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The U.S. wind industry now employs more than 100K people (washingtonpost.com)
453 points by doener on Apr 22, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 315 comments

I live in a school bus, traveling the country. I think wind turbines are absolutely beautiful; I always marvel at them when we drive by.

Does anybody here know how to break into this industry, working on a mobile, on-site basis? Maybe with embedded tech?

>I think wind turbines are absolutely beautiful

They are. Like living sculptures. There's just something extremely dignified about them. Like finally growing up after the childishness of strip-mining. The adults are here.

I couldn't disagree more. They popped up as I was growing up - littering the coastline and countryside. They can be seen from great distances and serve to make the place seem an awful lot smaller.

I for one can't wait until we develop a way to live without them - the only condolence is that they move us away from the coal and gas industries. I do hope that solar leaves them in its wake and we can be done with the monstrosities.

They popped up as I was growing up - littering the coastline and countryside.

I guess you've never seen them blow the top off a West Virginia mountain to get the coal out. Windmills can be replaced by solar, but that mountain isn't coming back. (Caveat: don't know if that's still done or not, but it was done plenty in the past.) If feel ya on the aesthetics (though I personally like them), but if you're complaining about windmills "littering the coastline", then maybe blowing the tops off mountains doesn't happen in your backyard. Instead you got windmills. Consider it your aesthetic tax for having reliable, inexpensive electricity.

Mountaintop removal is still done pretty often because it's the economically cheapest way to do it, damn the economic, social, and environmental consequences of that action.

West Virginia might end up flatter than Kansas at the rate we're going.

Compared to ripping the tops of mountains in West Virginia and states nearby and filling in the beautiful valleys to strip mine coal, a huge win.

> Compared to ripping the tops of mountains

Or consider nuclear, which is much cleaner, safer and lower coast than all other energy sources

If you laid Tolkien's world on ours, Orcs would mine coal with dynamite, Men would use nat-gas and oil, and Elves would use wind and solar. Nuclear? Dwarves all the way. "Clean, safe, and low cost" until you delve too deep and awaken nameless evil!

I want to reject your analogy but it's too damn good :-)

Lower cost? Utterly laughable. Nuclear costs are notoriously high, always crazy multiples over budget, and then the operating and decommissioning costs are hidden with budget and accounting tricks. But you won't notice because it's a 50 to 80 year process.

>...Nuclear costs are notoriously high,

No, according to the US Energy Information Administration the levelized cost of nuclear has been comparable or less than coal (without the massive negative externalities of coal)


False dichotomy, it's not nuclear vs coal (which is terrible anyways as you note)



"not typically included in levelised cost of electricity assessments is the cost of decommissioning a reactor and disposing nuclear waste, says Roula Inglesi-Lotz an energy economist and associate professor at the University of Pretoria. This would further increase the price of nuclear energy. Even when these costs are not included in calculations, the cost of nuclear investment remains high."


If you want baseload power, you can choose between coal, nuclear and natural gas. Natural gas has estimates that range between 72 and 113, so depending on which you choose it might well be cheaper or more expensive than nuclear power. Natural gas has a number of advantages over coal, but unfortunately it is now thought to be almost as bad as coal in terms of effects on climate change - this is a very bad negative externality that isn't priced into the cost. Your original point was that "Nuclear costs are notoriously high" - instead they are projected to be roughly comparable to other forms of baseload power.

>..."not typically included in levelised cost of electricity assessments is the cost of decommissioning a reactor and disposing nuclear waste

Maybe in other countries, but not the US. Every nuclear power plant in the United States is required, by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as part of its licensing to set aside sufficient funds to decommission the plant when it reaches the end of its useful life.

>...(The USA is an exception, because the cost of decommissioning is included in the price of electricity, per the Nuclear Waste Policy Act),

Also there is a tax on electricity produced by nuclear power in the US to cover eventual long term waste disposal so it is priced into the cost - though ideally this high level waste will eventually be burned in a 4th gen reactor so the volume of waste will be a small fraction of what it would otherwise be.

Sadly true. If it weren't for the insane costs I'd be a bigger fan of nuclear.


scroll to the bottom image. Nuclear is the lowest cost along with hydro. If you want to argue against nuclear, you have to find another argument (which shouldn't be too hard).

No it's ok, the argument is still nuclear is too expensive.


Note that nuclear isn't getting any better, while other sources are improving every year. Would you rather plonk down a massive capital payment for a very average nuclear plant for the next 50-80 years, or gradually add more and more efficient sources of energy over that same time period?


"not typically included in levelised cost of electricity assessments is the cost of decommissioning a reactor and disposing nuclear waste, says Roula Inglesi-Lotz an energy economist and associate professor at the University of Pretoria. This would further increase the price of nuclear energy. Even when these costs are not included in calculations, the cost of nuclear investment remains high."


Thank you for the references.

Check out Thorconpower.com - obviously not the current deplorable state of affairs.

How is nuclear waste clean? How is a possible reactor meltdown safe or cheap?

Nuclear waste is cleaner than what coal emits in the atmosphere. Store it in an underground facility, figure out what to do with it later. It's not perfect, but it's better than what we have currently for high volume electricity generation. As for reactor meltdowns, well, to give one example, France has beeen one of the world's biggest users of nuclear power, and we haven't had any meltdown ever. So, uh, don't build your reactors near dangerous zones, and don't go with the cheapest contractor for a critical piece of infrastructure? Meltdowns don't happen unless you do something really, really stupid.

Nuclear power is still the better cost/production method we have for now. It's safe (yes, the stats include deaths while building which puts wind/ocean at a disadvantage, but overall it is just as safe as renewable energy), it's efficient.

Just don't pull a Chernobyl and actually follow security measures.

The nuclear waste problem has already been solved, at this point it's a political issue. See http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter11.html

Reprocessing could take care of the waste problem.

So open pit uranium mines are that much better than ripping the tops off of mountains for coal?

You're forgetting the "It's different when it happens in Africa / India / China / South America" caveat to most arguments.

I'd normally agree with you, but the top Uranium producers are Canada, Kazakhstan, and Australia. Uranium mining is a first (and second) world problem.

It's such a shame the Aussies don't build nuke plants. They have the uranium and they have a good place to store the waste. But they're so stuck on being Commonwealth Texas that they'll stick to fossil fuels forever.

As an actual Australian I'm really happy that we don't build 'nuke plants' here. (I am assuming you mean nuclear fission power plants.)

We have uranium, yes, but if happenstance is our only criteria we should also be building nuclear weapons and burning lots of coal. Sadly we're doing the latter with great alacrity.

We also don't have a good place to store the waste. I don't think there's (m)any places on the planet that could be good places to store waste of this nature. It's probably telling that people often refer to nuclear waste needing to be stored or managed, rather than recycled, rendered safe, disposed of, etc.

