Wind Turbines: The Ghost in the Gearbox

I first came across this shocking industrial wind turbine (IWT) gearbox problem some time back and posted about it (Here) and originally (Here). The basis of these posts was this article (Here)

This long running problem is so serious that since 2007, the US Government has been coordinating research into it through the NREL. (More on that further down.)

By the looks of it nothing has got better, although there is a lot of industry spin claiming the fix is just over the hill. Some of it quite recent  (See Here)

So what is the problem and why is it kept so quiet?

Industrial Wind turbines (IWT's) have a generic, long standing and apparently intractible problem with gearbox reliability.

Many gearboxes need a rebuild within 5 -7 years instead of lasting 25 years as designed. Many suffer catastrophic failure within the 5-7 period or even earlier. Depending on the age of the turbine, a gear box failure may effectively write it off. Even when repaired, these gearbox failures are highly expensive and often take out the turbine for months.

Replacing the gearbox adds massively to the overall cost of the IWT. Manufacturers increase the cost to cover warranty repairs in the first 5 years. When out of warranty, the cost of a maintenance contract sky-rockets, eventually to a point where the operation of the IWT becomes untenable.

Why does this matter? After all it is the operators/manufacturers problem isn't it?

It matters because IWT's are capital intensive. That means that most of their operating cost is mostly soaked up in purchasing the thing - and maintaining it. If the IWT has a much shorter life (or a much higher maintenance cost) and so produces less money than anticipated, their ability to ever live without massive government subsidy becomes an even bigger illusion than it already is.

So, you may say, "It is only a technical glitch 'll all come right in the end."

Well, maybe. But first of all this is a glitch that has lasted since the 1980's

Unfortunately the evidence suggests that nobody actually knows what to fix yet let alone how too fix it. So possibly the answer is - maybe not.

We need to get an idea of how bad this problem is but for obvious reasons the wind industry isn't telling and they are certainly not releasing any meaningful figures

But there are a number of alarming markers out there.

The  US Government (in association with the wind industry) formed a little known group called the "Gearbox Reliability Collective" (GRC) (See Here)  The GRC is no less than a section of the USA government NREL. (That National Renewable Energy Laboratory).

In other words the problem is so bad the US Government is having to tackle the problem.

The leading sentence on the GRC website blandly states...
Premature gearbox failures have a significant impact on the cost of wind farm operations.

To quote from the latest finding report from GRC testing...(Here)
Despite reasonable adherence to these accepted design practices, many wind turbine gearboxes do not achieve their design life goals of 20 years—most systems still require significant repair or overhaul well before the intended life is reached. 

These guys in the NRC are (to put it mildly) clever people. But they have been at this since 2007 and so far they are still, by all appearances, quantifying the problem. In otherwords on a scale of ten, the intractibility of the gearbox issue probably rates a nine.

The NREL does not allocate such significant resources lightly. This is a bad problem.

The GRC are trying to build a failure database as well as running a series of tests on prototype gearboxes. Unfortunately this failure database is not for public consumption and is subject to a strict NDA so we will probably never know the full facts.

Manufacturing members of the GRC can (and mostly do) remain anonymous. One exception is Vestas. While I have little time for any wind industry company at least Vestas appear to be willing to stand up and be identified rather than just pretend their is no problem like the rest.

Of course, while we do not have full access to the database we do have some access to data held within it from the research papers published by GRC

For example, from an early sample set from 2010 and This Paper  covering 37 failures we have this:

Notice that while this early table covers 37 failures there were many more problems found in the strip downs. It looks like the problem is poorly localised and is probably caused by a number of different issues.

So what is the point of this post?

Simply to show that the current fleet of IWTs (yes - whole fleet ) are really not fit for a production environment. They are still suffering intractible and major operational problems and are highly unlikely to ever be able to operate without a huge government subsidy. To suggest they have a lifespan of 25 years is laughable.

This is bad enough for land based turbines.

But anyone who suggests that we can successfully and economically place these things out in the North Sea and English Channel for long term energy generation, is in need of medication.

Prof David MacKay on the Laws of Physics

Prof David Mackay FRS is Regius Professor of Engineering in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and chief scientific adviser to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

He is also the author of  the famous (and free) "Sustainable Energy (Without the Hot Air)" . The whole book (12Megs) is available HERE

But he has also recorded a number of lectures on the viability and practicality of renewables, particularly he has focussed on the land areas needed to meet specific goals. These are goals that meet specific energy requirements. Here he is talking about systems that are other than window dressing or merely fashion statement technology.

My favourite quote is:- "I'm not anti renewables but I am pro arithmetic"

The recording is 18 minutes but is well worth a watch (unless you are a green dreamer that is)

A Bulgarian Back Door?

A great many people have been getting hot and bothered about the impending relaxation of work restrictions on Bulgaria in 2014 and the potential influx of Bulgarian immigrants to the UK.

But Billothewisp (or rather one of his aliases) has come across another rather strange possibility. That of people moving to Bulgaria. But this influx will not be from other EU nations, and potentially, the new arrivals won't be staying in Bulgaria that long either.

For some unknown reason Billothewisp's other identity  has somehow managed to get put onto an email list that  (apparently) trades in Visa's.

Here's a snapshot of the email I received:

Interestingly, you may notice the sentence:
"you can study in the EU or get transferred to the UK, USA....." 

Also notice
"Golden opportunity for those without IELTS"

It doesn't exactly look like there is a huge requirement for formal academic qualifications either.
"noc from the principal of the last attended college or school mentioning that the student is fit for university studies in India or abroad"

I don't know whether this is just a scam aimed at fleecing Indians looking for a back door into Europe (and potentially the UK) or a genuine scheme aimed at bypassing entrance requirements.

But clearly the stated purpose is to avoid having to meet the IELTS requirement ( link to IELTS here) needed to study in the UK and most other EU countries.

To me it appears mightily strange. I hope there is a simple (and honest) explanation. If such an explanation exists would love to know what it is.

Maybe someone in the Borders Agency would like to take a look? (sigh....thought not).

