July 09, 2008

Current information on Wind Power material usage

Per Peterson, Prof at Berkeley provides information on construction material for energy. 95% of construction inputs are steel and concrete. This article looks at the most recent wind turbines and finds that wind power's need for a lot of steel and concrete is not substantially changed from the 1990 figures. 700-1000 tons (not including all support structures beyond tower and base) per MW (nuclear equivalent power adjusted for capacity factor) for offshore wind for 5MW turbines. 840-1250 tons (after 20-25% support structure adjustments) puts the amount of material needed at the level of the 1990 wind machines. There is another article on this site that updates the concrete and steel inputs for nuclear reactors Some High Temperature nuclear reactor designs would cut the amount of material usage by a lot. Wind material usage can be cut using Kitegen designs, "whale bumps" on the blades for more efficiency and other design improvements.

Concrete monopole foundation for wind turbines

Enercon 4.5MW offshore turbine weighs 440 tons (looks like mostly steel) Does not look like it includes any support structures or the tower.

The REpower 5M turbine features a rotor diameter of 126 metres and a Top Head Mass (THM; nacelle + rotor) of 430 tonnes [not including tower, foundation and support structures.]

Four or five offshore wind farms 2007-2011 with a total capacity of around 1500 MW in Germany were discussed.
It would require investments in the range of around €3.6 billion throughout Germany [assuming on budget], which translates in terms of job creation volume into 25,000 and 40,000 ‘man years’. [So US$5B and about 30,000 man years or 60 million man hours, for 1.5GW -reduce by capacity factor for projects running 2007-2011]

Mathis argued that future 5-7 MW offshore wind turbines erected in 25-40 metre deep water will require new foundation solutions. If such huge foundations were constructed as steel monopiles, the required diameter would be in the range of 8-10 metres and the total length about 50-60 metres. Utilization of jacket type or tripod type foundations with similar capacity and water depth range will, in his view, result into even higher demands with regard to fabrication, welding complexity and corrosion protection. This points to concrete foundations as the solution. However, the construction of gravity-based concrete foundations requires sophisticated formwork systems and new transport logistics methods to deal with component masses between 3000 and 7000 metric tonnes.

Three substructures were considered for the final selection process:

centre column tripod (CCT);
flat faced tripod (FFT);
OWEC jacket quatropod (OJQ), a four-legged jacket solution.

According to the study a CCT design requires cast nodes to improve fatigue performance, bringing the total mass up to 1080. The FFT needs three large 96-inch (243 cm) diameter piles but no cast components, while the substructure mass is 1140 tonnes. Finally the OJQ is based on a design from OWEC Tower A/S, a ‘traditional’ jacket structure adapted for REpower 5M wind turbine use.

The mass of the lightweight structure, including three 72-inch piles for fixing the substructure to the seabed, is approximately 600 tonnes.(For more general information on the Beatrice project see Renewable Energy World November-December 2006)

So 600-1140 tons plus 450 tons for the nacelle and rotors for a 5MW wind turbine (1.5 MW of equivalent nuclear power). 700-1000 tons per MW (nuclear equivalent power adjusted for capacity factor) for offshore. Land based could be less but there are size limitations on land and tower must be built higher to get same wind quality

Enercon 6MW model has 36 concrete section

Previously, in-situ concrete (125 m hub height) or steel towers (97 m hub height) were used for the E-112/6 MW. The towers for the E-126/6 MW will be 131 meters tall and made up of 36 concrete segments manufactured at WEC Turmbau Emden GmbH. Once completed, the hub height will reach 135 metres and the overall height an impressive 198 metres.

a diagram of the major component assemblies (8000 parts) and the 2007 eight page article discusses wind power supply chain issues.

20-25% of offshore wind is the support structures

Better wind mapping shows at 100 meter elevations 40-45% capacity factors can be found for some sites.

Integrated wind can deal with many issues that have been laid out as problems.