> We also don't have a good place to store the waste.

We've got tons of space to store the waste. The country is right in the middle of a tectonic plate, so little worry about earthquakes, and large swathes of the country are uninhabited by anyone, even mythical 'lost tribes'. Even if nowhere else, we could store waste in the giant area cordoned off for nuclear testing in the '50s.

In my opinion, it's hard to find somewhere better suited for storing nuclear waste than 'somewhere in Australia'. Stable, first-world government, a fair few places where we can put it where even leaks wouldn't be a problem, skilled populace, etc etc.

In any case, it looks like they're discussing it: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-08/should-south-australia...

> In my opinion, it's hard to find somewhere better suited for storing nuclear waste than 'somewhere in Australia'.

This makes sense only if your starting position is that creating nuclear waste makes sense.

> Stable, first-world government, a fair few places where we can put it where even leaks wouldn't be a problem, skilled populace, etc etc.

How long does nuclear (fission) waste need to be managed?

How long do you believe that AU has had a stable, first-world government?

AU has had a stable government since it started at Federation, and it's had a first-world government since the definition of 'first-world' started in the '40s. There are few countries as stable as AU has been.

> This makes sense only if your starting position is that creating nuclear waste makes sense.

The waste is being created, regardless of whether or not you think it makes sense. You can pretend that there's some fantasy world where there's no nuclear waste, but in the meantime here in the real world, there is such stuff and it needs to be managed.

You missed the point of my questions:

> How long does nuclear (fission) waste need to be managed?

> How long do you believe that AU has had a stable, first-world government?

Federation was (to a rounding error) a century ago. Some would argue that it's been stable since then -- I'd argue it hasn't, but the boom/bust left/right vacillation so common in western ersatz democracies evidently is what counts as stable these days.

It's kind of besides the point, though, since it's a comparative exercise.

How long does nuclear fission waste need to be managed, and how does that compare to 'around a hundred years'?

You also make a less than compelling case that we have no choice but to have waste from nuclear fission -- we have plenty of options that don't involve nuclear fission.

Consider, for example, the fact that Australia has no nuclear fission plants generating electricity.

But it is burning coal, which is far worse at this point. That's what I'm getting at - Australia is uniquely well equipped for nuclear power and has not substantial begun moving away from fossil fuels. If solar is cheaper than nuclear, then by all means build that. But if not? Why not move to nuclear energy?

Yes, I pointed out that AU has a regrettable fixation with digging up and burning coal.

But just because we have access to relatively cheap Uranium doesn't mean we should be digging it up and processing it.

One of the reasons I rail against the suggestion that AU has a 'stable long term government' (ie. that could be said to be sufficiently grown up to handle fissile waste) is that right now that same government is very publicly committed to fossil fuels, despite the leader of same being on record only a few years ago asserting - loud and wide - that green energy should be our priority, and we should be moving away from fossil fuels. Append usual concerns about the various people involved in getting us to, and then maintaining, this unfortunate situation.

> We also don't have a good place to store the waste.

Oh, give me a goddamn break. You've got how much desert that's sparsely inhabited?

To be fair, you need _significantly_ less[0] uranium compared with the amount of coal you mine. For every million mountains destroyed by coal mining, you'd only have to destroy a couple of mountains. Not to mention I don't think uranium is usually mined from mountains but rather pit-mined, makes it far better than the alternatives.

Personally however, still support solar. Especially solar house tiles, they look good, pay for themselves after a few years and can be placed on every house.

[0] https://xkcd.com/1162/

Not every house has solar resource. If your house is in the middle of the woods it's not going to work unless you clear-cut the surrounding woods and then you're not in the middle of the woods anymore. Same if you are in the shadow of a couple of mid-rises. etc. etc. Even if there is solar resource it may not replace more than a fraction of usage. Roof-top solar is great where the resource exists, but it's a partial solution at best. There's still a need for the utility grid and something needs to fuel that. It could be utility-scale solar, but it's not onsite rooftop solar.

You realize that most houses are not in the middle of the woods? If I look around here in Berlin, almost all houses would qualify for rooftop solar. There is of course still the storage problem.

You do know that a significant amount of coal is mined without the destruction of mountains, right?

Reminds me of this chart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI99A08Y83E&t=13m45s (if you want to skip to the punch line, it's just after 15:00), but this one is still in log scale.

Don't forget uranium can be extracted from seawater! Granted I don't think it's near the efficiency yet of simply digging and extracting from a pit but still it's something to watch out for in the near future.


How many mines are needed for the production and maintenance of wind (or solar) of comparable capacity?

Tons of them. Materials required for solar cells and turbines have to come from somewhere.

Uranium has a much higher energy density, so you need fewer mines. The raw materials for renewable energy tech don't materialize from the ether either.

But they're vastly easier to source, and then reuse/recycle.

Also, there's that "Not laying waste to huge areas and making them uninhabitable" thing.

Nukes would be fine for a species that was capable of acting intelligently and responsibly over long periods.

Humans are not (yet) that species.

> ... cleaner, safer and lower coast ...

Typo or pun?

False dichotomy. That's not how a significant amount of coal is mined. Yet every windmill sticks up into the air as a reminder of human presence.

The smog generated by burning coal gives the air a rather obnoxious brown tinted reminder of human presence.

>reminder of human presence.

Still not as bad as a plastic bottle on the ground.

I think a better comparison would be smog and acid rain. Coal isn't giving us the plastic bottles, but it does negatively impact us in much subtler yet worse ways than a visual reminder.

You don't inhale plastic bottles.

Unless you're a fish

If you think really coal pollution is invisible, try visiting China - which, perhaps not coincidentally, is currently rushing headlong towards a fully renewable economy.

What? I'm talking about a bad generalization made about mining, not coal pollution.

My point exactly

The disagreement between you and the parent commenter illustrates something that I think is fascinating about NIMBYism with respect to windmills. NIMBYism depends on the idea that the aesthetic judgments of windmills are objective, shared across people. Windmills really do look bad, objectively.

Normally talking about aesthetic experiences as if they are universal is frowned upon, because the judgment of beauty is taken by many people to have an intrinsic quality of subjectivity to it. But that appears not to be a problem in the community of people that oppose wind turbines.

There is some subjectivity to beauty, but there is also some objectivity. For example, things that incorporate golden ratio tend too look good.

If you look at parent's comment: "They are. Like living sculptures. There's just something extremely dignified about them. Like finally growing up after the childishness of strip-mining. The adults are here. "

You can see that the judgement of beauty here is tainted by social implications, energy concerns, and possibly political environment.

This is only my reading of it though so maybe the parent meant something else.

