Originally posted March 1, 2018.
Wind is free, not to mention clean. So what could be better than inserting windmills offshore, where, unlike Martha’s Vineyard, there apparently are no multi-millionaires who, despite their disdain for fossil fuels, complain about turbines sullying their ocean views?
Germany and Denmark are particularly big on this fantasy, a.k.a. “put a huge field of big wind turbines out in the North Sea where the wind blows somewhat more steadily and there are no people around to object.” Asks Francis Menton, what possibly could go wrong?
Well, by his own admission, Mr. Menton is more cynical than most. Two decades of living near the Atlantic Ocean on Long Island taught him that nothing made of metal can survive long near the ocean.
The waves and the breeze put a fine salt mist in the air that quickly corrodes everything. Doorknobs wouldn’t work after as little as a year. Same with hinges. “Stainless steel”? It might give you one extra year.
As for the corrosion thing, anyone who sails or lives near the ocean, as Dick and I do in Newport and Key West, can confirm how destructive and ultimately expensive salt air is. Francis nails it:
Screens needed to be replaced constantly. Bikes more than a year old would be covered with rust. Paint? That might stave off rust for a year, or maybe two with multiple coats. And so forth. So let’s just say, in my usual way, I had a certain skepticism that off-shore out-in-the-salt-water wind was really as “free” as people thought.
Well now you’re thinking that all must be A-OK because the brains at companies like Siemens and General Electric who sell these gigantic wind turbines surely have the corrosion thing licked. Otherwise, how would they be able to sell these things at “$10 million or so a pop”?
But here is a translation from the Global Warming Policy Foundation on February 23 translates an article from Denmark’s Jillands-Posten on how the offshore wind thing is going in Denmark:
Ørsted must repair up to 2,000 wind turbine blades because the leading edge of the blades have become worn down after just a few years at sea. The company has a total of 646 wind turbines from Siemens Gamesa, which may potentially be affected to some extent, Ørsted confirmed. . . . Ørsted’s problems mean, among other things, that almost 300 blades at its offshore wind farm at Anholt have to be taken down after just a few years of operation, sailed ashore and transported to Siemens Gamesa’s factory in Aalborg.
No cost has been given, but you know that this can’t be cheap. The big Danish wind farm in question was completed in 2013, which means that the Siemens “coating” at least works somewhat better than my can of Rustoleum; but there’s only so much you can do to stop corrosion in the salt air. And how does it affect the overall cost of electricity from wind when major structural repairs are needed on the wind turbines every 4-5 years or so? Believe me, nobody will give you the answer to that question.
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