Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Anti-wind turbine people have hidden motives

Wind turbine

Wind turbine (identity crisis?)

Ever since Donald Trump soiled the good name of Scotland with his nasty tactics as he abused and rode roughshod over the locals to build his golf course and development on the Menie Estate -see Don’t miss this video of a mad bad man – Donald Trump and follow-up stories in the general media – I’ve noticed that any stories in the media about wind turbines and wind farms tend to be followed (if comments are allowed by the web site) almost immediately by anti-wind farm comments.

This has happened so often (to my eyes at least), and often comes with the same dismissive and derogatory language about the whole concept of wind power that it almost seems to come from a standard script. One can almost imagine people paid to watch for such news items, and as soon as they appear, instructed to select any three to five paragraphs from their master list, and incorporate them into a comment that rubbishes wind power. Since he may not be short of the money to pay for this, I tend to think Donald Trump has his staff doing this, and the reason I think this is likely is because he is too stupid to realise that he make himself look like an ignorant fool every time he open his mouth and continually refers to wind turbines as ‘windmills‘.

Wind turbines produce electricity, windmills mill grain to produce flour.

Notably, many of the apparently scripted anti-wind turbine posts/comments refer not to wind turbines, but to windmills.

An interesting coincidence?

Windmill hill

Windmill on a hill

Conflict of Interest

And now we an indication that more anti-turbine campaigning is being promoted by someone with links to the oil industry.

Before carrying on to the rest of the story, I would suggest this is not linked to the industry, but to personal interest of the person concerned.

The Deeside Piper reports:

The chairwoman of local group, Stop Turbines in Cushnie (STIC), runs a business in London which works closely with multi-national oil firms.

Caroline Mary Gerrie, who has written press releases for (STIC), is a director and co-owner of Tagus, whose client list includes BP Oil Europe, Shell UK, Shell International, Enterprise Oil and Mobil.

A source said: “I find it very interesting that Ms Gerrie is campaigning against a government-backed subsidy for alternate energy while she makes her money from companies who have a vested interest in minimising the amount of alternate fuel sources out there.”

The Tagus ‘Our People’ profile on Ms Gerrie also states: “She spent many years (more years ago than she cares to remember!) as an internal consultant in the oil and gas industry.”

Part of Ms Gerrie’s Tagus profile states: “She lives in London with her partner, Dominic, and their three cats.”

This conflicts with a statement in a press release, which said: “I moved back to Scotland, the land of my birth, just over a year ago, after being away for more than 20 years.”

Letters of objection also show that other members of Ms Gerrie’s London firm have opposed the planning application via the Aberdeenshire Council website.

The article goes on to quote a senior representative for an oil and gas company who stated that they did not think someone who has significant work with the industry to also be taking an anti-renewable stance actively and in public.

When asked if she believed working for oil companies while campaigning against a renewable energy source was a conflict of interest, Ms Gerrie said: “Renewable energy is justifiable only when the sole benefit can be measured against the many impacts.

‘‘Since the developer refuses to give correct information regarding either, all I can say is that for the last few years I have not been campaigning against a renewable energy source, I have been campaigning against what I believe to be a litany of lies.’’

“As for Tagus, without going into too much detail, the work we do for oil companies helps to prevent serious injury and save lives!

“I think there are too many factors involved in both renewable energy and the oil and gas industry for me to give a simple yes or no answer regarding such an important subject.”

Via Anti-turbine activist’s oil links revealed – Local Headlines – Deeside Piper and Herald

Words such as ‘credibility’, ‘business ethics’ and ‘truth’ come to mind. Well, they come to mine, but I doubt if they come to any chairwomen in the immediate vicinity.

She talks gibberish too…

After thinking about it, I have no idea what she meant by “Renewable energy is justifiable only when the sole benefit can be measured against the many impacts.”

Ah…

It’s ok, my brain is fine. I just checked what Tagus does – they’re consultants, and use the the word ‘methodology’. That explains the gibberish.

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September 5, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , | 2 Comments

Life on Muck – almost a modern electrical fable

Solar cell sun

It was fascinating to read the reality of life on the tiny island of Muck, which has just moved into the world of 24-hour mains electricity supply.

Previously, the islanders (numbering 38 at the time of writing) were limited to a schedule, determined by the fuel supply of the island’s diesel generators which first provided electricity in 1970, but could only provide power for 14 hours a day, from 11 am to 5 pm, and 11:30 pm to 7 :30 am. The population has fallen over the years, having peaked around 300 at the start of the 20th century.