I personally find them attractive but I haven't spent much time around them at all.

> Windmills really do look bad, objectively.

And yet if you were to make the same argument about a coal or even nuclear plant, you'd be considered a loon. Coal plants don't just look awful, they also stink up the surrounding areas. And while I've heard plenty of people say they like the look of windmills (I'm one myself), I've never heard anyone say they like the smell of coal plants.

>Coal plants don't just look awful,

And yet a number of old coal plants are being preserved and repurposed given that industrial chic is rather in vogue these days. See the Tate Modern for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tate_Modern

(These are admittedly not working plants but still.)

Most folks don't know what a coal plant looks like.

For example, I can put a few wind turbines or the classic towers from a nuclear plant into artwork and folks get the reference. I paint in a coal plant, and folks just think factory.

Nuclear plants, the Simpson-esque version I picture, are beautiful in their own right, btw, as are nearly all factories. It just depends on framing.

I also find them an eyesore, audibly irritating[1], and the documented bird deaths are awful[2]. But, I'll take them over coal any day.

[1] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....

[2] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-many-birds-do-w...

Meh about [2] - house cats and glass&steel skyscrapers kill an awful lot more birds than that. There is absolutely no outcry against either; that's how we know the outrage against windmills killing birds is planted and artificially kept alive.

And I was reading that most "capped" underwater oil wells are actually leaking oil - and there are many thousands. So oil is silently killing incredible amounts of sea life. So, while I regret the loss of animal life to wind turbines it is much better than the loss of life to oil. (And new wind turbines in the ocean are being placed at heights which almost eliminate bird impacts and also being designed with structures which won't attract birds as a place to perch, unlike prior generations of wind turbines.)

Oil leaks naturally out of the sea floor also.

Transport too. I suspect that's the biggest bird killer.

Which really just goes to show how good wind is. The worst complaints aren't actually a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

People who complain about a statistic without mentioning its severity in context are often only using it as rhetorical currency rather than actually caring about the issue itself. If they're accepting of the same outcome in other contexts you can safely ignore them.

When there's no wind there's no power. Or really, when there's no wind we just turn on the gas.

Also, it + solar will not meet needs.

Wind complements solar well in terms of peak generation. In some markets, wind + solar + hydro + existing demand pricing could already manage current consumption requirements. Hydro is perfect for base load and for peaking.

As a bridge fuel natural gas is also perfectly capable for base load and peaking, and due to pricing has already been rapidly supplanting coal and oil. Longer term, pumped hydro where available, or even technologies like syngas could be used to store peak wind/solar capacity to generate when the resource does not meet need. Along with a better long-distance grid, it takes no stretch of the imagination for renewables to meet virtually all current demand, without even accounting for huge advances in new technologies.

Peak population is coming, and with increasing energy efficiency/conservation, we can very well expect peak energy usage to precede peak population.

Solar and wind cannot meet demand. Neither is there enough hydro storage.

The population will peak. What causes the peak? Lifting from poverty. What results? Much higher energy demand.

Regardless, current demand cannot be sustained by wind and solar. Not even speaking about future demand.

Gas is fossil. I prefer nuclear to meet demand for the foreseeable future.

Apples and oranges, really. Wind/solar/gas are best suited for peak production. Nuclear is best suited for base load production. While technology can change down the road, they currently aren't directly in competition with each other.

> and the documented bird deaths are awful[2].

Stop quoting this bullshit "fact." It is a meme made up by conservative think tanks to discredit wind farms. As other posters have already pointed out, other human-related factors such as domestic cats, buildings and towers, and most importantly pollution and loss of habitat are far more significant dangers to birds. If you actually care about birds, take your cats to the vet and put them down (this will also help save the oceans: a large part of fish in cat food comes from massive and illegal trawling in South-east Asia often done with slave labor), and donate any rural/suburban property you own to a land trust, to be given back to natural habitat.

'Conservative think tanks' like the Audobon Society?

It's not necessarily the raw numbers of birds killed, it's the type and the impact on their population. If your cat kills 1000 pigeons, the pigeon population won't notice. A handful of golden eagles every year or two though, and we get closer to losing another species.


And yet the Audubon society, after considering all the various risks to birds, is pro-wind turbines, as you can tell from the angry commenters attacking them for this stance in the article you linked.

As is the original commenter, who nevertheless got attacked for quoting a "bullshit fact".

It is a bullshit fact, just like "80% fat free" is a bullshit fact that plays on human bias. Just because one side is talking about bird deaths doesn't mean it has the moral high ground on that issue. It is in fact a standard political move to attack your opponent on your weak point. And the less motivated listener just says "well they're both bad", even if one is clearly better.

It's not a bullshit fact. Admittedly it can be used to bullshit by blowing it out of proportion, but it is something that happens. Calling actual issues "bullshit" and demanding they are not talked about is not a very good way of getting people on your side.

At least over here in Germany the organisations working to get more renewables deployed and studying these things massively overlap (e.g. nature clubs lobbying/advertising for renewables, and at the same time providing the boots on the ground counting dead birds). It has been recognized as a problem and is now managed, just as other environmental influences of new construction projects are (e.g. evaluating a new location includes a comparison with known migratory patterns/populations and restrictions and monitoring requirements can be set accordingly)

I mean outdoor cats kill 1.4-3.7 billion per year [1] so 10-600k is not really in the same ballpark.

> Some say just 10,000 birds a year meet their end at the hands (blades) of the wind industry. Others ramp that number up to 600,000

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/outdo...

How many birds do coal plants poison and kill? I bet you never thought about that simply because those deaths aren't violent and sudden.

This is an important point. Birds die orders of magnitudes faster from respiratory failures caused by coal's pollution.

I doubt that's true. Birds probably live away from coal plants like humans.

Would be best to give birds killed per MWh, for each country

> "But, I'll take them over coal any day...."

But the economic alternative is not coal but natural gas. What is you opinion in this context?

This can vary greatly on the type of windmill... I live near the Altamont wind farm, and the oldest windmills are undeniably ugly, and so small that they required tons of them.

The next generation windmills were less ugly, but still too small. I always found them rather unobjectionable, but I could see one quibbling with that.

The current giants being put up though? They look great! They have these 90 foot blades that look like they were designed by an advanced alien race, their size makes them operate with a slow graceful sweep, and the relatively low density of them leaves the hillsides more visible as well.

Altamont is a disgrace for the whole industry. They had incentives to install and retain mills at the site, but almost no difference to the bottom line on how much power they produced. That's why these ancient mills are still there, even if they're missing turbine vanes.

Solar has a much larger physical footprint than wind and there's no getting around that even at 100% efficiency (which will never be obtained). Footprint that unlike wind, cannot be used for agriculture or accessed by much wildlife; it's fenced in and covered with panels.

