Wind Turbines in a Pit

Now, where would you build a wind turbine?
If you were a corporate utility company slavering over the subsidies then I suppose the answer is:
Anywhere you can.
Take one proposed location in the middle of Purbeck. (Incidentally the clue is in the name.)
It is called (wait for it.....)
Masters Pit.
Actually  it is a quarry . In places it is up to 25 meters deep. 
Though Masters Pit is technically just outside the AONB (Area Of Natural Beauty), by a matter of a few hundred yards, these monstrosities will blight the landscape for miles.
The fact that the pit ( sorry ..quarry) is up to 25 meters (75 feet) deep has not phased Infinergy. They simply plan to chock up these four monstrosities on a mixture of old stone tailings and probably any other crap they can lay their hands on.
So really these monsters will not be a mere 125 meters to the top of the blade but actually anything up to 150m from existing ground level. (that is approximately 487 feet)
If it were not for the massive subsidies (almost £ for £ on the electricity production) then they would be totally unviable.
How long are we going to put up with greedy utility companies trampling over our precious countryside so they can stick their noses in the subsidy trough? 
Really, if these things could repay their damage with meaningful quantities of use-able electricity (say a meagre 100MW) then maybe they would be worth a closer look. But with a derisory average (and intermittent) output of 0.575 MW per turbine they simply squander valuable financial resources that could be used to fund electricity generation that really works. 
Or even, dare I say it, the subsidy could fund effective programs to reduce energy demand.
But of course, that is the LAST thing any utility company wants to encourage! 
The money being squandered on these hopelessly ineffective monstrosities could be used so much more effectively. Once this money has been spent  it will be gone. With little (except a fat dividend) to show for it.
Tomorrow there is going to be a public meeting followed by a council vote on this planning application. The meeting is in Wareham (at Purbeck School 7.00pm). 
The council planning department have quite rightly recommended rejection.  If you are reading this in Purbeck, try and come along and help fight this obscenity. 

Homes and Wind Turbines

So how many “homes” does a wind turbine power?

We all know that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. But there is also lies, greed and manipulation of the truth.

Say you want to desecrate a large area of rural England with wind turbines the height of Salisbury cathedral. You know that these turbines are only viable because of the massive subsidy you get. You know they produce next to nothing in the way of useful electricity. But you need to con the gullible, the wishful thinkers and the Luddites into supporting your ruthless avarice. What do you do?

You make it look homely, warm, benign even.

You describe the output in terms of how many “homes” your monstrosities will power.

But of course, you are, as ever, economical with the truth. Especially when it comes to using simplification to airbrush out the real truth of the matter.

Take this site which offers lots and lots of propaganda for a proposed four turbine complex deep in rural Purbeck. They state their turbines are rated at 2.3 MW. That is 9.2MW in total.

Sounds impressive.

To be fair, they realise that no one is conned by these maximum rating figures.

So when they calculate the number of “homes” they can provide for, they appear to use the pathetic average of one quarter of the boiler-plate rating. In other words each turbines real rating is an average of 0.575 MW. But they do not display this figure. It is after all derisory.

If they then take the average household consumption of electricity as the figure given here   they can offer up that their assertion that this four turbine carbuncle on the face of Purbeck will fuel 5000 homes.

Sounds good. 5000 homes Hmm-mm. Wholesome.

But there is a problem. In fact there are two problems.

The first problem is that while the average output of these things really will be about 0.575MW each and the average requirement for a household really is about 600W, the figure blatantly avoids the demographics of household electricity use.

Households use their energy mainly in well defined time bands. For example their use at 3am is small yet in the early afternoon is at least a couple of kilowatts.

(graph from )

Simply put, the average turbine energy output is inadequate at times of peak demand (by at least a factor of four) and at other times the power they produce is unneeded and wasted. These four turbines are not capable of meeting anywhere near the day to day demands of 5000 homes.

But it gets worse.

Wind turbines are governed by the vagaries of the wind and the wind is governed by the certainties of Physics. The power of the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. The harder it blows the more energy there is in the wind.

The result of this is that half of the energy in the wind is delivered to the wind turbine in just 15% of the time.

