# Expensive wind turbines

Gold Member
So why exactly are wind turbines so expensive? I mean arent the generators alone $5-$10 million? One of my professors (hes just a physicist though) said he doesnt really understand why it costs so much either. The next week he brought up maybe theres sophisticated equipment making sure the gears and turbines are spinning at the correct frequency. Anyone know the absolute answer to this?

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Clausius2
Gold Member
I think wind turbines are designed in such a way to optimize the absorption of kinetic energy from the wind, and such a mission requires to refine a lot the aerodynamic shapes of the blades, and also to reduce the blade's weight by means of using lighter materials such as carbon fibers. Taking a look at one of these giant monsters I think the designers had a challenge getting the alternator up there and reducing the friction between shafts and journals in such a machinery.

thats exackly it. If you want an efficient turbine, you need to have it be aerofunamic, as little friction as possible and very efficient. Wind power is not that much of a power source so if you want the turbine to produce a lot of energy, it wil have to be top notch design. Also, have you ever seen any of these turbines. Theyre not that small. A wind turbine is usually twice the size of a car which is a lot of materials and dough.

Regards,

Clausius2
Gold Member
willib said:
www.otherpower.com
they dont allways have to be huge monsters..
and so they don't always have to be so expensive...

Clausius2 said:
willib said:
they dont allways have to be huge monsters.
and so they don't always have to be so expensive...
The larger a wind turbine is, the less expensive it is.
http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy/page.cfm?pageID=128 [Broken]

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the cost per unit of electricity generated from smaller turbines is higher than that from larger turbines, so the payback period is longer.
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Pengwuino said:
So why exactly are wind turbines so expensive? I mean arent the generators alone $5-$10 million? One of my professors (hes just a physicist though) said he doesnt really understand why it costs so much either. The next week he brought up maybe theres sophisticated equipment making sure the gears and turbines are spinning at the correct frequency. Anyone know the absolute answer to this?
I am just a physicist so take the following with a grain of salt :tongue2:
Part of the problem is that the power in the wind goes as the cube of the wind speed. You need to make the machine work in the typical wind speed, perhps less that 20MPH and yet survive the worst storm in the economic life of the machine that might be 20 years and 100 MPH gust. That is you must build it to resists (or some way shed) power densities incident on it that are nearly 150 times its start up power level!

If your modest 100 HP car had to have a 15,000 HP engine in it, for use once in 20 years, think what it would cost. :yuck:

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http://www.speakerfactory.net/wind.htm
"Latest Selsam Wind Turbine Sets World Record! "
dont know why he calls his site speakerfactory !?!
But it is a very, very interresting site.. he uses multiple propellers on a single carbon fiber shaft..

russ_watters
Mentor
I tend to think of it the opposite you guys are thinking of it: its not that the turbine is that expensive, its that the they don't produce much power.

Clausius2
Gold Member
The larger a wind turbine is, the less expensive it is.
http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy/page.cfm?pageID=128 [Broken]

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the cost per unit of electricity generated from smaller turbines is higher than that from larger turbines, so the payback period is longer.
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I was not thinking of the payback, only the cost of design and building it. :tongue:

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russ_watters said:
I tend to think of it the opposite you guys are thinking of it: its not that the turbine is that expensive, its that the they don't produce much power.
I think your view very valid. My post showing that the peak power incident on the machine in economic life is about 150 times greater than the start up power level, is just another way of saying that you get little power for the size/ strength of the machine you must build.

Wind power available can not be matched to the demand - that is why it is never going to totally replace sources that can be. That other form of hidden solar energy, hydropower, is much better in this regard. Some have suggested that if wind machine is on relative flat topped mountain, you could improve the ability to match the demand with a mountain top reservoir -"pumped storage" - obviously more cost, but may improve the overall economics.

ohwilleke
Gold Member
Another factor in the cost of wind turbines is the lack of mass production. Design costs are a significant share of total cost right now, because there are relatively few turbines in service and they have new designs. In twenty years or so, when patents run out on those designs, one would expect prices to fall.

Billy T said:
I think your view very valid. My post showing that the peak power incident on the machine in economic life is about 150 times greater than the start up power level, is just another way of saying that you get little power for the size/ strength of the machine you must build.

