Happy New Year everyone! I’m going to start 2018 by posting in full the conversation between a reader and myself over the last two entries. It’s already there below the original blog posts, but due to the layout of WordPress you have to scroll way down to see all the comments, and as this Dialectic has taken up most of my writing time over the Christmas period, it makes sense to promote the conversation to the main attraction of the first post of 2018, rather than a mere footnote at the end of 2017.
The following discourse, which hopefully is ongoing and can be continued in the comments below, is a perfect illustration of how I believe, as did Socrates, that we can use the Dialectic Method as a tool to help us arrive at The Truth. My strident essays of 2017 are examples of Rhetoric – emotionally intense writing designed to be persuasive, hard-hitting, always truthful yet sometimes figurative or metaphorical rather than 100% hard science. Dialectic is different, and when it comes to wind power I want 2018 to be a year of Dialectic more than Rhetoric.
Rhetoric is when words are written or spoken with the express purpose of getting you to think something, and that is exactly what I have done thus far: I’ve wanted to share with you how angry wind turbines have made me feel, and I’ve wanted you to experience some of that anger for yourselves, so that you can empathise with me and my fellow wind victims. In short, I’ve wanted to turn you off wind power! But I’ve tried to keep my Rhetoric honest and open to feedback. In a formal debate, the speakers’ opening statements are generally examples of Rhetoric, where they lay out their case and try and persuade the audience of its validity. This introductory prose itself is an example of Rhetoric – framing the conversation and getting your attention! Making you interested, I hope…
Dialectic is what should follow, and it’s only where there is no room for Dialectic that I get frustrated and annoyed, when all we get is one-sided Rhetoric with no chance to challenge and discuss it. All in all, that’s exactly what I’ve felt with the pro-wind Rhetoric that has dominated our media coverage of wind energy for so long. That’s certainly what I’ve felt with The Guardian – all Rhetoric and no real Dialectic!
Dialectic is what we see in government in Prime Minister’s Questions, although hardly of the highest intellectual calibre, it must be said (maybe the aggressive nature of PMQ’s even puts casual observers off!). Dialectic is the technique of forensic cross-examination used by the police and judicial system. Dialectic can be found in your GP’s surgery, as he or she tries to diagnose exactly what is wrong with you. Dialectic is also used in IT troubleshooting, when we have to ask users all sorts of questions about why their laptops keep BSOD’ing. Dialectic. Diagnosis. Dialogue! (all from the Greek prefix “dia-” meaning “passing through”).
Dialectic is a fundamental of good mental health, because “passing through” both sides of an argument ensures our thinking is well-balanced and even-handed, even if ultimately we come down more on one side than the other. And dialectic is easy… everyone knows how to do Dialectic! I remember it from University – well, the University Bar, where we used to play a game called The Rizla Game. Did you ever play that? You have a celebrity’s name written on a Rizla on your forehead and you have to try and guess who you are, with only Yes / No questions. That’s Dialectic, and if you’re any good, you’ll work out simply from asking the right Yes / No questions who you are. So I repeat: EVERYONE CAN DO DIALECTIC!
Hegelian Dialectic is where a simple two-dimensional Yes / No scenario is expanded to become a more complicated three-dimensional Thesis / Antithesis / Synthesis affair. If the Thesis is “Yes” and the Antithesis is “No”, the Synthesis is that nebulous “Kind of”, “Semi”, “Up to a point….” answer. Syntheses can infuriate people who like a simple, binary existence, but if we’re more motivated by The Truth and Critical Thinking than intellectual comfort zones that aren’t strictly speaking aligned with the facts, then we need to get good at working on formulating Syntheses.
That’s what Phil H has brought to this blog, to the point where it almost feels like it’s more worthwhile to make it a double-act than simply a one-man show, because I want to share with you all the value of Dialectic In Action. I believe you will find more truth about wind power in the following Dialectic than you will from pretty much any of the preceeding Rhetoric, hence wanting to cut to the chase and bring this entire conversation centre stage.
