The Importance Of Hearing Opposing Opinions

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Disappointingly, nobody has so far dared venture an opposing point of view in the comments section of this blog, despite open invitations to all those whose pro-wind policies and propaganda I have criticised. The best dialogue has thus far all come from fellow Wind Warriors!

Hence it’s left for me to debate myself, to try and come up with my own antitheses to the points made on this blog. This requires a degree of empathy: genuinely trying to step inside the shoes of those who might have the opposite opinion, attempting to see the world through their eyes, and trying to consider how my plain speaking makes you readers feel. It really does matter how we make people feel – I know, because this whole blog is all about how wind turbines make ME feel, and I myself took issue with the emotionless man from Friends Of The Earth at the Gorpley planning meeting who seemed too technocratic in his approach, too dismissive of human emotion, too stuck on a list of numbers on a piece of paper, and not passionate enough about the magic of the wild, unspoilt moors.

The trick, of course, is to have head and heart in lockstep. As long as emotions are tightly attached to facts and science, we are functioning exactly the way we were intended. Amygdala hijacks (if you’ve forgotten, they’re sudden, intense rushes of negative emotion, aka temper tantrums, freakouts, meltdowns etc etc) are perfectly explicable and in keeping with the laws of nature. Annoy your cat if you don’t believe me! The scratch marks on your arm will be a direct result of science and feelings coming together in your moggie’s brain.

I have to prove that my negative feelings have a rational, logical and scientifically explainable cause. What I ask those with the opposite opinion to do is to pick apart where the negative emotions displayed in this blog seem out of alignment with hard science, and that’s where the high-level intellectual discourse and detective work come in. My words are evidence that wind turbines have had a negative impact on my feelings; the challenge is to work out, with hard science, what the exact physiological process is. Is it triggered by the look, the sound, the concept etc? Is it only when things go wrong that symptoms set in (eg corruption, malpractice etc), or is it the very essence of wind turbines working exactly as they are meant to that sets me off?

This blog is basically an extended and public journal of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on myself, done in public to submit the findings for “peer review”, and also to provide inspiration and support to those who might also be suffering, but haven’t got the time or wherewithal to really go to town on the topic. On a wider note, it’s also part of my concerted effort to remove any stigma about mental health being something only people with problems need to concern themselves with. Far from it, we should all be mindful of our mental health at all times, in exactly the same way we are conscious of our physical health.

Feel free to call me names if you don’t like reading what I have to say, but a much more useful and constructive use of time would be to cross-examine me forensically, in order to prove which of my claims don’t stack up scientifically..

Because I rarely talk about wind energy outside the context of a serious in-depth discussion with those who have some knowledge of the topic, I can only draw upon a handful of real-life, pro-wind points of view to challenge my own opinions. They derive mainly from two sources: (a) those who have proven with their actions that they support wind turbines – whether it be developers, councils, landowners or advertisers; and (b) comments in online debates, which offer scant information about the identity of the posters, merely the opinions themselves.

Not that I want to stalk them or attack them on the street for supporting wind; but it would be nice to get some more information about the demographics of those who post pro-wind comments on web forums, even nicer still to engage with them in a more detailed discourse on the topic. What sort of areas do they live in? Where are their nearest turbines? On what do they base their opinions about wind energy? How old are they? Are they for real or are they part of an astroturf campaign? As it is, I just have to guess and intuit from the limited information available.

There is another awkward question that I’d love to be asked from these mysterious posters on The Guardian. You’ll get a better debate here between I and I than you will on the whole Grauniad website, so grab some popcorn…

I certainly wasn’t bothered in the slightest by having someone in The Guardian call my opening post “Bollocks” (presumably that also includes the 63 peer-reviewed examples of “bollocks” I linked to!); far from it, I wanted to reach out and talk more to this person, to find out why they thought what they did, and to ask them if, say, a Drive-Thru McDonalds taking over their local nature reserve would be equally as “majestic” as a power station on a mountain?! Sadly, The Guardian yanked me out the room before I’d even taken off my coat and gloves!

So here’s the question:

Taking their comments at face value, there are still an awful lot of people on The Guardian’s website who like wind farms and don’t have a problem with them. Why is your opinion more important than theirs? Why should the government favour your anti-wind farm position over those who like wind farms?

It’s precisely because wind farm supporters’ opinions are important to me that I try to engage with them and find out more about what makes them tick! I just want to learn WHY they think what they think, and what I would say to everyone is: if you found out your reason for thinking something was based on a lie, or merely false claims with no real basis on reality, would you still think it?

Were someone to put their hands up and say, “You know, I realise the wind industry really isn’t “saving the planet” as it claims, but, that said, I still like the look of turbines; moors are kind of boring and these metallic spiders make the skyline more interesting…”, that’d be a valid, intellectually-sound, if aesthetically-challenged, viewpoint. It’s one I call the “Guilty Pleasure” viewpoint, and each of us has things we know logically to be wrong, but we still like. That’s fine, that’s part of being human! It’s why we call gorgeous chocolate gateau “Death By Chocolate” om nom… but would you really take someone seriously who claimed chocolate cake could replace toothpaste; for optimum dental health simply stuff your face with cake all afternoon?!

