Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

East-west split reported in wind farm cash handouts

I must admit that, despite being told by others that “There’s hardly any difference”, and I am “Imagining it”, I still haven’t really gained comfort in the new layout of the BBC’s news and related sites. The old style suited me as it was compact, and the bits I wanted were located close together, and I can’t get comfortable with the new layout, which seeks to spread stuff out more.

I’m missing the news, but hopefully I will forget the old style, and this will make the new one more palatable – it is already improving from the initial launch, as they presumably get user feedback and incorporate tweaks to the layout – and I’ll get back into the habit of looking at their feed.

Colour wind farm turbinesWhen I did look in recently, I was intrigued to see that good old wind power money was still an issue, and that despite one load of folk moaning about the cost, another was holding its collective hands out for some ‘wind’-fall.

It seems we have developed and east-west differential resulting in an east-west divide in wind power benefit with communities in the west Highlands not benefiting in the same way from wind power projects as those in the east, at least according to a council report, and that in terms of planning policy and access to the National Grid, the west had fewer farms. Highland Council officers have suggested setting up a new community fund to spread more widely money contributed by wind scheme operators and have recommended setting up a new system to handle funds from wind farms and eventually marine and tidal energy projects. Their suggestion is for communities where schemes were located would get 60% of the money provided from operators, while the remainder would be put into a pot for
the benefit of the wider region. Using current figures for wind farms, £860,000 would be generated for
those areas with projects, and £575,000 for the benefit of the rest of
the council area.

According to their study, 12 of the 21 areas which make up the Highland Council region have no large-scale wind farms.

They went on to suggest that after an initial delay to allow proposed marine and tidal projects to become established, even more money could be generated for the proposed Pan-Highland Community Fund.

I must be missing something here…

While the sum is not huge, at least in terms of the research and development costs, or even some of the few awards for such work, especially in offshore tidal and wave projects, shouldn’t such monies be invested in these new projects, which always seem to be popping up in the news, seeking funding, and complaining that not enough is being done to advance this work.

Or is the aim really just to raise bribes to silence protesters, and residents of course, who are getting fed up with the advance of wind farms over Scotland, and are now blocking planning applications with objections, rather than just nodding them through because they must be ‘good’?

I just can’t help feeling that if the folk that were behind these renewables were serious, there would not be surplus or spare cash sloshing about, as everything would be being ploughed into research, development, and production, in order to get these moving in the shortest possible time.

September 13, 2010 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reality could awaken old wave power technology

Sea wavesEither my opponents are getting tired, or have just decided I am some sort of nut (took them long enough), but I seem to be collecting less flak as time goes on and I continue to peddle my pet theory that wind power was little more than a handy cash cow in the early day of renewables. Unlike wave or tidal power systems, all the prospective wind power developer had to do was hijack some nice land where the numbers could be stacked to show potential, and a fairly standard box of wind turbine parts could be despatched and assembled to merit payment of a handy subsidy, more commonly referred to as Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC), or RO in Scotland.

This is generally misinterpreted as my suggesting that there was something untoward, or even fraudulent, in this process, but all I really intend to do by pointing out the blindingly obvious is that the easy route was taken, and the more difficult, but effective, road to wave or tidal power was bypassed. The subsidy was always available to any form of renewable power generation, the thing was that the only worthwhile system were usually wind based. The reason is obvious. By comparison, sea based renewable power means coping with a corrosive environment, and a liquid power source that carries much more energy than is gaseous partner, meaning that the hardware has to be much stronger to cope.

Back at the start of the wave and tidal power search, there was little research (and the bulk of the interest was in the speedy return from easily manufactured wind systems), and less incentive as a result. Now, the message that the land would have to be buried under wind turbines is beginning to get through, and wave/tidal schemes are beginning to look more attractive, especially since coal is still seen as dirty for various reasons, CCS (carbon capture and storage) is still to get going seriously, and the old radiophobia problem is still being loudly championed by those opposed to nuclear power.