I will certainly draw upon my Rhetoric, and I will leave it standing to show my workings, evidence of just how badly the wind turbines affected my mood. But moving forward, grab yourselves some popcorn and enjoy the following Dialectic.
The central thesis to my opening Rhetoric was that wind turbines are essentially useless and harmful blight, and those who support them have a hidden agenda, or at least are being controlled by someone else in the shadows. Phil introduced himself with an antithesis to my thesis, if I may paraphrase: hold on, these guys might actually be telling the truth, and wind power might actually be more useful than you give it credit for.
What follows is the search for Synthesis: a process local and regional authorities have to adhere to every single time they are faced with a controversial and divisive wind farm proposal. Not everyone will be happy with the decisions arrived at, but if we tick as many boxes as possible, from both sides of the debate, then hopefully we can at least find some kind of best-fit policy that works as well as humanly possible. Might offshore (but not onshore) wind farms be that synthesis? Or does the synthesis lie in a wholly different form of renewable energy generation?
We shall get nearer these answers as the Dialectic progresses. And to everyone reading, please do feel free to join the discussion! It’s a total free-for-all, everyone welcome.
So, without further ado…
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).
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.
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%.
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.”
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.)
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!
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%
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?
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.
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!
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.
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?
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?
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!
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
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:
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.)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.
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.
“Offshore wind may be a solution, but then it screws up our beach resortsOffshore wind may be a solution, but then it screws up our beach resorts”
Only if they’re installed close to the shore. I’ve visited a few:
At Skegness, I think the contiguous Lynn, Inner Dowsing & Lincs offshore arrays are too close to the shore (about 3 miles), given their total width.
However, I visited Rhyl/Prestatyn years ago to see the pioneering North Hoyle offshore array, which is about 4 miles offshore, and standing on the beach I had to use binoculars to tell if the rotors were turning, so I thought that was a reasonable set back distance.
Visiting Llandudno recently, where the Rhyl Flats & Gwynt y Mor arrays are 4 & 7 miles offshore, I thought their visual intrusiveness on the natural landscape & seascape was a lot less than that of the pier, which seems to have become accepted over the years.
Visiting Brighton a few weeks before that, where the Rampion array is 6 miles offshore, again I had to use binoculars, and found their visual intrusiveness less than the rusting ruins of the West Pier which has Grade 1 listed status, and of the monstrous i360 tower which has actually been built on the promenade in the nicest part of the town!
The offshore windfarms that are in the construction pipeline are much further offshore, eg, the East Anglia arrays are to be 20-30 miles. At this kind of distance, much or all of the turbines will be below the horizon for people standing on the beach. Another good reason for preferring offshore wind.
Hi Phil again hope you had a good Christmas. I’m off to Brighton tomorrow to see for myself as I have family in the area, so I will take a look and report back! Just a few pieces of news from the last couple of weeks. Firstly, look back at the previous entry, “Another Awkward Question Answered”, dated 20 November 2017. I have been informed by a local resident that the upper of the two wind turbines in the photo illustrating the entry has lost its blades in the 5 weeks since I took the pic (I will take some pictures on my return to the north). Bearing in mind I was stood next to another turbine that had also just lost its blades, that’s two in one village that have had blades fall off within 5 or 6 weeks of each other. I’ll do my best to find more information about the whys and wherefores of these two failures within the area under surveillance, and no it’s not me going up there yanking the blades off, before anyone accuses me!
