Saturday, October 04, 2008

Houston We Have a Logistics Problem

If you are interested in developing wind power on a large scale, tens to hundreds of megawatts, you have a problem. A logistics problem.

In what has to be one of the biggest ironies surrounding alternative energy, many of the objections to wind energy focus on its effect on nature. Yet while the critics fret about the birds, the views and the noise, there's a much bigger barrier to wind on the horizon, one that many of its biggest proponents haven't yet taken into account. Wind energy, it seems, is starting to become a victim of its own success.

"The worldwide demand for wind energy equipment is outstripping supply," says John Dunlop, senior technical services engineer for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The manufacturing base that produces the huge structural components, blades, generators and gearboxes that make up today's high-tech windmills simply can't keep up with the number of planned and ongoing installations. Dunlop points out wind turbines purchased today won't likely be delivered until 2011 or 2012. "That's the lead time right now," he says.

Those lead times are confirmed by key components suppliers too. "It's more like 2012 in most cases," says Parthiv Amin, president of Winergy Drive Systems, a subsidiary of Siemens Energy & Automation and maker of the gearboxes and power transmission components used in wind machines.
So how long does it take to build a factory that can take steel forgings and turn them into suitable gears and gear boxes? About three or four years. The tolerances are tight and the weight limits are similar to those found in aerospace. How about the generators? The same. So for the next four years or so wind installations are going to be limited to those already contracted for. Some one should tell Boone Pickens before he gets carried away with delusions of grandeur. Ramping up wind is not something that will get done in a few years. Not even in the decade Mr. Obama promises. It will take five or ten decades and any politician who promises you different is lying to you.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


ispdrudge said...

Pickens is no businessman. He got most of his money as a corporate raider, shaking down the management or smaller oil corporations in the '80's. He raked off hundreds of millions this way. He's a fast buck artist, looking for the taxpayers as the next victims. Google pickens and eminent domain, and see how he intends to seize the land for his power lines.

LarryD said...

"... seize the land for his power lines."

Which will also "just" happen to provide a pipeline corridor from the land where he purchased water rights.