After ten years in the wind industry, GE (GE -3.3%) celebrates with its 20,000th wind turbine...

After ten years in the wind industry, GE (GE -3.3%) celebrates with its 20,000th wind turbine installation. Altogether, GE's 20K-turbine fleet has the capacity to power the cities of Hong Kong and London for an entire year. In the U.S. and Europe over the past four years, nearly 40% of new power generation installations have been wind.
From other sites
Comments (16)
  • Oh-Boy
    , contributor
    Comments (28) | Send Message
    What does it mean to say that a "fleet" of wind turbines has "the capacity to power the cities of Hong Kong and London for an entire year"?


    I apologize for this question in advance, as I am not a journalist, but merely a mechanical engineer with experience in the power generation industry.
    14 Nov 2012, 04:17 PM Reply Like
  • Peter_Do
    , contributor
    Comments (46) | Send Message
    Thank you for pointing out the silliness of the statement. Does it takes 20k turbines 10 yrs to generate the equivalent of 1 yr power consumption of London and HK? 100 yrs? or 1 yr?
    14 Nov 2012, 04:47 PM Reply Like
  • RSRinehart
    , contributor
    Comments (531) | Send Message
    I'll be interested to see what kind of explanation this gets, because the meaning seems obvious to me. Maybe it's the use of the phrase "for an entire year" that's throwing you off. Or maybe it's not what I think it is. And I'm not an engineer.
    14 Nov 2012, 05:27 PM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4528) | Send Message
    I'll accommodate.


    A 20kw turbine means the turbine has a maximum generation capacity of 20,000 watts. It simply won't produce more no matter how much faster you spin it.


    It does not, however, produce 20,000 watts constantly, due to variations in windspeed, and in fact it will rarely produce maximum capacity anyways.


    In this instance, the max generation capacity of GE's 20,000 installed turbines, altogether, is what is being referenced.


    Also, for those who do not know, few, if any, power generation facilities run at maximum rated capacity for any serious length of time, regardless of what fuel they run on. That includes coal, nuclear, nat gas, hydro etc.
    14 Nov 2012, 06:34 PM Reply Like
  • JohnInMA
    , contributor
    Comments (45) | Send Message
    @kmi - There are very few mechanical or electrical systems that run at what is called 'nameplate' capacity of any kind for any purpose. However, to pick the top end of the scales, nuclear power plants often run at 90% or better even with scheduled outages. And the truth is that targeting in the upper 30% range for wind farms, even large ones, is considered optimistic in almost every case.


    The most common way that wind and solar installations are described in the vernacular is to associate their nameplate capacity with the ability to power a number of homes (or cities in this case). Such analogies are perfectly useless otherwise. They are not involved in the financing, the planning and operations, or any economic calculations.


    It is pure marketing. But it's not unique. After all, how many buyers routinely achieve the gas mileage advertised for their car purchases? Even those who more routinely drive on highways aren't likely to see those values, day in and day out.
    15 Nov 2012, 07:31 AM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4528) | Send Message
    Nuclear and hydro both tend to run on the upper range of capacity, and as nat gas has been taking over from coal for baseload, it too has started being run at the upper end of capacity.


    Another example is your car. Let's say it's rated at say 220 horsepower, but how frequently do you use all of it?


    When a solar or wind system is designed for a specific application, 'average wind speed' for your application is taken into account, or for solar 'sun hours' which in my area in NY is 4.5hrs per day, and elsewhere in the country it is higher.


    The reason being it is a known factor that your wind or solar system will not be producing at max capacity 24 hrs a day. So in order to size it, you use certain metrics.


    For example if I consume 1000kwhr per day, I would need a somewhat larger system in NY at 4.5 sun/day average than in Florida where the number may be 5.5 hrs sun/day. These are known quantities are a standard part of the sizing process.


    The question proposed, and the question I was answering, was "What does it mean to say that a "fleet" of wind turbines has "the capacity to power the cities of Hong Kong and London for an entire year"?"