2006: Thirty seven Nordex N62 wind turbines (6340 tons) NORDEX N 62 69 m hub height 1.3 MW rated power. So 6340 for 50 MW of nameplate power or 16MW equivalent of nuclear power. 400tons per MW (nuclear equivalent)

Calculations could be produced using wind turbine design principles

This 2001 8 pager has a table with percentage of materials for different components of wind turbines

2007 article on 3MW turbines

Though wind turbines don't consume fuel, it takes at least 150,000 lb of steel, concrete, and fiberglass to build a single 3-MW turbine. Thus, turbines have a carbon footprint that is laid down before they ever generate a single kilowatt. And detractors point out that steel and concrete are both energy intensive, carbon-emitting industries. There are also networks of roads needed to service wind farms. And wind turbines take land, somewhere between 60 and 300 acres/MW. (For comparison, nuclear and coal plants generate about 1,000 MW/acre).


Karl Schroeder said...

I can't track down the origin of the chart you're showing. The numbers look highly suspicious to me. (Please note: I'm not against nuclear power, but I am trying to cut through the extensive propaganda being deployed on both sides of the nuclear/renewables debate, and this piece looks suspiciously like propaganda to me.) If the lifespan of a nuclear power reactor is 60 years, there shouldn't be any decommissioned ones, should there? But there are 28 in the US alone, 14 of which are more than 100 MW plants. On the other hand, why measure wind power costs based on 1990s figures when the signifcant numbers are all current? Current windmills last 20+ years, not 15 (see Vestas' figures), and their capacity factor can be over 30%+ when they are networked.

I think nuclear still wins here, assuming you're not counting extra labour and manufacturing intensity as a plus (the 250,000 jobs in Germany from wind power are a plus to the 250,000 people doing them).

Wind vs. nuclear seems more and more to be an apples vs. oranges debate. I like both.

bw said...

The origin of the chart is from a presentation by Per Peterson which I have linked to in the prior article with updated nuclear power numbers. It is at the top of this article. Click through to the one covering updated nuclear numbers.

Link again:

Note: he cites his sources as well

Also note that the point of this article was to update the wind numbers.

If the average lifespan of nuclear reactors is 60 years (for US reactors) then some can be decommissioned earlier if others are decommissioned later and the avg to come out the same. This is especially true when lifespan is weighted by the size of the reactors.

If the avg lifespan of someone in the USA is 75 then one would expect some to die early but some last longer.

The nuclear plants that get extended are the ones that are running better and worth maintaining. Just like at some point it is not worth maintaining a house or car.

I like both wind and nuclear as well. I want to see coal use stopped first and reduction of oil usage as much as possible.

Average wind capacity factor has been only 25% in Europe and europe is where most of the wind power is. Wind power capacity factors can and probably will be improved as noted at the bottom of the article. This is especially the case if Kitegen and other systems tapping higher and more consistent winds is adopted. I also show the slide from the NREL which indicates that the intermittency can be somewhat compensated with operational and other methods.

bw said...

If Calera cement is widely adopted over the next 10 years, then the amount of cement used could become a virtue. Calera cement will remove 1 ton of CO2 from the air for each ton of cement

I believe that nuclear power (with the massive build from China) will have more impact in terms of providing clean energy than other sources. And worst/best case (where there is massive, massive improvement in solar and wind) nuclear still provides a big clean energy boost and should be used with advanced Concentrated solar and wind.

Any 20-25 year adjustment for wind power life does not change the scale of conclusion much that wind uses several times more steel and cement to get the same power. This would only change with redesigned wind like Kitegen.

There are better nuclear designs like High temp reactors.

Cyril R said...

Nuclear wins on commodity usage, but the situation is rather complex. I've pointed this out before but Brian doesn't appear to listen :)

For a discussion on this issue, scroll through the comments in the URL below.

bw said...

The issue of material usage, land usage and labor goes to the issue of scaling.

Things that use less material, land and labor can be better scaled to higher levels.