Wind Power. The Scale of the Problem

Take one AP1000 nuclear power plant, output around 1150MW  (If you don't like nuclear substitute  a similar sized gas/coal plant if you like) Now lets compare that graphically with how many turbines and how much space is needed......

Excellent Animation. H/T to designer Gabrielle Hollis

Protesters told to Frack Off

The good people of Balcombe are law abiding and decent folk. Bearing in mind how much anti-fracking propaganda has been spewed out about the Balcombe drill site they are understandably somewhat nervous. But even they realise that the Cuadrilla test well is hardly the end of the world. It is by the way, not fracked. It is not even gas - they are drilling a test well for oil.

The good folk of Balcombe are, however getting truly p*ssed off with the anti-social self-indulgent tribe of technologically illiterate bigots who have descended upon them.

Below is an open letter from the Balcombe Parish Chairman to the buffoons.

(h/t to Bishop Hill here )

...At a public meeting held last Friday evening [No Dash for Gas] sought to justify such actions on the grounds that the company that is drilling is acting illegally and that in consequence illegal actions to stop it are justified. This is quite simply not the case.  Like it or not, the drilling operation is entirely legal.  All the necessary permissions and permits have been sought and are in place.
  • Thirdly the  group seeks to legitimize such actions by saying that whatever is done is in response to Balcombe residents’ call for help. This is just not true.
So here it is. Balcombe strongly opposes any actions which may be taken which involve civil trespass and/or illegal acts. And I further state this, if the No Dash for Gas group is coming here in the full knowledge that it intends to break the law then it should stay away. It is not wanted in Balcombe! It is duly uninvited.
Alison Stevenson
Balcombe Parish Council

I just found the full letter.... it is HERE

Just about says it all really.

Fukushima – the Hidden Epidemic

I hope to show in this post how the events at Fukushima and the subsequent actions of the Japanese government effectively signed the death warrant for thousands of Japanese people and consigned many more to ill health and premature death. I will also show that sadly, this is a continuing and on-going problem with no end in sight.

A great deal of lurid speculation has surrounded the melt downs at Fukushima. But surprisingly, (it is now two years since the Tsunami) there has been no indication of any actual loss of life from radiation from any reputable body.

But significant loss of life there has been. Without a doubt.

The press and media have distracted people from this silent epidemic by their lurid (often fictional, usually ignorant)  sensationalist news reports. The result is that most people are now focussing on the wrong issue.

To get a handle on this epidemic we  need to consider events that took place all across Japan immediately after the Tsunami. Particularly we need to see what happened to Japanese power generation.

After the melt downs,  the Japanese government ordered the shutdown of all nuclear plant in Japan. Today, two years on, only two reactors are in operation. As Japan relied on nuclear power for close on to 30% of its electricity, these shut downs left a very large hole in Japan's generation capability. A hole that had to be filled by other generating capacity.

Here is a a set of tables up to end 2011 of  Japanese fossil energy usage for electrical generation

From this you can see Natural Gas generation rose by 58 TWh, coal by 57 TWh, and Oil by 9 TWh through 2011.  It would seem reasonable to assume the split remained much the same through 2012, if not somewhat higher in total

Now we come to some highly regarded published and peer reviewed papers

The first paper (published in Environmental Science and Technology paper available HERE) is by Hansen and Kheracha (if you don't know who Dr Jim Hansen is then you must have been asleep for the last ten years)

They reference a second paper (published in The Lancet medical journal - paper available HERE) by Markandya and Wilkinson. Both papers revolve around this table showing the number of deaths caused by electrical generation. While this table refers to Europe, I would argue is equally valid for Japan.

The extra Coal based electrical generation, (displacing Nuclear) kills through air pollution, 24 people per TWh of generation. Over the two year period that comes to (24 x 57 x 2) = 2736 deaths, 25,000 serious illnesses and untold minor ailments.

Extra Natural Gas based electrical generation has caused (3 x 58 x 2) = 348 extra deaths, 3400 serious illnesses and  again thousands of minor illnesses

Oil based electrical generation statistically kills 19.2 people per TWh. So the additional oil based generation has caused the deaths of ( 19 x 9 x 2) = 342 extra deaths, 2900 serious illnesses and another legion of minor illnesses.

Assuming Nuclear would have originally handled all this (i.e. 57 + 58 + 9 = 124 TWh),  then the statistical deaths from nuclear would have amounted to (0.052 x 124 x 2) = 12 deaths and 54 serious illnesses.

So there we have our hidden plague. Death brought about NOT BY nuclear power, but brought about by NOT HAVING nuclear power. An epidemic killing almost 3500 people in two years ( that is nearly 33 a week) and leaving many times that number ill and incapacitated.

Of course, this slaughter can be stopped within a few days. But that requires political courage and an honesty beyond that seen so far in Japanese politics.

Basically somebody has to stand up, explain the statistical risks to the Japanese people from nuclear power. Then detail the continuing carnage from the fossil fuel replacement.

Then they need to turn the nuclear plant back on.

(my figures are highly conservative. The most likely death toll from this silent plague is considerably higher)

How Wind Turbines Increase Global Warming

Below, using some peer reviewed data I hope to show you why an Industrial Wind Turbine, replacing coal plant, will actually increase Global Warming for well beyond the lifespan of the Industrial Wind Turbine itself.

First of all, just to be nice, we are going to assume that some highly dubious pro-wind propaganda is true.

We will assume a turbine has a productive life of 25 years.
We will assume that it directly offsets coal plant on a one-for one basis.
We will assume it needs no spinning reserve at all.
We will totally forget about the concrete/Neodymium mining/ steel/fibreglass/copper etc.
We will ignore the methane ( a strong greenhouse gas) that gets released from disturbed peat bogs where IWT's are sometimes placed.

Most of all we will completely forget about the environmental damage to wildlife. We will also totally ignore those pesky Human Beings who think they have a right to have a say about what gets built near them (Nimbys - damn them all!)

For those of you who are either falling about laughing or about to burst a blood vessel at this point, please bear with me and read on.

At this point we need to bring in the current ruckous over shale gas.

The data here I use here is taken from this paper: Coal To Gas: The Influence of Methane Leakage by Tom L. Wigley of the (U.S.A) National Center for Atmospheric research.

