Saturday, 9 January 2010

Let's Hope Climate Change is Breezy

Wind seems to be in the news this week. Or the lack of it in this part of the country.

Yesterday the Scottish government confirmed rights had been granted to companies to build two enormous wind farms in the seas off Scotland's east coast.

About 850 turbines will be built off Fife in the Firth of Forth and in the Moray Firth off the north-east coast, under the plans.

Announcing the winning bidders yesterday, Mr Salmond said there was "no greater opportunity for our country" than offshore renewables.

He said he believed the 1,000 existing Scottish jobs in offshore renewables would multiply 20 fold to 20,000 by 2020. The huge offshire wind farms, if built, would have the combined capacity of 4.8 gigawatts (GW) - enough to power more than two million houses - roughly every home in Scotland. When combined with existing plans for 6.4GW of offshore wind farms at ten other sites round Scotland, announced last year, there would be more than 11GW capacity.

At peak output they are expected to operate at more than 40 per cent efficiency.

Now I don't want to be a doom-monger but this is worrying. More worrying is the fact that onshore production has been nearly non-existent in the past weeks. Add that to the National Grid's cost ideas and I can see the consumer price of energy becoming completely unaffordable for many. What do we do then?

Lallands Peat Worrier also has an opinion.


Quiet_Man said...

Fact, on the most bitterly cold days of the year and hence the demand for peak energy, there is little or no wind.

Windfarms are economic and energy supply lunacy.

Sandy said...

QM I beg to differ. can you not see the sense in being able to throttle back coal oil and gas generation on windy days ?

Vronsky said...

Because of its unpredictable variations, wind can only be developed up to about 15% of total generation requirement, and some sources put it at much less. The national grid can cope with about this degree of variation, but even then wind must be backed by conventional generation, almost gigawatt for gigawatt.

We're still looking for a 'baseload' generator - a technology which doesn't vary unpredictably. The answer is tidal flow - not to be confused with wave power or tidal rise and fall. The tidal flow varies, but in a highly predictable way, and will continue so long as the moon is in the sky. That is where the investment should be going, not on the extremely limited potential of wind.

'Throttling back' or stopping and starting may actually increase emissions overall.

Quiet_Man said...

@ Sandy, Coal and gas will still have to be there to back up the useless windpower supply at all times. So you end up having to have two supplies instead of just one and one that actually works despite the weather, rather than because of it.
These turbines are energy inefficient, noisy, environmentally unfriendly (check out the huge concrete block they're built on) uneconomic without a huge government subsidy, costly to maintain (try getting a turbine off its mast to fix it) as well as being danger to flying wildlife.

In short they're a bad idea and should not be built.

Tory Totty Online said...

Another rushed-into, ill-thought-out shambles. Sorry to be cynical, but it really is.

Anonymous said...

There's enough hot air coming out of Westminster to drive limitless numbers of these things at 100% efficiency.

Strathturret said...

I'm a fan of wind turbines. They look like energy for free to me. They are simple technology and should run for years with minimal maintenance. I'd dont find them at all objectionable indeed I find them quite beautiful.

Its not very scientific I know but every time I drive past Claypotts in Dundee the two Michelin turbines are always turning. I've never seen them stationery.

As regards CO2 emmision, surely the issue is the tonnes per annum figure as this is a long running problem that has built up over decades. So running coal/oil/gas for a brief period when there is little wind should not be an issue given that our output over the rest of the year would be low.

I'd have though you need large concrete structures for most energy schemes; hydro all those dams, tunnels, etc, nuclear and oil/coal stations. The point is construction is one off that will support CO2 free energy generation for years.

Anonymous said...

Windfarms produce....wind. Not always welcome.
The Dutch decided five years ago that they were (a) inefficient (b) noisy and (c) incredibly expensive to maintain. That's why they're aren't installing any more.
New Labour's quintessential feature is bad science. Any good science is smeared, hidden and then denied.

subrosa said...

In connection with onshore I'm on your side QM but I'm wondering if offshore is more productive. It will be far more expensive to instal of course.

subrosa said...

