Often @dougselsam debunks ideas in the field of traditional energy, which in fact turn out to be wrong in this very field. This method has the merit of encouraging us to limit ourselves to viable methods.
But can we really transpose what is debunked into the AWE domain? It is not so sure. Just look at the AWE architectures developed: kite-reeling (yoyo), flygen, rotary in different forms (torque transfer, TRPT, flygen, reeling…). None of these methods are validated and implemented in the field of traditional wind energy.
I would add that if we wanted to transpose what works in regular wind power, we would have to suspend a wind turbine from a kite or an aerostat: we see very quickly that we are limited by the mass, the problems of pendulum stability…
An AWES must be able to generate AND fly. AWE field is about wind energy as well as aeronautics. Clearly what is not valid in wind energy could possibly be a solution in the AWE field.
Pierre: Just remember, debunking has been in place for wind energy longer than the current AWE cycle. For example, with Magenn, anyone experienced in wind energy could immediately identify: 1) the least-efficient type of wind turbine commonly pursued (Savonius) and 2) A low swept area, compared to the overall size, and 3) very slow rotation (not promising - too much gearing or copper needed).
In other words, for anyone with their head above water, Magenn was a non-starter. A complete joke, really (sorry to say), yet they raised millions and wasted a lot of peoples’ time and money. This is just an example, illustrating one end of the spectrum of potential viablity of AWE ideas.
Of course my opinion is still just one person’s opinion, and there is always a chance I could be missing something.
It was apparent that AWE, like all the wind energy newbies, was unaware of a pre-existing healthy backdrop of debunking activity. The new people typically introduce stuff that is already long-debunked, and not only don’t realize it, they are surprised that there even is a pre-existing active debunking community in wind energy, let alone that their concept would fall smack-dab in the middle of already debunked concepts. Example: Wind energy people already know energy storage is always way way way more expensive than grid-power. That’s because many of them have been doing it for decades. There is nothing new under the sun. or so some say…
Storage issue is roughly the same for any intermittent renewable.
For the rest AWE uses technologies already more or less debunked in regular wind power: kite-reeling (yoyo) as an adapted Savonius device with its downwind swept area and recovery phase spending energy; flygen as a wind turbine with secondary rotors. Otherwise, lifting a regular wind turbine requires too large kites.
This would mean that the whole AWE field is or becomes a debunked field of wind power field: this is also Barnard’s opinion as stated on
Not debunked wind turbines do not fly. Or perhaps AWE can emerge with solutions that are already debunked in regular wind power field.
I’ve always maintained that most of what Mike Barnard writes on AWE is accurate - so far.
But what I don’t agree with is his dismissive “AWE will never fly” pronouncement.
This is a good article and like most articles, the “comments” section is maybe more interesting than the article itself. I recognize an old friend from the wind energy debunking community there in the comments. None of this wind-energy-debunking stuff is new. It’s only new to the newbies. Professor Crackpot was perhaps even more active in wind energy before AWE entered its current hype-cycle (which is getting a bit dated by this point anyway). That’s how we debunkers came into AWE with so much practice - we were already experts in debunking. We could debunk AWE in our sleep.
One amusing aspect to Mike Barnard is his statement of how he started out doing sufficient research to try to show how promising AWE was. Then when he realized what was happening it turned into debunking. The amusing thing to me is, he actually IS a Kool-Aid drinker. Not a skeptic per se. His resume mentions work on hydrogen something-or-other, for example. He’s all in on most hype-generated supposed-energy-solutions-of-the-future, just that even as a die-hard Kool-Aid drinker, the artificial flavor of the AWE variety was not sufficiently developed and consumer-ready to pass even his sniff-test.
A case in point is the $504.4 million loan to the Utah hydrogen manufacturing and storage plant on the site of a coal plant that services LA that is being repowered with natural gas generation. It’s unclear where the electricity to electrolyze hydrogen is going to come from as the transmission lines lead outward, not to the site, but it is clear that while there are seven pumped hydro facilities in the area that haven’t been able to gain approvals since being designed in the 1970s, very expensive hydrogen generation that saves local jobs can gain approval. SMRs see the same dynamic.
He seems to appreciate hydrogen in the same limited way, although he is now much more radically negative on AWE.
Getting back on topic, and in answer to the question, why not debunk AWE in the same way as Ducted and other Diffuser Augmented Wind turbines (DAWT), Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT), drag-based (Savonius) devices, and so on?
My sense is that AWE is closing a cycle: none of the systems under consideration has any chance of breaking into the utility markets, even with significant improvements. Clearly, there is no progress in this area except in theoretical studies.
Perhaps later, with other material possibilities, more efficient designs may emerge.
I think we should remember to distinguish between whether ducted / diffuser / funnel - augmented turbine technology works (it does work) versus whether versions explored thusfar are economically advantageous. No point trying to deny that forcing more air thru a turbine increases output. Just that any such structure must usually be designed to withstand 100+ mph winds, so as a structure it usually becomes more expensive than the turbine it serves. Doesn’t necessarily mean some version of flow enhancement couldn’t find a valid place in an economical wind energy system. I mean, you can’t 100% rule out the entire concept.
