165: Shooting the Breeze – World’s Largest Wind Turbines

Matt and Sean talk about the size and impact of floating wind turbines. Does it really make sense to make wind turbines this large?

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, Why Are Floating Wind Turbines So Huge? https://youtu.be/83FqqfODmmg?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7uzySCXq8VXhodHB5B5OiQ

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 On today’s episode of Still To Be Determined, we’re gonna be talking about wind turbines and it’s a bigger conversation than you’d think. Hi everybody. Welcome to Still to be Determined as usual. I’m Sean Ferrell, I’m a writer. I write some sci-fi, write some stuff for kids, and I’m just generally curious about technology and luckily for me, my brother, is that Matt.

From undecided with Matt Ferrell, which takes a look at technology and its impact on our lives. And Matt, how you doing today? I’m doing good. How about you? I’m doing okay. It’s a rainy weekend here in New York City. I don’t know what it’s like up where you are, but it’s been raining. Same thing almost all weekend and yesterday I was excited to wake up and find that we had water in our living room, which is our basement, so.

Oh no. Yeah, so good times all. Was it a lot of water or was it just like a little puddle? It was a lot of big puddle. But Oh, okay. Thin puddle. So like, and we have, it’s the drain right outside the door behind me, but was full of leaves. So I had to go out there with a broom and clean it out and found a bunch of unopened peanuts in the mess of leaves, which means there’s a squirrel somewhere in our backyard that’s just like, what did I do with all those peanuts?

So that’s how I’m doing. But how we are doing collectively as we entered this conversation, as we’re gonna talk about Matt’s most recent episode about wind turbines. But before we get into that, as usual, I like to share some comments from previous episodes and. On Matt’s long form conversation with Brett Kugelmas regarding nuclear power plants.

There were some comments like these from J Mac D who wrote The single biggest thing that this gentleman is doing correctly is making the exact same system everywhere in the us. Most of our power plants are unique. They may share several aspects, but most are different. Making the engineering more expensive, different to operate and just a hassle.

Yeah. There was also this, that’s the biggest thing

that. Whenever people say, just go nuclear. It’s like, eh. They’re

more complicated than that. Yeah. Yeah. Yep. And there was also this from Barbara who wrote, somewhere in the last several years, I have come grudgingly to the conclusion that the US was going to have to re-examine its nuclear power plant policy if we want to achieve carbon neutral.

There was no other conclusion. But I’ve done more research into this issue than since coming to that conclusion. This still T B D video fills in some of that information. I’ve been too lazy to look into. Please do a follow up on nuclear, on undecided. The gentleman you interviewed seems to have a bit of chip of a chip on his shoulder, but his analysis of what was going on in the corporate nuclear industry was very ing, very interesting.

12 small scale nuclear power plants and 30 more on the way in two years. Yikes. The US is already behind the curve. More on that please. Also, this fits so well with your previous video again. Thank you. Awesome. So

that’s awesome to hear. Yeah. This is, this is on the agenda by the way, for undecided. I’m not sure when it will come out, but it is on the


Yeah. I think there’s been a growing sense of a lot of the topics you cover mm-hmm. Are gonna be perennial. And I find it interesting how quickly your update videos, even if it’s just a year, how. Vast. The update is, and it goes from, well, somebody has an idea to, somebody’s actually implementing that idea to, there’s been another breakthrough, which changes the original idea and it seems like things are, are progressing very quickly.

And I’ll be honest that it’s kind of refreshing because for so long, The message has consistently been, we’re not doing anything to stop the global warming trend with the climate change. Yeah. That’s coming. Like we’re not doing anything and I’m not sitting here saying, oh, now we’re doing enough. I don’t think we’re doing enough, but we are seeing that people are doing things.

There is, yeah, research. There are endeavors and. Unfortunately for us, I think one of the biggest things that’s moving the needle is venture capital is now starting to see this as a money maker, and that helps move money, makes the world go around. Yeah, so it’s, it’s an unfortunate necessity the way our system works, that if people don’t see an opportunity to make money, they’re really not gonna go after a thing.

But now that people are starting to see that carrot, That’s moving the needle a little bit, and I just wanted to get your sense of how do you feel about all of that? My, my take

is there’s a, like a lag time and adoption. So it’s like, if you think about like the hockey stick graph, like where it kind of goes exponentially, it’s, we’re in, we’ve been in that period where it’s like, it feels like it’s going so slow, but behind the scenes there are so many companies and governments and funding and all this shift going into solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, like all this stuff.

