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April 28, 2008


Annelise and Libby

WOOHOO Missouri City!! Bring it to the rest of the world...:)

Cyril R.

This works very well for a few small towns, but will get disproportionally more difficult with higher percentages of wind power in the larger grids.

Fortunately, it looks like CAES is very compatible with US geology. There is need for more detailed commercial project studies on this subject.


This is a good first attempt.
It would seem to me that in addition to the CAES Cyril refers to a lot could be done for load balancing locally by the integration of other sources - here is a German experiment:
This uses biogas, which is much more efficient than ethanol:
Fuels compared

and also solar power - there is going to be a considerable peak summer load at this latitude.
In this connection the ideas of Nanosolar for municipal power are interesting:
Note the three avenues for cost saving:
Ground mounting the panels, having the voltage right without transformers and reducing transmission line costs.
It would probably need to be done as an experiment first, as it would cost a fair amount to finance early examples, but it seems possible that small towns in the American mid-west could be pretty energy self-sufficient.

Cyril R.

Thanks for those references Dave. They were truncated though, so here they come again:



Biogas looks like a good idea to me. This is much more efficient than burning corn ethanol in big SUVs.

A lot of people worry about sustainability in biomass production.

Well a certification system could be implemented so that only waste biomass (from food crops, so no dedicated biofuel crops on arable land) and non-foodcrop-suitable land would be used. And no cutting down rainforests either, or ecologically sensitive areas.

With proper nutrient managment and legislation, and agrichar, nutrient depletion shouldn't be a problem either - not a lot of nutrients in biogas. The biogas can be produced near the source in small to medium scale plants, so the nutrients can be processed and returned to the soil quite easily. Piping biogas can be done with convention and even existing NG infrastructure. It's very efficient even over longer distances.

I think small scale distributed PV makes a lot of sense. Rooftop PV is great but there are not enough high insolation, perfectly aligned rooftops so we'll need a lot solar farms as well.

There are also a couple of ways to increase the output of these farms. For example, adding a mirror behind the panels. And covering the ground with white colored plants (ooohh, flowers!) or white seashells, or whatever, to reflect some of the light that hits the ground onto the panels. That could also solve the albedo issue, although it's not really a rational concern at least not now.

Cyril R.

Er, that would be "conventional". A convention wouldn't pipe much biogas, except maybe a convention of flatulent people ;)


This is really awesome that all the electricity needs of an entire city will be produced by wind power, a truly clean, sustainable source of energy. Really this is something to be emulated.


During peak wind they could store energy as hydrogen and us it when needed. I would love to see more of this inovation and self sufficent solutions. Great example.

Hydrogen and fuel cells are expected to profoundly impact life in the 21st century.

This is because of the pervasive potential of hydrogen and fuel cells to power automobiles, buses, trains, boats, personal computers, communication equipment and other power-consuming appliances of modern-day living. The overall market size for fuel cells may infact grow beyond that of computers, microchips, and software, evolving into an industry of unprecedented growth potential.

The reason for the tremendous commercial potential of hydrogen and fuel cells lies in the numerous benefits inherent to the technology.

Four key industry drivers have the potential to profoundly impact the growth of the hydrogen and fuel cell industry:

Escalating concern over climate change and environmental pollution.
Increased desire to reduce our reliance on foriegn oil supplies.
Increasing global deregulation of the energy industry.
Increasing fuel cell investment and activity by well-capitalized companies who have high stakes in the emergence of hydrogen technology.

Bob Wallace

Before the boo bugs get here, let me suggest a change in the way this is presented.

"Missouri City Produces as Much Electricity from Wind as They Consume."

That would get around the periodicity/storage/other source stuff that's sure to be thrown against the wall.


Further to what Bob Wallace said, I'm wondering what the article means by "capacity." I haven't worked the math to figure it out from their numbers. Given the size of the town, four turbines _might_ be enough, if it's a good wind resource area. But if they're talking about nameplate capacity instead of actual expected generation -- maybe 25 percent of nameplate capacity -- then this is a smoke-and-mirrors announcement.