So half of their annual power output will arrive in a total period of less than 60 days. So not only are they intermittent they are also peaky. There will be times when they are maxing out and demand is low

(graph - Note the graph is the total wind energy and frequency of occurrence at different wind speeds. The throughput is calculated through an imaginary 100 meter disk. Energy data recorded 2002 Lee Ranch facility USA)

If you take out this brief peak period and concentrate on their output over the majority of the year, we find that the 300 day average output of these things falls to:

365/300 * 0.575/2 = 0.35 MW per turbine.

That is 1.4MW for the whole 4 turbine farm.

So most of the time they can provide only an average “home” load for 2300 homes.

But do not forget that is the averaged household demand NOT the day to day demand which is itself peaky though predictable. During many defined periods of the day the average homes will use 2+ KW.

During these times these things, on average over the 300 days, then can only provide for about 600 "homes".

The ability of wind turbines to provide reliable energy for “homes” is overstated, deceptive and fuelled by massive amount of wishful thinking.

I often use the old now redundant small nuclear station up the road from me in Winfrith as a comparison for Wind Energy.

This old nuclear station regularly and routinely provided 62MW to the national Grid. No peaking, no troughs, It never stopped because of the weather.

If you do the maths in the same way the wind industry does, ( i.e. “homes”), this old reliable nuclear reactor provided power for well over one hundred thousand “homes”.

Of course the other big con in all this "homes" nonsense is that household electricity is only 30% of the total demand. The rest is split across industry and services.

So why are we building these useless wind farms? Why are we desecrating our country-side?

Unless you are getting the subsidies, the reasons appear unclear.

Steaming into a Crisis

Today I took an elderly relative down to the local railway station to watch an old restored steam train pass by as it pulled a few hundred enthusiasts on a journey to London.

I am not really into steam but I must admit that these trains do make a evocative and picturesque sight (and hey, a family outing is always welcome!)

After the lumbering monster had passed through, dousing us in steam and soot, the old boy turned to me and smiled.

“In ten years we are going to need all these old relics”.

Regrettably he is probably right.

He knows, I know, and I bloody well hope that you know, that in this country, within ten years, there is going to be a shortfall in electricity generation capacity of crisis levels.

All it will take will be a severe cold snap, or the Russians getting uppity about their gas or one or a number of the old decrepit run down nuclear or coal plants breaking down.

Please, whatever you do, do not be stupid enough to think that wind power is going to get us out of this hole. All the current focus on wind energy is doing is digging us in deeper.

At a time like this we need an energy minister capable of making informed, difficult and decisive decisions. But all we have is Chris Huhne.

At least he has put in motion the construction of half of the new nuclear stations we need, which is a step in the right direction. But he is still wedded to the fairy-land fantasy of using wind power to provide a significant proportion of our power.

This means is that money that really should be allocated to building generating plant (that actually works) is diverted into wind farms so the utilities operating these wind farms can cash in on the subsidies. This money ends up in the coffers and share dividends of the greedy utility companies while the looming crisis gets ever deeper.

With the subsidy, the cost of wind power (an intermittent, unreliable and ineffective power source) is actually not far off double that of other forms of generation. The huge profits to be made on wind farms is crippling re-investment in vital non wind generation plant.

If (or should I say when?) there are power cuts, it will be interesting to see how long the electrified railways can keep going.

Maybe then, our old relics will come in handy.

Steam trains to the rescue? Far fetched? Maybe.

But no more fantastical than the belief that wind power can prevent the energy gap crisis happening, let alone provide a long lasting contribution to out electricity supply.

Wind Turbines: The Subsidy

Few people realise the extent or extravagance of the subsidy given to the large corporate operators of wind turbines.

A recent article in “Private Eye” and reproduced on the DART website here displays the sheer amount of money (your money) being sloshed about.

First, a little seed capital gets slopped in the direction of the land owners.

The traditional reward of 30 pieces of silver for selling out your neighbours is somewhat less generous than what is currently on offer. Today the payment amounts to about £10,000 per turbine per year. So for four turbines, over 25 years, this amount to a cool £1 Million.

While this yearly payment has sometimes reached £17000 per turbine, it is pathetically small when compared to the money that gets funnelled in the direction of the corporate owners of these monsters.