This meant using candles or tilley lamps similar for lighting, missing the end of films, and problems with food stored in fridges and refrigerators, with the island’s tearoom having to organise things to make sure provisions were safely stored. The island’s generator was only rated at 10 kW, which meant that users had to arrange schedules for using appliances such as washing machines that drew large amounts of power when operating.

There’s a fair few outright lies being circulated by supporters of Donald Trump, posting comments after articles critical of the Dump to the effect that wind power doesn’t work, but Muck is benefiting from developments in this area (albeit I am not suggesting the island has suddenly grown a giant wind farm), and its new supply is built around a new installation combining six 5 kW wind turbines with a 30 kW solar panel installation.

Muck joins Eigg, where residents now get more than 90% of their electricity from hydro, solar and wind schemes, and micro hydro-electric schemes, wind turbines and photo-voltaic cells saw the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust named overall UK winner in the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy for 2011.

The new supply was made possible when Muck Community Enterprise Company received a grant of £978,840 last year,  to help introduce the system of wind turbines and solar panels.

The lack of a continuous electricity supply limited the opportunities for business and growth on the island, but the new supply is hoped to improve this, so the tearoom, hotel, and two B&Bs on the island should benefit from increased numbers of visitors who can also be better catered for.

Muck tearoom 2006

Tea Room area – © Dr Julian Paren via geograph

The selected pic actually shows the parking area for the Tea Room, which is not  actually visible, and lies just off to the left in this view. It’s worth noting that there are no cars on Muck, and visitors get around on bicycles, or by tractor. (Our thanks to the photographer.)

I have to admit to being a little intrigued by the mix of renewables as used on Muck: 5 kW of wind plus 30 kW of solar. Considering the usual image of weather conjured up by thoughts of Scottish islands, and having been on one or two myself, I’d have thought the lion’s share would have gone to wind, with solar acting as the backup.

It will be interesting to see if there is a later story, reporting a change, or if this initial division proves to have been correct.

See Muck switches to 24-hour power supply for first time

And Muck celebrates as it gets electricity 24 hours a day for first time | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Also Muck gets 24hr electricity supply for first time – Heritage – Scotsman.com

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 1 Comment

Donald Trump stars in video

I didn’t realise it was a Spitting Image style puppet a first…

In November 2010 Queen guitarist, Brian May, gave his permission for a new version of Bohemian Rhapsody to highlight what he described as ‘a horrible example of bullying the defenceless by a rich man who apparently can buy anyone or anything he wants.’.

Enjoy:

(If there’s no video below, then read here: Donald Trump video removed from YouTube – again – Top stories – Scotsman.com to see how being a megalomaniac billionaire can have its advantages.)

Alternative source for Trump Bohemian Rhapsody video

One of the country’s best loved rock songs has been used in a Spitting Image-style spoof of Donald Trump and his Aberdeenshire golf resort.

The Tripping Up Trump campaign got permission from Queen guitarist Brian May to use rock anthem Bohemian Rhapsody for the video, now posted on YouTube.

The campaign group is using the comedy video to try to highlight their opposition to Mr Trump’s development at Menie Estate, which has sparked fury among environmentalists and some locals.

Creator, Hazel Buchan Cameron, said: “It needed to be something that everyone would look at and read and encourage them to find out more, even people who were not politically interested so that we could start a debate and get people asking questions.

Via Donald Trump features in Bohemian Rhapsody spoof video | Aberdeen and North | STV News

Donald Trump pledges millions to fight against wind turbines in Scotland

Trump has recently launched an attack on First Minister Alex Salmond, and Scotland’s policy on wind power:

But Mr Trump is not happy with the proposed development and claims it is the worst thing to ever happen to Scotland.

He said: “They are horrible looking structures. They make noise, they kill birds in their thousands, they are really destructive and I don’t care who the environmentalist is, they are not good.

“In the case of Scotland they are going crazy with trying to put them up all over the place and everyone’s going crazy trying to take them down. Some countries have totally given up with the turbines because the experience has been so bad.

“But Scotland has a group of leaders, one in particular, who is just foisting them on the people and it’s really, really sad. They want to build thousands of windmills in the waters that surround the most beautiful shoreline probably anywhere in the world. It has to be stopped.

“I actually made the statement that never before in the history of Scotland has a bigger disaster taken place.”

Via Donald Trump accuses Alex Salmond of ‘destroying’ Scotland’s coastline | Aberdeen and North | STV News

He has also announced at least £10 million to campaign against wind power:

US tycoon Donald Trump is to bankroll an anti-wind farm campaign in his fight against an offshore development near his luxury golf resort.

Mr Trump wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond earlier this month, telling him he seems “hell-bent on destroying Scotland’s coastline” with wind turbines.