I'm very pro-wind and I'm disturbed by some disinformation I've seen coming out of wind advocates lately. If the wind industry doesn't tell the plain truth and avoid obfuscation, it's headed for trouble.

Cyril R.

mtburr, they are definately talking about energy not power:

When fully operational, the four Suzlon 1.25 MW S-64 wind turbines will have the capacity to generate 16 million kilowatt hours a year. Historically, Rock Port electrical customers use approximately 13 million KwH annually.

Robert McLeod

The capacity factor of this project is:


which is pretty terrible. Typically wind resources with the lowest capacity factors also have the worst intermittency issues.

It's generally a good idea to do the math before you go around knocking down imaginary strawmen, in my humble opinion.

Robert McLeod

And I forgot to convert kWh to Joules now didn't I? Argh, forehead slapping moment.

(16E6 [kWh]* 3.6E6 [J/kwh])/(4* 1.25 [Watts]* 3600[s/hr]* 24[hr/day]* 365[day/year])


0.3653 capacity factor

Which is pretty high.


I agree with you, Bob Wallace: "Missouri City Produces as Much Electricity from Wind as They Consume." But $90M for 1,395 people = $65,000 per person or about $250,000 for a family of 4. Where does that money come from? And how long before we get 3x or 4x cost improvement? It's exciting to see the progress, however.

Samantha Jacoby

Too many communities and companies don't realise the significant renewable energy investment opportunities available to them. I encourage the CFOs, CEOs and Managing Directors to join their peers at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum-Wall Street, held in NYC on June 18-19, 2008. Executives from the biggest names in renewable energy financing will be presenting: GE, BP, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, First Solar, LDK Solar, UBS, etc etc. Learn more at http://www.reffwallstreet.com.

Bob Wallace

TP, new power from any source is expensive. I suppose this community penciled it out and determined that it was a good investment for them to borrow some capital for wind and then service the loan rather than purchase electricity from another source.

Right now money is cheap and fuel is doing nothing except getting more expensive.

As for overall cost of wind, according to recent statements by those in the industry the cost will start to fall soon. Right now the infrastructure (plants, machinery) are still being developed. Right now the industry needs subsidies from the government to reach an economy of scale.

But, personally, I'm betting that solar undercuts wind in terms of price alone.


Robert McLeod wrote:
"It's generally a good idea to do the math before you go around knocking down imaginary strawmen, in my humble opinion."

Fair enough, and probably I should have just asked the question rather than opining. While a 36 % capacity factor is quite high, it's perhaps conceivable if they're doing a sort of massive "net metering" calculus to get to their annual load.

I just get very tired of reading press releases where some company quotes a total turbine capacity figure and then restates it in terms of households that capacity represents. At first glance this looked like it could be the same type of obfuscation, more cleverly worded. If your arithmetic is correct (I'm no EE), they are being merely optimistic and not actually deceptive.


J Anthony

Bob Wallace (Comment 4/28/08, 10:44 am):

Thanks for your previous response on BEVs (4/27/08, 9:18 am); it makes sense.

While successful large-scale renewable energy deployment would indeed be a desirable outcome, I still find myself skeptical, at least for intermittent sources (hot dry rock geothermal might be a go…). Since you seem a well informed RE advocate, I wonder if I might politely (with as little wall-throwing as possible ☺) advance my reservations for your comments.

What would happen if we replaced all fossil plants with wind/solar without building any more nuclear plants? I’ve heard the arguments about geographic and wind/solar diversity, but I still find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t be times and places where RE power was inadequate (are there statistics from Denmark or Germany on this?).

For such a large-scale deployment, could storage make up the deficit? Hydro is pretty much at its limit, especially with increasing droughts (and nobody wants more dams). CAES involves fossil fuels, which we’re trying to get rid of. Hydrogen is very inefficient (maybe 30% round trip efficiency?), and where would we store huge volumes of it? Ausra has proposed hot water storage, but that’s untried, and works only for solar thermal, not the popular distributed PV. What I see happening in such a situation is that institutions and affluent individuals would provide their own storage via private fossil fuel generators (which we’re trying to get rid of), or maybe massive batteries, and the poor would have to do without power during the blackouts.

