Bad Engineering and Premature Technology

Taken from "The Times" (letters to the Editor) today.....

I am most worried by the billions of pounds being misinvested and lost as a consequence.

Look out to sea at the end of 2015 and see how many windmills are not turning and you will get my point: there are already 14,000 abandoned windmills onshore in the US.

Premature technology deployment is thoroughly bad engineering, and my taxes are subsidising it against my will and professional judgement.

Professor Michael Kelly 
Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

That just about says it all really.

The Ghost of Winfrith

Today it is hard to believe that just outside Winfrith, a small village in Dorset, there used to be one of the most dynamic and technologically advanced locations in the world. All there is now is a fading building, some rusty sidings and a halting and occasional de-commissioning exercise.

The decommisioning is run by RSRL, or to give it it's full name - Research Sites Restoration Ltd - See Here. The old Winfrith site is set among trees and is well back from the road. Today most drive past without even noticing it.

Winfrith was a nuclear  research facility but it never held a large reactor. The largest was a mere tiddler with a maximum power rating of 63 MW.

Even though this was designed specifically for research purposes it still provided a useful, regular and reliable output to the grid of 50MW.

While it was in operation, Winfrith was serviced by many small companies all based in the surrounding area. These companies were in turn serviced by other small companies providing everything from stainless steel to sandwiches.

Today the remains of the once dynamic industrial site between Winfrith and Wool, now renamed Dorset Green, is a mere shadow of its former self. Most of the jobs, along with the carbon free power generation from the Winfrith reactor are long gone.

It is interesting to compare the effectiveness of the 60 year old Winfrith research reactor to recent plans for so called "renewable" energy in Dorset.

Last year the Dorset Energy Group were bragging about a "reasonable scenario" of building 180 2MW turbines in Dorset. Frustratingly for the zealots in the DEG this number has evidently now been trimmed down, or at least obfuscated so not to frighten the locals.

Let's say the 100 turbines would now be their dream target.

We know that in 2010 the wind turbine capacity factor for the South West was a measly 17.7% (the lowest in the country). But let us round it up and say that these turbines would be over 10% better than their peers elsewhere in the South West.

That gives us a capacity factor of about 20%.

So the output of these 100 turbines would actually amount to 100 x 0.2 x 2 = 40MW.

These turbines would bring very few jobs and no technologically based business park. Virtually nothing would be added to the local economy. The only real local gains would be made by the already rich land owners who, to be fair, would make a killing.

These 100 turbines would utterly ruin the ancient county of Dorset. Every village would be blighted. Every viewpoint would be polluted.

All for 40MW.

Reduce the number of turbines and you also reduce the already ridiculously poor power output. So they get even more ineffective. Though collectively somewhat less ugly.

Now compare that to the old Winfrith site that provided many good jobs and singlehandedly provided the power equivalent to 120 huge wind turbines. Remember also that the tiny Winfrith reactor also provided consistent on-demand output unlike the intermittent and unpredictable wind turbine output.

Most of the people who designed Winfrith have not only retired but many have now died of old age. Yet 60 odd years ago they produced plentiful carbon free electricity that was, at the time, generated by the very leading edge of technology.

If you really wanted to reduce carbon emissions from coal and gas plant then even the old Winfrith research reactor would be a step forward from the wind turbine fiasco.

But today far more effective nuclear technology is available. Exciting new developments with MSR or LFTR technology promise massively plentiful yet utterly safe and secure power generation.

The next generation nuclear reactors will be developed by dynamic establishments - like Winfrith used to be.

Unfortunately Winfrith will no longer be one of them.

ROC and Roll Rip-offs

The ROC is the veiled subsidy paid to wind turbine operators. Every MW/hr generated by a turbine operator gains the turbine operator a ROC certificate. This certificate is then sold to fossil fuel generators. These fossil fuel generators are forced to buy these certificates or they have to pay a fine.

