As you would expect, engineers questioned my love affair with wind turbines. For starters, I just like things that spin and have watched developments in wind turbines since the mid-Seventies when they weren't much more than glorified eggbeaters.
The blog post which was the same as my May 14 print column provoked some great comments, several which of which praised coal for its vastly more favorable economics. One letter (on actual paper!) from Henry E. Payne III of Payne Engineering in Scott Depot, W. Va., makes two valid points that I was aware of, but neglected to cite in my column advocating a more aggressive approach to wind turbine adoption. Be aware, I have not changed my stance on wind turbines one iota and I did get reader responses sharing my enthusiasm.
On point one, I'll quote Henry's letter:
"One point is capacity factor. This is the full ratio of full-rated generation hours divided by the numbers of hours in a year. Typical capacity factors to a well-run nuclear or coal generating plant is 90-95%. For windmills, it was 2005%. Solar cells are about the same." In other words, the wind does not propel a large turbine at, say, its optimal rating of at 4.5 megawatts. If we're lucky, it'll generate 1.5 megawatts, points out coal and conservation advocate John Landis. Point two: if you want to know what electricity costs(a lot here in the Northeast!!), it's measured in megawatt hours or kilowatt hours. This is how electricity usage is measured.
I remain convinced that wind turbines and solar are each a part of the answer to our energy needs. How big an answer remains to be determined, but renewable sources nibbling away at the percentage of energy provided non-renewables can only be a good thing…especially as wider adoption drives down the cost down of renewables. For now, wind turbines must be subsidized in the U.S. like many new technologies. And they should be…it's one of the better uses of our tax dollars. And how can anyone argue with lower dependence on oil of the Middle East!?
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.