    In this instance it means that 20,000 turbines producing at max potential output of 20,000 for 24hrs a day can provide the total watthours consumed by the cities of Hong Kong and London over a year's time.


    Another example: a solar PV system sized at 12kw will rarely, if ever, hit 12,000 watts of generation. However, it is highly unlikely the system it is designed for ever hits 12,000 watts of consumption as well; and if and when it does, it will do so for a limited period of time.


    Baseload configurations which run at a high percentage of capacity are usually designed to do, like nuclear and hydro, but rarely do, because demand itself fluctuates. For example, more electricity is consumed overnight because of the need to provide light.


    And I beg to differ that it is 'pure marketing'. These are reasonable metrics that allow one to develop and design the appropriate sized system for the appropriate application and to accomplish tasks intended.
    15 Nov 2012, 10:17 AM Reply Like
  • JohnInMA
    , contributor
    Comments (45) | Send Message
    I think we are saying the same thing with different words. Even though the 'powering homes' equivalency (or 'powering cities') is most commonly used, it is intended only to inflate the value of the systems in the eyes of the public. In my experience, there is consistency is how these claims are made for the most part. It is strictly a way of stating nameplate capacity in other units. Perhaps some might assume different values for the average load/demand (say FL being different than NY), but the principle is often the same. There is no other purpose but marketing, or bragging. No one uses it for any other reason. There is no following up to see how many homes are powered at any given time (equivalent).


    You are right to want and expect more accurate values for design purposes, but do you expect if from Seeking Alpha or any other repeating of a press release? My point was simply to say that there is huge diversity in what is labeled the capacity factor, and that some facilities are able to operate at very high levels in modern times. Solar and wind are not in that category. And I doubt any turbine or panel manufacturer will make any significant and broad performance claims except in specific technical publications and bidding processes. The auto manufacturer analogy is just the best I can think up off hand. They will happily publish EPA MPG and range values, which to me is no different than nameplate (EPA MPG) or equivalency (powering homes). Good luck achieving either predictably or regularly.
    15 Nov 2012, 03:09 PM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4528) | Send Message
    We are indeed saying the same thing, as to the market current itself: that it is mostly 'marketing'.


    You are adding to that the point that solar/wind vis a vis other options tend to sport higher 'nameplate capacity' versus actual production, which is a fair position to take.


    The follow-on to that being that had this installed generation base been, for example, hydro, nuclear, or coal, it's actual production/output in the real world may be higher, since those sources tend to run at higher percentage of 'nameplate capacity'.


    To put numbers to this, let's pretend that a facility has 100kw capacity, and that if it were wind it would produce in general let's say 60% of that, or 60,000watts, but as coal it may be run at a constant of 80% of that, or 80,000watts, therefore actual production would be higher.


    This is a fair point. What I am saying wrt this is that during system design, the fact that your wind will produce 60% of 'nameplate capacity' is a known quantity, and the system's maximum potential production or designed output goal is adapted to this known quantity.
    15 Nov 2012, 04:56 PM Reply Like
  • MohanTX
    , contributor
    Comments (133) | Send Message
    Wind Energy installations are great. But, these capital expenditures are uneconomic without federal subsidies. US can not afford these govt. subsidies due to budget constraints. With natural gas production via shale in North Dakota and Pennsylvania, we know Republicans will never support these subsidies. I do not know how hard Mr. Obama will support.
    14 Nov 2012, 04:48 PM Reply Like
  • maudie
    , contributor
    Comments (477) | Send Message
    20,000 turbines power 2 cities. Great! By my calculation (I majored in journalism, so I know), another 10^(10¹⁰⁰) and we'll have half of Europe covered.
    14 Nov 2012, 05:06 PM Reply Like
  • cabinguy
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
    CabinGuy, MN
    Problem with WIND is consistancy. Then storage systems and distribution. If you Google cost of wind energy you will pages and pages of factors. Cook your toast by turn the power on for 30 seconds then off for a minute then back on and you will understand.
    15 Nov 2012, 03:39 AM Reply Like
    , contributor
    Comments (10765) | Send Message
    "In the U.S. and Europe over the past four years, nearly 40% of new power generation installations have been wind. "


