Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The rise of hydro power – or just arrival of some sense

Colour wind farm turbinesI’m beginning to think I have to start any renewable energy post with a reminder that I’m not against wind power or wind farms, far from it – provided they’re in the right place (not in the middle of beauty spots or in folks back gardens). My problem is, and always will be, with the short-sighted knee-jerk reaction that sees it as the panacea for renewables, and the only solution to be pursued, regardless of suitability, to eliminate the need for fossil fuels, and to install it wherever possible, regardless of who is walked over to achieve that end.

There was a recent story reported by the BBC regarding a large number of goats in Taiwan which may have died of exhaustion because of noise from a wind farm. A farmer living on an outlying island told the BBC he had lost more than 400 animals after eight giant wind turbines were installed close to his grazing land. The local Council of Agriculture says it suspects that noise may have caused the goats’ demise through lack of sleep.Before the wind farm was built about four years ago, farmer Kuo Jing-shan had about 700 goats.Shortly after the electricity-generating turbines were installed, the 57-year-old says his animals started to die. He now has just 250 goats left. Penghu is notorious for its strong howling winds. Mr Kuo said the stronger the wind, the louder the machines became: “The goats looked skinny and they weren’t eating. One night I went out to the farmhouse and the goats were all standing up; they weren’t sleeping. I didn’t know why. If I had known, I would’ve done something to stop the dying”, he told BBC’ reporter Cindy Sui in Taiwan.

I don’t say the cause is, or is not the wind farm, installed only 40 metres from this farmer’s grazing land, but merely use the tale to illustrate that the phenomenon is not local, and that unlike a factory, there is still little regard given to pollution or other effects arising from such installations. While it’s easy for people to point at chemical spills and the like, noise, or other as yet unconsidered effects that occur around wind farms are not taken seriously, or ignored by those with an interest in having them installed.

River waterMore interesting, and relevant, is renewed interest in hydro-power in Scotland, where it’s now over 50 years since the first dams were built in the hills, and giant turbines installed in the original, massive hydro-electric power schemes. The original giants have since been supplemented by smaller systems, and only last year we noted that the options for really useful amounts of power to be generated by expanding on this idea were probably somewhat limited, since all the prime sites for such plans had already been used. Those that remain would possibly be too small to be effective, or lie in areas where the flooding caused by the dam needed to created the required reservoir would result in outcry and opposition. (back to the wind farm problem again).

New thinking, at last, may see much renewed interest in hydro power.

A £30 million scheme, the Sloy project, aims to see a pumped storage facility added to the existing facility near the head of Loch Lomond. This would allow water to be pumped up into Loch Sloy during periods of low demand, for example from wind turbines which may be operating during the night, and then used to generate power during periods of peak demand.

Sloy currently generates about 120 GWh. With the addition of pumped storage, this would be expected to rise by some 100 GWh.

An industry/government study published last September calculated there are another 600 megawatts of “financially viable” hydro power to be found in Scotland, much of it from small-scale, run-of-the-river projects. That’s nearly half as much again as is currently installed. And it’s twice as much as the new Glendoe project, which has been installed above Loch Ness, and is reported to provide power for 100,000 homes during the short times it’s called upon. Glendoe is a new plant which uses the latest technology, with a drop of 600 metres through its new tunnel, and able to deliver its power to the National Grid within 30 seconds of asking.

It seems there is now a new approach being described by companies such as SSE  (Scottish and Southern Energy), still known in parts of Scotland as the Hydro Board, and the ‘Scottish Hydro-Electric’ brand is still the main one for customers north of the Border. Rather than seeking to identify small sites which might be described as “splash-and-dash” solutions that have traditionally filled small gaps and peaks in demand, they are looking for more significant pumped storage solutions that can run for days when there is no wind.

This signals two significant changes in attitude. The obvious one whereby there is a desire to find useful hydro power sites, including pumped storage and run-of-river projects – which have featured recently – and the second,which acknowledges the fact that wind farms can lie dormant when the wind dies, and is the more surprising one, which flies in the face of the wind power fanatics, who normally suffer selective blindness when this point is raised, dismiss it as unimportant and irrelevant, and move on swiftly.

We may still be surprised, and see a properly integrated approach that combines the best of all, instead of the the “favoured one”.


22/05/2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

GPS status unfolds on Twitter

GPS satelliteI suspected Twitter had its uses, mainly because it was – or could be – used for near live interchanges, and this was one reason why I chose to include it while bypassing most other gimmicks that fall under the general heading of social networking. While it’s easy to look at the drivel that some seem to have nothing better to type into Twitter, the magic of the system is that you only see that drivel if you choose to, and that something that those who have dismissed Twitter have chosen to ignore.

GPS is serious stuff, as is the US Air Force and the bodies that oversee it, so it was interesting to see that after I had picked up on the stories that suggested GPS was about to fall out of the sky (figuratively, not literally), that the response by the US Air Force should have come in the form of a one hour long Twitter session:

GPS is not in danger of going down, although there is some risk of degraded performance as reported recently by a government accounting group, an Air Force colonel said in a Twitter forum.