Expensive business doing that Sandy.

The Filthy Engineer said...

In one of the comments above the statement was made:

"They are simple technology and should run for years with minimal maintenance."

Now, I have been a marine Engineer for more years than I can remember. What I will say is that these machines will be hugely costly in their maintenance budget. The bearings in an offshore turbine will at the most, last for 5 years. just imagine trying to repair one turbine in the North sea, in winter.

The offshore environment is hostile to any mechanical device. I know. I have fought the environment for 44 years.

The environment always won!

subrosa said...

Ah Vronsky I know quite a few people who would agree with you about tidal flow. In fact one, who's now retired, tried hard for the idea to be accepted but wind and wave power won out. Why? He said because that's what the big boys wanted. They make the most profits.

The customer's benefits? Dearer bills.

subrosa said...

Got to meet the renewables target TT, that's what it's all about. And of course satisfy the big boys of business.

subrosa said...

Strathturret, I bet you'd be horrified at the cost of the Michelin turbines. Mind you it was offset from their 'carbon footprint' along with tax relief from the IR.

I've no idea what these two generate though, so I'll see if I can find details.

I don't find hydro buildings ugly, in fact some are exceptionally imposing.

subrosa said...

That's one reason why I'm surprised we're going ahead with them in such quantities John.

The noise can really interfere with your daily life. I think I said before there's a small setup around here and a friend finds the constant low key noise from them truly irritating. Like tinnitus it's been described by others.

subrosa said...

There may well be Lorenzo, but we want quality as well as quantity. :)

subrosa said...

Ah FE, thank you. You confirm what many think about the offshore ones.

With your knowledge and experience I'm sure you'd be for such installations if they were suitable for the job.

Strathturret said...

I don't find Hydro schemes objectionable, just pointed out that they use a lot of concrete. I feel that we were unwise to stop hydro development in 60s?

Remember that out wooly hatted nimbys (John Muir Trust et al) don't like Hydro either as it might spoil their sense of wilderness!

My point was that windturbines are simple machines. I accept that offshore is a much harsher environment than onshore. I guess planned maintence of bearings in summertime should do trick? The oil industry must know the drill by now.

Spartan said...

Very rarely will the wind turbines run at peak efficiency and the output to the grid is around 5% ... and finally it is a very expensive way of producing electricity.

Strathturret said...

Sorry Spartan I don't understand. Efficiency matters if you're buying oil/gas to run your power station. For wind, its free so % efficiency is surely irrelevant.

I'd also have thought that once you've bought your turbine, your energy is free; no fuel to buy. Albeit there will be some maintenance. It must depend on capital cost and expected lifespan.

Spartan said...

Efficiency does matter, the wind maybe free but the equipment isn't. The cost of a wind farm is estimated to be the same as a nuclear power station. Difference is, the nuclear power station will give the same power day in day out and it's output will be exactly what is specified.

Whereas, wind farms are totally dependent on wind ... unfortunately the wind is not dependable. lf it's low or non-existant the output from them is virtually useless .... and if the wind is to high they have to be stopped and therefore cease to produce anything ... again useless. Wind farms are at best nothing more than a top-up.

Thw wind farms have also to be maintained and repaired. How the hell they will repair them in winter in the North Sea is beyond me .. and them.

Engineers estimate the lifespan of a wind turbine in the North Sea is approx 5 years. They are simply not cost effective or efficient or dependable.

Not a sheep said...

Great post; a couple of days ago I reported that "whilst the temperature over the last month has fallen from 12 degrees Celsius to 0 degrees Celsius, the wind forecast has dropped by over 90% over the last three days alone. Meanwhile the same report shows that over the last 24 hours power generation in the UK was as follows: 42.9% Oil, 39.2% Gas, 16.3% Nuclear which makes a total of 98.4%. Don't worry, wind power doesn't even make up all of the remaining 1.6%, in fact it only makes up 0.3%."

Spartan said...

^^^ ;-) Also 'Strath' the use of Horizontal Turbines mean they are dependent on wind direction and have to be powered and turned to use the wind. Whilst they are being turned they cannot be operational. lf the wind is swirling etc it makes the use of the Horizontal Turbine somewhat of a nightmare.

The other type is the Vertical Turbine that can handle the fluctuations of wind better but are less eficient than Horizontal Turbines due to reduced torque and they have to be powered up to start.

ln short, the Horizontal Turbine has to have the right sort of wind!

subrosa said...

Strathurret and Spartan:

'Wind turbine costs are high. Smaller roof-mounted turbines start from around £1,500, ranging up to £25,000 for a mast-mounted model. Large-scale wind farms also require a significant start-up investment from industry.'

That's from the Which website
but no detailed industrial costs given.

It's expensive to maintain also. Filthy Engineer knows all about it.

subrosa said...

Great statistics notasheep and accurate too from what I've seen.

No, wind shouldn't be the best way to go. As FE says tidal would be most affective. I've no idea how well developed it is though. Google doesn't have much detail.

Strathturret said...

Sorry I stand by my statement that wind turbines are simple machines.

If we can send a man to the moon and extract oil from 100s of meters below the North Sea then running wind turbines on the surface of the sea does not strike me as particularly difficuilt. We have 40 years expertise of oil platforms in North Sea. So we must know the sort of maintenance regimes necessary to ensure continuous production.

The decesive equation must be kW produced per annum v Capital Cost.

I believe that they must form a part of our portfolio of energy generation measures.

subrosa said...

Fair enough Strathturret. I don't see why wind can't be used but the volume of turbines we're installing seems the wrong way to go for me.

Then again, what do I know really, only what I read. I appreciate I could be very wrong in my opinion.

Spartan said...

Strath ... there will never be continuous production from wind turbines. They cannot store electricity ... they only produce it when and if they turn depending on the wind.

What next? ... return to sailing ships??

subrosa said...

Strathturret, I mean to add never apologise for your opinions. They're as good as the next man's/woman's.

Strathturret said...

Denmark seems to be 20 years ahead of us. Then they're independent. They produce 20% of electricity from wind farms many off shore. They also have 20,000 jobs supported by being leaders in this technology. They are also strongly anti-nuclear.

Apogee said...

An interesting conversation.For what it's worth,no generator runs at maximum capacity, hydro systems are often used as backup capacity. The amount generated depends entirely on the load, which is continuously variable.Maintenance is only a problem if cutting costs is the main priority and proper planning is not carried out.There are plenty of examples of maintenance planned round the weather.
The problem of power generation is the "always on" idea in huge quantity.
Wind power has been used on farms for many decades and with many versions,usually with a diesel back up for high capacity requirements, some times including a water driven generator of some sort but always with a battery to store excess energy when available.
Look at the load in the average house. A lot of the time it is small, the big load is electric cooking and washing, but not for a a large part of the day. Point is that the grid is trying to provide enough power for a varying load in real time, the generating efficiency is not good if you can't store power.So with many types of generator, some sort of balance can be struck.The system of mixed generators will work,even if not perfectly, but the power will be there.


Spartan said...

l really don't see Denmark 20 years ahead. As an engineer l see them going backwards. The country that is ahead of us is France ... they are completely nuclear and they supply us with electricity. The UK is way behind on nuclear and only now have we decided to build them. This should've been done decades ago.

Of all the engineers l know, and l know quite a few, none of them believe in wind turbines. The money spent on them should be put into the nuclear program .... and guess what? ... wind turbines become irrelevant even if they could produce 20% (which l doubt).

subrosa said...

You've persuaded me to look further into the subject Strathturret. I'll admit if my opinion changes. :)

subrosa said...

Storage is an interesting factor Apogee and one I was reading about earlier this week after listening to the talk on radio.

We're well behind other countries on this as far as I can see.

I'd prefer mixed myself because I've never been one of putting all your eggs into one basket.

subrosa said...

Can't agree with 100% nuclear Spartan. I'd like to see far more use of our coastlines before I'd consider it. We also supply electricity to England from here.

Strathturret said...