Here in upstate New York there are planned wind and solar farms in the region and every one of both brings out a certain crowd of torches and pitchforks.

There's no pleasing some people. The energy has to come from somewhere, and right now coal, gas, and nuclear together make up most of the fuel mix.

Are the torches burning sustainable wood? What are they doing about the wood particle pollution? Were the pitchforks forged in coal powered furnaces? Did they drive to protest?

We need nuclear, solar and wind, or 90% of people to die and the rest live in caves.

Solar might require a bigger footprint but it is easier to place close to the point of use, at least up to a certain extent...

I guess it's a matter of perspective. I suppose the true end-game is for tech is to be completely invisible. The great thing about wind and solar is that when you're done with them, you can pretty much just pack them up and haul them off. Strip-mining? Not so much.

I agree they are much better than strip mining and I said as much, they just are not beautiful.

Maybe it depends on where they are? I think the ones in Iowa and Kansas look great, but that might be because there's not much else to look at. And if the old-and-rural endless plains meet towering-tech-wonder-behemoth aesthetic isn't your thing, there's so much nothing there that you can just drive a while and not see them (or anything else) and have that, too.

>Strip-mining? Not so much.

I assume you don't know much about strip mining, because strip mines in first world countries reclaim the land they mine as they follow the seam.

"littering the coastline"

Your word choice is interesting.

I consider them and most of our industrial buildings a kind of litter on our landscape. Some (and I stress 'some') of the old Victorian bridges are exceptions, and there is the occasional building (mainly churches, pubs, and manors) which integrate in an aesthetically pleasing way, but then again we have already turned all the land to farmland so maybe there is little left to protect inland.

I grew up as the last oil wells in the South Bay part of LA were being brought down. I've been by the Tehachapi wind farm, the Mojave wind farm, driven past the Solar One/Two demonstration plant [1]. They all have an environmental and observation impact, all the technology does is change where that impact is felt.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solar_Project#Solar_One

Damage to landscape seems like a trivial price to pay.

I totally agree with your point about how they make the country seem smaller, it's my main gripe about them. I also feel like mountains were were about the last place we hadn't domesticated apart from the odd telecoms mast but now we've found a use for them. There is nowhere wild left.

Seeing thousands of hectares of solar panels everywhere you go might not be so awe inspiring. Could be quite dull and monotonous.

Although I guess beauty is subjective.

I do hope we can come up with just about anything than nuclear.

The could coat the country with neon flashing windmills playing the nyan cat song 24 hours a day and it would still be better than fossil fuels.

I've always marveled at watching something so huge move at great speeds in near silence. I have a large wind farm nearby and I've gone out a few times on windy evenings to watch the turbines for a bit.

I dunno, I always find them unsettling. I mean, I love them from an environmental perspective, and I think they look quite charming when static... But when spinning they just look so impossible. Like something that big shouldn't move like that.

I never thought about it that way, but that's a neat perspective.

Wind Farms are built by people living in RVs already, so you've got that figured out. Three months here 6 months there.

Embedded software is extremely hard to do mobile, and anyways all of the electronics tech is designed in Germany.

Getting a entry level job in wind is about being nearby and willing to work. If you have a college degree you can always be a field Engineer.

I'm an Electrical Engineer in the wind industry now, previously I was in the field, and previously I was an embedded software/hardware engineer.

> Getting a entry level job in wind is about being nearby and willing to work.

So like, if I see people working at a wind farm, just go up and introduce myself?

Sure, why not? Worst case, they'll know how they got hired.

OK - I'll report back and let HN know how it goes. :-)

(I have a full-time gig at the moment right now until September, so it'll be a little while).

Please keep us updated!

I've gotten more than one job over the years by doing exactly that. Most people are happy to talk about what they're doing, and meeting someone who appreciates and is interested in it, so much the better!

Find the construction trailer ask for an application. Make sure you can pass a drug test and actually show up for work then I'd say your chances are 50% , 80 % if you find a job site that is just starting construction.

If you want to know where they are building go through Abilene, TX and ask.

> previously I was in the field,

I'm curious about this kind of work, could you share more of your experience? What exactly did you do, how hard was it to find job, was it with one company, how often did you move from farm to farm?

6 months here, 5 there. Long hours. Definitely not boring, great job satisfaction when you can say you helped build a 100 MW Wind Farm. Decent pay.

There are maybe 5 major EPC Engineer Procure Construct companies all of them are very similar.

Lots of military types find the field work similar their previous experience.

You get to meet people from all walks of life, rural farmer to execs of S&P 500 companies.

Lots of driving.

More project management then Engineering if you're​ in the field.

I've also been a part of a few large scale solar farms 20-100MW Same companies and same work situation, but less cranes.

>previously I was in the field

unintentional pun?

Any chance you're interested in rock climbing? Some of the repair work can only be handled by rope workers. There aren't a lot of them, and they're certainly in demand.



I do climb, and I love heights (I'm a little weird).

That would be an awesome job.

I think nuclear power plants are beautiful and work without wind and without sunlight to boot!

I live in a school bus, traveling the country

I'd love if you could share a couple of lines on the economics of that, like what your setup and ongoing expenses are like, and what's the biggest headache it involves. If you prefer, my gmail address is the same as my username. Thanks.

Hank's bus is much prettier than ours. :-)

In addition to his superior craftsmanship, we also treat our bus like an engineering and teaching platform; we leave a lot of things taken apart (or in a raw, visible form) to use as teaching tools.

It's a balance; though - we have an almost-2-year-old, so we have to have a certain order and steadiness to things so he can't (or doesn't want to) take them apart all the time.

Unrelated to wind turbines, but related to living on the road - do you have no permanent address? What were the most difficult adaptions to make from living in a static location to living a vehicle like that?

This is something I've often wondered myself - and it seems to be getting more difficult. The two most obvious (to me) would be a driver's license and voting, but I'm guessing vehicle insurance and banks want such a thing as well.

I need to write a FAQ for the bus. This will be one of the questions.

I look forward to it, a daydream for now but quite envious ( at least in theory!).

This sounds an awful lot like the people from the 1950s who thought that dams looked awesome. The dam in the Yosemite Valley was put there because many thought it would look beautiful and bring more people out into nature. It is almost universally considered a huge mistake.

I do think that dams look awesome. But of course you shouldn't build them to make the landscape look nicer. Especially today, more dams should be built, both to ensure water supply and as the ideal support for wind and solar. Dams are the cheapest form of mass energy storage - many of them can even run "reverse" and store surplus energy by pumping water up into the dam.

