Day By Day

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Problems With Wind Power

Enviros like to talk about alternative energy sources, and one of their favorite subjects is wind power. Crossing Pennsylvania recently we noticed that the State is promoting investment in wind turbines [here]. Europe has too, and is beginning to find that wind power is not all it is cracked up to be.

Der Spiegel reports:

Wind turbines continue to multiply the world over. But as they grow bigger and bigger, the number of dangerous accidents is climbing. How safe is wind energy?

After the industry's recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers' promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years.

Gearboxes have already had to be replaced "in large numbers," the German Insurance Association is now complaining. "In addition to generators and gearboxes, rotor blades also often display defects," a report on the technical shortcomings of wind turbines claims. The insurance companies are complaining of problems ranging from those caused by improper storage to dangerous cracks and fractures.

Read it here.

It seems that there are a lot of kinks to be worked out. Eventually the Europeans will figure out how to make more durable and reliable turbines. Then, and only then, will it make sense to invest heavily in this new technology. Until then, let the Euros dodge blade fragments.

Actually, come to think of it, the best course would probably be to leave the whole thing to private enterprise and for government to stay out of the way.