I sometimes wonder if I do the flipside: that the very act of being a Wind Warrior is in itself a Guilty Pleasure, that the science really is settled that wind turbines are a force for good, and it’s just an excuse for me to prance about like some cheesy TV cop, wasting everyone’s time and energy when science and progress are clearly against me? I ask myself this every day, when even I wonder if this is an absurd topic to devote so much time and effort to. However the self-doubt lasts precisely as long as it takes for my news feed to pop up with some new incident of gratuitous eco-destruction and crimes against humanity. Stuff like this:

https://stopthesethings.com/2017/11/20/outrageous-wind-farm-plan-for-battlefield-graveyard-draws-fury-from-french-australians/

Therefore, rather than shutting out opposing opinions, l’d rather reach out and specifically ask those supporters of wind power WHY they like it so much. Do stories like the above have any bearing on their support for wind power schemes? What would make them stop supporting them? I’ve even done this myself regarding Sajid Javid, and I’ve kept it all up there as an example of critical thinking in action. I spent the first half of a blog entry singing his praises, before returning at the end of the blog to say I’ve found out more information that has modified my opinion somewhat; I still like him and give him the benefit of the doubt, but blindly supporting him would have unintended consequences were I not to acknowledge that he might want to build loads of houses all over the countryside.

That’s what I ask of wind supporters. Do some critical thinking and let me know where you draw the line. Wind turbines on Arthur’s Seat? Great Gable? Mam Tor??? Let’s work together to come to an agreement about what is acceptable and what’s not. Nuance and keeping an open mind are essential, whilst never losing sight of our core beliefs… If we MUST have wind turbines, let’s have a proper conversation about where to put them, what their effects are, do they actually do what it says on the tin, and what penalties are in place should they do more harm than good?

To prove the point even further about the need to deal with opposing opinions, here’s (gasp) a video that looks, on the surface, like a pure Win for wind energy. I’d be lying were I not to incorporate this into the discourse…

See, I’ll always give voice to those opposite opinions! The retort to that one is actually quite easy, in fact. Of course Scotland’s wind capacity is at an all-time high, there’s more wind turbines built than they’ve ever had before! If I buy more speakers I can play my music louder, duh. Plaster the countryside with millions of turbines and I daresay when the wind blows you will indeed be able to generate more electricity than if you had fewer turbines, that goes without saying.

The trouble is, when you have days like these…

http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/15664722.Good_day_is_bad_for_renewables/

And what happens when, no matter how much wind power you can generate, you still end up with higher CO2 emissions???

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2017/10/10/why-arent-renewables-decreasing-germanys-carbon-emissions/#46490e1768e1

So, let’s just recap. I’m not saying my opinions on wind farms are any more important than anyone else’s and that we shouldn’t listen to pro-wind supporters, or that they should be “splattered” for daring to have an opinion that I don’t share. Rather than belittle or sideline those who might have an opposing opinion, I am proactively reaching out to them to learn more about WHY they support wind energy.

I’ve merely presented scientific evidence that wind farms increase incidences of suicide, they lower property prices and spoil landscapes, they don’t work almost 75% of the time, and even when they do work, they don’t actually lower CO2 emissions.

I’m simply asking if any of this changes anyone’s opinion about wind farms. Now you know that they trigger suicides, they destroy the natural wilderness, and they don’t even lower CO2 emissions anyway… what exactly about them DO you like???

EDIT: Craven Council have replied to my FOI Request, and their short (but relatively prompt) reply only confirms what I’ve been saying all along: they keep no performance metrics for the turbines under their jurisdiction, they allow them with absolutely no knowledge of whether they do any good or not.

THIS IS MADNESS!

“I confirm that the Council does not hold any recorded information to answer your request. However, to be helpful you may wish to contact the National Grid who may have details on surplus energy provided to the Grid by such wind turbines:

https://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/contact-us “ 

Well thanks for replying Craven… yet again you make my point for me:

EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL! EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL! EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL!

Essentially Craven are saying, “Don’t look at us to take responsibility for the turbines on our watch. We just allow them to infect our countryside. We don’t have a clue whether they actually do any good or not. And it’s not our issue anyway…” Well it damn well should be!

And what’s all this about “surplus energy supplied to the Grid by such wind turbines”? What does “surplus” mean?

“More than what is needed or used; excess”

So it appears that Craven Council have just admitted (perhaps deliberately, although they couldn’t possibly comment…) that any energy produced by wind turbines is totally surplus to requirements, totally superfluous, totally unnecessary and of absolutely no benefit whatsoever to an efficient and effective energy supply. What a complete and utter waste of space!

16 thoughts on “The Importance Of Hearing Opposing Opinions”

  1. I’d like to correct your apparent misunderstanding of the term ‘capacity factor’: “they don’t work almost 75% of the time“. This misunderstanding seems to be widespread, and promulgated by others who should know better.

    When a turbine has, say, a 25% capacity factor, it doesn’t mean that it produces full power for 25% of the time and nothing for 75% of the time. It means that, depending on the turbine and its location, it produces full power for maybe 10% of the time, nothing for maybe 10% of the time, and intermediate levels of power for the remaining, maybe 80% of the time, such that the long term average of its output is 25% of its maximum.

    So it ‘works’, in the sense of producing power, for maybe 90% of the time. If ‘works’ is defined as ‘being in a working condition’, like my car when it’s parked, it would be 100% (less malfunctions).