Humanity needs a lot more energy. Not just replacing coal and oil to get to clean energy which needs to be done but getting ten times or hundred times more so that every can be rich. To deny people who are poor now the capacity to become rich is a bad plan.

This article only covers part of the issues around energy which is why there are several hundred articles on this site around the issues on energy. But I will take a look at the link. I have been looking at and participating in oildrum discussions for over one year.

bw said...

I had already commented on that oildrum thread under the display name advancednano.

In terms of EROI

I had written on this last year

STarting in 2012 laser enrichment will be commercialized by GE which will improve the energy and cost picture for enrichment by three times or more

Uranium: 8.9 kg U3O8 x $58==>$472 Conversion: 7.5 kg U x $12==>$90 Enrichment: 7.3 SWU x $135==>985 [Silex could reduce this by 3-10 times]Fuel fabrication: per kg $240 Total, approx: US$ 1787 would become $1050 or less

Energy efficiency analysis

PJ per GWe over 40 years.

Mining & milling 1.6
Conversion 9.2
Enrichment 3.3 centrifuge [23.1 diffusion]
Fuel fabrication 5.8
Build, operate & decommission
plant 4.1 to 30.7
Waste management 1.5

1.3-2.9% of energy produced

With laser enrichment the enrichment figure falls to 1 PJ.
Plant decommissioning is not so high if the crappy UK plants are not built.

Waste management becomes almost zero if the unburned fuel is saved and used for better reactors (Molten salt, uranium hydride, accelerator driven etc...)

Cyril R said...

OK i'll be more direct and just copy my TOD post explanation here.

While it is true that wind uses more materials than nuclear, your numbers and assertions are biased and misleading for several reasons:

First, it is incorrect to compare to 100% capacity factor, as the real average system capacity factor of the US electrical grid is less than 45%, and this is what one should compare to when considering average capacity factor. This lowers material input for wind by more than 50%.

Second, the capacity factor you referenced is very low, good locations in the US get 30-40%, which is close to the average capacity factor in the US. Moreover, consider the correlation with the load to be more indicative than capacity factor. Not good for wind, but with CAES this can be cost-effectively dealt with; the CAES equipment is similar to NG turbines, i.e. they have low materials input so this won't fundamentally increase the materials input for wind. And anyways, a nuke would also need something like CAES to compensate for high capacity factor (ie miscorrelation with the load). Nuclear load following might be an option for near term nuclear technologies, but this lowers output and thus EROI. Which is quite unacceptable I'm sure.

Third, 1990's vintage windmill tech is not 'modern' - a 5MWe 21st century windmill should be used for that purpose. These use materials more efficiently. By contrast, 21st century LWRs have only slightly lower materials requirements, if indeed they are lower at all.

Fourth, the energy gain that light water reactors get over wind from less materials input is strongly reduced by the energy required for enrichment, which is the biggest lifecycle energy requirement for light water reactors' kWhs.

Fifth, the energy gain compared to wind is further reduced by the high recycle percentage of wind power systems. Nuclear power actually requires significant amounts of energy to decomission the plant, while not being able to recycle much of the materials due to high radioactivity levels.

Sixth, your numbers assume 15 year windmill life, which is rather low-balled and thus indicates bias. But perhaps this has more to do with the assumption of 1990's windmills. In adittion, the fifth argument above makes the shorter lifespan less of an issue.

HINT: for a strong argument, think about the broadly similar ballpark EROI estimates of wind and nuclear LWR - when using reasonable numbers for both of course, a bit of bias could make any of the two come out favourably. But even then the difference is NOT as high as you imply with your focus on materials input alone.

Seventh, wind uses mostly commodities such as concrete and steel, which don't have strict resource limitations, the bottlenecks are mostly in production capacity. So the amount of commodity inputs is not an inherent showstopper if strategically planned. What is more of a showstopper, is highly specialized and exotic materials and equipment requirements for modern nuclear powerplants. These are likely a bit more difficult to scale up than commodity production facilities like concrete and steel.