I agree Pierre. The devil is in the details in most cases. Hydrogen as energy storage - hey, if you don’t mind a “battery” that only returns 25% of the electricity put in, or a super-expensive, yet very weak fuel, that is almost impossible to store, and which ruins anything made of steel such as pipes and tanks, hydrogen is “a great idea”. You can’t rule it out totally. But at the same time, there is not much of a use case today. One funny aspect is how we are taught increasingly complex math throughout our schooling. In 9th grade algebra, I remember learning the quadratic equation, thinking “Am I ever going to use this?” Or in engineering school, I was amazed at dimensional analysis, differential algebra, all sorts of super-complex mathematical magic, yet most of the debunking requires nothing more than elementary school arithmetic, mostly just the ability to add and subtract, and maybe multiply and divide, with some appreciation for percentages and fractions - most of us are far “overqualified” to debunk whacky clean energy ideas. I think it’s not whether we can understand, its more whether we are inclined or willing to understand. It’s like with investing: Successful investors like Warren (the Buffster) Buffett, or his partner Charlie Munger, will tell you what is required for successful investing is not so much brains as temperament. Some people are lucky enough to have the right temperament.
This analysis is too simplistic. Though some elements are similar, some possible benefits of AWE may offset the liabilities that were too much in competition with HAWTs. But there is no HAWTs possible for AWE, so if AWE benefits are actually woth anything, the best possible AWE design will not look like a flying HAWT. It will contain some «debunked» elements to the design
Also here your analysis is leaving out a most important aspect. Energy storage costs is dropping at an amazing rate. At one point the truth of the 2000s may not apply anymore. And lets face it, AWE is happening in the future, not «yesterday»
Though on the side; I don’t see AWE and energy storage as a single unit. Energy storage will live on the grid independently of AWE. Energy storage will enable a higher portion of energy production to be renewable. So we do not need to discuss energy storage in this forum IMHO. Rather just state the requirements of any AWE design on the grids ability to absorb «low quality» electricity
I would say Tallak and Pierre you are both right. Tallak is right that prices normally drop, as any technology becomes more widely adopted. And Tallak is right that storage is not AWE per se and so does not absolutely need to be discussed here, although it is so closely related to the topic of increasing both wind and solar energy that it is not completely off-topic. And I think Pierre is correct that the amount of grid-based battery storage today is negligible, and the cost is excessive and may always be.
The curve on the chart provided by Tallak will asymptotically flatten to a minimum achievable cost for storage, long before it gets to zero, and it looks like it might already be starting to flatten at the bottom. The previous standard was deep-cycle lead-acid batteries, which a lot of homesteaders currently use. Today we have the Tesla Powerwall, and the utility-scale version that can store what, an hour or two worth of power?
You’ve still got a fully-functioning power plant with all the bells and whistles that can only be used for a couple of hours per day. So the cost per unit power must be high. Not sure if affordable electricity storage will ever arrive, really. Some of this stuff we’ve heard forever, and it never happens. I mean, we were supposed to be just about to run out of oil when I was still a kid, yet we always seem to find more, with entire promising regions of the planet not even drilled at all yet, and multiple previously oil-productive countries shut down by war and leftist takeovers (coincidence? - unlikely).
One might note Elon’s company built the only grid battery anyone knows about, in Australia, and while he is a visionary, some of his ideas, like hyperloop or buying Twitter, seem a bit farfetched and maybe do not really pencil out.
Anyway, as someone who has envisioned a future of solar and wind power, solar-powered electric self-driving cars, and ubiquitous drones since before anyone knew what a drone even was, it is preaching to the choir to talk to me about this stuff.
But also as someone who grew into more realistic expectations as my actual knowledge base and experience grew, I’m also cognizant of the challenges and obstacles with this “all ya gotta do is” thinking. When I got into wind energy, everyone “knew” that “small wind” was expanding fast, and an ever-increasing number of homes and businesses would have their own wind turbines onsite. Today, a few short years later, almost every “small-wind” company has gone bankrupt. Heck, a few years ago, I had an offer to buy Jacobs for $60,000. No, not a turbine, the whole company. The oldest one, in business since the 1930’s. What does that say about “small-wind” today?
Oh yeah, the “iron battery” - just rust yourself to sleep every night as rust powers our entire civilization. Nice talking point for “Interesting Engineering” or “Smithsonian Magazine” (redundant magazines - same headlines and articles) but a press-release does not equal a perfected technology. Everything “sounds good” until the nitty-gritty (rusty) details emerge. Remember when AWE was going to harness the Jet stream in a few short years, because kite-surfers “could feel the power”? How is that going today? Once again, reality rears its ugly head.
That said, it is always possible to debunk this or that device in the realm of ordinary wind turbines, as there are types that work perfectly, such as the widely marketed three-bladed HAWT.
But can we really debunk any AWES? To do so, we would need a reference system, which works properly and is therefore put on the market. So we will have to wait a little longer before we debunk anything in the AWE field, except perhaps the field itself.
What would be interesting; look at any success in wind energy, then see to what degree that idea was debunked or not. If it was not debunked, good for «debunker’s» reputation. Though is a success was debunked, the debunkers add little value. Maybe except pointing out the obvious that any investor in wind power should know about.
It does seem to me though that there were only a few big steps in wind energy design the last decades. Maybe Enercon gearbox-less design would be the best indicator of debunking value… Even better compared to some tech that did not catch on, eg whale bumps on the blades…