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  2. Hi Phil, many thanks for the explanation of what the “capacity factor” really means! Point taken on board.The net result is the same though, barely 25% of “the installed capacity to power 5,000 homes” or whatever claims are made, and that’s the bit I find thoroughly misleading. Thanks for the contribution, and please do set me straight if you see anything factually incorrect in the blog.

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  3. The ‘number of homes powered’ calculations take into account the expected capacity factor (CF).

    I don’t see why a CF of 25% or whatever for a wind turbine is any more or less ‘misleading’ than that for other generation. Over a year, our combined cycle gas turbine plant typically produce just 40-50% of their full rated output, our coal plant currently 10-20%, and our open cycle gas turbine plant less than 5%.

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  4. It’s misleading when a wind farm proposal is put forward on the basis that “it has the installed capacity to power 5,000 homes”, missing out the vital fact: “but a capacity factor of 25%, meaning in actual operation only 1,250 homes can expect to be realistically powered.”

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  5. No: The ‘number of homes powered’ calculations do take into account the expected capacity factor (CF); they are not based on the turbine producing its full output all the time. I believe there is a legal requirement for the CF to be taken into account thus, either from Ofgem or the Advertising Standards Agency.

    If you would like independent confirmation of this, look at the definition of the statistics compiled by the national wind trade association, in the ‘Homes Powered Equivalent (p.a.)’ section of http://www.renewableuk.com/page/UKWEDExplained (Their expression ‘load factor’ is effectively the same as my definition of ‘capacity factor’ for this purpose.)

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  6. Great information, many thanks! In particular that link will be very useful in furthering my research, much appreciated. OK, so let’s look at an example of the sales-pitch and break it down then. This is from Peel Energy:

    “Port of Liverpool and Seaforth Wind Farms
    Peel Energy’s operational wind farms in Liverpool have capacity to generate 13.6MW of electricity.”
    DOES THAT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CAPACITY FACTOR OR IS THAT THE TOTAL INSTALLED CAPACITY?

    “Scout Moor Wind Farm
    The 26 operational turbines in Lancashire and Greater Manchester have capacity to generate 65MW.”
    DOES THAT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CAPACITY FACTOR OR IS THAT THE TOTAL INSTALLED CAPACITY?

    “Frodsham Wind Farm
    Peel Energy has submitted a planning application for a wind farm
    in Frodsham, Cheshire. It would have capacity to generate up to
    57MW of electricity enough electricity to meet the average needs of approximately 24,500 homes.”
    DOES THAT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CAPACITY FACTOR OR IS THAT THE TOTAL INSTALLED CAPACITY?

    You see where the confusion arises!

    Click to access Peel%20Banner%20Low%20Res.pdf

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  7. Thanks for that link to a document I’d not seen before. It’s 6 yr old, but it mentions an interesting gas+CCS proposal I was not aware of, that seems to have come to nought. Using the document’s contents as an example:

    The 13.6MW, 65MW & 57MW are indeed the maximum output powers of the farms (which is why it says “up to”), often called their ‘nameplate capacity’ or usually just ‘capacity’.

    We can check the calculations for the ‘homes equivalent’ figures for Scout Moor on p4 of that PDF. The standard calculation method is based on the amounts of energy (in kWh or MWh) per year.

    Expected generation would be: 65 MW * 24 hr * 365 days * (let’s guess) 25% CF = 142,350 MWh per year = 142,350,000 kWh per year

    The average UK household now uses about 4000 kWh per year (it’s been falling in recent years, and so the ‘official’ amount that’s required to be used can vary according to the date of the calculation). This is the first document I’ve seen where a local consumption figure is used as well.

    So I’d calculate the farm’s electricity would be the equivalent of powering 142,350,000 kWh/yr / 4000 kWh/yr = 35,588 homes. Which is a few more than Peel Energy calculated – if they hadn’t allowed for the CF, they would have got about 4 times my number.

    I’d guess the CF isn’t mentioned in the document because it’s aimed at the general public, who are mostly non-technical, and Peel Energy wanted to only provide the essential information in this overview.

    You can use this method to check any other such claims. I guess they will all take the CF into account, as it’s so easy for some-one to check, and if they’re found to be deliberately or accidentally wrong in even some minor part of their proposal, it’ll reflect badly on the rest of it.

    We can even do some reverse engineering by working backwards from their figures, to calculate that in 2009, Scout Moor’s achieved capacity factor (usually called the ‘load factor’ when talking about what was actually achieved for a given period in the past like this) was

    153,349,724 kWh / (65,000 kW * 24 hr * 365 days) = 26.9%

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  8. Thanks again for the informative reply, I’m truly grateful for the time and effort you’ve put into explaining this. So, if I understand you correctly, when the advert claims “Frodsham has a capacity of 57 MW, enough to power 24,500 homes”, the 57 MW is the total installed capacity, but the 24,500 homes is based on the capacity factor (ie running at 100% CF it would actually be able to power nearer 100,000 homes.

    That genuinely clears up the mysteries surrounding these output figures and addresses my original complaint that the “homes powered” figure is based on the total installed capacity, not the CF. It does seem a weird and confusing way of describing wind farm output however, the installed capacity being neither here nor there if the capacity factors are routinely so low.