The potential good news is that as time has passed, material science has progressed, we have better computer control systems, and the old ideas that were not developed in the early years of wave/tidal power may hold new promised if revisited and addressed using ‘new’ technology.

The BBC reported that ‘forgotten’ wave power technology from the 1980s was being examined and evolved to provide design inspiration for new systems currently being developed, and that there had been an assumption that because the technology hadn’t worked then, it wasn’t worthy of reconsideration. However, it seems that as is usually the case, making an assumption rather than a reasoned judgement was a bad idea, and that by revisiting the earlier ideas, but using modern material, an effective wave power generator could be built.

BBC News – Firm develops ‘forgotten’ wave power technology

It may be taking a while but, as time passes, it looks as if the ideas I’ve been posting in here about wave/tidal power over the past few years (while I also took a gentle, but firm, swipe at wind power) just might not be the ramblings of a deranged lunatic after all.

This particular project has another couple of years to run, so we’ll see how close I was, and if there’s anything useful to be had, or if any more ‘surprises’ join it.

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Renewables bob back up in the news

The various renewable power generation schemes seemed to have gone a little quiet in the news, which was handy after I decided to stop following them as I was afraid of becoming stuck in some sort of pro or anti crusade, rather than just being interested.

From comments received, it seem that if you disagree with claims about any particular system you are quickly targeted by its fans, and seen as some sort of heretic, while if you offer positive remarks, others will consider you as some kind of nut – or green loony.

Still, the past week has been interesting…

Wave Power

Vagr Artfed wave power generatorStarting in Scotland, the Vagr Atferd generator has just been completed and launched in Leith, where it was produced by local firm Pelamis Wave Power (PWP) for the German energy giant E.On. It will travel to Orkney, where it will be tested for three years to prepare it for commercial use.

180 metres long, it weighs 1,500 tonnes and can produce up to 750 kW of electricity.

Launch picture courtesy of the Scottish Government web site.

Solar Power

Next, is the possibly surprising story that proposals for a £40 million network of solar farms are to be the subject of a public consultation. This will look at plans for a 15-acre “energy farm” on a green-field site at St Kew, three miles east of Wadebridge, which acts as the gateway to north Cornwall’s popular tourist heartlands. A local farmer has raised £4.5 million of private investment to construct the first of what could be ten similar sites across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, which, if all built, would triple the UK’s current solar generating capacity.

I sense an alarm bell ringing about the seriousness of this proposal, not because of the viability or otherwise of solar power – I’ve lived down on the south coast of England during summer and winter, and the difference between Central Scotland and the south coast is stunning, no wonder the oldies go and retire there. Even in the height of (a normal) winter, you can find there is no real need for heating – at least if you are a Scot used to freezing in Glasgow during (a normal) winter.

What I actually found of concern was the proposer’s statement to the effect that, “To reduce costs, R-ECO says it is cheaper to employ five staff to manually adjust the panels so they face towards the sun as it moves across the sky than install automated tilting mechanisms.”

Five staff at average wages would cost about £125,000 per annum, just to carry out an inefficient manual adjustment of the solar panels. Inefficient because they would only be able to optimise the panels at intervals, presumably when they did their rounds, and not continuously as would be the case of an automated system. I can think of two different control system that could be used to control cheap servos, and these are priced in the hundred of pound per system, rather than thousands. Costs could be further reduced by having one controller control banks of panels, meaning only the servos need to be duplicated.


As I thought, there is no problem in automating the sun-tracking process, and gaining a considerable efficiency increase as a result. This site offers one way of achieving this, which could be constructed more professionally, and still be cheaper than the annual cost of employing five staff to do this by hand.

I think the people in Cornwall need to employ some smarter planners, if they are serious.

Britain described as the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewable energy’

I suspect that the articles suggesting Britain could be the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewable energy’ might be better entitled if the word ‘Britain’ was replaced by ‘Scotland’, as most of the reports I’ve spotted have tended to concentrate on the North Sea, and the power that could be collected there. But to be fair, the bigger picture does draw on power that could be collected from further afield.