At the end of the day, due to the ROC, an on-shore turbine operator gets paid about double for the electricity produced. An off-shore operator gets paid triple.

If we ever managed to produce 20% of our power by wind it would account for at least 50% of the wholesale cost.

The naive political theory behind these massive subsidies is that they were supposed to kick start a whole new industry. This industry would then magically develop ever more effective and reliable wind turbines. (Oh Boy - do they need to be more effective and reliable!)

Unfortunately the truth is very far from the hype.

As the fairy-land theory goes, in the scenario of 100% "renewable" supply the ROC would become redundant, and we would have a vibrant industry developing and producing competitive alternative energy for us and the rest of the world.

Dream on.

Unfortunately this attempt at forced development neglects several very important aspects which are more related to physics and basic economics than political wishful thinking.

First, virtually all of the turbines purchased come from a group of foreign companies. These companies occasionally toss the odd manufacturing bone across the channel when is suites them. But as we saw in the Isle of Wight with Vestas, they are just as keen to maximise their profits at the expense of the workforce as any other ruthless faceless and foreign corporation.

Secondly no turbine in the current turbine fleet could possibly be economically viable without the ROC. The government has recently suggested a measly 10% reduction. This has flown into a hail of objection from the wind turbine lobby.

So if these things become unviable at a mere 10% reduction in the ROC how the hell are you ever going to get to a zero cost ROC? Remember these things are supposed to have a life of 25 years! They are still going to be at least as inefficient and ineffective in 10 -20 years time as they are now.

Of course we must also remember that wind turbines can never replace all fossil fuel generation. Many would say they cannot replace any.

Because wind can never replace much fossil plant there will always be a demand for the ROCs. So our wind turbine carpet bagger friends can always get a good return on their pieces of paper.

They simply have to ensure that their turbines don't actually do what they are hyped up to do. Bearing in mind the physics of the situation (aka Betts Law) this is the defacto situation anyway.

So get used to being ripped off. Until we get a government that is willing to stand up to this ugly wind energy cartel  the robbery will continue.

Bearing in mind how financially involved many senior politicians are with this outrage, change threatens to be a long time coming.

The Defence of Silton

So it begins.

The Silton Planning Inquiry starts on Tuesday 28th February.

On the one hand we have the good people of Silton.  They have pledged their hard earned cash to defend their village from the carpet baggers and wind turbine fashionista's who threaten it.

The villagers have to pay for the legal council they need to defend their village. Money they can ill afford. The local council will also be defending a democratically arrived decision to refuse planning. Also at great cost to the community.

On the other hand we have a ruthless and laughably pretentious wind farm operator which greedily seeks to overturn the councils planning refusal.

So on one side we have a perfectly valid and democratic planning decision to refuse the erection of an industrial wind turbine complex at Silton.

On the other we have a vain and ruthless developer who will now attempt to defeat local democracy.

This is outrageously unfair and undemocratic.

But fairness and democracy never were the strong suites of the wind turbine fraternity.

But still, the good people of Silton are defending their patch, and good for them. Their moral stance, backed up by their admirable resolution and social responsibility are an example to us all.

The Save our Silton Website is HERE
The Dorset Against Rural Turbines Site is HERE

If there is any justice left in the planning system, the Silton villagers will win hands down.

Today I just want to wish my friends in Silton all the best. May your village remain as beautiful as it is today, unspoiled by pointless industrial development.

Good luck to you.

The End of the German Solar Dream

So far the Germans have invested approximately 130 billion Euros in household and industrial solar power. (Roughly the same as the recent Greek bail-out)   See Here

Over a year solar now provides around 3% of their electrical requirements. (See Wikipedia Here)

Of course this solar power is only effective during the daylight hours and then only when the sun is shining. During winter the output is usually as close to nil as makes no difference.

The headline solar installation capacity is (for 2011) 24.8 GW. If that was really the effective output it would amount to 30 medium/large Nuclear or fossil fuel power stations (assuming a typical capacity factor of 80%).

