With the global shift toward renewable energy sources gaining traction, the demand for qualified contractors and capable equipment to efficiently and safely construct wind turbines of all sizes in a variety of locations and environments is expanding.
Wind energy projects, whether on land or offshore, have one thing in common: high-powered diesel engines are required at every step of the process, from the transportation of turbine and tower components by water, rail, and land, to site preparation and installation. Diesel is the preferred option because it offers the power, performance, dependability, and portability required to develop the wind energy future.
Germany, Spain, and China are the primary producers of wind turbines. They are transported to installation sites using heavy-duty diesel trucks and specialized trailers after arriving in the United States on diesel-powered ocean-going boats that arrive at U.S. ports for unloading.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy sources accounted for roughly 17 percent of electricity generated in the US in 2018, with wind power accounting for about 6%. Electricity output from wind is predicted to increase to 20% by 2020 and to 35% by 2050.
According to the United States Wind Turbine Database, there are 59,884 land-based wind turbines in operation throughout 43 states and territories in the United States today (USWTDB). In six states: Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Maine, wind energy now provides more than 20% of the electricity generated. Texas generates the most wind energy in the United States, accounting for about a quarter of all wind energy produced in the country.
Bulldozers, excavators, scrapers, trenchers, dump trucks, concrete mixers, backhoes, and skid steer loaders are just a few of the heavy-duty diesel construction equipment used to prepare a land-based site for wind turbine installation.
A recent video of a site installation for MidAmerican Energy Company demonstrates the importance of diesel technology, from the construction machines – bulldozers and excavators preparing the site, delivering equipment, providing mobile on-site electrical power through diesel generators, and heavy-duty diesel trucks delivering the turbine components, including the huge blades.
Derrick and telescopic cranes are also used in the construction, installing base, mid, and top tower parts, as well as the rotor assembly, nacelle, and rotor blades, which can weigh 100,000 lbs. or more. All of the specialized lifting equipment used to reach the requisite heights for the towers, nacelle, and rotor blade installation is diesel-powered.
In 1991, the first offshore wind farms arose off the coast of Denmark. According to data from the Global Wind Energy Council, the offshore wind sector has developed at a rate of 21% per year on average since 2013, with a total installed capacity of 23 GW. Offshore wind energy is growing in popularity in the United States, with a technical resource potential of more than 2,000 GW of capacity, or 7,200 TWh of annual generation. To put this in perspective, this is nearly double the country’s current electricity use.
The Block Island Wind Farm, the United States’ first offshore wind farm, began operations in December 2016. It’s a five-turbine offshore wind farm off Block Island, Rhode Island, with the capacity to power 17,000 residences. The United States’ second offshore wind farm will be built 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project will have two 6-megawatt wind turbines that will be operational in late 2020, generating more than 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy. That’s enough to supply electricity to 500,000 houses.
The results of the largest offshore wind power procurement in US history were just unveiled in New York. The two projects, which are anticipated to be completed in 2024, will have enough electricity to power over a million homes.
Marine construction has its own set of difficulties. Everything relies on diesel-powered vessels and diesel-powered cranes, drills, electrical generators, and other equipment, from transporting materials and crew to the site, technical construction of foundations and moorings on the ocean floor, cable laying, and erection of the wind turbines and substation. The majority of ships contain main and auxiliary engines, as well as many diesel engines specialized to generating electricity.
Offshore wind construction necessitates a diverse range of workboats, including familiar tug boats and barges, as well as specially equipped construction vessels such as supply vessels, lift boats, turbine installation vessels, cable lay vessels, personnel transport vessels, heavy-lift vessels, and jack-up vessels, which can be towed or self-propelled to the construction site and then transition to stationary construction platforms once the mechanized jack-up legs are deployed.
See America’s First Offshore Wind Farm in this video from the US Department of Energy.
Due to attempts to decarbonize the electrical power production industry and diversify reliance on traditional power sources, wind energy will play a larger part in global electrical power generation. Without diesel technology, no wind turbine project, whether on land or offshore, could be completed. The latest generation of diesel-powered machines and equipment emits almost no pollutants and will be critical in achieving a future where renewable energy is used more frequently.
What type of fuel is used by a wind turbine?
Before committing Australia to a 50% renewable energy target, Bill Shorten should have asked a few questions. Is it possible to build or start a wind turbine without using fossil fuels?
The answer is no, and you will not be able to do so. So, what’s the point of burdening Australia with a growing number of wind turbines? (The same can be said for solar.)
What is the sense of investing hard-earned funds on expensive and inadequate-for-purpose equipment, regardless of one’s beliefs about the authenticity and magnitude of harm posed by climate change?
Wind power has an energy density of just over one watt per square metre. According to Robert Bryce, author of Smaller, Faster, Lighter, Denser, Cheaper, if all of the coal-fired generation capacity in the United States were to be replaced by wind, the country would need to set aside area the size of Italy. Hydrocarbons are a more dense kind of energy than wind. Nothing will ever be able to change that fact.