A wind turbine, rated at 2 MW (which averaged over a year actually only produces about 0.5MW/yr) will be paid about £250,000 for the electricity produced . But on top of this there is a subsidy of £220,000. So for a 4 turbine installation, over the 25 year lease period, the operating company will get no less than £22 million in subsidy alone.

Currently, with only a fraction of the planned insanity in place, we are paying over £1 Billion a year in subsidies. (See Here)

That is a guaranteed profit. Paid for by the government. As to the true operating profit, that will be little, nothing or even negative. The operating margin on the electricity produced alone would never be sufficient to finance these turbines.

Truly, the apple on the tree is the subsidy.

The emphasis will not be on producing useful electricity. The emphasis will be on maximising the amount of electricity produced irrespective of whether it is needed or not.

Electricity generated at 3 am (when nobody wants it) gets the same subsidy as electricity generated during peak times. So do not expect the operators to be doing their maintenance other than 9-5. If a turbine breaks down in winter when wind speeds are low, do not expect it to be repaired in a hurry. The chances of noisy turbines ever being replaced with quieter, less environmentally unfriendly versions is nil.

In real power stations the maintenance and repair schedules are ruthlessly based around getting generation back on line to support periods of maximum use. Do not expect this from wind turbine operators, there is no incentive.

For the luxury of feeling “Green” we are actually fuelling inefficient power generation and rip-off electricity utilities. The stupidity of those who queue up to support the likes of Aon, NPower, Centrica and Scottish & Southern beggars belief.

But truly the real evil in all this is the foolish concept that we can force our way to a greener environment by simply throwing money at a technology that has already proven that it is simply not up to the job.

The PIIGs: Who is Next?

Robert Peston may have a funny way of speaking but he does seem to have a good grip on the Euro crisis. He is very pessimistic about the long term outcome. See Here

From the look of it, Portugal is already on the slide with bond yields already at 7% (Irish bond yields are still at over 8% and that is after the bailout package). Obviously those who buy bonds are none too confident that their money is safe and the rate has been cranked up to appeal to their greed rather than common sense.

So at what point do the Germans chuck their hand in?

They, after all are the only reason the whole thing has not collapsed already. Greece and Ireland are the smallest of the sick men of Europe. It has been difficult enough as it is.

God help us all if (say) Spain or Italy went down. If Portugal fails to make it through the next two weeks without holding the begging bowl out I cannot see the Germans continuing to issue blank cheques.

Going back a few months, when this crisis first broke out I picked up a report that Germans were closely examining their high denomination Euro notes. Evidently you can tell which country printed what. The report stated that the rattled Germans were only accepting notes printed in Germany.

I don't expect anything has changed.

Wind Turbines and Spinning Reserve

When the supporters of wind turbines run out of wishful thinking they usually try disparaging the legitimate concerns of those of us who view these ineffective monstrosities with the contempt they deserve.

It has long been pointed out that due to the vaguaries of the wind, there needs to be a backup ready to take over when they stop turning. The latest jolly wheeze our dreamworld compatriots have come up with is that there does not need to be any more backup as there is already enough spinning reserve.

For those who do not know the jargon: We have our power supplied mainly by base load generation. That is power stations running on full load. Nuclear power is particularly good at this. This is then backed up by spinning reserve. This spinning reserve can provide small corrections to the power requirement in which case it is said to go from spinning reserve and into generation. But is there mainly ready to kick in if anything goes wrong, like a major grid failure or power station failure. Spinning reserve power stations are using fuel but providing no electricity. The energy used is dissipated in the cooling towers.

The pro wind turbine lobby assert that as the spinning reserve is bigger than any single power supply unit then it should also be quite capable of coping with any drop of output from wind turbines. On a (very) shallow level that sounds like a good point but really we need to look at what the spinning reserve is there for.

Spinning reserve is an emergency backup. Its  size is calculated to allow the grid to cope with major failure of otherwise reliable and predictable components.

And that is the point. 

The major failure of a power station is a crisis and the spinning reserve is there to ensure there are no power cuts. The spinning reserve currently built into the system is most certainly not there to iron out the erratic output of wind turbines as well. 

If (god forbid) anyone actually builds another of these off-shore wind farm abortions and it then suffered a major grid failure, well: Yes. That is what the spinning reserve is for.  