But we're not going nuclear are we. The economics of nuclear are hugely uncertain. Will anyone build a plant without a government guarantee to pick up excess cost? Are they ever built on time? And our two are often down for maintenance so they're not too reliable.

The Scottish Governments policy seems to be logical and forward thinking to me. Being non-nuclear gives us a marketing advantage to sell everything as clean and green from whisky to smoked salmon. We have a huge land area to population ratio so we can use natures resources (wind, tidal, hydro) to generate our power and become experts in new technology which we can sell to others. Like the Danish have successully done.

The money to be made out of nuclear will be made by the French who have the expertise. We don't.

subrosa said...

Isn't England paying for the French to build and run their new nuclear stations? Perhaps I'm wrong.

Spartan said...

10 nuclear plants are planned, first one to be running by 2017.

subrosa said...

None are planned for Scotland though Spartan. I think the French are building yours. We're trying to be self-sufficient here.

Spartan said...

Self-sufficient? Where will your base power come from in the future assuming wind farms produce 20%? That still leaves 80%. l believe Scotland has 2 remaining operational nuclear plants operating until 2015 and 2023. Both are owned by Scottish Nuclear which is now part of British Energy, which is owned by EDF (French)

ln the meantime the NIF will begin tests this year ... interesting times.

subrosa said...

Yes Spartan. Does it scare you that Scotland would consider being self sufficient in energy? We already produce far too much electricity for our own needs and the excess goes to England. Only we pay a much higher cost this end for our power because the power companies insist the Scots pay the cost of the Grid connection.

We also have the gas and oil.

Without sounding trite, you keep your nuclear, give us independence and we'll get on with ensuring our country has enough oil, gas and electricity without troubling you.

I can see Westminster struggling enough worrying about no salt for the snowy roads of England. They could reduce their stress level with a sweep of the pen!

Anonymous said...

Coming in late to this discussion like the coo's tail I want to ake two points.

We appear not to be importing electricity from France, but the other way round.

According to the interconnector reading about 2.2 GWatts going to France.

Secondly, I have never seen a proper calculation on the cost of generation of electricity by nuclear plants which absorbs the cost of the decommissioning of the plant.

So, for me generation costs based on nuclear plants are totally hypothetical and grossy underestimated.

Strathturret, I though you had a PhD in Chemistry. Would that not make you a trained scientist and thus just a wee dod scientific?

subrosa said...

So Bug, you're saying English is selling Scotland's electricity to France and not giving us a share of the gains? Tut tut.

No I haven't seen figures about that either. I note that when nuclear are asked for decommissioning costs they always sidestep the question. It's rather like Donaldson and his reply to the cost of the swine flu scare.

Strathturret said...


I've forgotten most of my chemistry. My point on global warming was I may have a PhD in chemistry but lack the detailed knowledge to argue with guys who have spent years studying climate change.

I dont have intellect/arrogance/stupidity to look at a few graphs and rubbish someone's lifes work.

If Royal Society is saying Global Warming is a serious problem then it is. That is the approach taken by all responsible politicians who must take the best advice they are given whether its about climate change, flu pandemics or whatever. We'd crucify a politician who said damn the specialist advice I know best.

Anonymous said...


I have never looked at a few graphs and then rubbished someone's life's work either, I wonder why you said that to me?

I know when I smell stinking fish and the AGW fish is well rotting from the head down. Perhaps you have lost your sense of smell or scientific scepticism?

Nothing is settled in science despite what Al Gore and, now apparently Gordon Brown, say. I am scientific sceptic not a flat earther as Brown tries to smear all who challenge what he knows to be the truth.

If we had listened to the Royal Society and other august bodies, Darwin would be wrong and much of our progress in medicine would have been stillborn. The accepted wisdom and the leather chaired bottomed ones who pontificate around that are the enemy.

Have you ever read Bjorn Lomborg of the Skeptical Environmentalist fame? I have and have lost the book and it was signed by him.