One turbine breaking could happen anywhere – but two in such a small area and such a short time becomes a worry and a very real “Quality Concern” (as we would call this if it happened at my workplace). Were they the same model turbine, installed at similar times, ie likely to fail at similar times, or were they separate models installed at separate times? Was it particularly windy or were there any other contributory factors? Whose responsibility is it to log and record these failures? This is what we see visually, with our laymens’ eyes: we see these unstable, dangerous looking turbines that due to their design are clearly vulnerable to being damaged by the very wind upon which they rely. It’s not even the first time the turbine in the photo has had its blades fly off, apparently. It was also without blades for a large part of 2016 having caught fire previously. Apparently the turbine maker has gone bust too. (The turbine is located at Marsden Gate, Calderdale (just), if you want to research it pending any further details I can provide). So this is just a case study of a real-life turbine failure within the area I happen to be monitoring!
The second link that I have seen across my newsfeed is this: https://www.thegwpf.com/green-activists-withdraw-adverts-which-falsely-claim-price-of-wind-energy-has-fallen-by-50-per-cent/ No disrespect to Peter Capaldi’s acting skills, but he is clearly more adept at fiction than documentary! According to the article: “GWFP director Dr Benny Peiser said: ‘The claims in the Westminster offshore wind campaign are some of the most blatant distortions of the truth that I have seen in pro-wind advertising.’” This is the trust issue Phil – who are these lying liars and why are they always lying to me, just before wrecking yet another unspoilt green hill. How can we trust a word these people say? Why do wind operators continually have to lie and deceive and overexaggerate? I’ve said before – you simply would not catch motorway constructors lying in the same way, there is something very peculiar to wind operators that seems to make them singularly untrustworthy, and this is exemplified by the “twisted, warped” shape of the blades! “By their fruits, so shall you recognize them.”
I know what it’s like to make an honest mistake, that’s fine. But this once again seems like a willful and deliberate attempt to make wind power seem like a better solution than it really is. It certainly tallies with my impression of Greenpeace as having a hidden agenda.
Finally: https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/wind-farms-in-england-only-supply-2-of-power/ It says 2%. Is that fair and accurate? I’d say that’s not been worth the bother, absolutely.
I’d be interested to learn what you think about the Rampion array of offshore turbines in the light of my comments above – their visual obtrusiveness depends on how clear/murky the weather is. I got a free ‘flight’ on the i360 – it may or may be worth the £16 normal adult ticket price. It’s somewhat taller than a typical large turbine, for scale.
Re: the Master Resource webpage – it is 9 yr old and relates to the US. However, it says much the same thing as I did: it calculates the homes equivalence correctly, and points out that its purpose is for illustration of a project’s scale using less-technical units, but should not be used to think that that number of homes will get their electricity exclusively from the turbine(s).
Whose responsibility…failures The company expecting to receive the income stream from the electricity sales ought to be monitoring its output and need for maintenance & repairs, and holding the manufacturer to any warranty; I don’t know if it’s usual to have insurance against lightning strikes, etc. Endurance is the bankrupt manufacturer, and a quick Google shows at least one of their turbines in the area, but I can’t tell if they two failed turbines were the same model or even manufacturer.
Re: the GWPF article, about them objecting to the advertising saying “The price paid for electricity from offshore wind farms has fallen by 50% over the last five years” To be strictly accurate, that sentence should read “The price to be paid for electricity from new offshore wind farms has fallen by 50% over the last five years”. I don’t know how much of the responsibility for the wording lay with the doubtless non-technical advertising agency copy-writers, whose job is to write the snappiest and most memorable wording for their clients. The inexactness of wording is minor compared with many of the distortions and rubbish written by the general press and anti-renewable energy commentators.
Regarding who is lying to you and why, you always have to ask what is the agenda of people telling you things: Nigel Lawson is the driving force behind the GWPF, which despite its name is a pressure group against doing anything about global-warming. When he was on Radio 4’s Today program recently he made statements that many people pointed out were plain wrong, but he went unchallenged on the broadcast, though he admitted the errors later ( http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nigel-lawson-climate-change-sceptics-global-temperatures-fall-false-claim-warming-gwpf-bbc-radio-4-a7894686.html ). So this is a case of pot and kettle.