A lot of people, including me, think the exact opposite: we should be tearing down as many existing dams as possible. Dams are extremely damaging to river ecosystems and are a huge contributor to coastline erosion and exacerbate droughts.


One has of course to learn from the mistakes of the past when deciding where and how to plan and manage dams. But California seems to suffer alternating from floods after the snow melt and droughts in between. The current dam infrastructure is to buffer the floods and release the water at a more constant rate through the season. I cannot see how this could create droughts.

Here in Germany we traditionally have more water than we need, but recently the weather is more extreme. We get stronger rains in shorter times, leading to flooding and times with less than usual water. More dam capacity is the obvious solution to that.

Preferably, dams should not be built in the middle of a living river system, but higher up in the mountains, capturing the seasonal water. Also, where needed, small bypass rivers should be kept, allowing fish to migrate freely.

Dams contribute to droughts by limiting the recharge of downstream ground water levels and aquifiers.

Can you explain why? Over the year they would release the same water as the river without the dam would do - just not in a peak flood but reduced to a constant flood rate.

Dammed rivers release less water because of increased evaporation. Another problem is riverbed deepening which lowers the groundwater table. Where the water pools up is also important - having a bunch behind a dam when former wetlands and floodplains are dry is obviously not conducive to the ecosystems in those wetlands and floodplains.

Doesn't that all very heavily depend on the exact nature of the system the dam is part of? We all know of the environmental problems of the Assuan dam in Egypt. But that does not mean that properly planned dam cannot be very beneficial. One shouldn't just build a dam where it is convenient but with careful analysis first. There are plenty of places where a dam just means less cities flooded occasionally but otherwise has little eco system impact.

Why do dams increase evaporation? Having the water all in one place as opposed to distributed over the length of a river should reduce surface area.

You're talking about Hetch Hetchy and the O'Shaughnessy Dam? Environmental impact is one thing, but it wasn't built to "look beautiful and bring more people out to nature," which is ridiculous. (Advocates may have claimed this, but it was not the motivation of the project.) The dam generates electricity and the reservoir provides 2 million people with water, including San Francisco, the latter of which is was the main driver of the project.

If you read the old literature on how controversial it was at the time, those supporting the dam said it would increase the leisure use of the site, giving it a great lake to camp and fish at. They literally believed it would improve the natural surroundings.

Even modern say SF offices still use that line: "They were eager to show us how, they say, the reservoir actually enhanced the beauty of the valley,"


I didn't say it was the motivation of the project, just that it has been claimed and used to buttress other arguments.

Except when you live nearby them....

I am 100% in support of renewables. However, I also know several home owners near wind-rich areas. And, the noise pollution from the turbines is awful. Unfortunately, my friends are poor (as typical) and have little say in the matter.

Out of curiosity, what make/model are they? I rent some land in the middle of a wind farm, one of which one is standing on that particular ground, and I don't know what there really is to hear.

I expect it is a particular manufacturer or unit, and quite possibly one built a long time ago, that is causing the trouble that some experience. But I haven't been able to track down which one. Sadly, it seems most just see 'tall white things with blades' and think they are all identical, which makes getting reliable information fairly difficult.

Living near coal mines, coal or nuclear power plants isn't great either.

Significantly fewer people need to live near them due to energy density.

But a noise when it's windy is 1000 times better than polluted air and water, coal produces more radiation than nuclear, the mercury in fish comes from coal.

I'm surprised you can be out of shadow distance of a turbine and still hear it. If you're inside the shadow distance, you have bigger problems.

Just in Holland and Germany alone there are over 1000 separate citizen groups trying to get compensation for those suffering from the noise. You could start to suspect that the problems seem to be more serious than just something inside the shadow distance.

Just out of curiosity here's the noise profile (spectrogram) of a turbine at 1,37 km (0.85 miles), measured inside a home, where we can see the base frequency and several harmonic multiples:


Here's the same turbine at 5km (3.1 miles), again inside a house, where the turbine is shut off at 11 a.m.:


As we can see this low frequency noise can travel very long distances, and when you have wind farms with multiple turbines they can even create interference patterns, that could amplify the problems further.

The charts extend only up to ~5Hz and the intensity already decreased a lot. Human hearing range commonly doesn't start until 20Hz. Do you have charts including higher frequencies?

I already asked the grandparent, but received no response[1]. What make/model generated that profile? And how does it compare to the same measuring setup used on other units? While they may all look the same at a distance, you can find vast design differences between them when you start to look closely. It seems unlikely that they would all generate the exact same noise.

To put it another way, a car on the NASCAR circuit looks a lot like a road suitable car anyone can buy at the dealer's lot, but the sound is completely different. It pays to be specific.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14174426

Sorry about that! I only get a few minutes a week to look at HN :(

Anyway, I'm not sure of the model. abut, I could try to find out. Let me know.

Windmill technology is fairly low tech. there are a few things around the wings but besides that it's not really a "tech" business IMO.

No offense, but besides the advanced materials and mechanical design required to keep these things from tearing themselves apart, there is a lot more in the control and optimization software for these that goes into adjusting for changing weather conditions and power demand. I think your suffering from the classic engineer's disease of thinking something is a whole lot more simple than it is when looking at it from the outside.

Example article of some work going on in this space: https://www.google.com/amp/s/phys.org/news/2014-10-optimizin...

I grew up in Denmark the frontrunner on windmills. Vesta is the largest windmill manufactorer in the world. It's literally cultural heritage.

If there is anything which have been debated in Denmark it's the pros and cons of windmills, what the technology is, where the money are, what markets are interesting.

My point wasn't that you can't optimize just that it's not a field where that's a competitive advantage.

So it's the opposite in my case. I know the industry from the inside and know what matters in it and it's not technological advances.

But hey each to their own. I certainly wasn't implying he shouldn't get into the field just that there is a lot less going on than what it looks like on the surface.

How did you reach that conclusion? Those things scream "advanced material tech" to me. Almost as much as space rockets.

The towers are just lots and lots of steel.

A lot of them are made in facilities that were built to make railcars (including big tank cars).

> The towers are just lots and lots of steel.

And a lot of engineering is involved to optimize that design, to build the towers as strong as is necessary to survive high wind loads while using as little material as possible so as to minimize cost. You're trivializing something that has a lot of thought put into it just because you don't really understand it well. I can guarantee you that more thought, simulation, and calculation goes into the design of windmill towers than goes into the average software project.

I don't think anyone is trivializing anything, but those things you mention are mostly solved problems. There isn't that much innovation going on in the field as you might believe.

And from a material standpoint they are still just lots and lots of steel.

If it helps, I'm not a software engineer and have an unused degree in mechanical engineering.

From a reductive material standpoint, everything is just a collection of ingredients. Processors are "just" silicon. That doesn't make them trivial to engineer. What is your point?