The main thrust of Wigleys research was to study what effect different rates of Methane loss (rogue methane) would have on a coal to gas conversion. His initial paper dealt with only a 50% coal replacement over 50  year period with a linear rate of replacement. The electronic suppliment dealt with a much more drastic changeover where coal was totally replaced by gas in 50 years.

The surprising outcome from this research is that in the first 40 -60 years or so, as gas replaces coal the main driver of global warming is the reduction in Aerosols emmitted from coal plant. A primary constituent of coal Aerosols is Sulphur Dioxide which is a very potent anti-greenhouse gas. So the removal of the aerosols actually increases global warming. It is only after about 60 years before the reduction in Carbon Dioxide overwhelms this warming.

The best graph to illustrate the problem is actually in the electronic supplement to this paper (see graph ESM2) This graph assumes total replacement of coal with gas over 50 years.

This is the graph (the top half refers only to proposed global temperature increase and is irrelevent here)
Notice with Natural Gas there are three issues surrounding it's affect on Global warming:

1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reduction by displacing coal (causes reduction)
2. Seepage of Methane (CH4) from either pipes or wells. (causes increase)
3. Reduction of Aerosols (mainly Sulphur Dioxide SO2) by replacing coal. (causes increase)

You can see this clearly on the left hand portion of the above graph. While this graph includes rogue methane from natural gas, clearly, even when you take the methane out of the picture the net affect  on progressively replacing Coal plant for any non sulphurous generating plant for the first 40-60 years will be an increase in Global Warming.

Let us replace the Gas for Industrial Wind Turbines.

(We will ignore IWT peat bog methane release - although we shouldn't)

Over the 25 year life time of our idealised super Industrial Wind Turbine, these will be no reduction in Global Warming from a decrease in Carbon Dioxide generation at all. But over the same period, the reduction in Sulphur Dioxide emissions from the replaced coal plant will cause a much higher and significant rise on Global Warming.

This is true for Gas, Nuclear, Hydro, Wind and Solar. Anything, that in a rolling program reduces Sulphur Dioxide emissions will cause more Global Warming (not less) in the first 40-60 years after coal replacement starts.

A Gas plant will last 40+ years. Nuclear 60+ years, Hydro 100+ years. Plus all the three will give a consistent and reliable output without requiring any form of backup.

Even assuming the cloud cuckoo land concept of an IWT having a lifespan of 25 years, it will need to be replaced at least twice before any productive gains from Carbon Dioxide reduction will be made. The same applies to Solar.

But worse than that, the IWT's will always need backup from Gas anyway. It is very easy to visualise that even if a madcap scheme involving the building of hundreds of thousands of our idealised turbines took place, there would be no decrease in global warming at all this century. But there would be an increase in at least the first 40-60 years..

This all assumes the lies wishful thinking of the wind turbine industry are true. In my own opinion, the most likely outcome is that Industrial Wind Turbines will have no impact positive or negative on global warming at all, simply because they are so damn ineffective.

Of course, removing Sulphur Dioxide is actually a very good thing. Even if it causes a temporary rise in Global Warming. Today hundreds of thousands of people die from coal based aerosols and the sooner they are removed the better.

But really, do we need to try and do it with half baked, wildly expensive and short lived plant like IWT's? Just about anything Gas, Hydro or Nuclear is more effective. The only technology that may be even more ineffective than IWT's is solar.

The end result of this, even if you believe the Wind Industry, is that Industrial Wind Turbines are NOT going to help prevent global warming within their 25 year life span. Or during the life span of the replacement or even the replacement after that. In fact assuming they actually do replace coal plant they will increase global warming for the next two generations at least.

Note: A less valid version of this argument is currently being used by the Greens against fracking. Their argument is less valid because gas is reliable, dispatchable and requires no backup other than standard fail-safe spinning reserve. It is also plentiful, is useable in transport as well as power generation and can be stored. It is also vital as a backup for the useless wind turbines even though it already cuts CO2 emissions by 60% from coal by itself. 

But it appears that the Greens now think Sulphur Dioxide is "A Good Thing". (God help us all) 

The Executioners Turbine

H/t to @MorainePains  at twitter who is currently fighting off the wind turbine Carpet Baggers in Ontario Canada. A little entertainment for all...

A modern day execution (seriously, this is good)

Dr Jim Hansen on Nuclear and Renewables

Dr Jim Hansen , the well known and world renowned climate scientist has upset a lot of the Green lobby with his positive views on Nuclear power. In this really interesting interview he explains his position and also described the inadequacy of renewables (hydro apart).


Forget about "Gone with the Wind", "Battleship Potemkin" or "Das Boot" Below is the trailer of the film of the century, Nay... this is the trailer of the film for all time.

Even this meagre trailer will provide a mystical near religious experience.

Believe me. Expect your  life to be changed.........

h/t to Watts

Denmark vs France. Place your Bets.

So, my grubby little Englanders,

We have a contest. Who is your money on?.......

For those who track along with AGW -  who cuts the most Carbon?
For those who don't track with AGW - who cuts the most Pollution?

We must not forget that our Power production options are not just related to Carbon Dioxide emissions. It is also about air pollution as well. (Ask anyone enduring the raging Indonesian smoke haze if you doubt me)

Come on. Place your bets.

Is it Nuclear France? or "Renewables" Denmark?

Sit back and watch the video......

(h/t to Brave New Climate)

Birds Bats Bugs Bees and Wind turbines

A tale of the Double Stall.

A lot of my friends get extremely animated about the slaughter of bats and birds by wind turbines.
This Canada Free Press Report indicates that in Spain alone around 6 - 18 million birds and bats get chopped every year.

But compared to the numbers of less fashionable critters that get chopped, the slaughter of the birds is small beer.

So do the bugs matter?

Well, to the wind energy companies it matters greatly (although for all the wrong reasons).

As the bugs get slapped by the rotor they do roughly what they do when they hit your windscreen.
They splat. Having splatted, they stick to the offending aerofoil. This increases what is known as the rugosity (or roughness) of the blade. The rougher the blade, the less effective it is at  taking energy out of the wind. (A bit like the difference on pushing a wood block across the carpet then trying to do the same with it wrapped in sandpaper.)