“you simply would not catch motorway constructors lying in the same way”
I’m sure there have been roads built in the UK as well as elsewhere on the basis of exaggerated claims for need – just look at the near-deserted M45.
Greenpeace…having a hidden agenda I would have thought their agenda is quite plain: get rid of nuclear power (and weapons) and fossil fuels, and replace them with renewables. I can’t see what else there is that is not obvious.
Re: the Not A Lot Of People Know That link. This is a renewable energy sceptic website that has selectively used statistics to further its agenda. England is the constituent country of the UK with by far the largest population (and thus energy consumption), densest population (and thus the hardest to find sites that are suitable for onshore wind) and the least good wind resource. England has 83% of the UK’s population, but only 25% of its onshore wind capacity (though 83% of its offshore capacity). So its 2800 MW of onshore turbines did produce only 2.4% of its electricity last year (which was the least windy year for some time). Though is the article talking about the electricity generated in England or consumed in England (the difference being the net imports from other countries of the UK & its neighbours)? A less arbitrarily isolationist approach would be to look at the island of Great Britain as a whole, with its unified electricity system – in 2016 its 8800 MW of onshore wind generated 6.2% of its electricity, and its 5100 MW of offshore generated 4.9%, for a total of 11%. The article’s headline is “Wind Farms In England Only Supply 2% Of Power” – again the ASA should make them be more accurate: “Onshore Wind Farms In England Only Supplied 2.4% Of Power in the low-wind year of 2016“. I also think ‘England’ includes its territorial waters, and so the article should include its offshore generation too, which would boost the figure to about 8% in 2016, 9% in 2017, and probably 10% in 2018 and 12% by 2023.
As a devil’s advocate, I can play a similar game with nuclear: Most of England’s population is in the south-east, and most of that is in London and its contiguous conurbation. Nuclear generated precisely 0% of the power generated in the London conurbation, so Londoners should forget all about nuclear as it’s obviously utterly useless.
Finally, the 2800 MW of England’s current onshore capacity could be replaced by about 2000 MW of offshore, which is 5 times Rampion’s capacity – this may help inform your opinion in Brighton. Have a Happy New Year there!
PS to the Not A Lot Of People Know That link comment. Taking the fairly arbitrary official statistical region of England of Yorkshire & the Humber, it has 1083 MW of onshore wind that generated 2.9 TWh in 2016, and 654 MW of offshore wind making landfall on its coasts that generated 1.3 TWh in 2016. Its population of 5.5 million used about 28 TWh in 2016, if pro rata to the UK, so its turbines provided 10% + 5% = 15% of its electricity. Does that selection of statistics make your local turbines appear more reasonable and acceptable than Paul Homewood’s selection?
Regarding the advert, yes I accept the point that the GWPF has an agenda of its own, but that doesn’t mean the Greenpeace crew weren’t caught lying – they were.
Regardless of whose to blame, the bad PR from being caught in a lie doesn’t reflect well on the intentions of those involved. If it was an honest mistake fair enough, but judging from readers’ reactions in this article, people are very very skeptical. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5213733/Activists-withdraw-advert-making-false-claim-wind-farms.html#comments So yes the GWPF might be the pot calling the kettle black, but all that means is they are equally dishonest, not that the Greenpeace guys aren’t! The net result is more bad PR for renewables, more people turned off and alienated by those who would impose wind turbines on them against their will.
Greenpeace’s true intentions? Who knows? The guy who invented them certainly isn’t impressed… https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/mar/29/lovelock-wind
I take on board your point about the misuse of statistics relating to the “2%” figure, but the idea of blaming a “low-wind year” for below-par performance seems a bit poor really, Phil, a bit “trains delayed due to the wrong type of leaves on the line” – how can the wind ever be truly sustainable as a source of energy (ie at a constant, forecastable rate)??? I thought before wind farms were built there are supposed to be forecasts made about the amount of wind that can be expected. Are low-wind years not factored in to these forecasts? What makes a year low-wind? How often do we have low-wind years? Do we also have corresponding high-wind years? Surely we can’t be taken by surprise when the wind doesn’t blow on demand for us? The reliable course of action is surely to assume that the wind will start and stop whenever it feels like it, therefore wind power can only ever be reactive to the weather, we can never rely on it all the time. Just when we need it most, it will let us down!
