Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tear Down These Windmills, Mr Huhne

Chris Huhne, the Climate Change & Energy Secretary, has vowed to make Britain the "wind capital" of Europe - and not just during the week of the Liberal Democrat conference.

Me? I'd tear down every single wind turbine that doesn't produce power for more than 50% of the time. That'd be very single one then, because most turbines are only operative for around 25% of the time.

They are also a blot on the landscape of many areas of beautiful countryside. If they produced huge amounts of power I could see an argument for retaining existing windfarms and building new ones. But they don't.

In today's Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan has written a feature exposing the way money grows on wind farms, through the enormous subsidies paid to the companies who build them. And for what?

Both Germany and Denmark are moving away from wind power because they have not been able to get the amount of power from them they had thought. And yet we continue to move in the opposite direction.

I am all in favour of renewable energy. I'd far rather get our energy from clean sources in preference to carbon belching power stations. But wind power has been proved not to work, so why do we persist with the fallacy that it is the answer to our problems? If we are going to invest money in renewables I'd far rather spend it on researching how we can properly harness wave power around our coastlines.

Andrew Gilligan suggests that it is because wind turbines are visible examples of green energy and the very sight of them makes politicians feel that they are "doing something". He may well have a point.

The cleanest form of power in terms of carbon emissions is undoubtedly nuclear power.

I predict that within a very short time, even a committed environmentalist Liberal like Chris Huhne will undergo a damascene conversion to the benefits of nuclear power.

And perhaps then we can stop this spread of unspeakable ugliness across our countryside and start dismantling this infestation of wind turbines.


Dick the Prick said...

Think Germany have just embarked on the largest offshore windfarm in Europe (ours opened other day in your neck of the woods).

I genuinely don't know - they don't hurt do they and spoiling views argument seems a bit bollox considering high rise flats.

Jock Coats said...

Whilst I am also in favour of nuclear, just a question for you - something I think I vaguely heard a while back about its "carbon footprint".. Sure, in operation they are low to non-existent in carbon emissions, but I'm sure I was led to believe that there is so much concrete used in their construction that it offsets a whole lifecycle of clean energy. So, if they could use that new silicon based concrete stuff it would be double-plus good

Curmudgeon said...

Hear, hear, total waste of money. Get those nuclear plants built ASAP!

Dick the Prick - we don't have many blocks of high rise flats in AONBs.

Storm Basiat said...

Totally agree with you. We have 3 near my house and they are very rarely producing electricity since they cant run when it's too windy and when there is not enough wind.

I'm not sure funding these wind farms are a good idea. I think the money should be invested in research to find good quality friendly alternative to nuclear and coal power.

I like the Solar Power idea however I'm not sure how big or many panels you need to power your house. It's also pretty expensive to have these installed so I think the Government should subsidise it if they really want us to have ecofriendly power.


Sean Haffey said...

Well I think they look elegant.

Of course they work all the time. But while they do work, they cut down on the pollution that would come from a gas or coal fired station.

Some nuclear power is inevitable. But some of the radioactive waste products last for many tens of thousands of years before they are no longer harmful, an issue the nuclear proponents try to avoid discussing.

Wave power would be good. I'm assuming it's really difficult or someone would have started doing it on a large scale before now. In other words, for the moment it's blue sky thinking.

Jimmy said...

"Andrew Gilligan suggests that it is because wind turbines are visible examples of green energy and the very sight of them makes politicians feel that they are "doing something"."

And the PM will find this unattractive?

Richard Manns said...

@ Jock Coats

I'm sure that concrete requires some carbon output, but it will be nothing like the equivalent power output of 50 years of uranium.

Unlike Iain Dale, I rather like the design of windfarms, but if they're not doing what they're supposed to, they go.

I personally see fission as a bridging solution before renewable and/or fusion capacity can replace it; we won't be running out of deuterium any time soon.

Twig said...

David Cameron is an expert on the economics of wind turbines, he installed at his own home.

Scary Biscuits said...

