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January 9, 2016
Paul Gipe

Wind Energy: Renewable Energy and the Environment—a Review


The expansive title of Vaughn Nelson’s Wind Energy is appropriate as Nelson delves into such taboo topics as population, exponential growth, and exhaustion of fossil fuels.

Nelson is a physicist, a numbers guy, and a teacher. This is evident throughout his book. It’s the kind of technical book I love—and his emphasis on often ignored topics and his straightforward, no bullshit, way of explaining complex topics hasn’t dimmed in the three decades I’ve known him. I remember my first the first lecture I heard him give when I worked for him at what was then West Texas State University. It was, “Wow, this guy knows how to boil it down to essentials.”

For example, in Chapter 2 on the broad topic of Energy, Nelson lays out one way to calculate the results of exponential growth. Then at the end of the chapter, after all the citations, links, web sites, and questions for students, he throws in a bonus discussion on “order of magnitude estimates.” This is a topic I’ve included in my own books since 1983 and I am continually amazed by the number of people who don’t or won’t grasp this concept. I’d make this section of Nelson’s book required reading for most of the journalists and politicians I’ve come into contact with during my career—it would have save a lot of time.

In the chapter on energy, Nelson succinctly explains exponential growth and the concept of peak oil—both forbidden subjects in North America universities. As a physicist, Nelson isn’t satisfied simply explaining the topic in words, he provides the formulas and works through the classic example of a 7% compound growth rate. At a 7% growth rate, the doubling time is only ten years whether for population or the consumption of natural resources, such as oil or coal.

Anyone who has followed my own writing over the years will quickly see where I picked up my ideas when they read Nelson’s book. He has been teaching the importance of swept area on wind turbine performance for more than three decades.

Nelson is an engaging and amusing lecturer. When I first heard him explain the basics of wind energy the light went on in my head and I’ve been preaching the gospel according to Vaughn Nelson ever since.

Those new to wind energy should see Nelson’s section on innovative wind power systems. Nelson has include a few real gems, including Google’s Makani flying wing and one of Doug Selsam’s contraptions. As someone who was around in the 1970s, Nelson also has included some photos of novel wind turbines that were indeed novel even then.

Nelson is as comfortable writing about specific yield as he is capacity factor. This is unusual for a North American. Most writers here are solely focused on capacity factor. Again, it reflects Nelson’s approach to the subject as a physicist. He even goes so far as to describe where you can track down actual performance data on wind turbines in the field that includes specific yield.

Wind Energy includes a very helpful section on storage as it applies to integrating large amounts of wind energy into the utility network. Nelson includes several valuable graphics illustrating the energy density and discharge times of various forms of storage. This is the first time I’ve seen this all in one place.

Wind Energy: Renewable Energy and the Environment by Vaughn Nelson is a book by one of the industry’s pros targeted toward students of engineering and physics. The book includes questions at the end of sections for use in an academic setting, reflecting Nelson’s many years as a professor of physics.

Any serious student of wind energy should have Nelson’s book on the shelf. Similarly, any program on renewable energy in a department of engineering or physics at the university level should consider Nelson’s book as part of their course material or required reading.

Nelson, Vaughn. Wind Energy: Renewable Energy and the Environment. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2014. Second Edition. 328 pages. ISBN-13: ISBN-13: 978-1420075687, ISBN-10: 146658159X.  7 inches x 10 inches. $146 cloth, $80 rental, $105 digital. Country of origin not identified.

Table of Contents

Introduction

History

Wind Farms

Small Systems

Community Wind

Links

References

 

Energy

General

Definitions of Energy and Power

Energy Fundamentals

Energy Dilemma and Laws of Thermodynamics

Exponential Growth

Use of Fossil Fuels

Nuclear Energy

Mathematics of Exponential Growth

Lifetime of Finite Resource

Global Warming

Summary

Links

References

Suggested Readings

Questions and Activities

Order of Magnitude (OM) Estimates

Problems

 

Wind Characteristics

Global Circulation

Extractable Limits of Wind Power

Wind Power

Wind Shear

Wind Direction

Wind Power Potential

Turbulence

Wind Speed Histograms

Duration Curve

Variations in Wind Power Potential

Wind Speed Distributions

General Comments

Links

References

Questions and Activities

Problems

 

Wind Resource Assessment

United States

European Union

Other Countries

Ocean Winds

Instrumentation

Data Loggers

Wind Measurement for Small Wind Turbines

Links

Maps

Ocean Wind Data

Data Logger, Sensor, and Tower Information and Photos

References

Problems

 

Wind Turbines

Drag Devices

Lift Devices

Orientation of Rotor Axis

System Description

Aerodynamics

Control

Energy Production

Calculated Annual Energy

Innovative Wind Power Systems

Applications

Summary

Links

References

Problems

 

Design of Wind Turbines

Introduction

Aerodynamics

Mathematical Terms

Drag Device

Lift Device

Aerodynamic Performance Prediction

Measured Power and Power Coefficient

Construction

Evolution

Small Wind Turbines

References

Problems

 

Electrical Issues

Fundamentals

Generators

Power Quality

Electronics

Lightning

Resistance Dump Load

Links

References

Problems

 

Performance

Measures of Performance

Wind Statistics

Wind Farm Performance

Wake Effects

Enertech

Bergey Excel

Water Pumping

Wind–Diesel and Hybrid Systems

Blade Performance

Comments

Links

References

Problems

 

Siting

Small Wind Turbines

Wind Farms

Digital Maps

Geographic Information Systems

Wind Resource Screening

Numerical Models

Micrositing

Ocean Winds

Summary

Links

References

Problems

 

Applications and Wind Industry

Utility Scale

Small Wind Turbines

Distributed Systems

Community Wind

Wind–Diesel Generation

Village Power

Water Pumping

Wind Industry

Storage

Comments

Links

References

Problems

 

Institutional Issues

Avoided Costs

Utility Concerns

Regulations

Environment

Politics

Incentives

Externalities

Transmission

Links

References

Problems

 

Economics

Factors Affecting Economics

General Comments

Economic Analysis

Life Cycle Costs

Present Worth and Levelized Costs

Externalities

Wind Project Development

Hybrid Systems

Summary

Future Developments

Links

References

Problems

 

 

The expansive title is appropriate as Nelson delves into such taboo topics as population, exponential growth, and exhaustion of fossil fuels.

 

Nelson is a physicist, a numbers guy, and a teacher. This is evident throughout his book. It’s the kind of technical book I love—and his emphasis on often ignored topics and his straightforward, no bullshit, way of explaining complex topics hasn’t dimmed in the three decades I’ve known him. I remember my reaction to the first lecture I heard him give when I worked for him at what was then West Texas State University. It was, “Wow, this guy knows how to boil it down to essentials.”

 

For example, in Chapter 2 on the broad topic of Energy, Nelson lays out one way to calculate the results of exponential growth. Then at the end of the chapter, after all the citations, links, web sites, and questions for students, he throws in a bonus discussion on “order of magnitude estimates.”


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