    Well that's can't get a stupid permit for any other kind of power plant - can you?
    14 Nov 2012, 05:16 PM Reply Like
  • siliconhillbilly
    , contributor
    Comments (2579) | Send Message
    My prediction: GE will be out of the wind turbine industry in 5 years.


    Why? The green has worn off of Wind. It costs too much and generates too little. Worse, what it does generate is so variable that it becomes a serious problem if windmills account for more than 10% of the actual power being generated at any time. The grids cannot stand for 10% of their supply to change rapidly and still stay stable. Brownouts and breakers dropping groups of customers offline will result. Substantial wind generation is now idled because it can't be integrated into the grid safely.


    So unless someone can come up with really cheap, high capacity electricity storage, there just won't be many more grid tied wind generators bought. Unless willfully perverse government policies fund them.
    14 Nov 2012, 11:50 PM Reply Like
  • JohnInMA
    , contributor
    Comments (45) | Send Message
    @siliconhillbilly - Some of what you describe is true. However there are other facts/truths too. There are regions where the wind penetration is much above 10%, without brownouts or other noticeable power quality issues. (Northern Europe, e.g.). Of course, they are balanced with very short-term and longer-term reserves, almost exclusively through capacity from fossil generating capacity. Fifteen minutes to one hour reserves are most critical for wind and solar backup. So, there are real world experiences of both kinds - infusion of somewhat variable wind at levels greater than 10% and limitations where wind farms are idled whenever certain demand scenarios do not accommodate their use. The most publicized example is Bonneville Power choosing to keep hydroelectric facilities at near full capacity and idling wind when demand was unusually low.


    But the truth is the planning, purchase, and use of reserves is not new to the integration of renewable energy. There was at time when any fuel-burning plant was efficient when producing power around 50% to 70% of the time. So, the difference was made up by having other capacity available. Of course, efficiency has been improved, so that reserves are more targeted for unpredicted/unplanned outages. But with no renewable sources, reserves are still planned, purchased, and programmed.


    Storage is but one solution to the problem. It is not the only solution, and it does not only benefit renewable generation, but all generation.


    The truth is that the power network is so 'meddled with' or regulated and manipulated, that wind and solar have a strong role to play at differing penetration levels, area dependent. The key is the marginal cost/pricing allowed. It is tied to fuel costs and as bizarre as it sounds, providers with electricity to sell from wind or solar farms can bid zero on spot markets as their fuel costs are zero. They are paid at the going rate at the time. I'm not sure the power industry has never been fully free of similar kinds of manipulation.
    15 Nov 2012, 07:50 AM Reply Like
  • cabinguy
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
    Live in MN buy the Mall Of America. I have had a cabin in northern MN I built with my wife & son 30 years ago across the lake. Boat access only. Know the trades and hard work. Invest a little think a lot.
    15 Nov 2012, 03:49 AM Reply Like
  • bolesky
    , contributor
    Comments (19) | Send Message
    So how many fleets of wind turbines does it take to power a higher share price or maybe some decent dividends so we can pay more tax?


    Green--Shmeem: How long will it take to get rid of "Jeff I melt the money?"
    25 Nov 2012, 07:19 PM Reply Like
DJIA (DIA) S&P 500 (SPY)
ETF Screener: Search and filter by asset class, strategy, theme, performance, yield, and much more
ETF Performance: View ETF performance across key asset classes and investing themes
ETF Investing Guide: Learn how to build and manage a well-diversified, low cost ETF portfolio
ETF Selector: An explanation of how to select and use ETFs