    A good analogy would be saying “My car has the capacity to drive at 100mph, fast enough to get from Leeds to London in 4 hours.” Both statements are true, however at a distance of 200 miles, at top speed I should be able to do that journey in just 2 hours; the 4 hours takes into account traffic and rest stops rather than reflecting the top speed in any way. I’m glad that the homes powered figure is based on this real-life performance rather than the installed capacity, which as we can see has very little bearing on actual performance.

    The next question is exactly what this “homes powered” means in real life. Does it mean meeting the full power needs of a home for the entirety of a time period (eg 100% of the power needs of my home for the entire month of December)? We know that can’t happen though, because the wind doesn’t blow 100% of the time! So when a wind farm claims to produce “enough energy to power 5,000 homes”, how can it fulfil all those homes’ power needs, 24-7, including those times when zero wind power is generated? I genuinely don’t understand! I know I’m biased against wind power, but this might explain why, and if you can correct me, then more power to your elbow!

    It just doesn’t make sense to me. How can 5,000 homes be powered in no wind??? So what does the “homes powered” figure actually mean in terms of real-life operation?

    Let’s use the “24,500 homes” powered by Frodsham as an example, let’s say based on a CF of roughly 25% (in fact, it’s been significantly down on that these last few months, nearer 13% according to the data below). [There’s also another column in this table, “Potential Output”, about 75% of the maximum output, which is itself significantly lower than the sales-pitch claims, more like 51 MW than the 57 MW claimed, but there we go…]

    The potential output is only 38 MW, and the actual reported output over August 2017 an abysmal 5MW! That’s embarrassingly poor, surely, an achieved output of less than 10% CF!

    So was this actually generated 5MW enough to power these 24,500 homes 24-7 throughout the entire month of August? How does this figure deal with the times when there was no wind?

    https://www.variablepitch.co.uk/stations/8352/output/

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  9. Yes, your understanding expounded in the first para is indeed correct. Your car analogy is a good one: it could do the journey in 2hr in the pre-dawn hours, but 4hr is a more realistic expectation for a typical/average journey, though it could take all day if the M1 is closed by an accident.

    To understand the info in that webpage on Frodsham, you need to be clear about ‘energy’ and ‘power’:

    ‘Energy’ is an invisible, intangible, sort-of material; it’s usually measured in Watt-hours, abbreviated Wh (and kWh, MWh, GWh, TWh in thousand-fold multiples). An analogy is quantities of water, which might be measured in ‘bucketfuls’.

    ‘Power’ is a flow of energy, usually measured in Watts, abbreviated W (and kW, MW, GW, TW). An analogy is a flow of water, which might be measured in ‘hosepipes’.

    The two are linked by time: A power of 1W for 1hr would pass 1Wh of energy through a system; a hosepipe running for 1 hour might deliver 1 bucketful of water.

    (Aside: ‘power’ is also often also used to mean ‘electricity’; and ‘energy’ to mean ‘energy of all sorts together, ie, electricity, oil, coal, firewood, etc’.)

    Applying this to the Frodsham Wind Farm Output data:

    Column 3 is its maximum, ‘nameplate’ capacity, a power, measured in kW as 51,300 kW (I don’t know why the figure above the table is slightly different). It’s the same in each month as no turbines are added or dismantled.

    Column 4 is the maximum energy it could potentially produce in the time period of each 1 month, measured in MWh: 51,300*24*31 = 38,167,200 kWh = 38,167.2 MWh (proportionately less for the shorter months).

    Column 5 is the actual energy it produced each month, as reported to the authorities, also measured in MWh.

    Column 6 is the ratio of the actual to the maximum for each month, ie the load factor for the month (they call it the capacity factor for month, I won’t quibble), as a percentage. It varies each month, mainly according to how windy it was – winter months are usually windier than summer ones in the UK, and this table of Frodsham generation illustrates this. Also, it didn’t get into full operation till Feb, so the first months may have been adversely affected by ironing out the bugs. So the average of all the months in blue at top seems low because it’s mainly the calmer summer months, and is dragged down by the months of sub-optimal operation during commissioning.

    what this “homes powered” means

    A very good question! It’s used to make a figure of energy in MWh more meaningful to non-technical people, such as planning committees and the general public:

    If you’re told a 1MW (capacity) turbine will produce 2,190,000 kWh in a year, even if you know that 1kWh is one unit on your electricity bill costing you about 15p, it’s still a blindingly big number of a ‘thing’ that few people readily understand. But if you’re told that’s equivalent to the energy consumed by about 550 homes in the year, it’s easier to grasp its scale. And a planning committee might think that siting your 1MW turbine on the top of Windy Hill above the village of Little-Blighty-on-the-Moors, which consists of about 550 houses, is an appropriate scale of new development given the scale of existing development in the area – or not, if the relative sizes are very different.

    What is not intended, but some people mistake it, some unknowingly, some deliberately, is to imply that the turbine will supply all the power being used by those 550 homes (or any other 550 homes), no more and no less, at all times through the year – because it won’t. That’s why ‘equivalent’ is used frequently with this figure, as a caveat. The homes’ demand varies according to daily, weekly & annual activities; the turbine’s output varies according to the strength of wind blowing. The main correlation between the two in the UK is that we use more electricity in winter, as there are more hours of darkness to light and some is used for top-up heating; and winters are windier than summers. This lack of correlation is wind power’s biggest technical drawback, which I was going to address in a later comment.