This rugosity has an astonishing effect on the output and can decrease the output by nearly 50%. It is mooted that this accounts for a problem that the wind industry has kept quiet for about ten years. The problem has become known as the Double Stall.

This graph from HERE shows the effect of the Double Stall phenomena.
So what exactly is the Double Stall? The problem came to light when numerous identical turbines, positioned in equivalently windy locations produced massively different output. (up to 50%). Initially various ideas were mooted for this. Most came down to some form of operator incompetence.

But it looks like the problem is not the operator error. The problem is the layer of bug DNA smeared over the leading edge of the aerofoil. See  This Paper  by Corten and Veldkamp. Also link to Nature report Here

(If the above link to the paper by Corten & Veldkamp is problematic  - try this direct link

Various cleaning methodologies have been investigated but most can only be done in low wind speeds with the thing stopped. Even then, dangling 200 feet up in the air while scraping off dead insects is not for the faint hearted.

The down time can be anything up to three days at a time. For a larger turbines (bigger than 1MW) I suspect it might be considerably longer.

But of course, scraping off the DNA to boost your profits hardly addresses the millions of critters that must get splatted in the name of Green fashionability. But as they are not "pretty" they get ignored. Even by the anti-wind compaigners.

It is just an hypothesis, but it would be interesting to find out the effect IWT's have on the local bug/bee population. After all, most of the time IWT's are spinning idly in low wind, producing little but the murder millions of insects. That must have an effect on bird food supplies and I suspect insect populations. Maybe this is even part of the recent drop in Bee populations?

So next time you lament for a bird like this:

(image from Daily Mirror HERE)

Please remember the billions of insects that met a similar fate. Spare a thought for our ugly bugs, wasps and bees as well as our bats and birds.

They are all just as important to our countryside and environment.

Fiddling While Sumatra Burns

Photo CBC news - see link below
So here we are, spending billions upon billions on marginal power generation schemes while  in Indonesia the whole of the UK Carbon Dioxide emissions per year are more than duplicated due to a mixture of slash and burn farming, illegal logging and yet another green energy scam (Palm Oil). Currently the whole of South East Asia is choking beneath the smoke ( See Here ) ( And Here )

Here are the total UK Carbon Dioxide emissions for 2011 and 2012. ( Taken From Here )

See this recent research paper ( Here ) by Hooije, Page et al. The true horror of the current Peat/rain forest burn in Indonesia is revealed. Based on what has already happened in Indonesia and particularly Sumatra they predict the following:

If current rates and practices of peatland development and degradation continue, CO2 emission is expected to peak at 745 Mt y-1 in 2015

But don't think that it stops there. Although the figure steadily drops, annually it will still be above 2011 UK emissions until 2030. But concentrating simply on Carbon Dioxide misses out the horrendous mass pollution that is also being endured by the people of South East Asia.

We buy into the Palm Oil scam which is the main crop which is causing this obscenity in the Far East. Meanwhile we spend well over a billion a year in subsidy for the wind turbine scam which (assuming you believe their figures - See this Post) even the wind energy industry reckon to save less than 1% of our annual carbon dioxide emissions, while causing enormous distress to the communities on who these useless totems are imposed.

A fashion statement energy policy that squanders huge amounts of resources on ineffective feel good generation while disregarding the engineering, science and real politik is a disgrace.

We should put a ban on using palm oil for energy and divert a fraction of the money wasted on wind turbines to direct loans to dirt poor Indonesian peasants. This would not only reduce Carbon Dioxide  but significantly reduce smoke pollution as well.

No doubt the green cults, especially the WWF  ( See Here ) would be up in arms and protest about how their Palm Oil is "sustainable" (yea right ). Just don't ask them what happened to the Peat and Rain-Forest that used to be on their dodgy oh-so-green plantations.

Fiddling around the edges, while lining the pockets of the greedy and appeasing a luddite clique is never going to prevent mass pollution. Either here or in Indonesia.

In fact it could well be argued our obsession with ridiculous green energy scams is mostly to blame for this on going tragedy in Indonesia, as well as damaging our own local environment.

Dead Germans Don't Count

At least not to the German Government or the Green lunatics who call the tune over there.

Angela Merkel caused a flurry when she buckled to Green lunacy and ordered the safe and boringly reliable German Nuclear fleet to be shut down.

Consequently she is going to kill a lot of Germans.

When asked how they were going to make up the shortfall from closing the nuclear plant the German government just mumbled and looked at their shoes. Then we found out that their grand plan involved building 5800 MW of Lignite burning coal plant.

That's right. They are building Lignite burning coal plant to replace nuclear....

A German government minister enthused that the new coal plant would be easier to throttle than older coal plant so could be used in conjunction with wind and solar.....

No I'm not making this up. (honest)

But there is also another 12.2 GW of nuclear yet to close. I expect a lot more mumbling and shoe viewing from the German government in the near future.

Anyway, back to the main thrust of this post.

How many Germans are going to be killed by this madness?

Well, Professor Hansen of the Goddard Space Research Center (one of the most respected scientists in the world) has calculated how many respiratory deaths have been averted by nuclear power. The number is currently 1.85 million (and rising).

But of course, you can always work the figures back the other way and figure out how many people you will kill by replacing nuclear plant with dirty Lignite burning coal plant.

Professor Hansen in his paper (HERE) references another peer reviewed paper by Markandya &  Wilkinson (HERE) and particularly this table.

Notice that for every TW/hr of nuclear you replace by Lignite you kill an extra 32.6 people per year. You also cause 298 cases of severe cardio-vascular distress and over 17000 lesser illnesses.

These Lignite burning monsters are new. So their capacity factor should be around 70%.  So we get about 36 TW/hrs of power in a year from them.

Every year, this madness (so far!) is killing (32 x 36) 1150 people and causing 11,000 more serious respiratory illnesses. Minor illnesses come in at over half a million. That is EVERY YEAR.

AND that is just these few new stations that do not even make up the current deficit from closing the 8 nuclear plants in 2011 !!