Let's hope Huhne doesn't take too long on the road to Damascus. The cold snap at the beginning of this year (when there was also no wind) saw our electricity infrastructure creaking and customers cut off. This is a situation that will only get worse as older power stations will have increasing down time and no new ones come on line thanks to Labour's dithering. This year it was only some factories cut off but modern data centres now power much of our economy (including this blog page) and they consume enormous amounts of electricity. If Huhne doesn't pull his finger out, he'll be damaging Britain's competitiveness and hence our ability to pay the costs of going green.

MikeyP said...

The only people that windfarms are good for are the ones who make windmills!

engliscdragon said...

Windpower only works small scale. The small windpower sails are able to move in even small breezes. They tend to be small (small enough to go in your back yard or on your chimney)and produce enough electricity to benefit a household.

So maybe we should think small, 50 million homes with small windpower production on their houses would benefit the people (save money) and the country.

Many look like chimneys now (and whilst they are being fitted maybe we can recycle the millions fo Aerials still stuck up on peoples homes).

Glyn H said...

Whilst going back to basics perhaps we could pull the plug on another huge fallacy the green lobby (formerly aka CND) have foisted on us. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere FOLLOW temp rises; ergo the whole AGW argument is falacious.

Robert said...

Why build nuclear when we could use gas.

Global warming is a natural statistical variation in our climate. Since 1998 temperatures have fallen. We should worry about global cooling. It will have a much more devastating effect on the world than warming. Enjoy the heat while you have it.

Phil said...

Let's face it, unless you're a rabid, 'property-is-theft' leftist, who believes that AGW is a way of getting more money from the rich (paradoxically, AGW means more money going TO the rich) to spread amongst the poor (as if!), wind turbines are the biggest con-trick on the public since the South Sea Bubble.

Wind turbines are useless for demand-centred electricity provision. If they were cost-effective, they might be useful for creating hydrogen (which can be stored) when they're running, but as a national grid feed, they are useless.

The Danes and the Germans have realised that they make the national grid unstable and it is very difficult to manage their contribution to the power balance required.

In the final analysis - or even, at the end of the day - wind turbines are not a solution. They are a blight. And when their 20 year time frame is expired, I doubt anyone will want to replace those that have expired. Fortunately, I shall not be here to see that, but as my daughter - and her children - will still be paying off Brown's mega-debt to the country, she will not, also, be able to afford the cost of wind turbines as well.

Lord Blagger said...

Why tear them down. Just remove the subsidy and let them compete on equal terms

richard.blogger said...

I think I have to agree with you but with a caveat, as Dick the Prick points out, offshore is a totally different case to onshore. Offshore is a huge investment, but the turbines would meet your criteria.

With reference to what Jock Coats says... a while back I grumbled to a Lib Dem candidate about the rooms of computers that turn up in schools and commented as an IT expert I would have preferred a properly trained IT teacher instead. He commented that it always makes a good picture in a local newspaper for a local politicians to be surrounded by all the computers "he had" got for the school. A picture with the new IT teacher would not be so impressive.

Two years ago I was walking on the South Downs and came across a pylon. I asked what it was for and was told it was to measure the wind because Glynborne wanted to build a wind turbine there and be a "carbon neutral" festival. It seems to me that what would have been better is for the festival to be in central London so that people would not have to use their polluting cars to get to the place, and then the turbine would not be needed. But as usual, sensible ideas are always dismissed by the fanatics.

Steve Tierney said...

Do a little research. The "they don't hurt, do they?" argument is incredibly weak because actually they DO hurt, in many ways.

But primarily they hurt because (a) they don't cut CO2 at all and (b) they don't produce enough energy to warrant their building. They're a complete red herring which wouldn't exist at all if you and I weren't paying subsidies for them within our "normal" energy bills.

As for "high rise flats" - I would put this to you: Try getting planning permission for some lovely high rise flats in the middle of a stretch of beautiful, untouched countryside. Wind turbines can be the size of the Statue of Liberty - try getting planning permission for six buildings that size in the middle of rolling arable farmland. See what happens.

Jabba the Cat said...

We should have a national rip the wind turbine down day.

Chris Nicolson said...

As usual when talking about such subjects you're full of mis-information and scare talk Iain.