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  10. Thanks again Phil, an awful lot to take in but it really does help explain. I think from what you’ve said, and how I honestly misinterpreted it, the “homes powered…” analogy isn’t entirely helpful. I wouldn’t say people deliberately misrepresent the claim, I would say it is genuinely confusing in its implication (even if unintended) that the turbines provide sole power to these homes, however I take on board the reality that it is merely an equivalent figure based on average home usage.

    I’m therefore prepared to drop my criticism that the capacity factor statements are dishonest, I’ll leave my original post intact with these explanatory comments so readers can follow the dialogue, and once again I thank you so much for your contributions to the debate!

    Moving my position forward with this new information… how would changing the total capacity impact on the actual energy generated? If Frodsham has a total capacity of 51,300 kW, which actually generated 5,158.00 MWh during August 2017, how different would its output be if, say, the total capacity was only half (around 25,000 KW)?

    The reason I ask is, because there’s clearly a trade-off that we as a society need to make, between our power needs and also our well-being needs. The bigger and higher capacity a wind farm, the bigger its environmental impact (unless the capacity factors can be significantly improved), because clearly it will be more visible and have a greater visual blight over a wider area (http://personal.lse.ac.uk/gibbons/papers/windfarms%20and%20houseprices%20november%202013%20v5.pdf plus my personal testimony on the psychological and emotional impact of wind turbines).

    I don’t know what the figure is, this is what we as a society need to agree upon, but there is surely a cut-off figure beyond which the rate of power generated simply isn’t worth the negative impact on the local environment. Would it be acceptable to depreciate the value of 10,000 homes in order to meet the energy needs of 5,000?

    Or, to develop my car analogy: we’ve already established that my car has a top speed of 100mph, but the actual time it takes to travel the 200 miles to London is generally around 4 hours, so my average achieved speed is nearer 50mph (capacity factor 50%), and I will only occasionally be able to get anywhere near top speed.

    Now, I can currently fit 4 passengers in my car, but if I reduced the physical size of the engine so that its top speed was now only 75mph, I could gain the space for an extra passenger. This is the trade-off I’m referring to: larger installed capacity equals larger landtake / lower installed capacity equals less landtake. There is the clear case to be made that having a smaller engine wouldn’t significantly impact on my actual driving time, and in fact would give me an extra seat for a passenger? (I drive a small car anyway, for exactly these reasons! I have no need for a huge, inefficient, uneconomical, over-engineered vehicle…)

    Couldn’t we apply the same logic to wind farms: drastically smaller and less obtrusive wind farms wouldn’t in fact significantly impact on their actual achieved output?

    It’d be interesting to compare the landtake / visual impact of Scout Moor and Frodsham, vs the output of each, and to see if reducing the size of the wind farms to improve their visual impact would significantly affect their output. My logic (which might be wrong!) is this: at a capacity factor of between 10 and 20%, the actual output doesn’t actually change that much with each removed turbine, so surely the fewer turbines, the more we can optimise exactly how much energy is produced? If there are 16 turbines at Frodsham generating 5,158.00 MWh, would reducing the number to 8 turbines only lower the output by approximately 2,575.00 MWh (not a great deal less in fact), or is that too simplistic?

    My thesis is that wind farms seem to be too large and over-engineered, significantly more than other energy sources, and that making them smaller and less obtrusive would not drastically impact on actual energy generation. They seem to impact on far too many of our landscapes to justify the energy generated. In short: we’ve prioritised electricity over nature, far more than we’ve actually needed to.

    I know Frodsham and Scout Moor and of the two I’d say Scout Moor has a far wider and more destructive visual impact on thousands of properties, all across South Lancashire and Greater Manchester. The altitude is too high for this sort of industrial development (high-altitude places being seen since the dawn of time as special places of great value to our health and well-being). Frodsham, while hardly a place of beauty (with Ellesmere Port industries already dominating the landscape), is at least low-lying and only visible locally.

    I think the impact on landscapes is equally important as the energy generation figures, and there needs to be a better trade-off between environmental impact and energy output (it seems like things are swinging more in this direction now, mercifully). But I totally accept what you’ve said about how these energy generation figures are calculated, and appreciate you filling me in. Many thanks!

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  11. I don’t think your capacity factor statement is dishonest, rather ‘inaccurately interpreted’ perhaps. I’ve seen it similarly misunderstood by a British nuclear power boss, who really should have a better understanding of electricity generation.

    Regarding your thoughts about the trade-off between turbine numbers, size, siting and electricity output:

    From basic physics, the power harvestable from wind is strongly dependent on the speed of the wind: when the wind speed doubles, the power in it and potentially extractable from it increases eight-fold! (Conversely: to drive a car twice as fast requires 8 times the power to overcome the wind resistance, which is why driving very fast ruins fuel economy.)

    So if you want to get maximum energy and financial value from a turbine, you want the longest blades, which can harvest power from the largest swept area, and site it in the windiest place possible. In most parts of the world, including the UK, the wind blows faster and more consistently the higher you get above ground level; hill-tops can be used to gain extra height. In Britain & Ireland the wind blows more close to west coasts, with their Atlantic gales, and also the further north you go, the windier it tends to get.