Oh by the way, do we know why Endurance went bust? Weren’t they able to sell enough electricity?!
And the M45, yes I know it! A great April Fool’s Joke once claimed it had been turned into a Heritage Motorway, with only vintage cars allowed to drive it. Of course it’s a quiet, deserted motorway now, but it was one of the first ever built, as a spur off the M1 to link with Coventry, originally the main signed route to Birmingham and the West Midlands. I’m not sure if when it was built the route of the M6 had been decided, but when it was constructed a few years later it took the brunt of the traffic and left the M45 almost deserted. The “wind turbine” equivalent (well, according to my hypothesis…no doubt you take the opposing view!) would be if the M45 had been built entirely for profit for the constructors, with the full knowledge that the M6 was on its way about to make it largely redundant, but authorized anyway! I am actually intrigued now: when the M45 was constructed did they know that the M6 was coming and about to supersede it?
Our energy system is somewhat weather-dependent already: if it’s windy, which is because of fronts coming in from the Atlantic which are relatively mild, our demand for gas for space heating and electricity for top-up heating falls; and if it’s overcast our demand for electricity for lighting rises.
The official National Grid position on renewable energy (RE) is that they can handle any amount, since the predictability of its generation, thanks to sufficiently accurate weather forecasting, is such that it can be managed in the system that schedules the other generation to match the demand which is forcastable only on similar timescales.
The wind is indeed not constant, but neither is electricity demand – GB’s varies between 18 GW and about 55 GW – so large amounts of constant generation, ie nuclear, similarly require extra effort & resources to make use of.
Weather varies from day to day, month to month and year to year. The economics of an RE project will be made based on the long-term average of recent years, and over the multi-decade operations of the facility it should be achieved. In a given year the wind depends on the number of Atlantic fronts that come through and the number of high-pressure systems that sit over NW Europe blocking them, both of which are probably largely dependent on the variable position of the jet stream. 2016 was a low-wind year for the UK, and also a low-rainfall year for hydro. 2017 has been a high-wind year, with UK wind farms producing about 50% more output than 2016, with only a 15% increase in capacity.
Yes, there will be times when wind and solar production will be negligible, so enough stored electricity and ‘dispatchable’ generation capacity needs to be available to cover demand at such times, after mitigating the situation with demand management. The wind and solar can thus be viewed as reducing the need to burn fossil fuel, which is CO2-emitting and will be increasingly scarce and expensive (and needs to be imported). Fuel for such occasions is also proposed to be made artificially at times of excess RE generation. The details of this and the pro & con arguments would take another whole blog.…Endurance were manufacturers of small to medium turbines, not operators of them, and seem to have gone bust as a result of too-sudden changes to the wind support schemes by the government in 2015 causing their sales to drop faster than they could manage.…I love the M45 and put up with the A45 round Coventry before it when I drive to north London, rather than using the M6, just for that experience of what roads were like in the past. The bliss evaporates when joining the M1 of course.
(1) “The wind and solar can thus be viewed as reducing the need to burn fossil fuel, which is CO2-emitting and will be increasingly scarce and expensive (and needs to be imported).”
This of course is the entire raison d’etre of wind farms, to contribute to lower CO2 emissions. How have they got on? Do we have any quantifiable evidence yet of how much less CO2 we are now emitting as a result of wind energy? BTW I think it’s very important not to conflate wind energy with all renewables, which also include biomass and solar, don’t they? A lot of the positive press seems to be about “renewables” as a single entity, often illustrated with a wind turbine, without specifying which type of renewable energy they are referring to.
