is proposing to put 1,000 of these concrete spheres (to replace one power plant), that are each around 98 feet in diameter, on the bottom of the ocean; this is going to cause a major change to the natural “flow” of the ocean current as well as the natural habitat for the underwater creatures.

    I think the last thing we want to do is to effect the wind that is moving our ocean and keeping the ecosystems together. I don’t think that the country will be able to find just one renewable energy source to compensate for our energy needs, but I do think that the concept behind the ORES could be implemented. We could use something to that effect to store extra energy from multiple different sources that are up for debate around the nation. Having the technology to have these different energy sources harnessed somewhere collectively to be reserved until we are in “down times” for certain energy sources (ex- solar energy is night time, and wind energy when there’s no wind) is much more innovative than just placing these eye sores (wind turbines) in the middle of the ocean with 100 feet of concrete under it.

  2. I think wind power is an interesting concept. It is a renewable energy that could have substantial impacts; however, I think there is still a lot of progress to be made before we can rely on wind energy as an alternative source. It’s impressive that the Atlantic Coast can be so extremely efficient in its energy production. This location could definitely be advantageous; however, I don’t agree with your statement that producing power from offshore winds poses no risk to our environment. In my opinion, I feel that placing a thousand concrete spheres and wind turbines in the middle of the ocean could have substantial direct and indirect effects. Being that I have never heard of ORES, I read up on Csiro’s analysis of ocean renewable energy. To my surprise, this technology poses minimal risk to environmental degradation. Specifically, “the recent construction of a 254MW tidal power station at Sihwa Lake, North Korea will supply 254MW of power and remediate stagnation caused by the construction of a sea wall in 1994; or provide shelter and potential for seeding artificial reefs.” If this truly is the case, I think that this type of technology could be manipulated for other renewable uses, or it could be coupled with another energy source. It seems that it would be beneficial to continue looking into these technologies and try to develop them further.

    Source: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDYQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.csiro.au%2F~%2FMedia%2FBEA2D11E313C498BAD26624B0BE911F9.ashx&ei=8jCFUteJFY27kQe32YDACQ&usg=AFQjCNFwVo5UXxgfEJRj16I0sRZSvZiTFw&sig2=ALF7MeEwbrr-jXXFQZxPsg&bvm=bv.56343320,d.eW0

  3. kvsims says:

    Although wind power can be a sustainable energy in certain environments, I believe the efficiency and capabilities are lacking. I do not think it would be advantageous to utilize wind farms in the ocean. The environmental impacts are unknown and the impact on ocean wildlife could be devastating. I haven’t heard of ORES but worry that the hydraulic system would disrupt the ocean life as well as ocean currents. Placing 1000 spheres in the ocean would be very risky to just replace 1 onshore power plant. Additionally, I do not believe we can rely on wind turbines onshore or offshore. China, who mines 95% of the world’s rare earth minerals, has proposed a ban on shipping metals overseas. That means the neodymium needed to construct the generators for wind turbines would no longer be available. Without this precious metal, we are limited to the number of turbines we are able to construct. Relying on China for this precious metal for wind turbines puts the US in the same position we are now in with oil in the Middle East. Our energy security would be threatened and unreliable. There are many alternative choices that would be better suited to replace coal and oil.

  4. wavant says:

    Wind power is definitely a path that I think Americans should invest in for the future. My argument all along, though, is that I do not think our energy needs can be sufficiently supplied by just one energy supplier, meaning either wind power, or solar power, or natural gas, etc. I think for many years the U.S. will still depend upon a variety of sources of electricity. However, this does not mean that renewables and wind power specifically are out of the conversation. In my nuclear energy post, I quoted that wind power has only a 31% energy efficiency (lower than nuclear energy, natural gas, and coal). In addition, I pointed out that around 165,000 acres is necessary for a typical wind farm, a much larger value than other energy sources. Furthermore, this website outlines some negatives associated with wind power (http://www.masterresource.org/2012/10/20-bad-things-wind-3-reasons-why/#more-22302 ).

    I am also worried about how this new technology in the ocean would potentially affect ocean currents and wildlife. Yes, the new technology for wind power in the ocean does sound impressive, the research seems to be lacking on those factors. Whenever there is a new technology, there are always unknowns associated with them. Thus, I do indeed think that wind power is the way to go as a supplement for energy. Do I think that wind power is the ultimate answer to our energy supply? Definitely not. The reason: its reliability. Argue all you want about the negatives with non-renewables, but one positive is clear about them: they are much more reliable in comparison to non-renewables. Therefore, with regards to energy, I have always argued for a slow assimilation from non-renewables to nuclear energy and to renewables as technology increases.