The German nuclear Fleet is/was 20GW in total. Replacing that lot is going to need a helluva a lot of Lignite. And a mountain of dead Germans.

Clearly, it will not just be the German Nuclear Industry that will have it's name followed by the initials R.I.P. in the near future.

Fracking saves Thousands of Lives in USA

A few days ago I posted about how Dr Jim Hansen and his colleague Pushker A. Kharecha have produced a ground breaking paper showing how nuclear power has literally saved millions of lives. (Post HERE) (Paper HERE)

I became aware from their research that while nuclear is clearly a life saver, the replacement of coal generation with Gas will also save many lives. Due to the adoption of fracking in the USA, literally thousands of lives have been saved. Also a huge amount of illness, both serious and minor has been prevented.

As part of their research Hansen and Kharecha refenced a peer reviewed paper published in the "The Lancet" (The Lancet is a Medical journal of unquestionable integrity)

The paper "Electricity generation and health" by Anil Markandya & Paul Wilkinson.( Copy Of Paper HERE) gives us figures for the number of deaths from different electrical generation fuels.

Here is the crucial table.

Notice that the table indicates that the death toll from using coal powered generation is around ten times that of gas. So for every TW/hr of power generation transferred from coal to gas will save the lives of about 22 people.

Now look at these Annual Energy generation figures from the EIA in the USA. (Link HERE)

Total USA energy generation has only increased by about 4% from 2003 to 2012.

But notice how gas use (due to Fracking) has doubled from 2003 to 2012. Due to this increase in gas usage, coal use has fallen by 30%.

Nothing else is responsible for this. Nuclear is stationary and will remain so until new plant is built. Renewables are shown as minor bit part players, virtually irrelevant to the total output.

So in 2012, Fracking caused a reduction in coal generation of around 600 TW/hr.

This equates (for 2012 alone) to a reduction in the death toll of around 13200 people.

If you look at the table you will also see that Fracking have caused truly massive falls in serious and minor illness associated with coal powered electrical generation.

Couple that to a 60% GHG emission reduction for those 600 TW/hr and you find the USA is the only country in the world to significantly reduce its GHG emissions. All due to Fracking.

Clearly, while nuclear generation is still the most healthy option, Gas (from Fracking or otherwise) comes a close second. Wind and Solar, even after close on to 20 years of huge subsidies in the USA are still incapable of making a significant impact on electrical generation.

Next (or maybe next) I will explore how many Germans are going to be killed by the replacement of the safe and reliable nuclear  with dirty lignite burning coal stations.

Safe In their Hands

Now then, my grubby little Englanders, I want to ask you a few pertinent questions.
  • Would you (with your family) get into a plane where the pilot was confident but lacked any formal training?
  • Would you let a person install a gas boiler in your house when you knew that the installer only had the vaguest notion of what they were doing?
  • How about putting your kids onto a school bus where the driver could recite the highway code but had never actually driven a bus before?
Well how about this then. 

Lets look at Energy Policy. You know that boring old subject about keeping the lights on, people in jobs, old folk NOT freezing to death etc. etc.

Particularly let us look at those who have (or aspire to hold) the title of "Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change",

Milliband, Huhne and Davey all studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Sadly it looks like they wouldn't know a Joule from a Seivert.

I should point out there is a rumour that Huhne might now be able to change a light bulb (on a good day). They teach you a lot of new skills in prison these days.

Meanwhile the current Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Caroline Flint, has a BA in American Literature and History combined with Film Studies.

So while she probably could recite the script from the Chine Syndrome she might confuse Spinning Reserve with some sort of pool of political propaganda.

There is not a one engineer on the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

But there is some good news.

Luckily there is John Robertson MP. He did a technical apprenticeship for Post Office Telephones and is the sole technically qualified person on the committee. However poor old John tends to be a lone voice as the only informed advocate of nuclear power.

Seriously I'm not making this up.

One of the most urgent and life changing aspects of our society (aka Energy policy) is being decided by a bunch of over confident (dare I say arrogant) buffoons who know little or nothing about the subject they are in charge of.

God help us all.

(Hat tip to commentator "phasing" on this Telegraph Article )

The Damage Done by Wind Power

The above picture shows a turbine blade that ended up in a daycare centre in Oklahoma during a recent tornado. (thanks to @Ginger_Zee on twitter).

But this post is not about how turbines are being built too close to peoples homes.

Neither is it about people being driven from their homes or seeing their one major asset (their home) devalued.

Neither is it about greedy landowners backed by ruthless corporations making illgotten fortunes for no effort. Except for the effort that is expended in selling out their neighbours.

Finally this post is not about how utterly useless IWT's are for providing dispatchable electricity.

This post is about how public perception regarding the scientific debate regarding Global Warming has been utterly poisoned by the disgrace that is the wind turbine fraud.

I have spoken and corresponded with many people who have had their lives impacted by the sleasy gold rush that epitomises wind energy. Initially these folk have no idea how ineffective, costly and down right counter productive IWT's are. Then due to the imminence of this blight
appearing in their neighbourhood, they do some reading. I expect they are mostly seeking reassurance. Sadly they get none. The transparent spin from the wind industry soon gets blown away. Then they see the ugly truth.

The wind turbine scam is all about fanatics, corporate and individual greed and has little or nothing to do with Carbon Dioxide emissions.

They see the zealots, the crooks and the carpet baggers all lining up and bleating about global warming as some super justification for their arrogance and excess. The people (ordinary bog standard two kids and a mortgage people - the folks so hated by the zealots) end up despising the sham.

But beyond this justifiable rejection of greed and bigotry, they also reject the science used as a prop by the wind turbine carpet baggers.

The end result is that the science surrounding Global Warming is now as despised and derided as the wind turbine scam itself. Which is much more than a shame.

We all need to keep an open mind on global warming and not let the poisonous con job that is the wind industry turn us against the science that the wind industry has so ruthlessly exploited for their own ends.

Global Warming may need us to take (useful) action, then nobody would happier than me if it were proved to be wrong.

But I think it would be foolish to disregard the current scientific opinion simply because of the ugly wind turbine fraud that has exploited it.

