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When announcing the construction of the permanent facility for what is now NREL, on May 3, 1978, which he had declared Sun Day, then President Jimmy Carter, who is the same age as Palmer Carlin, said: “We know that most of the technology for using the Sun’s power already exists. And in my youth, as in many of yours, there were millions of windmills around the rural areas of our country. Hundreds of small damsites provided electric power. Some 10,000 years ago, in your area, Indians were using solar principles to heat dwellings at Mesa Verde and elsewhere. The historically brief availability of low-cost energy from fossil fuels drove much of that early solar technology into temporary disuse, but now we are rebuilding on those earlier techniques.” (“Golden, Colorado, [Jimmy Carter] “Remarks at the Solar Energy Research Institute on South Table Mountain. May 3, 1978“)
https://ia700802.us.archive.org/7/items/4732133.1978.001.umich.edu/4732133.1978.001.umich.edu.pdf

The Nuclear Industry and its cheerleaders think that 91 year old Palmer Carlin should be long dead. This is not just because his work shows that nuclear energy is unneeded and uneconomical. But, they want to continue to put long-lived radionuclides into the environment, pretending even that it’s good for you, which means increasing numbers of people with life-shortening cancers. Radiologists also have a conflict of interest. They make money off of cancer. The currently supported 1 mSv exposure of radiation, if it did not accumulate in the environment, as it does, would lead to a 1% average excess life-shortening cancers according to US government funded BEIR. This life-shortening is around 13 to 14 years, they say, meaning for the “average” person a painful death near retirement age. Those who were meant to live into their 100s may still live to their 90s. Life-shortening cancers can occur at almost any age. The longest lived person was 122 years. In a closed environment – which ultimately the earth is – the 1 mSv per year quickly accounts for current high cancer rates. Radionuclides have been building in the environment for over 70 years, plus exposure is cumulative.

Palmer Carlin may well be a volunteer too, as the NREL is grossly underfunded compared to what the US government throws to the nuclear industry, and compared to what President Jimmy Carter wanted when it was founded during his presidency. But, Carter’s goal was for 20% of America’s energy to come from solar by the year 2000, i.e. 15 years ago. He set this goal over 35 years ago. That’s how far behind America’s fallen, with the help of the corporate lackeys, starting with Reagan, who removed the solar panels from the White House, almost as soon as Carter had put them in place. Currently solar’s contribution to electricity is at less than 1%. Wind is 4.4%. http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3 A descendant of Carter’s Solar Project is in Spain and has “exceeded projected expectations“. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solar_Project https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Tres_Power_Tower

As we saw in yesterday’s post, Farrington Daniels left the Manhattan project and was pushing for solar in the 1950s and 60s, meaning that even Carter was not avant garde.

NREL’s 91-Year-Old Palmer Carlin—a Wind Energy Pioneer July 2, 2015
NREL Senior Engineer Palmer Carlin at the National Wind Technology Center, flanked by some of the massive turbines he says early wind technology pioneers only dreamed of seeing. Photo by Dennis Schroeder NREL
NREL Senior Engineer Palmer Carlin at the National Wind Technology Center, flanked by some of the massive turbines he says early wind technology pioneers only dreamed of seeing. Photo by Dennis Schroeder-NREL

Three afternoons a week, 91-year-old Palmer Carlin comes into the Energy Department’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and begins having fun. That’s where the senior engineer fields questions from the public, often from would-be inventors convinced they have the next big renewable energy breakthrough.

“Across the U.S., there are inventors, students, small businesses, and entrepreneurs with wind-related questions who continuously shower emails and voicemails on all of us here at the wind site,” said Carlin, a dapper man with a sweep of silver hair at his jacket collar.

Carlin said he imagines that the typical inventor’s scenario begins when a retired machinist goes out to a garage workshop at the suggestion of an exasperated spouse. “Then the guy invents some sort of wind machine and calls me up,” he said with a laugh.

He recalled being contacted by a person who was convinced he had a major discovery. After discussing the details of the invention with the modern-day Da Vinci, Carlin paused, and then asked the man if the invention really ran on wind energy. No, the man said. Palmer realized the concept was a perpetual-motion machine. “I said, ‘Well, I only talk about things that need wind.'”