My own opinion of these claims is to side with the sceptics, as although the report was produced by an independent group, it was sponsored by Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Scottish government and the Crown Estate as well as companies including Scottish and Southern Energy, E.ON and wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas.

This is not to imply that there is anything particularly underhand, rather that it will be biased to report the most favourable options, and minimise or ignore those that are not advantageous to the sponsors. Although I haven’t noted any particular article or report, a look around the web nowadays will find publications which suggest that the promised return from wind farms are failing to meet promised made, as the wind has failed to blow to the extent that initial applications claimed it would. In light of this real world ‘revelation’, the following quote from the study just sounds to good be true, and perhaps the cost of achieving what is stated would be impractical:

The study, undertaken by the Boston Consulting Group, suggests that Britain could not only keep the lights on but would produce a surplus, suggesting the need for connections to a “super grid” to enable electricity to be exported via subsea cables. It predicts that using even 29% of the available resources, Britain could save 1.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and the middle the century.

I think the closing remark is much more reasonable, and contains the necessary warning about net getting too carried away by promises of Britain becoming the Saudi Arabia of renewables:

There was caution among financial analysts such as Dean Cooper, head of clean tech at Ambrian Resources. He said: “We see the report as providing compelling sizing information to value the offshore resource, but equally it highlights the herculean scale of efforts needed to achieve the numbers outlined. To reach 78GW will require a build rate of 2.8GW per annum by 2050, which is equivalent to more than two 5MW turbines every day. This compares to the equivalent of one 5MW turbine installed every two weeks for the installed stock of offshore wind in the UK today. Offshore wind will be an important element in the UK’s energy mix to keep the lights on, yet the gaps in supply chain, grid and planning to achieve this are monumental. There is money to be made in offshore wind as a structural growth trend, but when?”

This sounds much more like a statement made in the real world where such projects have to be funded by real money, attract real investment, and work in real time, not some impossible or impractically short timescale that suits a soundbite made for the benefit of the media, or political expediency.

Think back to the first article I mentioned above, where new technology for collecting wave power is not even going to become operational for at least three years, as it is going to take that long merely to test its practicality in the sea. If anything goes wrong and it falls apart, the technology could take many more years to refine and make practical, and the way some investors work, it could simply be scuttled and abandoned if it does fail under test, and no-one is prepared to invest further.

May 23, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 4 Comments

Power from the waves – how to

Rough sea wavesRegular readers will know I’m happy to express my preference for collecting renewable energy from the waves, and that it’s not based on the blight factor of wind farms (justified as that may be, as they used to be thrown up without a thought until people started to notice them), but due to simple physics, and the greater energy density of a moving volume of water when compared to the same moving volume air.

Those nice people at New Scientist magazine have prepared a rather nice little review of rival designs race to harness ocean energy, and it makes the interesting observation that while wind turbines have come to rely on one fairly standard design, which could almost be described as mass-produce (or is does that mean there’s a fiddle soewhere?), ocean based energy collection systems still show an amazing diversity of design and operating principles. A possible sign that unlike wind power, no-one is looking at the options seriously, and developing an optimum response? Don’t miss the gallery of designs which compete to harness the oceans’ power.

Much is made by some of the harsh operating environment which ocean-based system have to operate in, and their remoteness, which presents a maintenance problem. But this is really a smokescreen, as we have plenty of experience in handling both these issue thanks to more than three decades of oil and gas platform operations in the North Sea. Despite the potential returns, the easy solution of wind power has surely starved ocean power of funding, and we’re only now coming to realise that wind power isn’t going to be the magic bullet which solves the renewable energy problem.

Wind power and wave power – VHS and Betamax?

July 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Aberdeen wind farm will be offshore

Tall wind turbinePlacing wind farms where they should always have been – out of sight and offshore where the reliable and powerful wind lies – the waters between Bridge of Don and Black Dog off the coast of Aberdeen look set to see a wind farm development following the confirmation of a 40 million euro funding boost from the European Union.

The plan should see 23 turbines installed between one and three miles offshore.

The wind farm project is a joint venture between Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and Swedish utility company Vattenfall.