Pandora's Promise

"What if what you have been thinking all this time - is wrong?"

This film was made by Robert Stone. He is a multi-award-winning, Oscar-nominated and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker. (Biography HERE ) His film, Pandoras Promise has received enormous accolades. In preview showings it has caused a storm. Indulge me. Watch the trailer.

The film relates to a journey of discovery  made  by Stone and a number of very prominent and very famous environmentalists. That the journey they question their preconceptions about nuclear power.

It is, I am told not only an eye opener but is a powerful moving and ground breaking expose against the ignorance and pseudo science that surrounds the environmental lobby today.

If you want to read a fistful of reviews go to the bottom of This Link - The unofficial guide to Pandoras Promise They are quite enlightening.

General USA Release June 12th 2013. Due for UK release later in the year ( I'll let you know when I find out)

Hansen and Nuclear Power

I expect you have heard of Jim Hansen. Until recently he was head of the NASA Goddard Research Institute. It is fair to say he is the leading proponent of of the concept of AGW (Anthropological Global Warming).

Here is a blindingly brief resume of Jim Hansen the scientist (abbreviated from HERE)

BA with highest distinction (Physics and Mathematics), University of Iowa, 1963
MS (Astronomy), University of Iowa, 1965
Visiting student, Inst. of Astrophysics, University of Kyoto & Dept. of Astronomy, Tokyo University, Japan, 1965-1966
Ph.D. (Physics), University of Iowa, 1967

Primary leading roles
Director: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Adjunct Professor: Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
Manager: GISS Planetary and Climate Programs

Then there are over thirty awards (yes - over thirty!). The particular award which emphasises the track of this post is a 2008 award - Rachel Carson Award for Integrity in Science.

Whether you agree with AGW or not you have to admit Hansen is a highly gifted scientist. I hope you agree that whether you like his scientific stance or not he is undoubtedly someone whose opinions and scientific theories should be thoroughly listened to.

The likes of Green Peace and FOE love Hansen's pro AGW stance because it unintentionally plays perfectly to their luddite anti-technological bigotry.

But things get very tricky when it comes to Hansens forceful support for Nuclear Power. We then see the bizarre and laughable descent into the usual spiteful character assassination and pseudo science that so infects the likes of Green Peace and FOE.

Here's a few quotes from recent Hansen interview (fully in context)
it is very unfortunate that a number of nations have indicated that they’re going to phase out nuclear power… The truth is, what we should do is use the more advanced nuclear power. Even the old nuclear power is much safer than the alternatives.

The bottom line seems to be that it is not feasible in the foreseeable future to phase out coal unless nuclear power is included in the energy mix.

"I think that next-generation, safe nuclear power is an option which we need to develop. 

But for our nuclear denier's there is worse to come.

Hansen being a bright bloke, thought he would calculate just how many people have been SAVED by nuclear power. Read about it (Scientific American - HERE) and (Daily Kos - HERE).

Here's a graph from the paper:

Here's a small section from the paper's abstract:

Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning.

Oh BOY - Did that cause the Green luddites to throw their toys out of the pram. See this pathetic diatribe (GreenLeft - HERE)

To the Green luddites Hansen is now a bit of a Janus. On one hand he is a champion of the planet, a hero and an environmental leader. But on the other hand he is a charlatan and incompetent who falsely promotes the demon of nuclear Power. He has even been called a shill (really!)

You have to laugh. Not one of these buffoons shooting at Hansen can hold a candle to his scientific rigour. I would really REALLY be interested (and probably amused) to see them try and disprove his findings using science rather than innuendo and character assasination.

But I won't be holding my breath while I wait.

An Emerging Supermarket Cartel?

Today, the major supermarkets are all "price matching".

They are all deeply concerned about getting a good deal for us. They apparently want to ensure that down trodden grubby little Englanders like you and me can stretch their pennies as far as possible.

Yea right.

Look at this from a different angle.

Company X states that it will price match anything from Companies W,Y and Z. For the consumer this propaganda reads as "Shop with us, we are the nice guys at company X - if our prices are higher than elsewhere we'll take a hit and match prices.

Hmmmm... nice guys eh?

Now look at the hidden corporate Company to Company sub-text

"If you undercut us we will reduce our price to match yours.  It does not matter how you have reduced your price, we will match it. Even if it means we sell at a loss. Remember we are a huge company. Cause us too much pain and we will cause you an enormous amount of damage. But only if you try to out-compete us. Follow our pricing and keep within an acceptable limit then we can maintain an air of competition. We can all clean up.

But, if you want a price war we will will give you a war.

Who wants a war? Especially when it could cut profits.

Instead in practice we get this.

Company X tweaks a product price upwards slightly. So initially, they are more expensive than their peer group. When challenged, they price match. Consumers are conned into thinking this is because company X is being "competitive". Then the other companies, one by one, follow suite and up their price. We end up with a transparent price hike for no reason other than company X wants to increase it's profit margin.

Then it can all start again.

This scenario is an open cartel. Normally cartels are closed conspiracies. (i.e. companies secretly conspire to fix prices). In the above context the conspiracy is all done by innuendo and propaganda. But it is still a cartel.

Happy shopping - and watch out for those "good deals".

(apologies for the long absense - I have been otherwise engaged.)

Love & Kisses

The Coming Dark Age - Revisited

I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read these articles in the Independent today (HERE) and (HERE) In these articles the outgoing head of OfGem moans about the looming "Energy Gap" and inevitable price hikes that are on their way. Evidently, we are now so far down the road the only option we have to potentially avert the crisis is to build gas plant using expensive imported gas.

Dare I point out that I first blogged about this in 2010 ( HERE ) and I was a long way from being the first. In the industry this has been an issue for the last 10 years. Both of the last governments (but particularly the last Labour administration) are guilty of letting this drift. Due to the time scales the looming energy supply catastrophe can only now be potentially offset by gas - whatever the cost.

That AND possibly keeping old and decrepit coal plant running.

What a state to get into.

All because vacuous politicians have preferred to pursue the fools gold of renewables and simultaneously shun new nuclear.