This is something he has been doing since the early 1990s, and these exchanges work well for him, as he catalogues each call and files the record. “Having made some technical contributions at the NWTC in the past, I am pleased that a niche has developed for me in which my task is responding to these inquiries that my fellow workers forward to me,” he said.

Now, the recent release of the Energy Department’s Wind Vision Report has added an important tool in his arsenal. “This will become an excellent information source for me as well as my callers,” he said.
Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) Wind Systems Branch staff, before the lab was renamed as NREL. From left, Palmer Carlin, Bob Thresher, Sue Hock, Darrell Dodge, and Peter Tu, at the drawing board.  Photo by Warren Gretz
Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) Wind Systems Branch staff, before the lab was renamed as NREL. From left, Palmer Carlin, Bob Thresher, Sue Hock, Darrell Dodge, and Peter Tu, at the drawing board. Photo by Warren Gretz

Earlier Times and Earlier Tries

The Energy Department report is a far cry from the early days of modern wind energy research, when things were, well, up in the air. Carlin built an early prototype turbine while at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder as an electrical engineering professor—a gizmo that had magnets around the outside. “It never worked very well,” Carlin said simply. Despite his own visions, he never dreamed he would see the giant megawatt-scale turbines towering 90 meters or more—or the widespread acceptance that is chronicled in the Wind Vision Report.

Back in the fall of 1977, he began a three-semester leave from his professorship to help in the creation of what was the Wind Energy Test Site in the buffer zone adjacent to the Rocky Flats Atomic Energy Installation. He remembers that a couple of trailers were the only things on the site, and he would travel with other early pioneers to work with developers of small 10- and 20-kilowatt machines. But Carlin was not merely an observer.

Eventually, the lure of NREL (then known as the Solar Energy Research Institute, or SERI) proved too strong, and he retired from CU and joined SERI in 1986. As the organization pushed for wind’s future, Carlin’s role was perhaps a bit more complex than he lets on. Colleagues heap praise on him. “We worked together in the 1970s to set up the small wind systems research efforts here at what was then the Rocky Flats Small Wind Systems Test Center,” NREL Research Fellow Bob Thresher said.

Thresher also noted that Carlin consulted with the staff on electrical systems analysis. “He authored some of the seminal analysis papers on variable speed technology and collaborated with many small wind companies of that era on the development of variable speed electrical topologies.”
NREL Senior Engineer Palmer Carlin, left, is a staff favorite at the National Wind Technology Center. He is often greeted by fellow researchers such as Kevin Harrison, who saw him outside and came up to say hello. Photo by Dennis Schroeder-NREL
NREL Senior Engineer Palmer Carlin, left, is a staff favorite at the National Wind Technology Center. He is often greeted by fellow researchers such as Kevin Harrison, who saw him outside and came up to say hello. Photo by Dennis Schroeder-NREL

Different Times on Campus

Times were different when Carlin was younger, and the nation was in the middle of World War II. After growing up in the 1920s on a prairie farm in Wiley, Colorado, where he tinkered with spare engine parts, he arrived on the CU Boulder campus in 1942 as part of the second class ever of CU’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. The group often started the day performing “calijumpic” exercises at dawn before getting cleaned up and dressed in uniform for class. Gas and food were rationed; travel was a luxury because nobody had a car. Carlin’s student days weren’t focused on wind research, though he was interested in electrical engineering—but it was the overall campus experience that had the most impact.

“It was educational for me, meeting new people from all over,” he said. After all, his high school graduation class had only 19 members, including several who were later killed in service. When he graduated with his electrical engineering degree in 1945, the war was ending—but he still had about 18 months of service. He was selected to go to the Navy Yards in New York City. “There I was at Times Square—I’d come from a small town to New York, by way of Boulder.”

Eventually, Carlin returned to CU to pursue a master’s degree and Ph.D.—but he was fueled by a new interest in physics. He began teaching physics to undergrads. “The atom bomb had happened, so all at once, it was interesting to go into particle physics,” he said. And as he pursued his doctoral degree in 1955, he was involved in several of the major historic scientific events of the day.