Sounds impressive.

Unfortunately the claim is deceptive, if not down right fraudulent.

This is a snippet from the above Wikipedia article

When you do the sums you find that the actual yearly solar output is just over 8% of the much heralded maximum.

The actual energy produced by these 130,000,000,000 Euros worth of solar averages over the year at less than two and a half Nuclear or CCGT or coal power stations power stations, each rated at 1GW with an 80% Capacity factor.

Even then, the solar output is of course intermittent. Not only due to the the obvious night time limitation of solar, but due to variable solar intensity due to time of year and the inevitable periods of cloud.

The net result of this is that the 130,000,000,000 Euros worth of solar does not displace anywhere near 2.5 GW of fossil or nuclear plant.

Let us be kind and throw caution to the wind.

Lets say that this 130,000,000,000 Euros worth of solar saves carbon emissions from 3 coal powered stations each rated at 1GW.

That averages out at over 43 billion euro per coal plant shut down. Hardly an economic or environmental miracle is it?

Let us do a comparison here.

A CCGT gas plant produces less than 40% of the carbon emmissions of a coal plant. So to save the same amount of carbon as this expensive solar plant (but in a reliable and on-demand way) all you need  to do is replace 5, 1GW coal plants with 5, 1GW CCGT plants.

A 1GW CCGT plant costs around 600 million Euros so you can do the same thing  (but also produce reliable dispatchable and on-demand electricity all the year round) for about 3 billion Euros. Or just over 2% of the cost of solar. The running costs of the gas  plant would also be considerably less than the feed in tarif payments of 10 billion paid annually for the solar plant.

Of course if the Germans coiuld get over their collective phobia regarding nuclear then you could save the same amount of carbon by replacing 2.5 Coal plants with 2.5 modern Nuclear plants

Even using the ludicrously inflated figures from the anti nuclear lobby the  cost would be only 7.5 Billion Euros or 5% of the solar cost (actually the real figure is about 3%)

Like the rest of Europe, Germany is sitting on an ocean of shale gas. Germany also has the technical expertise to exploit 3rd and 4th generation nuclear as well as cutting edge nuclear such as MSR or LFTR nuclear plant.

If they had avoided the quasi-religious dogma that forced them down this solar blind alley, they would today be reducing their carbon emissions. instead they are about to massively rise as they replace nuclear with coal.

Instead of a dynamic, low carbon and cutting edge power generation network, the Germans now have their self indulgent and next to useless solar money pit, plus their equally hopeless wind farms - all backed up by dirty coal.

No wonder some German politicians are running scared. ( See Here ) ( and Here )

Lagging the Roof with Davey

At last! A morsel of common sense from the great and good.  ( See Guardian HERE ). Insulating houses and so REDUCING energy demand is fundamentally a very sound idea.

Household insulation should be at the very front of the government policy and if anything should get a subsidy it should be insulation.

But regrettably our esteemed leaders are still proud wind turbine fashionistas, even though it is these very wind turbines that will undo the good work done by the insulation and force many more thousands into fuel poverty.

Ed Davey, the new Huhne clone has announced that insulation can save as much as 2 Nuclear power stations. (see the above link)

Now I imagine that means a total power of about 2 GW (i.e. two Sizewell B's).

So let us do a comparison with an "average" on-shore wind turbine which is 2MW but has a capacity factor of 25% or less (in the South West - much less).

A little maths tells us that instead of supplanting 2 nuclear power station that produce reliable "dispatchable" power we could .......

dispense with  4000 unreliable, intermittent and massively subsidised wind turbines instead.

(yes that is not a misprint - FOUR THOUSAND - every land based bird mincer in the country plus some more..)

let's see.....

Close down 2  effective nuclear power plants?

Or 4000 ineffective wind turbines?

I know which I would choose.