Aberdeen Central Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “Other countries like Sweden and Holland have already built large-scale offshore wind farms, but no-one has done so yet in the kind of challenging environment found in the northern North Sea.

Anacondas and other snakes

Interestingly, the news comes at the same time as the announcement of the Anaconda wave power device, developed by Checkmate UK, and being tested in the tanks of a QinetiQ facility in Gosport, Hampshire. The device is basically a huge rubber, water filled tube, which depends on the distortion and bulges of it walls – caused by the motion of the waves against it – to gather energy, which is transferred to turbines at the end of the tube, which then drive generators.

It is claimed that a group of 50 full-size Anacondas – each 200 metres long – could provide electricity for 50,000 homes, and the seas off the northen Scottish coast are identified as one of the potential location for the devices.

This is still a new idea, and the developers will need to achieve very long lifetimes for the device together with very high reliability, qualities required to withstand decades of battering by the waves , and these will have to be reconciled and combined with low capital and maintenance costs and high-energy conversion efficiency.

Although it seems to have missed the online news reports, or I just can’t find it because I don’t know the product or project name, there was also news this week of a similar, but mechanically based device which worked in a similar way to the Anaconda, and is also a snake-like device. I only saw one short report on the news, and there didn’t seem to be a repeat on later programmes.

In this case, the device consisted of a number of  long floating cylinders connected as a chain. Between each of the long cylinders is a smaller cylinder containing a pump connected by sliding links to the larger cylinder on either side. As the chain or snake follows the waves, the flexing cause the links operate the pumps inside the smaller cylinder, and these are then used to drive turbines, and then generators.

Although the system is flexible, being made of metal and containing mechanical linkages and pumps which have to lie in the waves means the system – as seen in the version that was reported at least – has many mechanical parts exposed to the elements, which would need to be appropriately engineered and maintained to ensure their longevity in that exposed and hostile sea environment. Perhaps later developments could separate the parts in some way, and have the minimum of mechanical parts exposed, while mounting pumps, turbines, and generators remotely, and more protected.

I hope this one is reported again.

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Consent granted for Siader wave power station

wavesWe noted the forthcoming promise of a reasonably large wave power station after a single turbine using the same operating principle was switched on by  Scottish Energy Minister and local MSP J Jim Mather, on Islay, back in July 2008.

The station, to be installed at Siadar off the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, will have 40 turbines, and is currently being described as on of the world’s largest such station. This is one of the first marine energy projects of this type to be approved in the UK, and ministers have granted consent for the application by npower renewables to operate the wave farm at Siader, which has a capacity of 4 MW.

First Minister Alex Salmond claimed the station would create up to 70 jobs and advance Scotland’s bid to lead the world in renewable energy, noting that it would be the first commercial wave farm in Scotland and begin with the capacity to power about 1,800 homes.

Stephen Salter, professor of engineering design at the University of Edinburgh and a leading expert on renewable energy said that wave power had the potential to provide 100 kW of power for every metre of ocean — amounting to a big conventional power station for every 10 km of shoreline.

The technology used utilises an oscillating water column, where the sea’s waves are used to move air in and out of chambers in a breakwater. In turn, the air drives a Wells turbine from Inverness-based Wavegen to generate electricity. The specially designed turbine rotates in the same direction regardless of the direction of the airflow.

Matthew Seed, chief executive officer of Wavegen said the Siadar Wave Energy Project was a major step in the development of the wave energy industry in Scotland and worldwide: “Wavegen’s proven technology will now be employed at full commercial scale, paving the way for real cost efficiencies which will bring the cost of wave energy closer to that of more established technologies.”

I can’t help but wonder how popular wave power will be be compared to wind power for politicians, and those with their own agenda for publicity. While it’s easy to stand beside a huge wind turbine or wind farm with a cheesy grin on your face and point “your” achievement, or look glum and complain about the ruined land, it’s not quite so easy to point proudly at a simple breakwater (which will probably benefit the nearby community in many cases), or complain about the amount of land taken up by the turbine, which will be little more than the size of a small conventional power station. Still, I’m sure some spin-doctor will invent something, if needed (and probably take home a 5-figure fee as well).