“Suggesting that renewables will allow us to phase out fossil fuels quickly is virtually the equivalent of believing in the Easter bunny,” stated James Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist, in 2011.
Another disadvantage of renewables is that they are unable to generate the high levels of heat required to manufacture turbines, as well as virtually everything else that makes the contemporary world modern.
The US Geological Survey examined the material needs of a modern wind turbine (Wind Energy in the United States and Materials Required for the Land-Based Turbine Industry From 2010 Through 2030). A megawatt of wind power requires on average 103 tonnes of stainless steel, 402 tonnes of concrete, 6.8 tonnes of fiberglass, three tonnes of copper, and 20 tonnes of cast iron. The blades are constructed of fiberglass, the tower is built of steel, and the foundation is made of concrete.
Carbon Counter’s Robert Wilson walks us through the science. Because fibreglass is formed from petrochemicals, a wind turbine cannot be built without the use of oil and natural gas. Iron ore is used to make steel. Ore mining necessitates the use of high-energy density fuels, such as diesel. Diesel is required to transport ore to steel plants.
A blast furnace is needed to convert iron ore into steel, which requires a lot of coal or natural gas. The blast furnace is used to make the majority of steel.
Coal is necessary not only for steel production’s energy requirements, but also for iron ore smelting’s chemical requirements.
Cement is manufactured in a kiln with kiln fuel like coal, natural gas, or recycled tires. Chemical reactions in the cement manufacturing process account for around half of the emissions.
Then there’s the issue of windmill priming. The operation of huge wind turbines necessitates a significant quantity of energy. Wind farms must rely on the grid for power, which is generated by coal, gas, or nuclear power.
Blade-pitch control, lights, controllers, communication, sensors, metering, data gathering, oil heater, pump, cooler, filtration system in gearboxes, and many other functions of wind turbines rely on electricity that the turbine cannot generate.
Without fossil fuels, wind turbines cannot be manufactured or operated on a big scale.
Wind and solar, on the other hand, do not have the energy density to support an economy. Forget trains, aircraft, and automobiles; your iPhones, laptops, and other digital devices demand enormous quantities of electricity and cannot be produced using renewable energy sources. The computing cloud, the most recent of new economy developments, necessitates vast amounts of electricity.
“The cloud begins with coal,” wrote Mark Mills. Greens who got into the ears of Labor leaders to persuade them that the fossil fuel age is finished should reconsider.
Methane hydrate reservoirs, which are freezing deposits in which methane molecules are trapped in a water lattice, are thought to hold more energy than all other fossil fuels combined.
As Nature reported in April 2013, the Japanese, among others, believe that the reservoirs will become an important element of the country’s energy profile. A experimental project 80 kilometers off the coast of the country yielded tens of thousands of cubic meters of gas.
There are risks with any new resource, and much work needs to be done to ensure safe extraction, but the UN Environmental Program’s Frozen Heat: A Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates report from March was eager to “explore the potential impact of this untapped natural gas source on the future global energy mix.”
Bill, you’re afflicted by Big Wind. You’ve betrayed the party and the country.
Is it true that windmills have diesel generators?
- Large wind turbines range in size from 100 kilowatts to several megawatts, and are most commonly utilized by utilities to deliver power to the grid. To generate huge amounts of electricity, utility-scale turbines are sometimes placed together in wind farms. Wind farms can have tens of thousands of turbines and provide enough energy to power tens of thousands of homes.
- Small wind turbines with a capacity of up to 100 kW are often located near where the generated electricity will be needed, such as near houses, telecommunications dishes, or water pumping facilities. Diesel generators, batteries, and photovoltaic systems are all common connections for small turbines. These systems are known as hybrid wind systems, and they are often employed in remote, off-grid places where there is no access to the utility grid.
- Many countries employ offshore wind turbines to capture the energy of strong, persistent winds found off their coasts. The technological resource potential of the winds above US coastal waters is adequate to generate over 4,000 gigawatts of energy, or almost four times the current US electric power system’s generating capacity. Even if not all of these resources are utilized, they represent a significant opportunity to deliver power to densely populated coastal communities. The Department is investing in three offshore wind demonstration projects, with the goal of deploying offshore wind systems in federal and state waters by 2017.
Is it possible for a wind turbine to run on oil?
Another aspect of wind turbine operation and maintenance that differs from that of fossil and nuclear power plants is lubrication. A significant quantity of lubricating oil is placed in the gearbox of a typical wind turbine. The lubrication system incorporates oil filters, and lubricant is either pumped through the system or gravity fed, depending on the turbine type. The smaller turbines built in the mid-1980s had gearboxes that held about 10 gallons of oil or less. Newer, larger devices may handle up to 60 gallons of liquid.
According to Brogna, one school of thinking maintains that lubrication should not be an issue provided the unit is designed correctly. According to him, a second school of thought contends that lubricants must be changed and upgraded to satisfy the specific needs of wind turbines.
Do windmills have motors that allow them to spin?
