Home >> Bigger is Better - Wind and Solar Energy Achievements in Europe

Where 'Bigger is Better' and 'Small is Beautiful' meet.
Topic: Green Tech - Wind Energy - Location: Germany and Denmark
Posted: July 1, 2009

When you thought the Airbus 380 was it - there are other areas the Europeans think big - really big.
All seemingly driven by high oil prices ...

Remember 2008 - while we in the U.S. "enjoyed" prices at around $4.50 per gallon at its peak, Europeans had to dig deeper into their pockets: $7.50 to $8 per gallon. BTW - that ratio between them and us hasn't changed, a gallon of super still costs $7.30 (8/01/09). They buy at the same price we buy and the difference is all going toward taxes ! Between $4 to $5 - not the puny 40 cents we contribute to our country's well being, or let's say - upkeep.

Solar & Wind Energy

Back to the point - solar and wind energy installations are huge in Europe compared to the U.S. Let me try to explain that in a different way: We have a solar panel start-up company right here in the Silicon Valley, called NanoSolar. We can't get any products from them for another year. Its production is sold out - to Germany (!) which is where the company has another manufacturing plant.

Wind power is another field where we see shining engineering advancements in Europe. Not that we do not have any experience in the U.S. Everybody who lives in or visited the bay area has probably seen our wind farms in the Altamont hills or around Palm Desert in Southern California.

Compared however to the latest installations in Germany - well - one can see what 17% VAT and $3+ taxes per gallon of gas can buy. This is where BIG comes into the game. Check out these images showing the world's largest Wind Turbine generating 7+ Mega Watts.

Some other turbines have a diameter of 400 feet and can be as high as 600 feet as one installation in Denmark shows that went on-the-grid in 2007. Really windy days bring a nice benefit to the Danes - electricity becomes free and since electricity at this scale can not be stored, they sell the excess power to Germany and Norway!
The technology advancements are incredible and materials technology plays a big role. Two decades ago PG&E had one of the first large wind turbines installed close to Benicia in the San Francisco Bay Area. They learned a lot but the materials used in "those days" could not handle the wind forces and the unit was taken down a few years later.

Back to today's Mega Wind Turbines. One or two hundred of these systems installed in North Dakota would be generating the equivalent energy of a nuclear power station. Doing that and we would really see some changes in the U.S. It would definitely bring the carbon footprint of the other 49 States a bit closer to our California numbers. Can GE step up to the challenge or do we have to buy these things in Europe?

Back again to our original head line. Where does the Small is Beautiful comes in? Coming soon. It has to do with residential solar (PV), plug-in hybrids and full-electric cars. And in another way it means decentralizing electric power generation, complementing big power stations with locally generated and consumed power but still using and staying connected to the Grid.




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