The Global Positioning System in use by the U.S. military, as well as millions of motorists globally as they navigate roadways, is not in danger of going down, although there is some risk of degraded performance as reported by a government accountability group, an Air Force colonel said in a Twitter forum.

“No, the GPS will not go down,” said Col. Dave Buckman, command lead for position, navigation and timing at the Peterson Air Force Space Command in Colorado. However, citing an earlier report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, Buckman added, “GAO points out, there is potential risk associated with a degradation in GPS performance.”

Buckman commented during a one-hour session yesterday on the command’s Twitter page. A transcript of the questions and answers appears on the command’s Web site.

GPS, now comprised of 31 operational satellites, is a free service provided by the U.S. government. Nearly $6 billion is allotted over the next five years to provision new GPS satellites and ground control facilities, according to government records.

Buckman is the command’s subject matter expert on the GPS program, which has been under the stewardship of the U.S. Air Force and the command since its inception in the 1970s. A short statement on the command’s site attempts to assure the public that the GPS system is secure.

“The current GPS constellation has the most satellites and the greatest capability ever,” the statement says. “We are committed to maintaining at least our current level of service, while striving to improve service and capability through on-going modernizaton efforts. The Air Force will continue to pursue an achievable path maintaining GPS as the premier provider of positioning, navigation and timing for the military and civilian users around the world.”

Buckman’s Twitter comments came in response to GAO testimony May 9 before a subcommittee of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which questioned the future performance of GPS.

Read more…

GPS performance could degrade but won’t fail, Air Force says

There was also an article which described the latest new satellite launch back in March, GPS SVN49 which featured the new civil L5 signal, as a success with problems, going to suggest that the satellite would probably not be declared healthy for months, if ever. The Air Force acknowledge this, but noted that the next satellite was due for launch in August, that there were plans to mitigate risk and avoid service gaps.

At the moment, 31 satellites are reported in service, while only 24 are required to keep the GPS service for civil, commercial and military users above a 95% probability of staying within acceptable performance standards. Officials predict that several satellites in the constellation will reach the end of their operational life more quickly than they will be replaced, so the probability of maintaining 24 operational satellites falls below 95% from 2010 to 2014, with the period from October 2011 to October 2012, having the lowest probability of maintaining 24 GPS satellites, when the figure drops to as low as 80%.

In several tweets, Buckman responded: “Going below 24 won’t happen … there’s only a small risk we will not continue to exceed our performance standard … Since 1995, GPS has never failed to exceed performance standards.”

It’s always good to remember that the system was, and is, originally military, and the figure of 24 working satellites really belong to the military application for acceptable accuracy.

Where the trivial civilian application of SatNav is concerned, and is being used by drivers who will happily follow a SatNav direction to drive the wrong woay along one way streets, get jammed up country lanes, or drive off cliffs, then having 4 satellites in view will allow their toys to work acceptably.

Even the more serious application of the emergency services’ use of GPS derived locations through mobile phones and similar systems will still be placing them sufficiently close to their target if the victim is unable to give their location or address.

And if the tabloids do ever feature a story about GPS (or more likely at their level of intelligence, SatNav) satellites falling out of the sky, you can rest easy that they’re not.

22/05/2009 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, military, Transport | | Leave a comment

Titanic Pizza sinks Kentucky Fried Chicken

Titanic Pizza Co

Titanic Pizza Co from web site image

There aren’t many news items that give me a warm glow of personal satisfaction, but when an item we’d covered earlier regarding American fast food bully Kentucky Fried Chicken – Glad I’ve never financed KFC -reported that the American giant had just backed down over its demands that the Titanic Pizza Co, based in Carnoustie, take the Family Feast off its website and destroy all menus, there was the hint of at least one smug grin in Scotland.

The Carnoustie pizzeria owner rightly decided to stand her ground, and I predicted they would, or should, be the victor in this case, as the American giant had tried to pull the same trick two years ago, when a pub in Yorkshire was also warned to remove the family feast from their menu, but the American fast food giant later backed down, and that should have set a precedent for the failure of any similar bullying in future.

It’s ages since I’ve been in Carnoustie, it’s just not one of my haunts as no events take place there that fall in my diary, although there is an ROC post site there, so I have covered at least one spot in some detail. If I am nearby in future though,while I might not manage a Family Feast, I will make a point of giving them some well deserved custom.

Like the folk that moaned about Google’s Street View invading their privacy, KFC’s daft tactic has done nothing but give Titanic loads of free publicity, as the story has appeared in the papers – with the articles framed an up on the pizzeria’s wall for all to see – and on national television, where the story has been featured as a tale of David versus Goliath. And we’ve featured them twice now as well, so their web presence gets a little boost as well.

The follow-up story has also featured on the BBC’s online news service:

Pizzeria gives KFC finger-lickin’


Strathearn Herald KFC drops legal threat over meal


Daily Record KFC drops legal action against pizzeria over ‘family feast’

22/05/2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: