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Wind turbines

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Wednesday 11 May 2005 9.52am

David Bellamy, as chairman of the Camping And Caravanning Club, would be one of my heroes if it weren't for his astonishing stance on windfarms (supporting people in windy rural areas who don't want "unsightly" wind turbines and would prefer to get their power from lovely power stations stuck on the outskirts of towns).

I hope he pricks himself planting the roses.

...if you press it, they will come.
Wednesday 11 May 2005 3.56pm

I'm not sure you realise just how many wind-turbines would be required to produce the same amount of electricity as just one coal fire power station.

Drax coal-fired power station, near Selby in Yorkshire, has a capacity of 4,000 Megawatts. It occupies a relatively small site surrounded by arable farm land. The hot water produced as a by-product of the power creation process is used to heat many greenhouses that grow tomatoes, etc. The ash produced as a by-product is used to make concrete blocks, etc. etc.

A wind turbine, on the other hand will produce only 1.8 Megawatts at full capacity (ie. when the wind is at its optimum). Even if the wind was optimal for 100% of the time, it would require 2,200 wind turbines to produce the same power as Drax. Since the wind is usually either too weak or too strong, the load factor of wind turbines is below 20% (ie. <0.4 Megawatt per turbine), compared with 80-90% for coal and gas fire power stations.
.... perhaps you should try living in the vicinity of 6,000 - 8,000 wind turbines to get a true comparison of how "unsightly" one form of energy production is over another.

Furthermore, just because the operational running of a wind turbine generates less CO2 emmisions than coal fired power stations does not mean that overall it produces less. One has to build, install and maintain the wind turbines. To build a wind-farm consumes energy in the manufacturing process, which is many many times more costly (both financially and ecologically) per Megawatt than coal fired.

David Bellamy makes a valid point. If our government were genuinely committed to the idea of renewable energy, then perhaps they should invest in more offshore windfarms, rather than systematically destroying our countryside with the cheaper onshore variety we are being forced to accept.

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 11 May 2005 4.12pm by Martin Underwood.
Thursday 12 May 2005 9.18am
Martin, years ago there was a scheme to harness the power of the waves for energy did that ever pass the drawing board?

and I 'm not talking Canute Ivanhoe!
Thursday 12 May 2005 10.00am

I've heard all the arguments you put forward. I still don't think:

1) that putting wind turbines up "systematically destroys our countryside" (in fact I rather like them), or

2) that the arguments you promote give country-dwellers the right to expect people in cities to host the power stations and all the pollution that goes with them.

Given the choice, I'd rather live in a bit of beautiful countryside with a wind farm on my doorstep than on the outskirts of a city with a conventional power station nearby.

{sorry Sarah. Will keep o/t discussion off this string in future}

...if you press it, they will come.
Thursday 12 May 2005 11.04am
Continuing off topic.

I've just read a really scary major three part article in the New Yorker about carbon emmissions and global warning. It was enough to make me want to move to higher ground. Though people may debate the numbers, it must be certain that we cannot continue acting as we currently do. Ironically, though a market economy may have proven to be more effective than a command economy, it may be less good at responding to global issues. Viz Americans re-electing George Bush, despite his approach to Kyoto.

In the meantime I think Rabbies Idea is great. And hope you will all be there to see David doing some planting.

Thursday 12 May 2005 12.19pm

(sorry to continue off topic)

I agree that we cannot continue acting as we do. Unfortunately, the political apathy of most people prevents real change from happening (as you infer with the Americans re-electing Bush).

The single action that would reduce CO2 and PM10 emissions would be to consume less energy. Unless the demand side of the equation is sorted out, no amount of tinkering about with 5% of the supply side will help us meet our Kyoto obligations. As a society we have become used to the notion of "power on demand": lights on, TV on standby, driving off to the countryside at the weekend, holidays via aeroplane, etc, etc.

Study after study has demonstrated that for each Megawatt saving of demand for electricity reduces climate-affecting emissions far more effectively than supplying electricity using wind-power, etc.

Finally, it must be pointed out that, with the exception of a 5,000 MW link with France, the UK is an electrical island. We cannot trade any over-supply or buy electricity to accomodate over-demand; therefore, supply and demand must be matched on a minute by minute basis. Because wind power is by its nature unpredictable, the supply generated by wind fluctuates to such a degree that some of the traditional generators (coal and gas) must be run in standby mode to smooth the supply to meet the demand. Running coal and gas power stations in standby mode is extremely expensive, both financially, and ecologically. There have been various studies that have proved that the NET emissions of the entire generation process actually INCREASE as a result of using wind-farms to supplement the electricity grid.

BTW: loved the architectural article about Drax... brought back fond memories.
Friday 13 May 2005 1.47pm
There's a programme about wind turbines this afternoon (Friday) on Radio 4
Sunday 15 May 2005 7.49pm
Nuclear power is the way forward, Ivanhoe. It is clean. The associated greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity generation are zero.

The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the fabrication of solar heating panels are greater than the savings of greenhouse gases that will ensue from their expected life. There is a similar relationship between wind turbines & greenhouse gases.

Do you *really* want ALL the remote and natural parts of Britain to be a wind farm? When this gives *no* net environmental benefit in terms of greenhouse gases?

If you imagine a 'carbon flow statement' much like a cash flow statement over the lifetime of a wind turbine, you will discover that you are better off building coal-fired power stations. We have sufficient coal in this country for many hundreds of years of electricity generation.

More greenhouse gases were created from the World Leaders' gathering in Kyoto than have been saved from their so-called agreement.
Monday 16 May 2005 5.25am
A lot of hot air?

The solution is surely to consume less. I suspect that if we had some mechanism to understand the real cost of energy use to the atmosphere, we would be much better at turning off lights. Driving a Fulham tractor would rightly be seen as unethical and selfish. And half our rubbish would not consist of unnessesary packing and plastic bags. Though, sadly, cheap weekend flights to Prague would also be out.

Societal attitudes to smoking changed in little more than a decade. I wonder when we will see the same with greenhouse gas emissions. Congestion charging, which at least started to level the costs between private car and public transport use was a start. But a huge amount more needs to be done.

Incidently I am pleased to report that the strange solar powered roof at lthe Vauxhall bus station leaks. I dread to think what the real cost of the four years of traffic chaos, whilst they built it ,was.

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