But nuclear companies are no different than any other large ruthless corporate entity. Worldwide today, it is a lucrative sellers market for nuclear manufacturers. So now, when we are at or past crisis point the politico's are being held to ransom. The nuclear companies are demanding their pound of flesh. What a turn around.

We are told that "power cuts are unlikely" This is almost certainly just more wishful thinking.
Our generation capacity is going to fall to almost parity to what is needed. Any outage is going to stretch things to breaking point. A large outage in a serious cold snap or a double break down is going to see serious and widespread blackouts.

What will the politico's do? I reckon they will try and wing it. They will hope for mild weather and no breakdowns. God help us all.

This is terrible.

All of that money! All of that national resource wasted on the useless unreliable wind. All of the prevarication and navel gazing over nuclear and shale gas. All of that "Do Nothing and Hope It goes away" attitude.

At best the end result will be a stretched and unreliable power supply dominated by ancient coal and expensive imported gas, with wind adding little but a feel good factor for the technically illiterate.

Of course there will a diminishing contribution from our old first generation nuclear plant as well.
Inevitably this is going to be forced into an ever extended lifespan and run flat-out just to save the asses of our great and good.

What a waste. What a scandal.

A Gift Horse in the Mouth

I hardly need to say that the deliberate palming off of horse meat as beef is illegal. Or that this deception has also been  done for the worst of motives (i.e -.a quick and dirty profit). 

So my next question is: What else has gone into the mincer? 

If these criminals can get away with passing off a completely different animal species as beef how many thousands of sub standard or condemned cattle carcasses have also been processed?

Bearing in mind this was a criminal activity, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find meat that was actually unfit for pet-food (let alone people) got put into the mincer as well.

Clearly the European inspection process has been cursory or non existent. After all this suspect beef was  actually from the WRONG species. Any inspection process that misses that must be a farce.

Look at a parallel with the drugs trade (both legal and illegal).

Alcohol is strictly regulated. People may die from over consumption but not from illegal additives.

Compare that to the illegal drug trade. Anything and everything gets added to bolster the drug dealers profit. Money is the only focus. The health of the drug takers is of no concern.

The difference between a criminal dealing in drugs and one dealing in suspect meat is paper thin.

Anyone who believes the pathetic government spin that this crime was simply a matter of packet mis-labelling is living in a dream world.

Huhne Pleads Guilty

No, I am not going to belatedly go on about Huhne and his last minute switch to a guilty plea. Instead I will simply refer you to This Post over at Fenbeagles blog. While you are there have a look at Fenbeagle's blog in it's entirety. This guy's creative flair and cutting satire is awesome. Go there and enjoy.

UK Gas Prices: The Rip-Off Continues

So, as the dust settles over the last gas price rise we can look back and see if the reasoning behind it was sound.

As I remember the last price rise  (of around 10%) was to....

  • Cope with rising wholesale prices,
  • Pay for some unspecified rise in costs associated with gas transport
  • Pay for renewal of capital equipment.

It was (I am told) absolutely nothing to do with raising huge and unreasonable profits.


Wholesale prices

Look at this graph.

(graph from Catalyst Energy Solutions. Here)

The graph looks a  bit of a dogs breakfast because it show several years of wholesale (or spot) gas prices. Each colour is for a different year. Notice that the wholesale price to when the graph ends (Oct 2012) is little changed since December 2010.

So even from this you have to ask: Why the price rise? But look back further. Notice the whole sale price COLLAPSED at the end of 2009, so the rise they keep droning on about actually arises from a large price decrease in 2009. Wholesale prices in Oct 2012 are not much different to Jan 2009.

So, has the gas price today in January 2013 massively risen since the end point on the graph (Oct 2012) ?

No. The wholesale price today  is much the same as the end of October which is much the same as January 2009. But it gets worse. If you go even further back, beyond this graphs resolution you find the wholesale gas price was similar or higher than today way back to March 2008. (see future post)

Of course, wholesale gas only accounts for about 55% of the retail price anyway. So if the wholesale price is flat, then to get a retail price rise of 10%  the price of gas transport and customer servicing must have risen by 22%. Wow!

Even though these companies then go on to whine about making large capital investments they still manage to produce an enormous, and rising year on year profit. Clearly the concept of using your profits to invest in the future is alien to the Utilities.

Why can they do this? Because rather than operating as competing companies, their operation looks more like that of a cartel. They pretend to compete yet actually protect their combined markets at the cost of the consumer, and the government lets them get away with it.

The words “arrogant rip-off” come to mind.

Windfall. A film by Laura Israel

Laura Israel
Released in 2011 Windfall is a film about the effects of wind turbine deployment on a small community in upstate New York. The documentary  has won a host of awards and has met with huge critical acclaim. I've listed some of the awards and plaudits after the trailer and synopsis below.

So you may well ask: Have I seen it? You may be surprised that my answer is no. So far  I have only seen the trailer.

The reason I am blogging about it somewhat prematurely it is due to recommendation from a trusted friend of mine over the pond. She demanded  I see it and also tell my friends to see it as well.

I trust her judgement. So as the film, has started doing the rounds over here, then perhaps if you get a chance, you may consider having a look yourself. Sadly, I expect I'm going to have to fork out and buy a copy.

(Where Oh Where is this evil coal/oil/nuclear conspiracy that is supposed to be funding blogs like mine? Especially when you need to spend a few quid?)

Official Trailer: Windfall


Wind power …it’s sustainable…it burns no fossil fuels… it produces no air pollution. What’s more,it cuts down dependency on foreign oil. That’s what the residents of Meredith, New York first thought when a wind developer looked to supplement the rural farm town’s failing economy with a farm of their own – that of 40 industrial wind turbines. WINDFALL, Laura Israel’s, richly photographed, feature-length film, documents how this proposal divides the people of Meredith, as they fight over the future of their community. Attracted at first to the financial incentives that would seemingly boost their dying economy, the townspeople grow increasingly alarmed as they discover the impacts that the 400-foot high windmills slated for Meredith would bring to their community. Israel also turns her camera on Tug Hill, New York, another small upstate town, where wind power is a done deal. Tug Hill’s 195 wind turbines create non-stop low frequency “whomping” sounds and strobe-like effects, resulting in health effects on the people living among them. With wind development in the United States growing annually at 39 percent, WINDFALL, is an eye-opener that should be required viewing for anyone concerned about the environment and the future of renewable energy.