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whither the plug-in hybrid car?

Pious 2008 Prius

Pious 2008 Prius

One of the great mysteries which has preyed on my mind, for some years now, has been the lack of a charging socket on petrol-electric hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Pious… what? oh, sorry, Toyota Prius. Widely touted as some sort of miracle, if driven normally (by which I simply mean someone not trying to eke every mile out of each tankful) , then the consumption matches that of any other car with the same size engine – not really a surprise to any engineer as the car’s petrol-electric system is a closed loop. The battery is charged by the engine, so battery mileage still comes out of the tank, and losses in the system account for any contribution that regenerative might make. Regen doesn’t count since anyone with a light foot on the brakes will get very little from that source.

The Prius is generally considered to be nothing more than a Fashion Statement by those who analyse it for themselves, and ignore the hype.

Don’t take my word for it, there are plenty of independent reports to be found on the web, prepared by people with no connection to Toyota, or any other manufacturer, but who have simply been disillusioned by the Pious. And, having to drive it a particular way is no excuse.

As I noted at the start, one of the stunning omissions from cars like the Prius, and all the other hybrids so far as I can recall, has been the complete absence of a charging socket. Instead of being able to plug the car in overnight and charge the battery, the only to charge the battery in a hybrid like the Prius has been to take the thing out for a run.

A BBC news report spotted today might provide the answer. While I can’t get a straight answer from the car’s data, the BBC reporter claims a Prius runs out of battery power after travelling about six miles. The car’s data for the most recent model with improved efficiency and a smaller and lighter NiMH battery shows it has a 200 volt, 1,300 Ah battery combined with a 50 kW electric motor. I’ve no idea what efficiency their control system has, so we have to make some guesses now. While the bare numbers suggest the batteries would run the motor for about half an hour, that assumes a flat discharge curve, and that the motor would run acceptably right up to the last minute, and we know that is wrong as the end of the discharge curve will tail off, leaving the motor running unacceptably slowly. There’s another twist in the data, as the battery is only charged to a maximum of 60% of capacity, in an attempt to extend its life. Without trying too hard, it looks as if we’ve managed to work out that a Pious will only run for 15 minutes, or less, on battery. And in the real world, with transmission and control losses, this will be even less.

If we’re remotely correct, it’s not hard to see why independent experts have christened it a Fashion Statement, and why they’ve never bothered to fit a charging socket. The Prius really is a sop to making a petrol car meet low emission regulations, not to the provision of an alternative power source or renewable power.

Toyota blurb may be hailing the “Prius with a plug” as some sort of miracle that will have everyone plugging in to use mains electricity to charge their Pious battery, and even going so far as to state that they are boosting renewable energy use and promoting wind farms and wave power (even nuclear if I read their claims properly) by creating demand for overnight electricity to charge their hybrids, but until they put a decent size battery in the car in the first place, it’s all pretty pointless – except to let them fiddle with petrol/electric numbers, and add in the electric miles to the petrol miles and calculate wonderful, but impractical, fuel consumption numbers.

I’m afraid I can only conclude that the past lack of a mains lead on the Prius was either because Toyota reckoned it would have been seen as a bit of a joke (for six miles), or that it would be something they could pull out of the box later, and score some green or environmental points with as a “great idea”.

Lest anyone dismiss me as a Toyota-basher, be clear I’m only questioning the claims around the Prius. I am a Toyota owner and like it, you’re not getting any details because I don’t like having to avoid assassins, but I will say it does 15 mpg and is good for getting away from assassins.

Of course, it doesn’t take any engineering analysis at all to work out that the Prius is “show” and not “go” – just look at the way celebrity vermin flock around it and hype their ownership, as if it makes up for all the energy waste their various entourages squander as they follow them about in SUVs, jets, etc etc.