In it you can read a devastating exposé of the tricks and ruses used by renowned and named scientists to spin or misrepresent the results of their environmental researches. He lists a whole host of World renowned environental researchers and denounces their trickery. As far as I know he has never been sued for libel or slander. He was of course vilified, by other scientists, especially Danish ones and his homosexuality was repeatedly used to smear him. Loborg is not a scientist but a statistician and he used his mathematical skills with devastating logic. In fact I believe there were moves to have him removed from the Danish Academy of Sciences but I lost contact with that aspect of his life when I left Denmark. He was very personna non grata in Learned Circles but since his positions have been effectively subsequently supported by many others without the clique, he is now listened to more often.

Your position is that responsible politicians must accept the best scientific advice they are given. In days gone by that would have been my position for, I too had great faith in scientific objectivity. I have no longer. My feeling is that because of the politicisation of science, (cf the list of scientific scares we are continually fed) it is skewed to produce the results that politics and politicians want.

There is even a scientific philosophy to support this non objective approach, that science should exist to support sociological philosophy, I think. There is always bound to be someone attacking the objectivity of science. Just think what sort of wiggle room that gives statist politicians never mind dictators.

Just follow the money, especially if scientists need the funds to live. They need to tick the boxes too, just like the Police, the Civil Service, the Education system, University and School.

It is all now politicised.

Just follow the money.

Scientists have to eat too.

Know that and you are halfway there.

Strathturret said...

From my knowledge of academic scientists both as a research student and from friends and relatives I don't buy all the conspiracy stuff from global warming deniers.

The science behing global warming is old hat and there is a settled view that it is probable that man is responsible. It is not proven in being 99,99% certain.

Politicians need to take best advice.

Following the money takes me to the oil industry who have a vested interest in rubbishing global warming. Does it surprise you that Bush denied global warming during his presidency. I think even he sees the light now.

subrosa said...

Nothing surprises me about Bush Strathturret.

Seriously, I know you've been very patient with me, but I just can't believe global warming in totally man made. I've read so much about it now the mind boggles, but I still am not convinced.

Don't get me going on the CO2 scam either!

Spartan said...

lt's somewhat laughable to only quote the oil industry as funding the opposing research on AGW given the vast amount of funding available to AGW research.

Strathturret said...

As Ive said before its not my field. I would argue as follows.

The world was in balance: we breathed out CO2 and plants took it in. All happy.

Then we found fossil fuels and started to burn them. Then we cut down the rainforest which absorbed lots of CO2. So we've tilted the CO2 in the atmosphere from 0.03 to 0.04%.

The green house gas phenomenum whereby atmospheric gasses such as CO2, CH4 and H20 increases temps was postulated in 1800s.

Now even if you do not accept that this causes GW there are some pretty good reasons for acting.

1. Energy security. Better to rely on home produced renewables than imported oil/gas/Uranium.

2. Oil/gas will eventually run out as we're using it faster than its being produced naturally.

3. The long term trend for oil prices is upwards so oil is going to get more expensive.

So frankly whether you belive in GW or not, the remedies proposed to counter it make good sense to me. Factor in that the scientists say they're 90% sure about man made GW then really we have no choice.

Spartan said...

The world was in balance? :-)

The world has never been in balance ... it's been constantly changing in it's 4.5 billion year existance.

subrosa said...

But what percentage of climate change is man made Strathturret?

I don't think anyone's arguing the climate is changing - that's a natural occurrence. It's the man made % which many question.

Oh I read somewhere big business is being funded for looking into how CH4 can be controlled in animals. I thought it a joke at first but it's not.

subrosa said...

Nature has the best balance of all Spartan.

Spartan said...

Depends what you mean by balance ... do you mean trying to balance? Continent shelves moving, ice ages etc etc is not balance as such but a constantly changing enviroment.

Speaking of ice ages, the last one began about 18,000 years ago and ended approx 10,000 years ago. Don't think humans had much to do with the warming of the planet then. ;-)

subrosa said...

By balance I was preferring to renewables Spartan. We need a mixture and a balanced mixture to get the right results.

It'll take a few generations to get a reasonable mix I think, one which gives the best benefit to all, but it's worthwhile.

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