It's thick, rolled plate steel. The manufacturing process isn't amenable to the exquisite engineering you are imagining and steel is cheap.

They are pretty damn sure it is strong enough. It isn't the minimum material necessary to ensure that.

Aren't they actually mostly concrete? At least here in Germany they are.

Are you sure? I just Googled a bunch of German wind turbines and I'm not seeing any poles made out of concrete. Do you have photos you can share?

Concrete doesn't seem like the right material for this job.

While steel seems to be the most common material to built the towers, taller ones seem to use a hybrid construction where the lower part is built of reinforced concrete and the upper one out of steel. The problem seems to be to transport large steel segments as German streets mostly don't fit anything with more than 4m diameter. Towers made out of only concrete seem to be pretty rare.

The brochure of one company: https://www.max-boegl.de/en/downloads-en/116-max-boegl-hybri...

(Disclaimer: I know nothing about this and just report back what I read on industry associations' and manufacturers' websites)

Sure, the towers may not be that advanced, though I bet they're optimized extensively for cost. It is the blades that I'm thinking of. They have to be light and strong, which aren't particularly new requirements, but I bet the scale adds challenges of its own relative to aircraft wings. Also, I hear wear on the gearboxes for these things are a major pain, so I bet they are pretty advanced as well.

I'm an industrial engineer who deals with manufacturing. There's a ton that goes into the blades. Going higher up yields more energy, but the width of the blades are at the limit for transportation under highway bridges. With every rotation, the blade flexes know force at the bottom, high at the top. The materials are really advancing and the efficiency is improving.

Cost is the killer of so many renewable energy sources. There is tons of optimization going on for cost.

As I said there is a few things around the wings. But besides that it's not that advanced an industry.

We did some work a while ago which involved using high spatial and temporal resolution wind datasets to build optimization tools which figured out the best place to build wind farms given constraints like geographic restrictions, number of turbines, nameplate capacity, etc.

Nah, it's where all of the cutting edge tech research is, from wind lidars steering turbines, before the wind has reached it, to new materials for 10MW+ turbines and new grid and storage tech to support it.

Any energy company is a technology company.

According to the EIA [0], wind energy reached 5.6% of total electricity production.

Having worked with raw EIA data I can say that the inputs are not very reliable: a) a lot of smaller farms are not included in EIA data b) reporting is voluntary and 30%+ of wind sites stopped reporting data in 2016, for example [1], and c) reporting is based on surveys which means errors, delays, etc.

The US is really lagging behind when it comes instrumenting and monitoring its energy infrastructure.



For the aerial view, here's this plant 52143 on the satellite map.


As someone who is working with global powerplant data I can say that the US is the global leader. It is not perfect, but it is miles ahead of 170 other countries.


The UK has a live feed of the makeup of the power plants that is updated on this website every 15 minutes.


Not only is the generation instrumentalized, but real time consumption by heavy electricity users (steel mills, rail operators and so) has been A Thing since the early 1990s. I know because I built very early versions of consumption dashboards* for the sales/billing department of National Power, one of the major UK generators.

* in fucking Lotus 1-2-3, of all things

There is something incredibly satisfying about seeing steam dials on the internet.

And it has a link to the French version too.

...and has existed since May 2009.

I love this -- and many of those 100K jobs are maintainatory jobs, permanent and not tied to continual production and growth.

I always hate how projects are touted as 'bringing X many jobs to the region' when a majority of cited jobs are in the construction or building of whatever the project is, and then evaporate away once it's built.

That's the way construction happens. It's a temporary thing.

*Except for the Sagrada Familia building in Spain which started construction in 1982 and is expected to be finished in 2026.

> which started construction in 1982

I think you mean 1882.

When something is cheap, people buy more of it. If you are someone who wants more wind power to be produced, you want it to be cheap. You should be rooting for cheaper wind prices, which come with increased efficiency (including less employees per unit of energy produced).

Of course, less employees per unit of energy could equate to more total employees if the increase in energy produced is greater than the increases in efficiency.

As far as I can tell, the types of energy policies we have in the US do a pretty good job of incentivizing increased efficiency in all types of energy, including renewables. I'm definitely not knowledgeable about this though, so maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

>If you are someone who wants more wind power to be produced, you want it to be cheap. You should be rooting for cheaper wind prices, which come with increased efficiency (including less employees per unit of energy produced).

This is a pretty good point, and it also leads in to an argument to be made for an important distinction between productivity and jobs.

People like jobs. Politicians and corporations talk about creating jobs. They're seen as universally good, but that is not necessarily the case. Especially as tech becomes more capable of automating more tasks, which may displace labor at a rate in which people have increasing difficulty in retraining quickly enough, it's appropriate to have a cultural shift in perhaps still valuing jobs, but not over valuing human dignity and economic productivity. An example I witnessed: The very grumpy woman in Paris who took a Euro from me to use the toilet could be given the same amount of money generated by an automated toll while she does something productive. Or even she could just do something which she enjoys and would be happier doing, but is non-productive, and that would still be Pareto efficient: it makes one better off without making anyone else worse off.

Policy should not seek to create jobs just for the sake of creating jobs. With appropriate, just and fair economic policies, it really shouldn't matter how many jobs an industry creates: it matters how much utility, and at what utility per dollar the industry is capable of. That is, assuming you care most about human welfare. I think most politicians care most about money and power.

Thanks for the different perspective.

Having seen several headlines about high employment in renewable energy industries, I must admit that I'm sort of prepped for headlines about it declining. Companies will always start looking for some sort of efficiency when they keep having to add more and more employees.

Services also fall in price when the supply outstrips demand. You should be rooting for windmills to get cheap but wind prices on the market to stay high.

Wind has an issue where it is most productive during the night the grid doesn't really need power. So it will be priced lower.

For comparison, coal employs about 77k people. About the same as the bowling and skiing employment numbers.

That 77k is only the mining/fuel side, if you include the power generation side of the coal industry the number is a little over double that at 160k


I've always wondered why we don't combine wind and solar on the same land. The shadows from the turbines would be negligible and you could reuse the same electrical hookups and wiring.

In fact you could raise mushrooms under the solar panels and get triple use of the land.

It's happening.


Building the solar farm on the same location as the windfarm meant 20% could be saved from the construction costs of the solar farm, said Ivor Frischknecht, the chief executive of Arena.

Arena recently commissioned an investigation into the costs and benefits of hybrid solar and windfarms.

It found that besides huge cost savings – achieved mostly because the grid connection was able to be shared by the two generators – the two energy sources were often complementary, producing peak outputs at different times of both the day and year. That meant they combined to create a more reliable energy source.