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydro-greed rush signalled

A few years ago I was jeered and mocked whenever I spoke about the subsidies handed out to attract wind power or wind farm developers into the industry. Those with their snouts in the trough went to great pains to show their balance sheets, and ask for the line where the supposed subsidy appeared. Of course, there was no such line, because the funds were disguised as various grants and awards, incentives, and of course, those tradeable certificates which the operator gets for producing nice, green, low-carbon energy.

Even though it we’re now told it produces the wrong kind of wind turbine, in the wrong place, the prospective closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory at Machrihanish received at least £16 million in grants to allow it to open in 2002, and only six years later Vestas want to close it and leave. Will they be asked for the £16 million that has allowed them to operate what we must assume was a profitable operation for those six years?

A little later, I had to put up with the same jeering an mocking when I expressed the opinion that the mad march of wind farms across Scotland was fuelled more by worship of wind power and the financial incentives associated with it (see, I avoided the use of the subsidy word this time, I’m learning). When I suggested that this was unnecessary (and pointed out that the number of stalled wind farm projects was growing as residents cried “Enough!” and had them referred for planning permission), I was virtually threatened with being locked up when I went on to suggest that water-based generation systems were the future, be those systems hydro-electric on land, or sea based in the form of wave or tidal schemes, or offshore wind farms.

There’s been a distinct change in recent times, and some of the more notable hydro schemes have been featured in here as they were announced. Some are development, some are new ideas, and others are pilots for larger schemes due to be installed in the future.

I’m now thinking it would be nice to be in the investment side of the hydro power generation system, because far from being a candidate for being carried off and locked up by the nice men in white coats, it looks as if the hydro side of renewable energy is heading towards the same financial harvest that wind power produced when it was the “Golden Boy” of renewables.

BBC Scotland has reported that it understands that the sections of the sea bed around Scotland are to be leased to developers who want to generate tidal electricity. It notes that the Crown Estate, which owns the sea bed, is expected to begin the leasing process within weeks.

Listen to BBC news item.

A quarter of Europe’s marine energy potential is believed to lie around Scotland’s shores, and it is hoped that 1 GW of marine power will be delivered to the national grid by 2020 as part of the UK’s renewable energy strategy.

Still, little publicity has ever been given to the wind turbines that have exploded or burst into flames, and collapsed – no doubt bad news is never wanted where investment is being sought, and they’re usually in isolated places, so with little threat to life or limb, the news has little reason to include the pics.

However, hydro power is much younger and more experimental. The very reason I predicted that it would come to the fore ahead of wind power makes it a much more dangerous and risky proposition. The density of air at sea level is about 1.2 kg/m³ (1.2 g/L), while water comes in at  998 kg/m³, or one tonne per cubic metre in plain English – almost the kerb weight of a BMW Mini (a real Mini was barely 700 kg). That’s why you need so many big wind turbines over a large area to get anything like a worthwhile return. Water’s much higher density means the energy it carries is correspondingly higher for the same volume, however this is also the sting in the tail, since it means the danger of damage when there is severe weather rises in the same way.

That said, proper, responsible design and development that takes account of the danger should allow for this.

However, now that the Government has seen fit to cash in on its opportunity to make some green £ from its fortuitous stewardship of the sea bed around the country, we must now be moving into a phase where the increasing cost of energy has made this an area where investment and profit are going to be harvested, as well as the odd green kWh.

And, before anyone cares to comment that I’m a cynic, I’ll save them the trouble and say yes, I am being openly cynical and observing that no-one was interested in marine/hydro while wind was attracting all the grants and the like. Now that that pot’s empty, the next one is marked water, and everyone is eyeing it up as the public turns against wind farms.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

New wave power technology under test

While I do go on about the need to stop promoting the sop of wind power, and start looking seriously at the more useful option of water power in its many forms, I won’t try and claim any credit for a new device being developed and tested at Southampton University.