You mention the capacity factor of wind turbines without quoting the comparative factor for the alternatives. Nuclear/coal/gas plants theoretically should be able to achieve 90% or above but in practice, due to maintenance and breakdown the figure can be much lower. Yes, wind-farms have a much lower capacity factor but this doesn't mean they are useless to us.

Coal will run out. Oil and gas will run out. But before they do they'll get more and more expensive. Currently wind costs are estimated at $60/MWh with coal at $74-88/MWh and gas $313-346/MWh. This is when wind technology is still new and expensive. As time goes on, the technology will become more efficient and cheaper just as it has for carbon burning power generation.

There is no reason not to invest in diversifying our power generation capabilities instead of chucking all our eggs into one basket of reliance on foreign sources of energy.

A said...

Nonsense Iain. The Telegraph article was doing the usual Telegraph thing of beating the Lib Dems for whatever agenda the paper wants to follow. Nuclea power has received massive public subsidy, far greater than wind, and will continue to do so until the current nuclear power stations are fully decommissioned. Also bear in mind that Sellafield operated at less than 15% load capacity for nearly nine months without the grid noticing too much. Nuclear power stations are not zero carbon, not even carbon neutral because in construction and decomissioning you release more CO2 than you would if generating power through coal. You also have a carbon footprint in mining, processing and transporting uranium. From Russia.

Yes I don't want to see the countryside full of wind farms but it seems there are so many areas here in the south-east that could use them. Wind is not the answer but it is very much part of the mix.

Simon Gardner said...

Completely disagree with you about the appearance of wind turbines. They are gorgeous and they really cheer me up whenever I see them, be it in the Lake District or as yesterday in North Yorkshire. Delightful. They ADD to the beauty of places.

And I’m not very impressed by some who have retired to the countryside whinging about a local contribution to the common weal by way of wind farms. Or indeed by Bernard Ingham.

I hear what you say about them not making an energy contribution but I'm completely unconvinced.

Oh and I've always been pro nuke. Nice 'n' clean and Lib Dem policy on civil nuclear power has always been barking for decades. I think you are baying at the moon if you reckon that's going to change.

Hythlodaeus said...

engliscdragon, there are actually a large number of accepted, peer-reviewed studies into the efficiency of wind turbines. Your assertion that small turbines are more efficient is false, mostly due to the fact that small windmills connect to small turbines which put out little energy.

Household windmills such as those erected by David Cameron are next to useless.

The large turbines, on the other hand, are one of the most efficient power sources we have at present. In time, they'll be overtaken by tidal and ocean methods and they are behind hydroelectric, but there is 50% rate of energy conversion compared to rates of 2-20% in coal and gas fired plants where massive amounts of energy are lost as heat.

Daedalus said...

I have dealt with energy management since 1993 as part of my job and have investigated the use of wind turbines. I can only say that in the main they are a vanity project. There is no way most of them will ever produce the amount of power they are supposed to. The only way they will ever make any money is due to the subsidies. I would have a moratorium on the building of anymore until a thorough review has been made, possibly by Professor Ian Fells or similar. The climate change lobby need to be taken down a peg or three, I personally do not believe in it one little bit, but I DO believe in saving energy, why pay for energy that you don't need to use. If anyone reading this blog uses megawatts of electricity then in their company they should be looking at PowerPerfector technology I installed two units and saved over 10%. If every company did this you might not need so many power stations anyway. For the moment nuclear fission is the way to go, just a pity this country has lost the lead due to some major mistakes in power policy over the years. We really need to push fusion as fast as we can. it never ceases to amaze me that Shell, BP etc don't put more money into this, they are energy companies not oil companies despite what senior management think.


Simon Gardner said...

Hythlodaeus said...
“Household windmills such as those erected by David Cameron are next to useless.”

As far as I recall, someone at B&Q did their economic sums on the small home wind turbines (many of which turned out to make a running net loss for the home owner as the control gear used more energy than they generated) a few years ago and the consequence was B&Q withdrew them all. AFAIR Cameron’s home turbine was vapourware.

Catosays said...