What about providing large overcapacity? (IIRC, Ausra is advocating 3x overcapacity to deal with winter in the warm climates of California and Texas). That leads to the issue of costs. RE systems, especially solar, are hardly competitive without subsidies. With overcapacity, electricity costs would increase several times. Now, you might say, our affluent society will just have to accept those costs to avoid global warming. But there is still the issue of raising capital -- from limited capital sources -- for building the RE plants. Whatever capital can be practically raised, the cheapest non-fossil alternative (least $ per average MW) will provide the most global warming abatement, because we can deploy more of it. Nuclear is almost certainly cheaper than RE with overcapacity or storage, and so would serve us better for expeditious carbon abatement.

A last alternative for large scale RE deployment is to have grid backups from fossil and nuclear power, as is done today, using the argument that less of those sources would be needed in a backup role. Again, the problem is cost. To handle periods when the RE system produces little power, the backup would have to be a parallel system capable of handling full grid load (and even if full backup is only used occasionally, a significant fraction of its capacity will have to be kept on spinning reserve). The two parallel systems will cost more. If the backup was entirely nuclear (this wouldn’t work for fossil!), you could use it full time for a fraction of the cost of the RE plus nuclear system, and so get much more global warming benefit for the available $.

We also have to look beyond the affluent Western world. Even if North America, Europe and Australia were willing to support the costs and intermittency difficulties of RE, it’s very doubtful if China and India would. If the only alternative were RE, those countries would very likely continue with coal power plus some nuclear, and all our efforts with RE would be in vain, as their emissions would swamp our savings. If, on the other hand, the West pushed hard on nuclear, and through mass production and innovation produced nuclear technology as cheap as Chinese coal power, we might be able both to save the world climate and make significant bucks for ourselves.

Cyril R.

But $90M for 1,395 people = $65,000 per person or about $250,000 for a family of 4.

There is a lot of confusion here. $ 90 million is a typo; the turbine blades are 90 feet. It appears all the journalists have copied this verbatim.

There are no wind projects that go for $ 18000 per kW. It's rubbish, about an order of magnitude off. My guess is it's $ 9 million or $ 1800 per kW.

Bob Wallace

J - I think you've thought it through pretty well. I'm not sure that I can add a thing to what you already know.

What we (we as in people like you and me) don't know is how often there isn't significant (potential) generation over a large geographic area. What sort of time intervals of very low input would a non-fossil, non-nuclear grid experience?

If that interval is low then we wouldn't need lots of storage or backup. Remember that wind and wave are often high when sun is low - winter storm conditions. Hydro and geothermal are pretty constant. And tidal slacks occur at different times in different places.

As I understand things, natural gas plants are relatively inexpensive to build (just expensive to run due to fuel costs). I would think that it wouldn't be prohibitive to have enough NG standby to fill in the gap.

Remember that we can turn on the gas plants long before storage runs dry and effectively extend the storage period. We don't need 100% backup standby. If, for example, the longest ever measured non-wind/sun/etc. period was 36 hours we could build 18 hours of storage and have "18 hours" of backup generation.

While it would be nice to get totally off fossil fuels, I'm not sure it's a goal we should pursue in the short term. Let's get the use down enough to cut down on atmospheric pollutants and enough to extend our supply of NG to far in the future.

We already generate a significant amount of our power with NG (20%?), so that amount of standby/backup is just waiting to be sidelined by greener sources.


Very encouraging. Such projects, when successfully finished, are truly amazing promotion by itself for other cities all over the US. That's a prove, that renewable works well, even though, not supported enough by Gov.

Harvey D

The installed cost for four 1.25 MW units totaling 5 MW should be 5 x 1000 x $1800 = $9 million NOT $90 millions.

Four towers being a rather small wind farm, one could add up to 20% or another $1.8 million.

Good doing Missouri City. Others should follow.

