Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wind Power: the True Story

They say that a good book should always tell a story. And this is true for this book by Paul Gipe. Titled "Wind Energy for the Rest of Us" is not just about the technology, but it tells the whole story of the development of the field, starting with the first windmills, all the way to the modern, high-power towers. And it is a book of excellent graphic and textual quality. Something that's becoming rare in a time when publishers provide less and less editorial services. Highly suggested if you want to learn about wind energy.

The book is choc-full of data, explanations, illustrations, descriptions, stories, and more, including a thorough discussion of the legends that surround wind power; from the idea that it causes various kinds of sicknesses to the one that it is a bird-destroyer. It includes a critique of the just as legendary "improvements" that crackpots keep proposing in terms of wonderful innovation meant to improve a technology that already works well enough for what we need and for what the physical system in which it operates can give.

So, this is one of the best books on renewable energy that I happened to read in recent times. But, of course, no matter how positive a book review can be, one need also to discuss shortcomings. In this book I found very little that I didn't like, but I may criticize the way airborne wind energy (AWE) (also known as "kite power") is described; dismissed as a useless dream in a few paragraphs. I understand that for people used to deal with Gigawatts and giant wind towers, the idea of getting energy from small kites looks a little ludicrous. And it is also true that, after that so much has been said about AWE, there is not a single machine on the market that can reliably operate continuously at a few kW of power. Still, I think there is the possibility for kite power to grow into a useful technology, if we don't expect it to save the world (as, unfortunately, some people keep saying).

Finally, I can note that it is disappointing that the development of such a good and reliable technology as wind power seems to be experiencing a slowdown. Here are the latest data from GWEC.

According to our calculations, wind power, just as other forms of renewable power, should grow much faster if we are to replace fossil fuels before the Paris emission targets are breached. Yet, despite the slowdown of 2016, wind power is still going strong worldwide, so we can hope it will play an important role in the future of energy supply. And so, we keep going onward!


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)