I'd like to see the TRUE cost of erecting an offshore turbine.

King Athelstan said...

That damascene moment needs to come very soon, those power stations needed to have been built years ago, questions should be asked of Lepers "cerebral" leadership candidate, Ed " I've got a haircut no barber would admit to, and I always speak wierdly out of the side f my mouth and sound like someones shoved a banana up both sides of my bugle" Milliband.

jbw said...

Chatting to friend not so long ago, he said his firm had to build a new factory which had all the right green credentials. This included a wind turbine. It turned out that it was so expensive to run, that it has been dismantled.

It appears that the blades have to be kept turning when there is no wind, to keep the blades balanced or some such, and it was costing a fortune in electricity to do so.

As to CO2 - I found this an interesting post:

Glyn Davies said...

Well said Ian - and Andrew Gilligan. Perhaps my comment should be attributed to the President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, rather than as an honorable ally of Chris Hulne! There are plans to cover large tracts of my constiruency, Montgomeryshire with wind farms.

cynicalHighlander said...

Wind certainly has problems!

Wind's latest problem: it . . . makes power too cheap

richard.blogger said...

@Chris Nicolson said...

"Yes, wind-farms have a much lower capacity factor but this doesn't mean they are useless to us."

No, as part of the mix, but the other forms of power generation can be controlled much easier. At half time during a world cup match it will be a coal/gas/nuclear power station that provides the extra electricity to power all the kettles being switched on.

"Coal will run out. Oil and gas will run out."

Nuclear? You've forgot the glowing stuff. Yes nuclear will run out too, but in a **very** long time.

"Currently wind costs are estimated at $60/MWh with coal at $74-88/MWh and gas $313-346/MWh."

Huh? You are saying gas is 5 times more expensive than wind? That's not right.

"This is when wind technology is still new and expensive."

California have had wind farms for several decades now. So long that their wind farms have now got to the end of their operation lifetime and are being replaced with new turbines. Wind power is NOT new technology.

"There is no reason not to invest in diversifying our power generation capabilities instead of chucking all our eggs into one basket of reliance on foreign sources of energy."

This I agree. We need power generation to be treated strategically. The last Tory government did not understand the strategic importance of power generation and treated it like a business like any other business. That started the decline into the mess we are in now. Blair/Brown just continued with the Major energy policy, they even sold off British Energy proving that they had no strategic vision either. The lights will go out in 5 or 10 years time, and it will not be because we've not got enough wind turbines.

Dick the Prick said...

@Steve Tierney - the 'they don't hurt' argument was in the context of opportunity cost - they can be dismantled very quickly and the compo to 'high rise flats' was simply aesthetic in that they make me want to puke (and that's before contemplating the vermin like existence of the unfortunate souls who inhabit the vertical rat cages).

I, personally, have yet to be convinced that AGW exists but, unfortunately, the ecoloons have got a good few years head start. I know it's not Tory policy but i'd love to open up coal mines again (living in Yorkshire, it would be brilliant at a time like this and seeing as we need to produce 4 million jobs to stay in the same position, then we'd be quids in).

I'm not against nuclear in principle at all - just in practice; all calculations are back of a fag packet (as can be seen from BP at the moment where there is active discussion to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a cheaper option).

We just refused a wind turbine on someone's back field as it would have scared the horses next door - perfectly reasonable. Apols if it seemed as though I was being flippant but, you know, there's only so much you can give a shit about and wind farms are defo not on the list.

cynicalHighlander said...

Missed this Iain

"The cleanest form of power in terms of carbon emissions is undoubtedly nuclear power."

It is the most expensive and poluting form of energy there is, just because you don't see the destruction in the mining of uranium on your doorstep have a look at the mines around the World.

This is from the Oxford Research Group.

Cynic said...

Are any former Labour Ministers by chance on the Boards of relevant companies?

niconoclast said...

Liberals are like don Kyoto tilting at windmills.

Simon Harley said...

A few years ago, when I looked out of my house I had an unobstructed view of the mountains of the Lake District, with St. Bees Head off in the distance, and a panorama of Scotland across the Solway Firth. Now there are four windfarms in the way, including an off-shore one. Anyone who thinks windfarms are beautiful must live in a beauty-challenged environment.