Wind power available can not be matched to the demand - that is why it is never going to totally replace sources that can be. That other form of hidden solar energy, hydropower, is much better in this regard. Some have suggested that if wind machine is on relative flat topped mountain, you could improve the ability to match the demand with a mountain top reservoir -"pumped storage" - obviously more cost, but may improve the overall economics.
not meaning to be picky , but how is hydropower a form of solar energy??

Clausius2
Gold Member
willib said:
not meaning to be picky , but how is hydropower a form of solar energy??
It couldn't rain if we hadn't sun. By this same reasonement, I think that every energy in our planet is enhanced by solar energy.

willib said:
not meaning to be picky , but how is hydropower a form of solar energy??
I think it is useful to recognize that wind, hydro, and wave (not tidal) power as "hidden" solar energy - your dropped the adjective "hidden."
It is less useful, but still true that coal is also ancient solar energy and very probably true of natural gas also (Thomas Gold and a few others think it is from deep in the Earth.) Even "nuclear fission" energy is from some old supernova or slow cooked by neutrons in some ancient big star. It would be hard to claim "nuclear fusion" is not solar power as that is the sun's power. In short, every form of energy I can think of except tidal power is solar energy, only, IMHO it is not very useful to note this, except for the first three that are relatively recently converted versions.

I also like to note that there is far more solar energy stored in a salt dome, than if that same dome were full of oil. Only mankind has not yet found any way to economically harvest it.

i agree that wind , coal & even nuclear energy are all forms of solar energy ,as are most .. and i suppose that if the sun was not there , the water would be ice..
please excuse the way this looks , i suppose that there is no way to disagree in print that dosent sound horrible when you read it..(thats as far as i can go to imagine that hydropower is a 'hidden' form of solar energy..)
as for the salt dome , what do you mean??

Latent solar energy

Billy T said:
coal is also ancient solar energy and very probably true of natural gas also (Thomas Gold and a few others think it is from deep in the Earth.)
http://www.csun.edu/~vcgeo005/Energy.html

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"The overwhelming preponderance of geological evidence compels the conclusion that crude oil and natural petroleum gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the Earth. They are primordial materials which have been erupted from great depths."
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Even "nuclear fission" energy is from some old supernova or slow cooked by neutrons in some ancient big star. It would be hard to claim "nuclear fusion" is not solar power as that is the sun's power.
If hidden solar (hereafter referred to within the present document as latent solar) means charged by the sun during the lifetime of the earth, then isotopes with fusion fuel and fission fuel potential are not forms of latent solar energy resources.

In short, every form of energy I can think of except tidal power is solar energy
If fission and fusion qualify as latent solar, then so does tidal power qualify as latent solar since our moon came from the same place as our fission and fusion fuels. If fission and fusion do not qualify as latent solar, then geothermal energy does not qualify as latent solar either since geothermal energy potential is charged by the decay of geologically-embedded radioactive isotopes.

there is far more solar energy stored in a salt dome, than if that same dome were full of oil.
What energy stored in salt domes are you thinking of? If it is http://home.flash.net/~lbh/whatis.html, that seems to be geothermal and therefore not latent solar, as explained above.

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How the hydrologic cycle gives hydropower its latent solar energy status

willib said:
how is hydropower a form of solar energy?
The hydrologic cycle is powered largely by the sun.
http://people.howstuffworks.com/hydropower-plant3.htm

Water is evaporated by the sun from low elevations (such as low lakes and, especially, the earth's oceans). It forms couds in the sky and falls as precipitation on mountains from where it flows in rivers back down to low elevations. When the water is at a high elevation, it (like anything else at a high elevation) has potential energy. As the water flows down to lower elevations, it releases that potential energy. Tapping into that potential energy of the high-elevation water with hydropower generation stations is ultimately tapping into solar energy since the reason the water is at a high elevation in the first place is that it was evaporated from low elevations at least partly by the sun.

Gold Member
Aww look at my cute thread blosm :D Thanks for hte info guys!