Not only would we be free of these hopeless white elephants, but the money we would save on NOT paying the ROC subsidy would pay for the whole of the subsidised household insulation - for every home in the country.

The final icing on the cake would be the 250,000 households that would NOT be pushed into fuel poverty simply to line the pockets of the wind turbine carpet baggers.

Half truths at the Guardian

Look at this hopelessly partisan propaganda piece from the Guardian. Half truths, cherry picked data and innuendo like this should shame any editorial desk. ( See HERE )

Like all propaganda, this piece is based around a morsel of truth. But it then goes on to vent its bigotry in as many flavours of nudge-nudge-wink innuendo as it can possibly manage.

Laughably they shoot themselves in the foot with a graph, (below) which actually is about the only truly unsullied part of the article. Maybe they thought their Guardian readership would be overawed with a graph, even if it junks most of their propaganda.

So let us look at this a little more.

True - carbon emmissions went up last year in the UK by 3.1%. But if you look at the graph you will see that the shock-horror-probe "blip" is actually a decreasing trend spanning many years.

True - this 3.1% is the first rise in a very long time, But then the previous years drop (8.7%) was unprecendented, as was the recession.

Also true - the increase was made worse by break downs in our old nuclear plant, most of which is at the end of its life. Perhaps instead of making ridiculous statements about the "fickleness" of nuclear power, these two dismal journalists should address the need for more nuclear now. I would put money on it though that the last thing they would support would be more nuclear, irrespective of the consequences for carbon emissions.

Instead it looks like they are dedicated followers of fashion and would rather kill a few thousand more old folk with their ludicrous though very trendy windmills, which unfortunately, are the truly ineffective option.

Nuclear, like all rotating machinery may break down but at least when it is up and running it generates useable quantities of power. Except for mechanical breakdown it will perform.

Of course, whether wind farms produce any power at all at a particular time  is a total lottery.

Their silence about the appalling performance of the wind farms last year is deafening - again we see just more propaganda -leave out the bits that don't fit with your wishful thinking.

One thing we should have all learned from the cold snap last year (including this hopeless pair of propagandists) is that so called "green" energy - especially the Wind Turbine fleet was hopelessly ineffective.

Old nuclear plant may have broken down and needed fixing but the wind turbine fleet, at crucial times, simply did not work. Fixed or not.

Of course they also drag in their mates from Greenpeace, WWF and New Economics Foundation who can be relied on to issues various flavours of "Its a bloody disgrace".

But for all their pompous bluster they simply cannot disguise the truth so graphically displayed in their graph.

The UK's carbon emissions are on a long term downward trend, and that this is with no thanks whatsoever to their beloved windmills.

The Great Wind Farm Robbery Revisited

The wind turbine industry gets ever more greedy with its claims for curtailment/constraint payments. Turbine operators are claiming huge sums of money just in order to shut down. 
( The Scotsman HERE ) ( Telegraph HERE )