Simon Gardner said...

@ Dick the Prick said...
“We just refused a wind turbine on someone's back field as it would have scared the horses next door”

Hahahahaha. How completely moronic.

That’s so not going to survive appeal.

AndrewSouthLondon said...

I saw the relative cost figures of generating a unit of electricity recently: coal-fired 4 cents per unit, wind 12 cents per unit, solar 21 cents per unit.

Now I have no idea if this is right but perhaps someone will provide the only important figures we don't hear from Huhne.

We will run out of everything eventually, life, in particular, so what? Thats no reason to jump to so called "renewables". They sounds so friendly and positive, but they are not up to the job of sustaining modern economic life.

Politicians are in the grip of a mass-delusion, about carbon, warming, energy and now "bio-diversity". The planet is doing fine, it always adapts, we do not need saving, other than from delusional politicians.

Its like the UN: can't deal with any real problems, so latch on to any they can pretend to be dealing with.

Huhne is a dangerous deluded fanatic. Whose idea was it to put hiim in charge of Energy policy? Oh...

John said...

The only wind turbines which should be allowed are those on private property, feeding power to that property and back to the grip by way of a feed in tariff, but only if they are funded by the property owner without subsidy.

In Germany, FITs at parity with the cost of supplied electricity to the landowner, have seen many small turbines on farms in areas with high wind capacity, without any Government grants or subsidies in the price. Beyond that we do not need to go.

In terms of national energy security, we do need a new fleet of nuclear power stations to cover 40-50% of our base load. There is no reason these cannot be built by the private sector without subsidy, provided they have access to the grip by letting them develop sites at existing power stations, both nuclear and non-nuclear.

Don't forget, a nuclear "power station" need not be huge. A "nuclear submarine" is a nuclear power station in a tube 100m long and 30m round which does a lot more than generate electricity!

Many smaller such stations could be built quickly and, relatively cheaply if the grid was opened up to the market.

Smelly said...

Your scientific illiteracy is depressing. Onshore wind turbines are usually generating power for 80-85% of the time. You may be refering to the average capacity factor of a wind turbine being about 25-30%, but to say that this isn't good enough is misunderstanding how wind power works.

There are large variations in wind speeds in a particular area. In the times when wind speeds are 15-25 m/s (the ideal wind speed) the turbines need to be able to get the most power possible out of the wind. 100% capacity factor would require the wind to be those conditions all year round.

Say you made a super-high-tolerance turbine, which could generate a load of electricty from 50 m/s winds, well it's capacity factor would be around 5%, despite the fact that it would probably produce more electricity than current turbines, purely because it's maximum generating capacity would be so much higher.

As for them being ugly... I think they look quite elegant. But whatever, back in the 19th century I bet you would have thought trains were an unwelcome blight on the landscape too.

Nick Drew said...

The very appropriate (and entirely Conservative) coalition policy on nukes - "no public subsidy" - rules them out

no nuke has been built without public subsidy anywhere in the world, ever: and they are only going to get more expensive as the true costs of decommissioning are forced upon them - which I think we can be fairly sure Huhne will do

manicbeancounter said...

Well said Iain. When the wind is not blowing, you need conventional power stations as backup. So wind power not only needs the huge capital cost, but coal/gas/oil/diesel generators to backup. Wind power needs new roads to be built (to install) and power cables to transmit from remote areas.
Also feature of the extreme cold of last winter was no wind.The peak demand in most years is when wind is out of the equation - for hundreds of miles.

longrun2 said...