A planning application for an 11-turbine European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre off Aberdeen Bay, near Mr Trump’s Menie resort, was submitted to Marine Scotland last summer. A decision is expected to be made later this year.
Donald Trump to bankroll anti-wind farm campaign

In the letter. Mr Trump said that he would never be “on board” with a project he described as “insanity”, adding: “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.”

He said turbines are “ugly monstrosities” and “horrendous machines” and has halted work on his development until the decision is made by the Scottish Government.

Communities Against Turbines Scotland (Cats) contacted the Trump Organisation after the letter to Mr Salmond was published and they have now joined forces.

Via Donald Trump to bankroll anti-wind farm campaign | Aberdeen and North | STV News

A delusional American partnered with an anti-wind turbine agenda group.

You could not make this sort of thing up, and expect to be taken seriously – thank goodness I am merely reporting, and not creating.

Update – Trump’s word is as genuine as his hair

Reading through the news later in 2012, it seems that Donald Trump broke his pledge to provide “millions” to bankroll Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS).

It seems that using CATS no longer suited Trump, and he parted company from them – and took his money with him too.

Nice to see how reliable and trustworthy he is…

And I guess even an anti-wind turbine group has scruples, and didn’t want to be associated with a bare-faced lying madman.

They probably want to be taken seriously after he has gone.

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Update

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

Busy time for renewables

There’s usually a steady trickle of renewable energy stories arriving on my desk, and it’s generally possible to handle them individually, but the past week or so seems to have been busier than usual, and if I try and note them individually, I’ll never finish the job, so I’ll try summarising them in the hope that it will be quicker.

If you haven’t seen or visited the web site for Scottish Renewables, the home page at least is worth a look, as it carries a small graphic displaying the relative amounts of Renewable Energy Generation Capacity in Scotland (MW), together with the date of update. I’m not taking a dig at this, and I merely point out that it shows Generation Capacity, not and not the amount actually being delivered, to avoid misinterpretation.

An event known as the Scottish Renewable Festival took place over the weekend of June 13/14 2009, intended to celebrate green energy and allow members of the public to visit installations they would not normally be open to visitors. These included small scale community and household applications using solar power, wood heating, wind power and heat pumps, together with some of the largest renewable energy installations in Europe, and included displays of new technologies such as marine power.

Education and information seems to be the theme, and it’s good to see that it doesn’t concentrate solely on promoting wind power.

In fact, the BBC mentioned it, and then went on to provide an article based entirely on hydro power, looking at the past, present, and potential future for this option in an interview with the British Hydropower Association.

River waterIndeed, following the Queen’s recent visit to the new Glendoe hydro power scheme above Loch Ness, near Fort Augustus, two more major hydro power schemes have been announced for the Highlands. Last year, Glendoe operated at its maximum level for a period of 24 hours during a rehearsal ahead of coming on stream, and is capable of generating up to 100 megawatts, said to be sufficient to power some 250,000 homes.

SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) has currently declined to identify the areas involved, and is still seeking permission for the scheme. This particular scheme is clearly intended to be a pumped storage scheme, and will involve two bodies of water. Surplus power available when demand is low will be used to pump water from the lower to the higher reservoir, then released to generate power during periods of high demand. According to Scottish Power, it will be able to generate ten time that produced by Glendoe, and said: “If we build those two then the total amount of hydro output in Scotland would be able to power every house in Scotland at the time of system peak.”

SSE said that it would submit planning applications for both in 2011, and that it could be operational by 2017 if permission is granted.

A similar scheme is planned for Sloy, the hydro electric power station at Loch Lomond, which we mentioned a few weeks ago.

Also, we mentioned that the Crown Estate was due to begin leasing areas of the sea bed around Scotland for developers who want to generate tidal electricity. While we haven’t spotted any update to this storyt, ministers recently approved new wind power sites for the Crown Estate around the the UK’s coastline – the government is relying heavily on wind to meet its European commitments to provide 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020.

Colour wind farm turbinesThis news was accompanied with the convenient release of a National Grid study which concluded that the electricity distribution grid could cope with on-off wind energy without spending a lot on back-up fossil fuel power stations – an apparent lack of security of supply had been used by opponents to argue against wind power, as they argued that fossil fuelled power stations would still need to be built, to bridge gaps in supply when the wind failed. Although the reason for this improvement was not explicitly stated, it seem safe to assume that new pumed storage systems, such as the two described above, are key to ensuring supplies are maintained in the absence of wind.

Ministers have also stated that they no longer see any difficulties arising from the installation of wind farms within the Crown Estate limit of 12.5 miles of the coast, but no specific reason for this change is reported. This could mean that currently proposed wind farms (planning permission permitting) could be in place by 2016, and add 33 GW of capacity by 2020.