Awards, Accolades


New York Post

New York Times

Huffington Post

Wind Turbine Reliability and that Elephant Again

A detailed  analysis of the reliability and life span of on-shore and off-shore turbines has been produced by Professor Hughes of Edinburgh University. Because his findings are so controversial the paper has been independently statistically verified.

Far from having a lifespan of 25 years as promoted by the wind industry, it looks like the lifespan will be more like 10-15 years. Furthermore, during that 15 year lifespan, the capacity factor will progressively diminish.

Professor Hughes paper is Here
The Telegraph has also produced an article on this Here.

Professor Hughes suggests that even the wind industry has not yet realised it has this problem. Personally I think they have known about it for years.

I first blogged about the massive ongoing gearbox reliability issue (Here) This was based on this article Here. But it is not just the gearboxes. Since then we have had the grouting failure that has affected almost all offshore turbines in Europe, with many shifting on their base (Here). But these failures are just the headlines.

Yet the wind industry are in denial. Take the  pathetic bluster from RenewablesUK in the Telegraph article.

[quote] it’s very much in their interests to make sure that their turbines are maintained… to an optimum level, which includes upgrading as the technology improves. 

Anyone running machinery should optimally maintain it! But it will still wear out.

The question here is : What is the lifespan WHEN you optimally maintain it.

It sounds like the wind industry is back to relying on miracles. You know, something (as yet unknown) will come along that will make it all better. Don't forget wind turbines are supposed to be a mature technology. Sadly, whatever you upgrade to, you are simply not going to beat the laws of physics, and every upgrade is yet  another capital cost.

As any rotating machine ages it requires more maintenance. Eventually it reaches a stage where the machine requires so much maintenance it is classified as Beyond Economic Repair (BER). In other words, it is clapped out. This happens to ALL machinery. It happens to Jumbo jets, nuclear power stations, buses, cars AND wind turbines.

The wind industry propaganda has declared that BER for a turbine is 25 years. The truth, as proven by Prof. Hughes, is that the BER is reached in about 15 years.

Wind Turbines are capital intensive. The whole of their potential profitability is solely dictated by the total amount of energy they can produce over their life time. If their lifespan to BER is lowered then the possibility of them being profitable without an enormous subsidy decreases, especially later on in their life cycle.

You will also find that from a DECC document (Here) that current wind turbine annual maintenance costs range from £12000 to £110,000 per turbine. The amount is heavily dependant on the status of the warranty and consequently its age. As it gets older the maintenance cost sky rockets – until you reach BER.

With a decreasing capacity factor and an increasing maintenance cost over time, the money making years for a wind turbine are the first 5 years. Then its downhill all the way.

Turbines are medium term cash cows for their corporate owners. When they approach BER, either because the subsidy is cut or they blow up their second gearbox, they will be sold on. Then when the second/third/fourth company has run them into the ground they will be sold on again for scrap and  the  valuable components stripped out. Then they will be abandoned. In situ.

When the bailiffs finally turn up demanding the derelict  be cleaned up they will find that the “owner” is a post office box in Belize.
Guess who will get the final clean up bill.

Wind and Solar Renewables:- The German Experience

This is about a shocking German report from RWI Essen – the leading German economic research institution

The link to the report (in English) is  Here
The English version of the RWI-Essen website is Here
The wikipedia page on RWI Essen is Here

Why is this foreign report important to us?

In the UK we are at a point of crisis regarding future electrical energy generation. Decisions that should have been made 20 years ago have been avoided.  Arguably, whatever is now decided comes too late. Nothing short of a miracle will now prevent power cuts within the next 10 - 15 years. But unbelievably there are still people in government who, either for reasons of self interest or political advantage, still seek to pursue the current insane renewables agenda. If these people are allowed to prevail then the power cuts, economic dislocation and the consequential casualty list will be considerably worse.

Politicians, green zealots and other assorted wishful thinkers have there heads firmly buried in the sand. In Germany it has been even worse. That is why this German report is so important.

As part of the unending Green propaganda, we continually  bombarded with how Germany have embraced wind and solar. It is well worth cutting though the bullshit and picking up on exactly what the real experience is.

The above RWI-Essen document is a highly reputable study regarding renewables in Germany. This report is now three years old. Nothing has improved. It is (even for me) a shocking expose of the cost and waste of the German experience. I'll quote a few items from it below, but perhaps the concluding paragraph from the executive summary say it all.

Although Germany’s promotion of renewable energies is commonly portrayed in
the media as setting a “shining example in providing a harvest for the world” (The
Guardian 2007), we would instead regard the country’s experience as a cautionary
tale of massively expensive environmental and energy policy that is devoid of economic
and environmental benefits.

From the Abstract:

To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security.

Some more quotes from the Executive Summary

Currently, the feed-in tariff for PV is more than eight times higher than the wholesale
electricity price at the power exchange and more than four times the feed-in
tariff paid for electricity produced by on-shore wind turbines.
Even on-shore wind, widely regarded as a mature technology, requires feed-in
tariffs that exceed the per-kWh cost of conventional electricity by up to 300% to
remain competitive.

In the end, Germany’s PV promotion has become a subsidization regime that, on a
per-worker basis, has reached a level that far exceeds average wages, with per worker
subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000).
It is most likely that whatever jobs are created by renewable energy promotion
would vanish as soon as government support is terminated, leaving only Germany’s
export sector to benefit from the possible continuation of renewables support in
other countries such as the US.

Claims about technological innovation benefits of Germany’s first-actor status are
unsupportable. In fact, the regime appears to be counter productive in that respect,
stifling innovation by encouraging producers to lock into existing technologies.

Clearly, the German experience should serve us as a dire warning rather than an example. Already their energy prices are only second to Denmark. Luckily (so far) for Germany, their industrial base built up from the second world war has enabled them to indulge in this fiasco.  Only a fool would take us down the same debilitating path.

Unfortunately we have no shortage of fools in Westminster.