Eighth, using moderate technological optimism, wind becomes much better, for example Tubercle technology could dramatically increase output especially with lower wind speeds but with high wind speeds as well. Or superconducting turbines, larger turbine sizes, or novel materials such as advanced composites etc. With a similar amount of optimism, there are advances in LWRs such as MIT's uprating techs.

Bottom line: you've made the fallacy of not taking a system and holistic perspective.

You said you questioned the sensitivity of these points. True, but you should still mention them for full disclosure. It's a complex issue. I think that commodities materials are manageable issue considering it's possible to quickly ramp up production - concrete and steel are not exactly rare materials - and also feel that nuclear vs wind is apples and oranges. Like you said, getting away from coal is the goal.

bw said...

Here is the 2007 Global wind energy report (72 pages) It was published March 2008

A total of 883 turbines with a total capacity of 1,667 MW
were installed in Germany in 2007.
This brings the total overall installed capacity in Germany to
22,247 MW, made up of 19,460 turbines.

So avg size for new 2007 turbines is 2MW. Overall size avg is just over 1MW. The big 5MW versions are still a tiny fraction of new installations.

The sector currently employs more than 100,000 people in Germany for 22.2 GW.

The average feed-in tariff over 20 years for turbines
installed in 2007 ranged from 8.19 euro cent/kWh ('initial
tariff') to 5.17 euro cent/kWh (‘basic tariff’). The initial
tariff is reduced by 2% every year, so it will be 8.03 to
5.07 euro cent/kWh for turbines installed in 2008.

By 2020, the overall German onshore capacity could be at
45,000 MW, assuming an optimal use of sites and no general
height restrictions for turbines, with an additional 10,000
MW offshore. This would account for about 25% of German
electricity consumption, or about 150 TWh/year.

55GW with the most half better than modern (new install from 2008-2020) forecasted wind power generating 150 TWh.

The existing nuclear power in the USA. 99GW generation 806 TWh from nuclear plants averaging about 30 years old. 55GW of nuclear would be about 440TWh.

China, North America and Europe are where most of the new wind power will be added.

Wind power in the USA stats from wikipedia

Cyril R said...

Thanks for the extra info Brian.

About material usage, I think there's a way around some of the complexities: in stead of materials per "average MW" it's better to talk about materials per GWh produced. This way, the lifetime and recyclability etc can be taken into account in the material usage analysis of different power sources.

What do you think?

Cyril R said...

Perhaps it's even better to compare a hypothetical 100% wind system's total material use with that of a hypothetical 100% other system (eg coal, nuclear, or solar). This would have to include storage and transmission materials use etc. so gives a more complete picture.

Of course, it won't be optimal nor realistic to have all electricity provided by one source. But it may be an interesting comparison.

RACookPE1978 said...

Please note that only a tiny percent of "nuclear plant

construction material" is ever in touch with

radioactivity or radioactive material, and even a

smaller portion of that becomes contaminated.

For example a spent fuel storage tank liner (a few tons

of steel) comes in contact with purified water

surrounding the (highly radioactive) spent fuel rods,

but it does not become comtaminated, nor does the

concrete around the fuel pool, the roof, the walls and

steel of the building, etc.

Even in the containment building, only a tiny portion

of the concrete and pipes have surface contamination

that cannot be cleaned on decommissioning. (Cleaning

generates low level wastes as well.)

(In PWR's, nothing else gets contaminated. Some pipes

in the turbine building of a boiling water reactor

carry low level radioactivity. That too is only

surface contamination.)


Your final sheet contains "myths" about wind turbine

power production copied from a powerpoint slide. What

is your source for these so-called corrections. They

absolutely do not match my actual experiences in the

power generation industry, and in fact, those "myths"

are not much exaggerated. Germany, UK, Dutch, Spanish

and Danish experience in 2008-2009 with wind turbine

production problems also shows the "myths" are close to

the truth internationally as well.