The hydrologic cycle is powered largely by the sun.
http://people.howstuffworks.com/hydropower-plant3.htm

Water is evaporated by the sun from low elevations (such as low lakes and, especially, the earth's oceans). It forms couds in the sky and falls as precipitation on mountains from where it flows in rivers back down to low elevations. When the water is at a high elevation, it (like anything else at a high elevation) has potential energy. As the water flows down to lower elevations, it releases that potential energy. Tapping into that potential energy of the high-elevation water with hydropower generation stations is ultimately tapping into solar energy since the reason the water is at a high elevation in the first place is that it was evaporated from low elevations at least partly by the sun.
i hadnt thought of that , but you are absolutly correct..
i did not think of how the water got to the higher elevation in the first place..

ohwilleke
Gold Member
http://www.csun.edu/~vcgeo005/Energy.html

--
"The overwhelming preponderance of geological evidence compels the conclusion that crude oil and natural petroleum gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the Earth. They are primordial materials which have been erupted from great depths."
--
Abiotic oil is not a consensus theory. Indeed the abiotic v. fossil theories of oil production is a fairly lively topic in modern petroleum science.

The claims for the abiotic theory often seem overstated in other ways. J. F. Kenney of Gas Resources Corporations, Houston, Texas, who is one of the very few Western geologists to argue for the abiotic theory, writes, "competent physicists, chemists, chemical engineers and men knowledgeable of thermodynamics have known that natural petroleum does not evolve from biological materials since the last quarter of the 19th century."(12) Reading this sentence, one might assume that only a few isolated troglodyte pseudoscientists would still be living under the outworn and discredited misconception that oil can be formed from biological materials. However, in fact universities and oil companies are staffed with thousands of "competent physicists, chemists, chemical engineers and men [and women!] knowledgeable of thermodynamics" who not only subscribe to the biogenic theory, but use it every day as the basis for successful oil exploration. And laboratory experiments have shown repeatedly that petroleum is in fact produced from organic matter under the conditions to which it is assumed to have been subjected over geological time. The situation is actually the reverse of the one Kenny implies: most geologists assume that the Russian abiotic oil hypothesis, which dates to the era prior to the advent of modern plate tectonics theory, is an anachronism. Tectonic movements are now known to be able to radically reshuffle rock strata, leaving younger sedimentary oil- or gas-bearing rock beneath basement rock, leading in some cases to the appearance that oil has its source in Precambrian crystalline basement, when this is not actually the case.

Geologists trace the source of the carbon in hydrocarbons through analysis of its isotopic balance. Natural carbon is nearly all isotope 12, with 1.11 percent being isotope 13. Organic material, however, usually contains less C-13, because photosynthesis in plants preferentially selects C-12 over C-13. Oil and natural gas typically show a C-12 to C-13 ratio similar to that of the biological materials from which they are assumed to have originated. The C-12 to C-13 ratio is a generally observed property of petroleum and is predicted by the biotic theory; it is not merely an occasional aberration. (13)

In addition, oil typically contains biomarkers - porphyrins, isoprenoids, pristane, phytane, cholestane, terpines, and clorins - which are related to biochemicals such as chlorophyll and hemoglobin. The chemical fingerprint of oil assumed to have been formed from, for example, algae is different from that of oil formed from plankton. Thus geochemists can (and routinely do) use biomarkers to trace oil samples to specific source rocks.

Abiotic theorists hypothesize that oil picks up its chemical biomarkers through contamination from bacteria living deep in the Earth's crust (Gold's "deep, hot biosphere") or from other buried bio-remnants. However, the observed correspondences between biomarkers and source materials are not haphazard, but instead systematic and predictable on the basis of the biotic theory. For example, biomarkers in source rock can be linked with the depositional environment; that is, source rocks with biomarkers characteristic of land plants are found only in terrestrial and shallow marine sediments, while petroleum biomarkers associated with marine organisms are found only in marine sediments.
http://www.museletter.com/archive/150b.html

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There is another possibility...simply put the bacteria produced the oil as a byproduct of their existance..
There have been instances where bacteria eat iron and produce electricity see geobacteria or geobacters.
What if another one of their byproducts is oil..??

ohwilleke
Gold Member
willib said:
There is another possibility...simply put the bacteria produced the oil as a byproduct of their existance..
There have been instances where bacteria eat iron and produce electricity see geobacteria or geobacters.
What if another one of their byproducts is oil..??
A non-fossil oil source involving bacteria is also unlikely, as it wouldn't explain why the biotic history of an rock formation would be useful in figuring out where to drill an oil well.