    Best would be to build the turbine as big as possible, put it on the tallest tower you can build, and site it on the highest hill logistically possible, in the north-west of the country. In England this ideal location is called the Lake District National Park. These factors that maximise the energy output from a turbine (which is the same as minimising the number of turbines needed for a given energy requirement), are almost exactly the same as maximise its visual intrusiveness and other objectionability.

    That’s where the problem enters the real world of dilemma and compromise. Is it better to site one large turbine on Scafell Pike, or several smaller ones on an unlovely industrial estate in the lowlands?

    In the case of, say, Frodsham, halving the number of turbines of the same design & height would halve the farm’s maximum output power (capacity), and would halve the energy generated per day/month/year/project-lifetime. If the blades were longer and/or the towers taller, the same energy could be generated with fewer turbines in the farm. Which is worse: the distance from which they can be seen (largely governed by their height), or the ‘forest effect’ of having many shorter towers? Is it better to site several turbines in one place to confine the blight, or distribute them more widely in the hope that individual ones won’t be so overwhelming?

    These are the problems and tradeoffs that wind-farm developers and planning officials have to wrestle with, as well as what’s possible regarding turbine engineering, let alone the financial costs of the various possibilities. Alas I too can offer no easy answers.

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  12. Fascinating reply Phil. The other tricky aspect of siting turbines is that of course, the higher the hill, the more remote and further away from demand it is likely to be, which then involves the logistics of shifting that electricity to where its needed. Maybe this is the Achilles heel with wind power, to be at its most efficient it requires the very same locations that us humans require for our own energy and well-being, the upland sources of our water, more often than not areas of outstanding natural beauty or special scientific interest. Every hill turned over to electricity generation is one less hill available to energise us as a species.

    For many people wind energy “jumped the shark” a few years ago, by no longer being seen to be done only sparingly and minimally, but done far in excess of what’s actually needed. This is still the case in Scotland, and as Craven Council informed me, the energy provided by wind turbines is “surplus” to requirements. (Like giving my car an engine capable of achieving 400mph when I only actually need 70mph)!

    The Planning Process seemed for a few years to show no restraint, no upper limit to the amount of land set aside for energy generation, and scant attention paid to the negative impacts of wind blight (another issue with hilltop power generation – the impact is vastly greater). As a result, some kind of resistance to constant expansion was needed, a perfectly natural and logical response to saturation, in the same way as a parent saying to a greedy child: “No more cake…you’ll get fat and rot your teeth!” Without the type of resistance shown by myself and fellow campaigners, the fear is the wind companies would have not been limited by the amount of energy we actually need, or the amount of land we are prepared to lose, and would have just carried on and on sticking turbines up, regardless of effectiveness, far beyond generating the energy we actually need.

    The other issue unique to wind turbines, of course, is their need for backup, and how this impacts on their ability to lower CO2 emissions (which is the reason we even have them). Is it even possible to lower CO2 emissions if we require a backup to wind power 100% of the time?

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  13. You’ve touched on at least three things I was wanting to address: your “surplus” question, CO2 reduction, and deciding how much wind power we need/want. I’ll try to answer the first as an aside, leave CO2 for later, and then tackle the last point, which is what ought to be decided first.
    …..
    “surplus energy supplied to the Grid by such wind turbines”? What does “surplus” mean?

    I understand what Craven Council said as a concise way to cover two things:

    A turbine consumes some electricity, to power its control electronics, hazard lighting, security CCTV, etc. This is like all other generation; nuclear power stations are the largest self-consumers, drawing several MW even when not generating. It makes sense if this is taken from what is being generated before passing the rest (the vast majority) of the power on to the Grid.

    Some turbines, like other types of self-generation, are installed on the site of a business (eg, the one at Knostrop sewage farm) or home, with the intention that much or all of the power be used onsite, with only any left over being exported to the Grid for payment.

    So in both situations the power sent to the Grid is only “surplus” to the requirements of the site on which the turbine is installed, not in any wider sense.
    …..

    When I read through all the postings on this blog, they seemed long on wind power’s shortcomings and short on an alternative vision, other than the status quo by implication. I would find it much easier to be persuaded wind power is a bad idea, if you or anyone else could propose a better solution to the trilemma of our future energy supply: security, affordability & sustainability. In the posting of Sep 22, you mention nuclear, clean(er) coal and fracked gas, though mostly their aesthetics rather than evaluating their ability to supply Britain’s energy needs with hard numbers.

    There are a lot of people in Britain, who have got used to a lifestyle that consumes a lot of energy. It used to be mainly from coal, but is now mainly from oil and gas. All three of these fossil fuels have their problems, which I’ll pass over and cut to the chase: the biggest and most unarguable one is that they’re finite. The colloquial phrase is “they’re going to run out”: they’ll never run out completely, but before long they’ll run short, by which I mean the decreasing rate at which they can be extracted will fall below the rate we use them. Before then we, as a nation, need to decide what to do instead. There are three alternatives, each with various pros & cons: nuclear, renewables, or possibly a combination.

    One of the aspects that needs to be addressed is financial cost. I’m fortunate in being better off than average, such that I could seriously ponder whether I would be prepared to pay 50% more, or even 100% more, for my energy if it were to come from a source that I preferred, for some reason, over one I disliked. But half the country’s households are less well-off than average, of course, and of them a significant fraction are in fuel poverty, for whom even a 10% increase for any reason would be a serious problem, causing many of them to heat their homes less than needed for optimum health, or even worse consequences. So I feel compelled to accept whichever of the alternatives is going to be the cheapest.