There is a difference between renewable and sustainable too, which often seems to get mixed up. Of course wind energy is renewable energy, but the point I have made (borne out by 2016 being a “low-wind year) is that wind cannot be truly described as sustainable energy because the wind itself is not sustained (ie maintained at a constant rate or level).…
(2) “Endurance were manufacturers of small to medium turbines, not operators of them, and seem to have gone bust as a result of too-sudden changes to the wind support schemes by the government in 2015 causing their sales to drop faster than they could manage.”
OK, now we’re cooking with gas (or rather, cooking with wind….ahem) Wind support schemes. Subsidies. Another huge bone of contention and controversy. You can see why this blog is the gift that keeps giving, and why, when looked at closely, wind power is such a fascinating, multilayered topic. I’m actually surprised not more people have studied it. We now come onto the political/economic dimension. What changes were made in 2015, with what effect on sales?
As far as I’m aware, the main change in 2015 was a change in planning policy, with the Planning Inspectorate having less power to overturn local community decisions. To a certain extent, this is the outcome I wanted all along, just an investigation into the appeal process because it seemed to be hurting a lot of people, and almost all of the most offensively situated wind turbines are ones that were rejected locally, for very good reasons. Carsington Pastures and Crook Hill Wind Farms are two in particular that have screwed up the White Peak and the Dark Peak respectively.
Nobody round these parts wants them, as I have documented in my official letters (do some research and you’ll find out the verdict of local communities on these two schemes). They are strikingly at odds with the values of the National Parks, as I expressed to the Planning Inspectorate.
So what else changed in 2015 that caused a turbine manufacturer to lose sales? Did this affect other turbine businesses, or just Endurance? How come their business model wasn’t, erm, “sustainable”?!
(3) A few miles north of the M45 lies the M6(Toll), and this might be a better analogy for a wind farm, as it is a privately operated motorway, run for profit. Therefore in terms of the original mention of motorways – I asked if motorway constructors act as dishonestly as some wind farm constructors, referring to the “astroturfing” of support and the misrepresentation of stats, albeit accidentally (giving them the benefit of the doubt) – the M6(Toll) gives us some insight into what happens when private companies take over essential public services. This was the concern of the Green Party candidate I corresponded with, he was totally pro-wind power in terms of science, but he shared my concerns about the corporatisation of open access common land, preferring that wind farms were owned and operated by the public sector.
Subsidies are all part of the debate here – is it morally right that a private company receives subsidies from the government? At what point should a product stand on its own two feet without the need of assistance?
Presumably the M6(Toll) makes enough profit to survive without assistance now, but if say 2017 was a “low-traffic year” and the motorway didn’t generate enough tolls, would it be right to ask the government to bail it out?
I note too that the motorway had its fair share of eco-protestors. I’ve never been wound up by road developments myself, even good old Brighton has an excellently landscaped bypass that, at the time of building, I was dead worried would screw up the Downs. But it’s a job well done. I have mixed feelings for the anti-roads protests. I respect and admire the protestors for being passionate and motivated and standing up for nature. But in most cases I would make the case that the new road is beneficial to the environment in terms of how it helps the old roads being bypassed.
Allowing cars to bypass a town in a couple of minutes at 50mph or 60mph is surely better for the environment than making them crawl along urban streets at 20 or 30mph?
If we spend too long debating roads and transport we’ll be here forever (a whole other debate). so to keep it on-topic, the M6(Toll) is an example of a road run by a private company, the way wind farms are run. Is it the best model for wind farms, or are there other ways of financing and operating them that would be better for society?
(4) Finally, I didn’t get to see Rampion as it was dark by the time I arrived at Seaford, however my friends live on the coast and can see the workings on the horizon. Believe it or not, I don’t rant on about wind power in “real life” (it’s a topic I keep strictly limited to those interested in a serious discourse about it), so I just said I’m interested to know if it affects them in any way over the upcoming months.