But  it is most certainly not there to cope with the wind suddenly dropping. If you want to cope with that you need more spinning reserve.

The most shocking aspect of the pro-turbine dreamers is their sheer propensity to be at best, economical with the truth and at worst, lie through their teeth.

One day we will look back on all this lunacy and view it with derision. I just hope and pray that when that day comes the lights will still be working. 

Euro Crisis; Relying on Germany

There was an old 2008 joke: "What is the difference betwen Iceland and Ireland?"
The answer was one letter and six months.

To be fair that 6 months dragged out to be two years but the essence of the joke is brutally true.

Dear Angela Merkel is going to have to butter up her German electorate a lot more to get them to pay for not only Greece, but now Ireland. Maybe soon, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

But let us all remember that hard work is what the Germans are renowned for. So perhaps the rest of Europe will let the Germans do what they do best with their 60 hour weeks and unremitting efficiency. Maybe the dynamic German economy can, under pressure, support virtually the whole of Europe.

Then the bankrupt laggards known collectively as the PIIGS (Portugal, Irelend,Iceland,Greece and Spain) can get back to what they are good at... and go down the pub.

British Gas: Fair Profit Or Exploitation?

Since the peak gas price in 2008 British gas has reduced its prices by 17%. But Since the peak gas price the wholesale price of gas has fallen 40%. See Here

British Gas' profit this year has soared by 98%. In the first half (i.e. 6 months) of 2010 British Gas' profit was £585 million. So it would suggest that their profit this year is going to be in excess of £1 Billion.

All utility companies are in a steady business (and trusted position) of providing our industry and people with a regular vital resource.

So how the hell can one of them suddenly double its profits?

I don't expect any of the other utility companies will go bust any time soon. So there is only source for that huge profit. That source is you, my grubby derided little English consumer.

The whole basis of the privatisation of the utilities was to get rid of a self serving "jobs-worth" monopolistic culture and replace it with a set of responsible and efficient companies.
Their rivalry would guarantee that costs to the consumer were kept down. These new private companies were trusted with providing a strategic national resource. In exchange they were virtually guaranteed a profit.

But today these companies now act as if they are just a multiple set of heads on a monstrous Hydra monopoly. Essentially the Gas and Electric utility industry has all the hallmarks of being an ugly and viciously exploitative hidden cartel.

British Gas and its buddies faff around, pretending there is competition between them. They swap a few hundred thousand consumers to make it look good but they all indulge in conning the public with discounts as summer approaches. Then they hit them with massive rises as winter (and the need for gas) rises. Now Britsh Gas is leading the pack with a shameful 7% rise. The others will follow soon no doubt.

They may be an improvement on the old nationalised cash haemorrhaging relic they replaced. But they are still very far from offering the public a real competitive choice.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with making a profit, even a healthy profit. Especially if you company provides what the customer wants.

But British Gas like the other utility companies do not provide what the customer wants. It provides what the customer needs. They have been given this business on a plate in exchange for acting responsibly.

Double profits in a dynamic cutting edge producer of goods that people queue up to buy is really good.

Double profits in a utility company is a disgusting exploitation of a trusted position.

British Gas - Won't Get Fooled Again

So, my grubby little English mates. Some of you have just got shafted by our friends (of whom we have none) in British Gas.

A 7% rise non the less.

I heard their spokesman whinge on about wholesale gas prices going up. He did not mention the year on year BG profit rise of 98% (yes nearly doubling year on year - see here

Neither did he mention that in the last couple of years, wholesale gas prices have fallen massively from their peak in 2008 (see here)

Needless to say, I expect the other festering corporate monsters that inhabit the Gas and Electricity sector are greedily eyeing your pay-packet as you read this.

What we need here my grotty, snotty fellow little Englanders is either a little less of the bloated monopolistic suppliers running their cosy cartel or more regulation. More regulation, as you probably know is something I would wish to avoid.

Personally I'd go for encouraging another twenty or so companies into the energy market, give them some tax breaks to get them going.

Make the bastards actually compete with each other . Oh how that would hurt!

Get some real competition into a market that currently has all the hall-marks of an ugly and malign Cartel