“Co-location provides more continuous energy generation as windfarms tend to generate more energy overnight whilst solar only generates during the day,” Frischknecht said. “Gullen windfarm generates more power in winter and the new solar farm will generate more in summer.”

Uninformed speculation: maybe because the places where it's windy are not necessarily the places where it's sunny (and vice versa).

Sometimes, other times it's just wind farms are put in by companies who do wind farms and buy those rights, often from regular farmers, who continue to farm around the turbines. If you put in solar, then there's nothing left to farm. Though for grain crops solar is likely going to be more profitable on an acreage basis.

That's definitely part of it, but as solar panel prices continue to fall I suspect that the marginal cost of adding on solar panels to a wind installation will be low enough to justify it even in sub-optimal sunlight conditions. You've already got the land and the power transmission infrastructure taken care of, so it's just the additional cost of the panels. It could start making sense.

Exactly, anywhere plants grow you can put solar, Germany has one of the highest concentrations of solar but pretty dismal sun. Germany stopped building Neuclear Plants and didn't like buying Natural Gas from Russia, so they basically invented the modern Renewable industry.

I don't know about the US but here in the UK the windiest places are often not the sunniest. High, windy ground often means mountains pushing up air and moisture and creating clouds and things, and hilly, angled ground means panels may not be able to face the sun for much of the time.

From a programming/hardware hacker perspective, are there any opportunities in wind generation worth exploring? Perhaps mini-turbines, or a turbine array with wind positioning?

There are tremendous opportunities in renewable generation from a programming/hardware hacker perspective. Turbine and solar controllers and software, for example. We build a completely overlooked set of software and hardware devices that I think will revolutionise the field [1]. We also make secure smart meters that do accurate measurements, as none seem to exist yet that are correct and secure. There is an large number of websites and apps needed in this field.

I would say we are in a similar position as the 1980's, everyone is active in this huge growth market of making proprietary networking software and hardware, almost nobody sees it will all be obsolete in a few years when the internet arrives. Our startup will be ready with the tools needed when this transition happens (in renewables). If you are interested to work on this, email merik at fiberhood.nl

[1] https://metamorphresearch.org/images/FiberhoodWhitePaper0.9....

There was some hype around microturbines a few years back but a lot of the ROI claims were found to be, um, "optimistic." I assume that today's PV tech makes them even less interesting even if some of the assumptions that go into pricing solar can be questionable as well.

Because a wind turbine is limited to the area of the swept blades, and larger turbines can reach the faster winds that occur higher off the ground, large turbines are MUCH more effective than small ones. Turbine blades that are twice as long can capture four times as much wind, and the tops of those blades capture faster wind, too.

On the other hand, ignoring integration and installation costs, solar panels scale linearly with size. So small solar makes much more sense than small wind.

The great thing about renewables is everyone's situation is different. IE wind might be the #1 option in an area with little solar radiation, or micro turbines might be a better fit vs giant turbines in other areas. Major diversity in the problem space depending on geography.

The article does not respond to the claim of the president that windmills kill birds. Do they really in a significant way? Is it worthy of being called an environmental disaster?

I would say it is significant but not disaster. For some sources, look at


AFAIK, in terms of number of birds, house cats kill about 1000 times as many birds as windmills, but cats of course prey on small birds and windmills kill large birds which are far lower in numbers.

Altamont Pass, the first big wind farm, is the worst, with row after row of small wind turbines across a narrow pass in a mountain chain. It's a veg-o-matic for migratory birds. Those small turbines are obsolete, and are gradually being replaced with bigger ones.


I didn't realize that was such a big issue. Over time, humanity will figure out ways of making wind turbines less of a danger to birds.

In the mean time, I would assume that wind power still remains a net positive for the overall environment versus coal, etc.

>Over time, humanity will figure out ways of making wind turbines less of a danger to birds.

Or the birds will evolve to dislike wind turbines.

I'd assume this is the case, as birds already use the earth's magnetic field for navigation and wind turbines generate a significant magnetic field.

Detecting a small field while flying at 10-15 meters / second (30 miles per hour) might not be possible with whatever they use to detect the wider field.

Bookmarked to research.

There is a niche market for drones to scare away birds from airports. Would not be a far stretch to use more advanced models to herd birds away from windmills.

Just turn the problem around and replace large turbines with mini-turbines attached to the birds themselves. As they fly they charge, um, small batteries that they carry around and then periodically return to dropoff stations. OK I'm still working out some of the kinks.

I think it's safe to say that the President is not motivated by concern for birds unless he's having chicken for dinner.

Everything has pro and cons. Windmills have just a few cons like don't block the air space (bad for a few birds (but less bad than water power plans for fish), helicopters, planes) and some noise (but that's true for every powerplant technologies except photovoltaic panels).

The good thing windmills are very eco-friendly. Only water/hydro and photovoltaic/sun-energy falls in the very same category.

And nuclear is in an even more eco-friendly category than those. This seems accurate: http://energyrealityproject.com/lets-run-the-numbers-nuclear...

Isn't the AP-1000 reactor he is citing about to cause the downfall of Westinghouse and Toshiba due to extreme cost overruns?

Upfront cost, liability and waste disposable with nuclear cannot be overlooked.

He also noted:

> A reactor has a 60-year service life.

Fukushima suggests otherwise. Holding on to old reactor designs has resulted in catastrophic failures.

From what I've heard, these cost overruns are due to political causes.

Waste disposal is a non issue, and Fukashima was due to terrible planning. It wouldn't be solar's fault if someone put too many solar panels on a weak roof and they fell through.

> Waste disposal is a non issue,

Sorry, but that's just a ridiculous position. You can argue that it's a soluble issue, that the long-term hazard and security are manageable and affordable. You need storage that's going to stable over 10s of thousands of years, that will need to be protected for the foreseeable future (unless you want people to have plenty material for dirty bombs etc). That's not cheap, and the is cost that's very likely going to be externalized from the company running atomic plants, since there's obviously no guarantee said company is going to stick around for long enough.

I am perceiving an uptick in lay-people (more or less) advocating for fission power generation over the last 2-3 years. There are some good arguments. But in nearly all cases I end up being unconvinced because all the problems (waste, complexity, massive delays, security) are just waved away with arguments like "waste disposal is a non-issue", "cost overruns are due to political causes", "new reactor designs make the risks infinitesimally small", .... It's obviously a complex problem and just deflecting away the problems that have bogged nuclear power in a lot of quite different countries, isn't convincing unless you're already convinced.

Humans have shown time and time again we cannot be trusted to consistently do things right, so the likely outcomes of some realistic percentage of 'terrible planning', as you put it, should be part of any comparison of power generation techniques.

The analogy you make to solar ignores that the failure modes of nuclear are much worse than solar.