And we’re just now getting to that point where the hockey stick curve is starting to go up fast. So where it felt like nothing was happening and suddenly it’s gonna feel like everything’s happening because all this stuff is starting to kind of pick up steam. Just in this past year, if you look at how much power came from renewables worldwide, it’s like, it’s like crazy from 2021 to 2022 and now we’re into 2023.

It’s, it’s definitely on that steep. Curve right now shooting up, so Right. It’s gonna feel like, it’s gonna feel like it’s going too fast at this point. It’s at some point, it’s like everything’s kind of hitting all at once.

I think it would be interesting, and I don’t know if this is something that you would do on your channel, but taking a look back at a previous era to see, yeah.

Replications of that same sudden spike. You know that Yeah. Life in the United States in the 1940s looked wildly different from life in the United States in the 1960s. Yeah. And it was in the 1960s. I mean, like you think about what was life like in the 1940s in the US and in the sixties we had the president of the United States say, we’re gonna go to the moon.

And it really, that’s. That’s science fiction. At that point, it’s, it doesn’t seem like it’s the same. It, how can that only be a 20 year gap from. 19 45, 19 65, how can it only be 20 years? And I wonder if there’s something in looking back and seeing that same kind of spike again and again and again, if you might set up a model for where we might be headed in the next 15 years.

There is a graph I’ve seen where it’s like technology adoption curves fr going back like a hundred years and it shows how long it took for the refrigerator to come on, how long it took for like dishwashers, te, television, radio, color, tv, telephones, mobile phones, internet, yeah, all that kind of stuff. And the, the curves and you put them all together over time.

It’s like, you know that hockey stick graph, but it’s going over decades and then it goes over 10, like just 10 years and it’s going over five years. And when you get to the point where we are today, the lines almost look like they’re going straight up, right? Like here’s, here’s the smartphone, and here it is all adopted.

It’s like, it’s almost looks like it’s going straight up because when you’re looking, time is compressing. So it takes fewer years now for a new technology to become adopted. So, yes, it’s something I would love to do an exploration on. Yeah. Cause it’s fascinating how fast these iterations are coming and like right now, ai, it’s like we’re seeing the rise of AI this past year and it’s terrifying what’s happening right now.

Yeah. Because it’s happening so fast. It’s like, please somebody pump the brakes just a little bit. It’s happening a little too fast.

Yeah. There’s a, it’s gonna be a strange couple of. Analogies I’m gonna make right now, maybe, but I think they do work in my own home. Matt and I am recording these over the internet.

Obviously we are not in the same place. Mm-hmm. And so we do this weekly and there was a recurring issue. With our recordings, and it was because of the internet. On my end, I had a high speed internet provided by a terrible company that everybody would recognize the name of. If I dropped it right now, everybody would be like, oh yeah, I know them.

But the way the cable companies here in New York City work effectively, it’s n what they’re doing is not legal. It’s they’ve divvied up the city and they’ve said, okay, you guys will provide cable over there. We’ll provide cable over here, and. I was doing research into like how do I get out from underneath this bad situation I’m in?

I’m overpaying for terrible service, and our service was getting worse and worse and worse. And I then stumbled upon my cell phone carrier was now offering home internet at a really good price, and I jumped in because I was so frustrated, but I didn’t jump in because I was like, this technology works. I jumped in because this other technology is so bad now.

Mm-hmm And lo and behold, my service is so much better and it’s a technology I never thought would yep. Actually work. I’m getting home internet via cell towers, so I’m effectively running my home internet and we stream movies, we stream TV shows, I do all this stuff on the computer. We, you know, have no problems.

And it’s all because of cell tower technology. No different than my cell phone, and that blows my mind. Yeah. The other analogy I was going to make is just recently the a European governmental body rejected Microsoft’s purchase of Activision, and their reasoning for doing so was because they feared the impact that would have.

On cloud gaming. Mm-hmm. Cloud gaming at this point is less than 1% of the total revenue of the gaming industry, but when you think about what that federal, that governmental body is saying is it doesn’t matter that now it’s less than 1%. The potential for that in industry is so big. They said this partnership, this purchase would effectively create a monopoly that would be problematic.

Not now, but in the future, because it’s going to move quickly and Microsoft has clearly been working on cloud gaming. Google put a hand in, didn’t work out for them, they backed out. Sony is likely doing something as well, but that technology, we don’t have it right now unlike, but we do have forms of it.