Kit P

“What would happen if we replaced all fossil plants with wind/solar without building any more nuclear plants?”

Well what if you got paid by signing a voucher one penny at a time? What if your drinking water supply system was replaced with with an eye dropper? What if your grocery sold rice one grain at a time?

You might tell me that there are better ways of doing those things. But what the environmental impact was less? It does dot matter because the task of getting paid, eating, and drinking water could not get done. It is called doing without. There is about a billion folks in on this planet who are expert at doing without. Getting paid a penny at time is not a problem. The lack of clean drinking is something you get used. If dysentery kill you children, starvation will.

The category of producing electricity called 'renewable energy other' is an insignificant source if electricity because it is not a very good way of making electricity. Wind, biomass, hydroelectric, fossil and nukes are used because they are practical ways of making electricity.

Storing excess renewable energy is not really a problem we have.

JohnPeter JP Elverding

Over here (Netherlands) we'd expect to pay $4M for a 6/8 Mw mill (stand alone) that would generate approx. 2-4 MW per year. One of these windmills is tested not far away from here with an axel height of some 140 meters (460 feet) and the tip of the rotor at 200 meters (600 feet or so)
At these heights yields improve because of the winds at these altitudes.
They are not yet being sold, but the delivery of current models (3-4 Mw) will take up to 24 months. Sp plenty of times to do the math and overcome protests from people who don't want thier horizon cluttered with them.


I will believe that a community is going "100% wind power" when there is no electrical energy input besides wind power.
My prediction ? "MJMU will supply Rock Port's power needs when the wind turbines are not generating at capacity." will be most of the time. What the wind business doesn't need is more silly and misleading hype like this.
I say this as a wind power proponent, one who has truly used "100% wind power" to fill my cattle's water troughs for many years.

Kit P

“to fill my cattle's water troughs for many”

Very interesting David. I have speculated for a long time why the mechanical driven wind water pumps have not been maintained.


David/Kit P,

“to fill my cattle's water troughs for many”

I was raised on a Missouri farm and we used a windmill to water the cattle without electric backup. To provide constant water a large storage tank was needed. The mill was turned on and off manually. You had to be there when the mill was running as high winds could damage the moving parts. In the winter it was a pain to break ice for the cows and to keep the machine running. In low winter winds the pump would stop and start and completely freeze up. The top gearing was a pain to maintain. The whole thing was a pain...haha. Anyone who has used one certainly welcomes an electric well pump.

The new cattle watering stations are well insulated with a ball that the cattle learn to press down for a drink thereby eliminating surface from freezing. They claim not to need heaters as they use earth warming. This works in some locations I guess but I have added heaters to my neighbors stations to prevent freezing.

I visited the Cow Branch wind farm in NW Missouri during construction. Maryville is close by. Here is a blurb from AECI regarding an experimental 10kW wind machine. Some of you guys with math expertise can perhaps tell us what the payback and kwhr cost would be with a 9.4 percent of capacity machine? I think the life of most wind machines is 10 years. By the way... any maintenance needed on the top end of the big units is done by climbing 260 foot high stairs inside the structure. Like the conversion of wind to electric water pumps, a conversion of wind to nuclear would be a wise move.

Below is the blurb from AECI at:


According to the American Wind Energy Association, Missouri ranks 20th nationally for overall wind energy potential, and maps provided by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources indicate northwest Missouri is the windiest region of the state.

In early 2003, N.W. Electric Power Cooperative, a G&T cooperative that serves eight rural distribution cooperatives in northwest Missouri, donated a 10-kilowatt wind turbine to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville for its alternative energy program. The wind turbine is located about four miles north of Maryville where it supplies electricity to the university's farmhouse.

Through the first eight months of data collection the turbine generated 158 kilowatt-hours per week, just 9.4 percent of its rated output. While the amount of electricity generated by the project has fallen short of expectations, AECI will continue to monitor this project and support member cooperatives' efforts to explore renewable energy projects in their service areas.


Exciting! How is the rest of Missouri doing as far as utilizing alternative and renewable energy? Do you think this will spread throughout the state as time passes?