From the page I found, "more Americans have died from installing rooftop solar than have ever died from the construction or use of American nuclear power plants". On average, nuclear is safer. The likelihood of another Fukashima is even lower now that it's happened and been documented.

I think you mean 'on average, nuclear is safer than rooftop solar'. How about nuclear vs. large scale solar? Large scale solar + wind? These are more realistic equivalents to nuclear.

This still seems to just mention rooftop but it's still telling how far US nuclear is below its next runner up, Hydro - .1 to 5 deaths/trillion kWh

That's certainly a delicious cherry you picked. I'm pro nuclear myself, but ignoring people's legitimate worries about worst-case scenarios is not a great advocacy strategy.

It's hardly cherry picking. Look at this chart: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-d...

The externalities of nuclear disasters/errors don't halt at borders, diffuse though they are.

This can quickly change, when one terrorist attack happens on a single nuclear plant.

Not so much with wind or solar, though ;)

From what I'm seeing in this PDF, it's not that much of a concern. http://www.iaea.org/inis/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Publ...

Waste disposal is an issue for millions of years to come.


As you suggest in your prior sentence, hydro is very disruptive environmentally in some cases. The Glen Canyon Dam (and the once proposed dams in the Grand Canyon) are particular cases in point. There's a general trend toward removing old dams in New England in part because of their environmental impact. Of course, small scale hydro like microturbines is far less disruptive but it generates far less power.

Don't count hydro out as part of the energy mix. It can complement PV as a reasonably efficient energy store.

Dams are usually ecological disasters. The Hetch Hetchy Valley was dammed up and it destroyed a natural resource on par with Yosemite. People have been trying to remove it for years, but the San Francisco residents refuse to let it go since it supplies such a large amount of power to them.

Not to mention it supplies their water

It's a disingenuous position for trump to take in the first place.

Looking at the statistics, I'm not sure that wind turbines are any worse than man-made structures generally (or other human-caused threats, including other types of power plants).


Not just kill birds, they are noisy too.

Less and less with new gearboxes

Of course, Trump has an offshore wind array in his view from his hold course in Aberdeen. So he may have ulterior motives than bird preservation here.

I assume because Trump was just making up nonsense, as per normal.

> About 599 million birds are killed annually in the U.S. when they fly into windows, trailing only loss of habitat and cats as the top causes of bird deaths, according to the National Audubon Society. Wind turbines account for about 234,000.

The figures appear to come from an "Energy and Jobs Report" on energy.gov: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/01/f34/2017%20U...

See page 29.

Solar, for example, employs 373,807. Natural Gas: 362,118 Nuclear: 76,771

I still think kite based systems have a ton of potential.

I've also designed a super low cost wind power system anyone can just stick in their yard. Basically a flat wide pole you stick in the ground that the wind blows up and down. (Think wind blowing across a grassy field). I need help with engineering to make any more progress though.

That sounds pretty cool. Do you have any details/photos/specs?

Google X backed startup using kites for wind energy.


So how many jobs is that per kilowatt of power? Or vice versa?

Anybody has a good link to compare TOC of solar vs wind?

From what I've heard, solar panels have a definite lifespan, but are maintenance free until then.

Wind could last longer provided you maintain it right.

See figure 3-6 in this report:


The EIA thinks that the levelized cost of energy from utility scale solar PV in the US is still above wind. NREL and Lazard seem to think they're about at parity now. PV is lowering costs (both initial construction and O&M) faster than wind, so I expect it to start underpricing wind in the US. Of course there are going to be places where wind remains cheaper for a long time just because they have much better wind resources than sunshine resources.

Utility scale solar farms and wind farms both require maintenance labor, though little compared to coal, hydro, or nuclear facilities. Gas based power plants also require little maintenance relative to the power they produce.

I'd generally expect a PV module installed this year to have a longer useful lifespan than a wind turbine installed this year. Turbines have to endure much more mechanical stress. I'd say a typical rule of thumb right now is 20 years for a turbine and 25 years for a PV module. Both numbers are creeping up over time.

No technology is maintenance free. Solar PV requires its fair share of maintenance: cleaning panels, field treatment, inverter replacement, performance/yield monitoring, panel replacement, security, etc.

Solar panels have a warranty for 25 or 30 years. Their output slowly deteriorates over time, but there are 50 year old panels that still work fine out there.

Maintaining it right means monitoring it, which means a full time desk job for a controller looking at N turbines, and making regular site visits for inspections. Part of the inspection process means halting the turbine so one blade points straight down, and then rappelling down to inspect it for cracks and dirt (they're like windshields. bugs stick to them.)

Not on the same scale as installation, but still a steady source of jobs.

One not only has to worry about lifespan but geography.


Not sure if CAPEX as described below includes everything.

direct link to map


The future, where everyone involved in a major industry can be fitted into an SEC football stadium.

500K for oil in us jobs, at 36% of energy. It's 4% for wind. By 2050 it's projected wind could support 600K jobs so we aren't talking orders of magnitude difference.

But with more powerful political clout by then.

Number of jobs, by itself, is a worthless statistic. What's the median wage? If it's $10/hr then it's like reporting on how many people are employed in fast food.

Reality is that most jobs, in most sectors, pay crap. Wind energy is no exception.

Did you check the linked BLS statistics page from the article? Median is $25/hr

For reference, the median US hourly wage is $22/hr. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/wages

Are you sure that is not the mean wage?

1. The link says average, which usually implies mean.

2. The mean yearly income for an individual in the US is ~$45,000[1], which, assuming 2080 working hours per year is ~$22/hr. That seems almost a little too coincidental.

3. The median yearly income is ~$30,000[1]. If the median wage is truly $22/hr. it must be for part-time work, which still comes up about $20,000 per year short compared to the numbers from the article.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_income_in_the_United_...

I recall some years ago T Boone Pickens had a plan for a large scale wind project throughout the midwest, but it fell through for various reasons.

At what point will solar efficient enough to lay out massive solar grids in Texas, Arizona, and SE California?

There's this one in Morocco, which covers 450ha.

It had EU funding, I'm not sure if you are wondering when something similar would be profitable without subsidy. (But could any big project be constructed in Morocco without government subsidy?)



Look at https://www.google.com/maps/@35.3772801,-120.0623295,12136m/...

Keep zooming in until you see cars and buildings. Then you'll realize how big this plant is (it's not even the largest such project, just the first one I could pinpoint on a map).

in terms of efficiency not for the foreseeable future. hydrocarbons are essentially condensed solar power. when will it become more economically efficient to move and assemble all the materials for a solar panel vs extracting hydrocarbon stored energy (sapiens living in poverty can't care about the environment of tomorrow if they are struggling to thrive today, admittedly this is my global view)

Now ish

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