It’s a little squishy around the edges, but it’s growing. But to say that an aspect of a business that is less than 1% is the reason not to allow for that purchase is really kind of a dramatic. To stand in the way. Yep. That’s gonna shift fast. So that was, I think, fairly interesting conversation. That was not on topic for this video at all, but No, but I enjoyed it.

Hope our listeners did as well. And if you have any thoughts about those things, please jump into the comments and let us know. But onto today’s topic, which is supposed to be Matt’s most recent video, why are Floating Wind turbines so huge? This episode of undecided? Dropped on April 25th, 2023, and it generated a lot of interesting conversation like this comment from Flo who wrote, hi, I’m currently doing my masters in wind energy, so I’m always very happy to see people with a bigger audience talk about it, especially floating wind.

Most of the points you made were really good, but you were missing out on one point. That is actually among the biggest drivers in the size increases. The bigger the turbine, the fewer of them you need. 600 megawatt wind farm needs either 75 8 megawatt turbines or 40 15 megawatt turbines. This means that you also need fewer foundations, especially crucial for floating wind, where those are massive, super expensive, but also fewer cables, fewer time to install expensive installation vessels, and also very important, you need to maintain and operate fewer of them, which is a very large cost factor.

30% of the total project costs. Anyway, thank you for raising interest in offshore wind. Cheers from Norway. So I thought that was a That’s awesome. That was an interesting comment. Really good comment. Yeah, really good comment. And I wondered, in your research, were you seeing that as a, were you seeing that as a point of discussion in plans for some of these wind farms that are being discussed, that they’re trying to shrink the overall number?

Of turbines or are you seeing, did you see anything that was along the lines of, well, we could put in 15 of these smaller ones, or we could put in 15 of these bigger ones. They just keep wanting to put in more. We

were seeing kind of the both ways, but it wasn’t, the stuff that we found was not written in a way that was like, we’re doing fewer turbines because it’s more cost effective per turbine.

It was more of. You know, they want to achieve X number of megawatts of output, and we can do it with 10 of these turbines versus 20 of those. And so it kind of does play into exactly what that commenter wrote, but it was not expressed in a as clear, in a concise way as he put it. And we were kind of beating around that issue in the video that we put out, and we talked about the costs, but it was.

We probably should have said it the way he did, but we did come across studies and we did come across companies that what they’re planning and why that did kind of glance on that point. It’s like we talked about at the beginning, money makes the world go around. Yeah. It’s like the incentive to do this is cost.

It is cheaper to make one gigantic turbine versus two or three smaller ones on top of which the amount of power it puts out, it’s not linear. That’s one of the things we talked about in the video. Yeah. One giant turbine is putting up more than. Two smaller turbines. It’s, it’s not a linear thing. It kind of grows in a, in a, it’s not exponential, but it grows kind of in an exponentially Yeah,

similar way.

Yeah. It grows multiplicity as opposed to edit additive. Yeah. Yeah. Yep. There were also comments like this from Jim Bell, and I think that our listeners will get a sense that we are on a global tour when we visit. Jim’s comment, Jim writes, we have a pile of turbines due to be built starting at 20 kilometers off the coast of New Castle.

In Australia, our oldest coal fired power station Liddell has just closed down and it will be turned into a battery complex, good use of existing infrastructure. Thanks for the video, Jim Bell in Australia, and I would just like to say, Jim Bell and Flow from Norway and to all of our other listeners, please do drop your location into your comments.

We do love seeing where people are and when people have context specific things like Jim’s comment of where this wind turbine farm is being placed and what the use of an old installation. I love the fact that they’re taking this old coal burning station. Which is gonna be filled with all sorts of technology that can be repurposed for what they’re returning it into, which is a battery complex.

So I mean, that really seems like that’s forward thinking. That’s a win-win. And potentially for all the people who previously had worked in a coal station, potential for new jobs being formed, still on site in the same location, thereby keeping the same sort of economic. Situation. Going in a certain community is fantastic.

I’m really interested in that.

Yeah. There’s, there’s also good infrastructure that they can take advantage of. So like I was just in the UK touring a bunch of nuclear facilities and this one startup where they have their startup facility built. Part of the reason they selected it was there was a old nuclear research facility that was there.