However, there seems to be a further hurdle, as demand for wind turbines is now reported to significantly exceed supply, inflating their price. A further hit is taken when it is realised that wind turbines are prices in euros, not good when the pound is weak.

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

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”.

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

Kintyre turbine builds to continue

Wind turbineI almost missed some news regarding an item we’d been following, namely the Closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory near Machrihansih.

As I recall, changes in demand as wind power requirements change meant that the factory producing the wrong kind of turbine to meet demands, and the resulting financial difficulties meant the plant would close, losing up to 100 jobs, however alternates were being sought.

This appears to have been a successful exercise, as the announcement of the saving of the factory was accompanied by news of financial assistance from the government (a £9.7 million Scottish Government funding package) in order expand the facility so that larger turbines could be manufactured, for both on and off shore turbines, and the staff count would increase to something like 400, but this may only be during construction. Danish company Skykon aims to safeguard the 100 jobs at the plant and then increase the workforce to more than 300 over the next two years.

Hopefully the plan will not have been given the Kiss of Death by a politician grabbing the opportunity for a soundbite when First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The impact of this investment will be truly transformational, not just for the Kintyre peninsula but for all of Scotland.”

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

The socially unaceptable wind power agenda

windfarnLooking back at the content of this blog, you’ll see that your scribe has exercised his engineering knowledge and and decided for himself that the mindless march of wind power, and wind farms, has less to do with actually producing power than scoring political points with a highly visible response to renewables. If the aim was to produce meaningful amounts of power, more effort would have been put behind efforts to produce hydro power, rather than wind power, from the start. In the simplest analysis, water has 1,000 times the density of air, and that relates directly how much energy a given volume carries, and the size of the equipment needed to extract it. But hydro power is largely invisible, with the hardware buried (or should that be sunk) out of sight, unlike wind turbines, which are anything but out of sight – something that has come to haunt new installation.

Those who have wind farms imposed on them did something unexpected, and after seeing the first wind turbines grow to larger and larger, they discovered they could protest and have them halted, call for inquiries into planning, and even have them cancelled.

Apparently taking a lead from the same spin doctors that decided speeding should be given the same social stigma as drink-driving, climate change secretary Ed Milliband has has declared than opposition to wind farms should become as socially unacceptable as failing to wear a seatbelt, and called for the government to be stronger in facing down local opposition to wind farms.

At a screening of the climate change documentary The Age of Stupid, Milliband said. “The government needs to be saying, ‘It is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area – like not wearing your seatbelt or driving past a zebra crossing,'”

We recently listed the public inquiries held between 2004 and 2009 (Wind farm wars) in Scotland, and across the country it seems that there are plans to build around 4,000 turbines which are being opposed by 200 organised groups.

One of the objections and problems with all the wind farms being proposed in the north of Scotland is the lack of a suitable interconnector for these wind farms to be connected to in order for the copious amount of power they generate (when the wind blows) to be transferred into the national grid, and there are more opposition groups fuelled by the pylons and power cables that this will need. Basically, wind power is an expensive and inefficient method of producing power, and in Germany, which has become home to the largest number of wind farms in Europe, the cost of linking its wind farms into the national gird is in in excess of €1 billion. Critics have said it would be cheaper to properly insulate old properties or to renew existing power stations – but then you wouln’t have all the grants etc that go with new build and development.

Whether or not they were pressured into toning down past opposition, or if the original claims of bird decimation were overstated, an RSPB-commissioned report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) has called on the government to ensure quicker decisions on wind farms, while winning support from local communities.

Despite repeated claims that wind farms are not subsidised, which is true in the strictest definition of the term, there are other way to provide financial incentives and benefits, and energy regulator Ofgem has been critical of the government for the unfair way in which consumer’s energy bills are being used to subsidise renewable energy.

And then I read this…

But there’s big money to be made – particularly if you’re Nigel Doughty, the venture capitalist, who donated £250,000 to Labour in the run-up to the 2005 general election. His investment company owns LM Glasfiber, the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, and has won many major contracts in Britain.

No, surely there’s no connection being implied…

In a way, I don’t really care about these issue, and only mention them in passing, and to illustrate how murky this subject has become.

Instead of getting on with the knitting as it were, and working towards the best mix of renewable energies to meet that oft-quoted EU target of producing a fifth of all energy through renewables by 2020, it seems that we still better at fighting about how to achieve it, how the best buck can be fiddled, and who can score the most political point.

And all the time, the cost of energy goes up, and the poorest, the elderly, and those on fixed or restricted incomes get colder.

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

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