What finally put me off windmills was when the US producers of windpower asked for an *increase* in subsidy when the price of oil (and the power from oil-fired generators) went up. The only economic justification would be if the power consumed in producing the windmill (converting AlO2 to aluminium and forging the blades are very very energy-intensive) exceeded the (?PV of the) power output.
In the long term solar panels are the answer, but currently they cannot compete with nuclear power stations or even fossil-fuel electricity generators.
Denmark is the leading producer of wind turbines but the country had a "brown-out" when the power cable from Sweden failed so that it could not rely on support from Sweden's nuclear power plants.
Chris Nicolson is indulging in suggestio falsi when he merges the capacity utilisation factor for nuclear with those for coal, oil and gas. When I was covering the sector, nuclear's utilisation factor was 98%.
There is a case for building a few wind farms as this is the best means to discover how to improve them until they match fossil-fuel generators in economic terms. However this does not justify throwing away billions of pounds on copying designs that we already know are inefficient and require the National Grid to keep its most efficient gas-fired stations spinning on stand-by so that they can cut in when the wind drops or rises to levels with which the windfarms cannot cope

Alex said...

You really are a twit some times Mr Dale. No wind farm was ever supposed to run at 100% of capacity because the wind doesn't blow at 100% of capacity all the time. Fortunately, far wiser minds than you have realised that wind energy is free, and if it arises at times that we don't need it, it can be stored (mostly by pumping water uphill). When the wind isn't blowing the stored energy can be used to generate power from hydro.

And onshore power is not expensive. In Germany where most of their gas is pumped thousands of miles from Siberia, the cost of wind generation is about the same as the cost of gas powered generation at this year's gas price, and considerably cheaper than it will be to generate electricity at future gas prices.

The Danes and the Germans are not "moving away" from wind power, they are just building less because they have filled up most of the windy sites that they have.

engliscdragon said...

The micro wind turbines that B&Q withdrew were not as efficient as they claimed. They did however from the study on average produce enough energy to light your home.

So seeing as we can save the Earth by turning of our lights, then having them powered by wind seems to also do the trick.

The costs was under £2000 as a one of purchase. If mass sold to 50 million homes it would be substantially less. Create a lot of jobs, save people some money eventually (when you buy a house or move it's already there running for you).

So small turbines may not be perfect or a complete solution. But they would make one hell of a massive impact.

I would prefer the government paid for that, than throw £250 billion (that we don't have)into carbon credits - money well spent I am sure.

Village Bookworm said...

The same goes for offshore, even more so given the huge costs of building anmd acessing them. Tragically, Cheryl Gillan has just enthusiastically welcomed the deal to build a massive new windfarm off Llandudno, scarring the most beautiful seafront in the UK. Never mind the fact that the Rhyl Flats farm nearby, is rarely working at any meaningful capacity.

As any sailor will tell you, a third of the time there is no wind and a third of the time there is too much; most of the remaining third is usually spent mending something that you broke trying to sail when it was too windy.

These things are like farming in the late eighties and nineties, the subsidies for putting them up are so huge, the builders don't need to care whether they run or not.

Roger Thornhill said...

"Both Germany and Denmark are moving away from wind power because they have not been able to get the amount of power from them they had thought. And yet we continue to move in the opposite direction."

And many manufacturers of windmills are based in those countries.

If the UK does not adopt them, what will they do for a "living"?*

* this is sarcastic, btw.

Simon Gardner said...

NYT - “Europe’s windpower rivals gas”

chris said...

Both Germany and Denamrk are moving away from Windpower? that sounds like rubbish in Fact Both Germany and Denmark installed more three to four times as much wind generating capacity last year as they did the year before, and are on Target to install even more this year. As for the Nuclear power argument, it is so much wishful thinking. The Two factories capable of building containment vessels worldwide are apparently booked solid for the next 15 years, with no spare capacity to fit in UK reactors in that period. (The UK factory capable of turning out these was shut down in the 80's during the last major industrial contraction. Staff capable of working the equipment are either dead, retired or long moved on to other careers) The idea that Wind-power has been proved not to work shows a risible lack of research into the matter.

June said...

Wind-farms are an eyesore, a blot on the landscape (and seascape) causing noise-pollution and eye-pollution. If ‘saving the planet’ means ruining the part that we live in, I’d rather we didn’t bother; especially as anything we in Britain do is as nothing when compared to China’s and India’s plans for further expansion.

If we must do something, using less power, combined with solar and water-power, and nuclear power, is the answer. Not to mention cutting the birthrate - there are too many people on this planet! When are governments going to wake up to that fact and do something about that?