  5. In general, offshore wind power has huge potential. It all comes back to how do you store and transmit the energy produced in offshore wind. I liked the schematic and the design that you presented, but what happens when the depth is too deep to access these storage capacities? One thing I was looking at was Japan’s projects to create offshore wind power after the fukushima nuclear accident. Because their shores are next to a continental shelf, the depth is too far to use systems such as the ORES. Therefore, they have to figure out how to use buoy systems. I also heard of some of the turbines getting hit with so much wind that they actually turn and get warped because of the intensity. So, like I said, the potential is huge, but the feasibility isn’t quite there but seems to be within reach. Consistency from wind power would also be cause for concern as well because fossil fuels and nuclear isn’t quite that fast at responding to lower power generation. I’m hopeful and excited about this future.

  6. pfc1344 says:

    I’ve learned a significant amount about wind power through classes and such. I do believe that wind power has the potential to be a sustainable source of energy once efficiencies and such are improved. I disagree with your statement that there are no environmental impacts associated with the technology. The potential effects on birds alone range from habitat loss and barrier effects to collision and displacement due to disturbance. I have no doubt in my mind that these impacts could and would extend to other animal fish species. Placing large concrete windmills and other items in areas where they were not originally will cause ecological and environmental disturbances. I have never heard of ORES. The biggest disadvantage of this technology would be the environmental impact, but I do feel like on a smaller scale it could be advantageous. Harnessing extra energy will always be beneficial.

    References:
    DREWITT, A. L. and LANGSTON, R. H. W. (2006), Assessing the impacts of wind farms on birds. Ibis, 148: 29–42. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00516.x

  7. I think wind power is a wonderful idea! I have never heard of ORES but I think it would be a wonderful solution to the power crisis. A disadvantage that could stem from having these systems in the ocean would be a change in water current. By adding an un-natural structure to the ocean the water current will have to change to find away around that structure. This change in current would not only affect the area where the structure is, but it could also potentially affect currents globally. Another issue with adding wind farms could be that species would be affected. By adding something un-natural into the ocean it could potentially affect the fish species in that area. Also it could potentially create disturbances in migration patterns of birds. By affecting the species habitats and migration patterns this could lead to species becoming endangered.Overall I think that wind power is cool and I believe that ORES are interesting and a reasonable option, but I also think that more research and development needs to be done to ensure that currents do not change and species are not effected.

  8. I think wind power is a very viable option to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but further advancement of the technology is required before we can utilize them in an advantageous way. As shown by a new innovative design by Heath Evdemon, these major advancements are already taking place and will soon be able to take the burden away from fossil fuels. This new design does not require constant wind and can harness energy even at low wind speeds. This design along with the ORES can potentially change our energy future. As engineers we have to push these technologies and show the public that they are a viable option for our current energy demands. I believe this new technology by MIT researchers could possibly change how we look at all renewable energy sources. If it is possible to harness wind energy for later use, there must be a way to do the same for other energy sources. It is our job as engineers to determine these new ways and make them accessible to the global society.

  9. shreyasvangala says:

    My biggest concern about the feasibility of using offshore wind power as a utility source comes from the process of integrating this source with the existing utilities grid, which may be facing many major changes of its own in the near future, many of which are managed privately and not necessarily with regard to political boundaries and jurisdictions. While trying to learn a little bit more about the process by which this could happen, I came across the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Website and some ongoing research into this issue, specifically (http://www.nrel.gov/wind/offshore_grid_integration.html). I also found it hard to believe that the federal funding for the NREL in 2009 ($328 million) was less than half of the endowment of a flagship state university (Roughly $700 million). Thus far, the completed and ongoing research are largely a cache of analyses of similar programs across western Europe, and little field testing has actually been conducted. Interestingly enough, a 2010 study shows that such a solution might, in fact, be cost effective:
    http://www.nrel.gov/wind/news/2010/803.html

  10. kevin1254 says:

    I have mixed views on wind power. It does not provide very much energy relative to our demand, but I feel it is important to pursue this technology in order to make improvements and advancements. I know there are drawbacks associated with wind energy just as there are drawbacks with every resource.

    I have not heard of ORES, but it is a fascinating technology. The disadvantages of these technologies may include infrastructure requirements, electricity transmission, high maintenance, removal of wind energy from the biosphere, and harm to the biosphere. Even with these disadvantages, it is still very attractive to be able to generate electrons without producing any emissions. I believe that wind power will play an important part our future generation portfolio. I think that renewable energy technology will become even more prevalent as energy storage advancements are made.

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