Called the Anaconda, it consists of a long, snake-like tube filled with water, and located 40-100 metres below the surface of the sea. With one end facing the oncoming waves, the tube, around 200 metres long and 7 metres across, would be forced to bulge as the waves arrived at it, and the bulge would be carried along the tube by the wave. As the bulge arrives at the other end of the tube, it would be absorbed and used to turn a turbine, so genereating power. According the researchers calculations, the tube would generate something in the order of 1 MW – said to be enough to power almost 2,000 homes.

Unlike conventional solution to wave power, the Anaconda could be a better option due to its rubber construction. This makes it much lighter than other devices, which are primarily made of metal and need hydraulic rams, hinges and articulated joints, all of which require maintenance, and can be damage if overloaded.

At the moment, this work is at a very early stage, the largest test device has only been 500 millimetres in diameter, but is providing valuable information on the behaviour of the tube, which can be scaled up and used in future, larger items.

(I gave up trying to find a pic of a rubber tube that looked in any way interesting.)

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Argyll and Bute harnesses wave power

LIMPET - click for full size image and desription

LIMPET principle - click for full size image and desription

Progress may be slow for wave power, but so it was with wind power – before it developed to the stage where anyone out to make a quick green buck under the name of renewable energy could plant wind turbines across the land, and ruin the view and lives of those beneath them, until the planning process finally caught up with them.

Maybe the same will be true of wave, and other hydro-power systems, but at least they don’t eat up vast areas of land, or have so many apparently unforeseen negative side effects. Wind power still provides the greatest laugh though – doesn’t work when there’s no wind, and doesn’t work if there’s too much wind. I’m not biased though, and I’m sure there will be similar surprises in store with wave power, maybe, once there are enough installations in place.

Islay is the most recent site to have a wave power installation commissioned, and the turbine was turned on today by Scottish Energy Minister and local MSP Jim Mather.

This is the first of the UK’s commercial wave power stations, and is planned to be followed by a 40 turbine installation off Siader on Lewis in the Western Isles. When completed, this will provided a breakwater to benefit the community, and power for some 1,500 homes (and apparently not cover some vast tract of land, spoil the view, produce weird noises to disturb the residents, interfere with aviation, or swat birds out of the air).

The system has been developed by Wavegen and uses a device called the LIMPET, installed at Islay. This uses an oscillating water column to move air in and out of a chamber, and rotate a specially designed turbine which converts the airflow into electricity – the turbine rotates in the same direction regardless of the airflow direction. The turbine has been installed and was developed with support from the Scottish Government’s Wave and Tidal Energy Support (Wates) scheme.

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wave power washes away wind power

wind turbineOne day I won’t be able to resist the temptation to say “I told you so”, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so, as I read the news regarding the fall of the false god of holy wind power, and rise of wave power.

One of Europe’s largest wind farms being proposed for installation on Lewis in the Western Isles was given its marching orders with some 11,000 objections from most of the islanders. The local authority and business (who one might assume wouldn’t have had to look or live with its 234 giant turbines) were fully behind the plan, and said its rejection threatened the area’s fragile economy – and the advance of Scotland’s renewables industry. The size of the development meant it was referred to the Scottish Government, who rejected the application on the basis that it failed to meet the requirements of European law regarding sensitive environments, and would have had a negative impact on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area.

On the other hand, the same islanders have given their backing to a major wave power station proposal to the west of the island, and which will lie near those who would have been closest to the rejected wind farm. The station is to be built at Siardar Bay, and will require the construction of a 200 m causeway and breakwater which will house up to 40 turbines, with an installed capacity of 4 MW.

Unlike the wind farm, it seems the wave power will actually benefit those next to to it, as the breakwater will ease the passage of boats to and from the Atlantic from the bay

I don’t think I’ve ever read about a direct benefit for the locals from a wind farm. There may be a short boom as the farm is built, but the turbines are built remotely and parachuted in, and much of the related installation work is carried out by contractors, and the farms are largely automated, so there’s little lasting employment. Boom and bust comes to mind.

Can’t comment on wave power – it may be no better – we need a few years of realistic installation growth to see how it work. I suspect the harsher operating environment may result in local benefits due to the increased maintenance needs, but then again, that should be taken care of by proper design.

May 9, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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