And so all of the power, they needed an X amount of power and all that power infrastructure was already there from this old defunct right research facility. So it was like they didn’t have to pay the electric company to string all this new power equipment out, right, to give them what they needed. It was just their end dormant not being used, so they could come in and very cheaply set something up fast and get the power

up and running.

I also like this comment from profits, space engineering, who shares a little sort of, Positive side effect of these wind turbines that are massive structures. In the In the ocean. Mm-hmm. Private rights. Apparently the wind parks in the Baltic Sea have become something of a haven for marine species because the trawlers aren’t allowed anywhere near them.

Some fish species are already bouncing back in numbers due to having new de facto nature reserves. Fishing is apparently much more lucrative in the area surrounding the parks as well, which might alleviate some of the restrictions. It’s not well studied yet, but the first articles on this seemed rather uplifting.

Another positive side effect that nobody goes into this saying like, well, let’s put up some wind turbines to save marine life. But yeah, here’s such a positive side effect, and there have been every few years, I think it’s very funny, every few years there are news stories about how old defunct. New York City subway cars are stripped of everything that would be like plastic.

And the structure of the now defunct train are used in various places around the US to create artificial reefs. They drop them into the ocean and let them sink, and then they become, A safe haven for marine life and they recreate reef bio zones where animals that are driven out as a result of erosion and, and human impact on the environment come back.

And most famously, they did this outside the coastline of, uh, Maryland and it brought back all sorts of. Smaller fish and coral that grew in the old subway cars and then larger fish that come to eat. Those fish are then fish that people like to fish for. So it creates this whole positive impact. This being a side effect of the wind turbines doesn’t surprise me.

Like I would’ve assumed that like yeah, if you create a large zone where people aren’t allowed to fish, Guess where the fish are gonna go.

Yeah. Life is gonna thrive there. But what, what you just described also makes me think of like a Postapocalyptic movie. Yeah. Where it’s like, it shows the former humanity and everything’s grown over in green and life is taken over.

It’s like in the ocean. It’s gonna look like some kind of post-apocalyptic humanity used to live here, cuz it look like old subway cars that are just kinda like littering the ground or grown over by, you know,

barnacles or something like that. We have a bunch of fish and starfish that think they’re commuting.

Yeah, there was also this comment from a gentleman named Veslos Marketelsis, I think that is how you say it. As I’m looking at it right now, I’m probably slaughtering it. My apologies if I did, but he writes, it’s my first time watching your videos. I’m a floating wind consultant. I have not seen such a fantastic explanation anywhere online.

I’m impressed by the way you build your videos. Very informative indeed. So just a nice little pat on the back.

Thank you. That’s a, that’s a big pat in the back, not to just me, it’s to my team. Like we’ve been working on this for quite a while and it’s, we were planning to do a completely different video about wind, and as we were digging into it, it was like the whole.

God, these things are so huge. Yeah. And it was just like, well, maybe there’s a more interesting topic here of like, here’s why they’re so huge. And so it’s like we go in intending to do one thing and often take a hard right turn because we find something that we think is a little more interesting. So it’s, I I appreciate the, the shout out that you think it

was done well.

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a testament to following your curiosity. Yeah. Yeah. The, the power of learning starts with curiosity and unfortunately, as I, you know, I’m sitting here right now with a 17 year old son who is, In the final days of high school and getting ready to go to go to college for a long time, trying to explain to him college doesn’t feel like high school because, oh no.

In college, you actually get to pursue what you’re interested in, and high school does such a good job of driving curiosity out of students. Not all students are gonna come out of high school with the kind of no symptoms I’m describing, but there are those who. Are naturally curious. They have an intellectual capacity for much more than they appear to demonstrate, but the schools aren’t built to allow for natural curiosity to drive the learning they’re built around.

You need to jump this high, and when you can jump that high, you need to jump a little higher next year. As opposed to, yeah, go find what you think is interesting and really learn the math and science and all the stuff around it as a result of your curiosity. So yeah, seeing you put that kind of learning into action is a great demonstration of, of what Curiosity can do.

Finally, I wanted to share this comment from Sean Place, who writes the amount of wind turbine information in this video has left my head spinning. I’m absolutely blown away by how large these turbines are. Getting Well done, Sean. Yes.

Golf clap. Slow golf Clap on that one. Well

done. Yes, well done. Well done.

So listeners, what do you think about all of this? Our conversation around what drove the wind turbines conversation about? How Matt took a right turn to something that seemed more interesting than his original topic, and also the conversation we had prior to talking about the wind turbines. Jump into the comments.

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