Bob Wallace

Amy -

T. Boone Pickens, someone who has become very rich investing in oil is initiating a major wind farm project. You can read about it on this site here:


Pickens foresees a string a of wind farms from the Texas panhandle stretching through the heartland of the US up to the Great Plains.

He sees tying that wind generation to a string of solar farms stretching across the Southwest.

As technologies mature, manufacturing costs drop and fossil fuel prices continue to rise lots of people are likely to see good investment opportunities and get in the green energy business.


My understanding is that Aeromotor Windmills has been doing pretty well lately, with business increasing. As they say at their website, "Y2K compliant since 1888".

Yes, we also have the large water tank with each windmill as a storage buffer.
We also have one well with an electric motor pump, which is a bit less trouble, but you have to run a power line to it. Though less maintenance than the windmill, our electric pump last went out when fire ants clogged up some relay gaps in the surface control unit.

JohnPeter JP Elverding

Another option would be to combine a windmill with a magnegas recycler that could take care of sewage and other liquid waste in order to create the magnegas that could be used to power a fairly standard generator. Or several, decentralized ones.
Another thing would be to reduce electricity usage and use solar heating for showers and such. Anyway, I hope a lot of other cities will follow this example.


Thanks for the feedback David. I'm sure if someone came up with a high tech windmill it would be a lot more reliable than the one we had when I was a kid. But the price of electric has to be a lot more to inspire buying one. It would be best to just have cheap electricity for everyone. The future will be interesting. What exciting times and opportunities we face. JohnBo


$9M instead of $90M??? I'M IN! Yes, a little government subsidy will help the early adopters. Go ahead and use my taxes. If solar is even more cost effective soon, all the better. We gotta put a huge dent in the use of oil, gas and coal right away.

Kit P

I do not consider T. Boone Pickens a leader in renewable energy or wind. Try Key Lay and ENRON Wind (now GE Wind). Doing something 15 year before others is leadership. The Washington/Oregon State line project is still one of the largest and built at time when natural gas was 4 times lower. The State Washington of pasted a RPS about ten years after Texas and after numerous large wind projects were built in Washington.

The point being that wind energy is growing at the capacity of the industry to build. Everyone is now on the bandwagon. What is news about this story is a local community building wind turbines in their own backyard.


I was thinking, I work in Livermore California, surrounded (Ok on two sides) by the 600MW Altamont pass wind farm. Couldn't Livermore claim to be totally powered by wind? Clearly this farm produces as much power as a medium sized city uses. So who gets to decide, which chamber of commerce gets to claim the power (for PR purposes).

Kit P

One of the lighter moments of the California 2000/2001 generating crisis came from cell phone to CAISO. A driver noticed the Altamont pass wind farm had been turned off and called to have them turn them back on.

Mr. Sustainable

Thanks a bunch for posting this! It gives us reason to hope. I'll offer up some context when my pipeline opens in June at http://www.keyboard-culture-global-warming.com


Quoth Cyril R.:

Fortunately, it looks like CAES is very compatible with US geology.
Unfortunately, the CAES scheme I've had a chance to look at requires a very large amount of natural gas, and can't even achieve over-unity based on the fossil fuel input; the overall efficiency (electric+gas in vs. electric out) is under 52% (based on this study, if I haven't mixed my references).  It's going to need some help to be a serious contender.

One possibility is to add water during the air compression and store the air/steam product, and recover the condensate during the expansion.  The addition of water would moderate the temperature rise and allow the full compression to be performed without intercooling.  If I get some time (HA!) I'll have to try to see how that might work.

Kit P

First things first. The need for storing electricity from wind farms is a solution in search of a problem.

I was looking at state report on California wind farms from 1985 to to 2003. The highest CF was 26% and it dropped down to 20% around 1997 before repowering older turbines. We have yet to know what the die off rate is for the newest generation of mechanical failure test platforms.