    What do we know about likely future costs in the UK for the options? The best guide is what level of guaranteed price for their electricity companies are prepared to build new power generation, which has been established in recent years by the Contract for Difference (CfD) reverse auctions. For reference, the current average wholesale price of electricity in Britain is about £40 per MWh (=4p per kWh). Hinkley Point C was given a CfD for £92.50 per MWh, or with Sizewell C £87.50. The most recent CfD award to onshore wind was for £82 and for solar £79, both in 2014, since when in similar CfD auctions in other countries, the price of both has fallen substantially, eg, in Chile between 2013 and 2016 by more than 50%. As the current British government has excluded further CfDs to onshore wind and solar we don’t know how much it would now be here, but as there’s talk in the trade about new wind farms and solar farms being built with no more subsidy above the expected wholesale price, they’re probably not much more than £40. This year’s CfD for offshore wind resulted in £58 to £75 awards, and it’s generally held to be more expensive than onshore wind.

    So on present, limited, evidence, renewables look cheaper than nuclear. However, to complicate the picture, both generate power over time in a way little related to the variation of electricity demand with time, so each needs to have measures, which add significant cost, to match their supply with demand. Despite a lot of looking, I’ve not found a study that compares these, so have to guesstimate that the costs of this matching are similar for the two, and that renewables still retain their significant cost advantage.

    So I was going to ask if you had further thoughts than the Sep 22 posting, with or without my thoughts, about an alternative future energy supply for Britain that involved less wind, or none at all?

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  14. I’m aware that the blog might seem incredibly negative and biased. I can’t really apologise for that, because the overriding theme of the blog has been “the negative impact of wind power on my psychological state”, if you like, and any alternative points of view have been sought from readers, who I’ve repeatedly invited to step up and defend wind power. I’m truly glad you’ve seen through the spiky rhetoric and been able to make some great points in defence of wind power, addressing some of my “paranoid” concerns. That’s great! One of the hallmarks of a worthwhile debate is the removal of confusion and the correction of false beliefs.

    I believe I’ve also made the point that the unremittingly negative hatchet job I’ve done on wind is precisely because for a number of years we’ve only ever had unremittingly positive spin about how “green” it is, Did you ever see that Panorama on Scientology, with Jon Sweeney, “the exploding tomato”, screaming at the top of his voice because he felt they were constantly trying to brainwash him! I’ve had to raise my voice to even be listened to. Fact is, Phil, it actually works. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Look at government policy and realise that if enough people make a noise about something, it enters the Overton Window and becomes a genuine political cause. This HAS happened with wind! I sometimes use the rhetorical device of making it seem like I personally changed government policy, but of course I’m merely one of thousands of people who have all contributed to a genuine political movement.

    As I hope I’m proving, with your help, the “rhetoric” is almost separate from the nitty-gritty of the actual debate and policy discussions. Although clearly I lack technical expertise in how wind turbines work, I certainly don’t lack geographical knowledge of the United Kingdom, and that’s really the topic I feel I can bring into the debate, a much better understanding of how our hills link up, and dare I say it, a finger on the pulse of public opinion much more accurate than the Planning Inspectorate. It’s at the point now where I can almost predict which turbines were allowed on appeal (generally the most offensively-sited), where the council and community said “No!” but were overturned on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate. This more than anything has been what I’ve targetted in my official documents. This has changed recently, and of course it begs the question, if they get it now, how come they previously got it wrong for so many years? (If they were right all along, then why change the policy now?)

    So my answer to your question is long, drawn-out and nuanced. I believe I gave my best answer in the “Turbine Traffic Light Scheme” entry. More of a focus on actually achieved energy generation figures. More weighting given to public complaints. A grading of all our wind farms so we can see which ones have achieved the most. Higher standards of what is expected, and higher penalties for non-compliance. Just treating wind energy the way we treat everything else – transparency, targets, accountability and democracy.

    If we MUST have wind power, let’s at least have some kind of quality control and honesty about the impacts.

    My solution, Phil, is dialogue like this! To be involved in the process, representing the voice of nature-lovers. To be an engaged citizen and awkward customer challenging the wind industry to up their game and be responsible corporations. A watchdog like Ofcom! Ofwind, there you go.

    Just to be someone who says vocally “If you can’t PROVE your wind farm is essential, you can’t do it” Let’s compare wind farm planning proposals with motorway planning proposals, and bring wind farms more into alignment with other essential services. You would not catch a motorway developer astroturfing fake support or acting as unprofessionally as Coronation Power. We would only ever allow a motorway after rigorous, objective analysis, it certainly wouldn’t be as arbitary as whether we allow or reject certain wind farms.

    My solution is simply a results-based wind policy: PROVE IT WORKS! If a wind farm can prove it is meeting the targets we as a society have set, in terms of both achieving sufficient energy generation and also an acceptably low number of complaints from the public, it gets the Green Light and can stay. If however a wind farm has not met the targets we’ve set, or it has received too many complaints, then it needs to get the Red Light!

    That’s my compromise and bargaining position – prove every wind farm works sufficiently and isn’t upsetting too many people, and I’ll drop any opposition. If we were to analyse all the wind farms in the South Pennines and grade them in order of achieved output / visual impact, we might well find that 3 or 4 are doing a great job, 3 or 4 an adequate job, and 3 or 4 really underperforming. Removing the underperformers would have no negative impact on energy supplies if they are barely generating anything anyway!