One was a form of research that required wire. Lots and lots of wire. Carlin was part of a project to monitor seismic activity, which involved setting up three monitors in Boulder, two miles apart, unspooling wire along fence lines and even to a barn. The goal was to detect motion from distant earthquakes or atomic tests. The project successfully noted at least one such U.S. test. Another time, on the evening of October 4, 1957, he heard that the Russians had launched a satellite, so he and his colleagues hurriedly went to test a long-range radar system they were studying. “Sputnik happened to be going over, and we could basically look out into space, and the radar could see it,” he said—and noted it was one of the very first sightings that happened “just by accident.”

Not everything happened by accident, of course. Carlin’s work with the NREL low-speed, direct-coupled wind turbine resulted in several reports and papers, including “Some Analysis of Energy Production from the NWTC Variable Speed Test Bed,” which was awarded Best Conference Paper at the 1997 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Wind Energy Symposium.

Through the years, wind energy has also remained a passion. “It’s supposed to be the ‘in’ thing, and it’s fun in itself,” he said. When asked how long he’ll keep coming to work from his Boulder home, Carlin paused, and then said: “I’m having too good a time out here. I’m very pleased I worked at NREL. Everyone here is working because they are doing something they are proud of.

“Whenever I hear people talking about global warming, I feel proud. We’re trying to keep the planet’s temperature down. Wind is one way to do that,” he said.

Learn more about wind research at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). http://www.nrel.gov/nwtc/
— Ernie Tucker
http://www.nrel.gov/news/features/2015/18520 (Emphasis our own).

Funding of this institute pales in comparison to the billions per year thrown at the nuclear industry. http://www.nrel.gov/about/funding-history.html Jimmy Carter wanted $1 billion in solar research and incentives. Today that would be $2.9 billion. If Carter had stayed in, and if Congress had been cooperative, we wouldn’t even be speaking of nuclear energy anyplace in the world today. And, we shouldn’t be speaking of anything other than where and how to store the nuclear waste as safely as possible. Note that Palmer Carlin is a physicist but he hasn’t made his living in the nuclear industry. It’s because he’s a smart man. That was before people cheated on their Navy exams. For around a decade or more, people were cheating on the nuclear Navy exams, for those who missed it. These nuclear Navy people are the people who go to work for the nuclear industry.

About
Palmer Carlin
Senior Electrical Engineer, National Wind Technology Center
Ph.D., Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder
M.S., Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder
B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder
Phone: 303-384-6945

Palmer joined NREL in 1986. In the fall of 1977, he took a year and half leave of absence from his professorship in the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Colorado to assist in the creation of what has become the Wind Energy Test Site in the buffer zone adjacent to the Rocky Flats Atomic Energy Installation. During the next decade he kept in touch through occasional consulting at the Test Site. In 1986, he took early retirement from the University and was hired as a full-time employee at the Test Site. Early duties included engineering tests of local turbines at the wind site as well as membership of a traveling Design Review team that oversaw wind turbine subcontractors. Later responsibilities included about 5 years as Associate Technical Editor for Wind Energy Conversion in the Journal of Solar Energy Engineering. Another later duty was that of Operating Agent for Annex 13 of the International Energy Association Executive Committee for the Cooperation in the Development of Large-Scale Wind Systems. Following this, his work with the NREL low-speed, direct-coupled wind turbine resulted in several reports and papers, including Analytic Expressions for Maximum Wind Turbine Average Power in Rayleigh Wind Regime, (Carlin, 1997 AIAA Proceedings) and Some Analysis of Energy Production from the NWTC Variable Speed Test Bed, (Carlin and Fingersh, 1999 AIAA Proceedings). The former was awarded Best Conference Paper at the annual 1997 ASME Wind Energy Symposium. He has recently worked with the Wind Powering America project at state workshops and with Alan Laxson and Eduard Muljadi on a soon-to-be-published history of Variable-Speed Operation of Wind Turbines.
http://www.nrel.gov/wind/research_staff_bios.html

If you don’t want to die at or before retirement due to life-shortening cancer, please remember to comment on or before Sept. 8th.
NRC-2015-0057 Linear No-Threshold Model and Standards for Protection Against Radiation 09/08/2015
http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NRC-2015-0057

If you don’t think they should be dumping radionuclides into the air and water or into the earth, and especially when it is based on CONCENTRATIONS and not emissions remember to comment here by September 1st.
NRC-2014-0044Agency: Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Reactor Effluents 09/01/2015 http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NRC-2014-0044