Off the shores of 11 European countries, more than 2,300 wind turbines are spinning and producing energy. The North and Irish seas are home to a huge number of these turbines. One explanation for this is that the winds that blow across such bodies of water are not only strong, but also persistent.
Wind energy developers are looking at the North Carolina coast as a potential location for wind farms for the same reason. But this raises the question of how much wind a wind farm, or at the very least a wind turbine, requires.
It should come as no surprise that, just as the wind changes frequently, wind turbines are designed to operate in a wide range of wind conditions, therefore the answer fluctuates.
Upwind turbines face the wind, and downwind turbines face the opposite direction. Wind turbines of the new generation can operate at lower wind speeds, typically about five miles per hour. These turbines, on the other hand, are often smaller, produce less electricity, and are not intended to resist higher wind ranges.
Winds of seven to nine miles per hour are usually enough to get most large-scale wind turbines turning. Their greatest speed is roughly 50-55 mph, which is their maximum safe speed. To prevent damage to the blades, large-scale wind turbines usually incorporate a braking system that kicks in approximately 55 mph.
Many industrial-scale wind turbines, ironically, require an electric ‘kick-start’ to get started. That’s what gets the blades to start turning despite their inertia.
You might believe that when the blades turn, electricity is produced.
The blades are attached to a shaft that rotates at a rate of 30 to 60 times per minute. The shaft is then connected to a gear box, which boosts the rotation speed from 1000 to 1800 revolutions per minute, which is the required speed for most generators to generate power.
Of course, the amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine is determined by the turbine’s size, commonly known as its power rating, and the speed of the wind at the turbine’s position. The power rating of wind turbines typically ranges from 250 watts (enough to charge a battery) to 10 kilowatts (enough to power a house) to six megawatts (enough to power more than 1600 houses).
Frank Graff is a UNC-TV producer/reporter who focuses on North Carolina Scientific Now, a weekly science series that began airing on Wednesdays in August 2013 as part of UNC-North TV’s Carolina Now. Frank will share additional information about his tales through our North Carolina Science Now Reporter’s Blog, in addition to producing these special pieces.
A wind turbine contains how many liters of oil?
At the moment, the average wind farm has 150 turbines. Each wind turbine requires 80 gallons of oil for lubrication, and this isn’t vegetable oil; this is a PAO synthetic oil based on crude… 12,000 gallons. Once a year, its oil must be replenished.
To power a city the size of New York, it is estimated that about 3,800 turbines would be required… For just one city, that’s 304,000 gallons of refined oil.
Now you must compute the total annual oil use from “clean” energy in every city across the country, large and small.
Not to add that the huge machinery required to construct these wind farms runs on gasoline. As well as the tools needed for setup, service, maintenance, and eventual removal.
Each turbine has a footprint of 1.5 acres, so a wind farm with 150 turbines would require 225 acres; to power a metropolis the size of NYC, 57,000 acres would be required; and who knows how much land would be required to power the entire United States. Because trees form a barrier and turbulence that interferes with the 20mph sustained wind velocity required for the turbine to work correctly, all of this area would have to be cleared (also keep in mind that not all states are suitable for such sustained winds). Cutting down all those trees is going to irritate a lot of tree-huggers who care about the environment.
A modern, high-quality, highly efficient wind turbine has a 20-year lifespan.
They can’t be reused, reconditioned, reduced, repurposed, or recycled on a budget, so guess what? They’re heading to specialized dumps.
What’s more, guess what else…? They’re already running out of space in these dedicated landfills for blades that have outlived their usefulness. Seriously! The blades range in length from 120 to over 200 feet, and each turbine has three of them. And this is despite the fact that wind energy currently serves only 7% of the country. Imagine if the remaining 93 percent of the country was connected to the wind grid… in 20 years, you’d have all those useless blades with nowhere to put them… Then another 20 years, and another 20 years, and so on.
I almost forgot to mention the 500,000 birds killed each year by wind turbine blade collisions, the most of which are endangered hawks, falcons, owls, geese, ducks, and eagles.
Smaller birds appear to be more agile, able to dart and dodge out of the way of the spinning blades, but larger flying birds appear to be less fortunate.
How often does a wind turbine’s oil need to be changed?
The typical oil drain time for wind turbine gear oils is 36 months. Advanced synthetic lubricants have been shown to increase service intervals by up to 7 years. Over the course of 20 years, you might theoretically forgo one oil change, saving money.
What is the time it takes for a wind turbine to pay for itself?
Environmental lifespan assessments of 2-megawatt wind turbines proposed for a big wind farm in the US Pacific Northwest were conducted by US academics. They conclude in the International Journal of Sustainable Manufacturing that a wind turbine with a 20-year working life will provide a net benefit within five to eight months of being put online in terms of cumulative energy payback, or the time it takes to produce the amount of energy required for production and installation.
How do large wind turbines get their energy?
Wind turbines absorb kinetic energy from the wind by using blades. Wind creates lift on the blades, which causes the blades to turn (similar to the effect on airplane wings). The blades are attached to a drive shaft that rotates an electric generator, which provides power.