    Alternatives to wind? I’m not sure about fracking. My instinct tells me it’s nowhere near as harmful as wind (in real life, has any fracking ever led to any actually documented eco-disasters?) but I accept that everyone else in Britain reacts to fracking the way I react to wind blight, so I’d be a hypocrite were I to insist on imposing it on communities against their will. What do you think of fracking? And nuclear seemed like by far and away the most efficient source of electricity, although your comment raises questions about its price.

    I’m in favour of renewables in principle, who wouldn’t be? But I believe there is far more to pollution than just CO2 emissions, and loss of our mountaintops is just as bad for the planet IMO, this is why I call attention to it!

    I’m not opposed to Wind Done Well. Just Wind Done Badly!

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  15. I’d agree that a consistent, national system of objectively assessing the visual impact and other negative consequences, taking into account the proposed location, to be compared with expected energy output, would be a useful tool for planners, local residents and others to help in the planning decision process, and even for developers to screen proposals before that stage.

    Having realised the scale of wind power required to supply a substantial part of the nation’s energy demand, I have been deeply concerned at the prospect of what it would mean for the industrialisation of the British countryside. However, the size of the fall in support cost shown in this year’s offshore wind CfD was a surprise, and I think that, together with the prospect of its further fall, it can now be advocated that we should put our efforts into developing offshore rather than much more onshore. It seems that this is now the effect of the UK government policy, as the large majority of the new turbines that are likely to be built in the next four years are offshore, so that by 2021 more power will be generated offshore than onshore.

    The more that this prospect is realised, the more I’d support tightening the planning criteria for onshore wind power.
    ………………..
    actually achieved energy generation figures.
    I think councils’ planning departments don’t keep track of the performance of wind farms they’ve permitted like they don’t keep track of the success of other developments they’ve permitted, such as the occupancy of speculative office buildings. It’s not something they’re required to do by law, so there’s not the money or interest to do so. If you know the site’s name, you can track its performance at
    http://www.ref.org.uk/generators/index.php?order=InstalledkW&dir=desc&start=0
    with the Rolling Load Factor and (most-recent-)Annual Load Factor columns.

    higher penalties for non-compliance
    The universal penalty for any generator not producing what was promised in the prospectus is losing money, which also results in backers being warier of any other schemes that the developer might propose. Lower than expected generation can be due to accidents and unpredictable malfunctions, which it would be hard to justify penalties for. But where turbines are left non-producing for extended periods without being repaired, I certainly think they should be required to be removed within a specified time period.

    What do you think of fracking?
    In order of increasing total environmental damage and thus decreasing desirability, I’d rank fossil fuels: UK conventional gas, imported conventional gas, UK fracked gas, imported fracked gas, UK coal, imported coal. But I see running remaining fossil fuel generation only as a necessary evil to fill-in while renewables and appropriate storage are developed and built.
    ………………..
    Is it even possible to lower CO2 emissions if we require a backup to wind power 100% of the time?

    All power stations require 100% backup 100% of the time, as they can develop faults suddenly, or have to be shut down for refuelling and other maintenance, etc. Instead of each having a dedicated ‘shadow’ station running in standby, so doubling the fuel used, this is covered by the other stations acting in a pool. Wind power is no different – its output can be forecast well enough in advance to schedule other generation as part of the normal electricity system management.

    they don’t actually lower CO2 emissions – this is a widespread misunderstanding arising from an incomplete analysis of the special case of Germany, such as the Forbes article linked to above that statement.

    In Germany, for reasons of internal politics, they are effectively using the low-carbon wind & solar generation they’ve been building in recent years to replace their low-carbon nuclear generation, rather than their fossil-fuel generation, as you can see from this graph:
    https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/lightbox_image/public/images/article/2015/12/power-generation-source-2015-ageb-dez-2.png?itok=rQP5nEXC
    Thus there has been little or no reduction in their electricity system’s CO2 release in recent years from its previous levels, but the renewable power will have substantially reduced their CO2 release from what it would have been if they had closed their nuclear stations and replaced their output with more fossil fuel generation instead, or if they had kept their nuclear open, the renewables would have reduced fossil fuel burning and reduced CO2. (Everyone can have their own opinion on how sensible this policy is in a world that needs to reduce its CO2.)

    Here in the UK, our wind, solar and other renewable generation has contributed a significant part to the substantial reduction in the national CO2 emissions of recent years.

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  16. The third of your objecive objections I’d like to comment on is the suicides connected with wind farms. Sadly, there have been other associated deaths: eg, construction workers without harnesses have fallen from height, and a delivery lorry driver died in a road accident recently.

    As usual, one has to ask what the alternatives are: what is the mortality associated with other means of generation? And as well as mortality, what are their associated non-lethal ill-health effects (‘morbidity’).

    This has doubtless been looked into by several academic studies, with results available online. Without looking into this myself, I’d guess that coal (cleaned up or dirty) would be the worst, what with direct deaths in mining accidents, indirect deaths such as Aberfan, and lung disease from the dust of mining and smoke of combustion.

    For this line of argument to stand up to scrutiny, it would need to shown that total morbidity & mortality of wind power was significantly worse than the realistic alternatives.

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