I also saw wind turbines at Polegate, and on the way back up north, at Ockendon in Essex. These in particular look horrible, impacting heavily on the Thames Chase Community Forest, an unbelievably tranquil green belt inbetween East London and the Thames Estuary in Essex. These horrific turbines are the last thing the area needs. Horrible!
I saw a fair few “Devil’s Eyes” blinking red lights further into the Midlands. Again, horrible! I don’t think it’s morally right to inflict these bright flashing red lights on people living in the countryside, they look sinister and unnatural, and the whole point of my blog is that introducing sinister and unnatural elements into an area lowers the tone and worsens the mental health and wellbeing of those who would otherwise get refreshment and tranquillity from such areas.
I mentioned Polegate…the wind farm is called Shepham and further research reveals the same old, same old story. It seems to be absolutely typical of the wind farm experience in so many ways!
(1) Divisiveness between Thesis (Pros) & Antithesis (Cons)
Yet again there is a huge divide between those of the local population who are opposed and those in favour. My question, as always, is “Do they have an internal or external locus of control?” Ie is anyone pulling the strings behind-the-scenes? To be fair, in this case both of these look like genuine grass-roots movements. I’d be lying if I claimed residents were unanimously opposed. But many were.
THESIS: SAY YES TO POLEGATE WIND FARM!!! https://yestopolegatewindfarm.wordpress.com/
ANTITHESIS: STOP SHEPHAM WIND FARM!!!
(2) Corporate Not Community Locus Of Control
I actually went for an interview with Galliford Try and winced as he told me about their wind turbine constructions! Maybe for the best I didn’t get the job…I was narrowly pipped to the post! Would I have even accepted? To be honest I just find the whole glossy brochure approach to the industrialisation of green fields makes me feel physically sick. All we need are children with gleaming white teeth frolicking around the turbine with ice creams and puppy dogs! Why does it have to be so corporate? It seems phoney and cringeworthy – ie BAD AESTHETICS! Again, unnatural and creepy, which has a negative impact on most right-thinking people’s mental health and well-being. The corporate nature changes the whole tone and impression of the scheme as purely and simply in the interests of the company’s shareholders, of no benefit whatsoever to the locals. I’m not totally anti-corporate, but nature and the countryside are supposed to be places where living creatures can escape the rat race. This is now one more area of the UK owned and dominated by a corporation with dangerous electrical equipment, one less area of public “safe space”. http://www.consense.co.uk/portfolios/galliford.aspx
(3) Opposed Locally, Overturned On Appeal
You couldn’t make it up Phil. Two hours ago I typed my first comment about how you can always tell when a wind farm was opposed locally and only approved on appeal. Well here we go again! I’d be fascinated to know if there are as many appeals pro rata when it comes to other development proposals. https://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/news/controversial-wind-farm-given-green-light-in-polegate-1-6526151
(4) Confusing Use Of Statistics
“The proposed development would supply renewable electricity generation of up to 7.5 MW of installed capacity, sufficient to power up to 4,000 homes,and would achieve an annual saving of up to 8,475 tonnes of carbon.”
Let me see if I’ve got this now… the 7.5 MW is the TOTAL capacity, but the 4,000 homes figure has factored in the capacity factor, likely to be around 20-30%. At no time will these 4.000 homes be solely powered by the wind farm, it’s merely an equivalent figure. I don’t know how the carbon figure was arrived at. Do they mean carbon or carbon dioxide? Are we CERTAIN that lowering CO2 emissions will stop the world’s temperature rising? What evidence is this based on? (Not that I don’t believe it, just interested to know what data was used to come to this calculation). https://www.eastbourneherald.co.uk/news/shepham-wind-farm-gets-the-go-ahead-on-appeal-1-6517346
So there we go, it’s a fairly typical case study that highlights some of the issues associated with wind farm construction. Is it worth it, that’s the question?!
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