Cyril R.

the overall efficiency (electric+gas in vs. electric out) is under 52%

It is somewhat unfair to use that figure if the natural gas alternative is also electric generation (CCGT). After all, those are far from 100% efficient.

Your study did take into account an efficiency penalty due to partial load operation, but this is true for CCGT load followers as well.

Check out this reference on CCGT.

Heat rates of 7000-9500 BTU/kWh are mentioned. This is a lot worse than 4,300-4,500 Btu/kWh in your reference.

So, wind + CAES uses much less natural gas than wind + CCGT. And capital costs for the CAES are only slightly bigger than for CCGT.

I like your idea though. Some sort of AACAES where the thermal and air store are integrated? Thermal losses might be an issue.


JohnPeter, have you got any links to those costs for the new turbines?
That is around half the costs per MW of installed capacity given by the Government here in the UK for a 3MW installation.
I am trying to work out if this is due to the different size or differences between the UK and the Netherlands.

It is somewhat unfair to use that figure if the natural gas alternative is also electric generation (CCGT). After all, those are far from 100% efficient.
CCGT is roughly 60% efficient.  Even discounting the electric input, that particular CAES scheme is only 1/4 to 1/3 better than CCGT.  Load following is probably not a big factor for CAES, because individual small units can be started on short notice and most of them run at optimum settings.

I'm not saying CAES has no value; if the fuel supply came from e.g. gasified biomass, it would supply far more kWh per ton than any other scheme currently being promoted.  But there is a huge amount of room for improvement, and we ought to be looking for it.

Bob Wallace

Might we not have significant pump up hydro available?

I've lived around electricity producing reservoirs, both in the Southeast and Western US. As I recall in both places there are significant times of the year that outputs are regulated down in order to extend the availability of water through the dry season.

Seems like we might be able to pump up during times of high wind (especially at night during off peak) and run closer to max when the wind was down.

Paul F. Dietz

And CCGT with a SOFC topping cycle can be more than 70% efficient.

I suspect CAES only makes great sense if the heat of compression can be saved, stored separately, and reused during expansion.

Cyril R.

The problem about the CCGT is that, with a large percentage of wind on the grid, there will be a lot of dumped wind energy. So then this electric input should be discounted; CAES can store this, so will become more and more interesting once wind starts supplying a larger percentage of electric generation. The heat rates possible with CAES are still a bit lower than what's possible with a CCGT SOFC bottoming cycle. Of course there is a lot of room for improvement, and CAES offers a possible route to something better, AACAES. There might be a lot of potential for underground pumped hydro as well. There should be plenty of time left to figure things out on the storage side before wind starts providing really large grid percentages. Untill then, dispersing the windfarms over large areas can help a lot.

Cyril R.

Er, topping cycle.

Kit P

“with a large percentage of wind on the grid”

Let me know when you idiots think this will happen in the US. US demand is growing faster than renewable energy 'other' is growing. Importing LNG is growing faster than wind. This is why we should build up wind as fast we can. The problem that must be solved first in maintenance. Sorry to interject practicality in a looney discussion.

If and when we have excess electricity generation from renewable energy, we will do what was done last time. Make ammonia which by the way is easy to store until you need it to grow food. .

The basic problem with using hydrocarbons to make electricity is it is such a great feedstock for many things.

Cyril R.

This is a good CAES information page, with an AACAES system detailed as well. Heat rates of less than 4000 BTU/kWh are mentioned, and there's an AACAES with oil storage layout as well.

And CCGT with a SOFC topping cycle can be more than 70% efficient.
Unfortunately, we don't have economical SOFCs being built in quantity yet.  I'm all for hard pushes on these technologies (including DCFC), but if we're going to start building now we need something that's ready now.

Cyril:  That site's a craptacular Flash exercise in marketing glitz.  A serious site hosts white papers.

Cyril R.

Cyril: That site's a craptacular Flash exercise in marketing glitz. A serious site hosts white papers.

Engineer-Poet, there are white papers available under the "publications" button.

And I've found that site to be very informative, thank you.


The links do not work for me, and I cannot even copy the link to see where it goes.

Epic fail.

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