Swedish Wind

With offshore wind development in the news locally the New York Times has written about the Swedish experience with wind power. The article highlights some positives, but also levels some criticisms. It highlights a new $280 million dollar offshore wind farm that will be able to light 60,000 homes. The article highlights some of the prior criticisms of wind power.

Yet Sweden’s gleaming wind park is entering service at a time when wind energy is coming under sharper scrutiny, not just from hostile neighbors, who complain that the towers are a blot on the landscape, but from energy experts who question its reliability as a source of power.

For starters, the wind does not blow all the time. When it does, it does not necessarily do so during periods of high demand for electricity. That makes wind a shaky replacement for more dependable, if polluting, energy sources like oil, coal and natural gas. Moreover, to capture the best breezes, wind farms are often built far from where the demand for electricity is highest. The power they generate must then be carried over long distances on high-voltage lines, which in Germany and other countries are strained and prone to breakdowns.

And then more negatives.

In the United States, one of the areas most suited for wind turbines is the central part of the country, stretching from Texas through the northern Great Plains — far from the coastal population centers that need the most electricity.

In Denmark, which pioneered wind energy in Europe, construction of wind farms has stagnated in recent years. The Danes export much of their wind-generated electricity to Norway and Sweden because it comes in unpredictable surges that often outstrip demand.

In 2003, Ireland put a moratorium on connecting wind farms to its electricity grid because of the strains that power surges were putting on the network; it has since begun connecting them again.

In the United States, proposals to build large wind parks in the Atlantic off Long Island and off Cape Cod, Mass., have run into stiff opposition from local residents on aesthetic grounds.

“The environmental benefits of wind are not as great as its champions claim,” said Euan C. Blauvelt, research director of ABS Energy Research, an independent market research firm in London. “You’ve still got to have backup sources of power, like coal-fired plants.”

With all of that negativity towards wind power the article still has some very interesting tidbits, including how the Swedes utilize excess wind power to assist in generating hydro power.

Sweden has historically invested little in wind projects because it has two reliable sources of energy, nuclear and hydro, which each supply roughly half its power. And because hydro is renewable, Sweden already does well on the environmental balance sheet.

But these energy sources have their vulnerabilities: hydro, to low water levels; nuclear, to technical breakdowns. The Swedish government has also pledged not to build any new nuclear power plants.

Of course, Sweden does not need to build wind parks to get wind power. It could simply buy more surplus wind power from Denmark, which it uses, as does Norway, to pump underground water into elevated reservoirs. The water is later released during periods of peak electric demand to drive hydroelectric stations.

In this way, hydro acts as a form of storage for wind energy — addressing one of wind power’s biggest shortcomings. Sweden’s strength in hydro makes it a good candidate for greater development of wind power, according to analysts.

Sweden is subsidizing wind power through “green” certificates, which favor the use of renewable energy. The small extra cost is passed on to consumers.

And so the listed negatives are offset and actually exploited by the Swedes to generate clean power. And yes the Swedes also have local opposition and permitting problems for wind farms.

While Swedes staunchly support wind energy, they are as susceptible to the not-in-my-backyard opposition as people elsewhere. For years, residents opposed the wind farm near Malmo, known as Lillgrund, particularly after the builders obtained permission to raise the height of the towers. But the campaign to block the project failed.

Still, Mr. Floderus said the process took far too long, and Vattenfall is urging the government to speed up the approvals next time.

It is an interesting take on wind energy, with additional information on other European countries wind efforts. Read the article at this link.

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1 Response to Swedish Wind

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    I new this years ago (wind pattern charts are available).

    I was surprised when I read about about the wind farm proposal off the Islands.

    What stood out, however, was the hypocrisy of the elites from the area, including Kennedy, who jumped in immediately to condemn a “green” proposal because it fouled their view of the horizon .

    I wonder how many are Democrats who wake up screaming every morning for fear of global warming?

    I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Jules

    Like

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