Luckily for us, wind turbines are so pathetically incapable of actually generating on a reliable basis that the need for curtailment payments are relatively rare. 
Take this scatter graph from the National Grid Winter Consultation 2011 ( HERE )
Each dot represents an individual wind farm output (y-axis) against actual demand (x-axis) The line National Grid have drawn shows where curtailment payments may have to be made. Inevitably these are at times when turbine output is high but demand is low. In other words the turbine power is being generated when it is not needed. Yet they still have the nerve to claim huge curtailment payments.
This scatter graph also confirms two other shocking truths about wind power. The majority of the time the output is actually well below the capacity factor. It is only the occasional high wind occurrence that bigs up the capacity factor to the (still derisory) value of 20-25%. 
Also it confirms the rather obvious flaw in wind power in that there is absolutely no correlation between wind turbine output and demand. Look to the right hand end of the x-axis and you will see plenty of evidence of turbine output being well below 10% while demand was near maximum.
But still, there are occasions when for operational reasons, during periods of low demand and high wind that the grid needs to get turbines to shut down. When these occasions happen the turbine owners go into a feeding frenzy. They demand and get payments many times the value of the electricity the could have produced - just to shut down.
While other generation technologies can also get curtailment payments, they all seem to have more of a sense of moral responsibility than the massively subsidised wind turbine cartel.
These shockingly greedy payments demanded by the wind turbine operators are at least open to inspection.
But the REF (Renewable Energy Foundation - HERE) have discovered that as well as these outrageous payments there are a set of secretive extra payments made to turbine operators which are actually even more extravagant. ( SEE THIS REF LINK ) also (Power Engineering Magazine HERE).
Even so, all these payments get dwarfed by the massive ROC subsidy turbine operators receive. But these greedy claims for yet more cash are perhaps a clearer indication of the predatory and ruthless motives that drive the wind turbine gravy train.
Morally there is no reason a massively subsidised wind turbine should get even a sniff of a constraint payment. Bearing in mind how much of the time they have to rely on other generation to pick up the shortfall caused by their intermittency the occassional call to shut down should go unrewarded.
My original piece on the Great Wind Farm Robbery is HERE

A Letter that Demands Action

It looks like the time has come where many  in high office have finally decided to take a deep breath, grit their teeth and put the interests of the country ahead of the money men, zealots and carpet baggers of the wind turbine cartel industry.

The following letter was signed by 101 MPs

While every signature is important and courageous, perhaps we should provide an extra level of applause to those from Labour and the Lib-Dems who will undoubtedly pay a heavy price for their challenge to the narrow doctrinaire obedience demanded by their colleagues on this issue.

The Telegraph article is ( HERE ).

Here is the letter and signatories:

The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
30th January 2012

As Memb
ers of Parliament from across the political spectrum, we have grown more and more concerned about the Government’s policy of support for on-shore wind energy production.

In these financially straightened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies on-shore wind turbines.

In the on-going review of subsidy for renewable energy subsidies, we ask the Government to dramatically cut the subsidy for on-shore wind and spread the savings made between other types of reliable renewable energy production and energy efficiency measures.

We also are worried that the new National Planning Policy Framework, in its current form, diminishes the chances of local people defeating unwanted on-shore wind farm proposals through the planning system. Thus we attach some subtle amendments to the existing wording that we believe will help rebalance the system.

Finally, recent planning appeals have approved wind farm developments with the inspectors citing renewable energy targets as being more important than planning considerations. Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that it is impossible to defeat applications through the planning system. We would urge you to ensure that planning inspectors know that the views of local people and long established planning requirements should always be taken into account.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Heaton-Harris (CON), Daventry
Christopher Pincher (CON), Tamworth
Nadine Dorries (CON), Mid Bedfordshire
Karen Bradley (CON), Staffordshire Moorlands
Steve Baker (CON), Wycombe
David Davis (CON), Haltemprice and Howden
Matthew Hancock (CON), West Suffolk
Richard Bacon (CON), South Norfolk
David Nuttall (CON), Bury North
Bernard Jenkin (CON), Harwich and North Essex
Dr. Daniel Poulter (CON), Central Suffolk and North Ipswich
Anne Main (CON), St Albans
David Mowat (CON), Warrington South
Karen Lumley (CON), Redditch
Nadhim Zahawi (CON), Stratford-on-Avon
Natascha Engel (LAB), North East Derbyshire
Pauline Latham (CON), Mid Derbyshire
Sarah Newton (CON), Truro and Falmouth
Geoffrey Cox (CON), Torridge and West Devon
Brandon Lewis (CON), Great Yarmouth
Adam Holloway (CON), Gravesham
Damian Collins (CON), Folkestone and Hythe
David Morris (CON), Morecambe and Lunesdale
Graham Brady (CON), Altrincham and Sale West
Louise Mensch (CON), Corby
Robert Walter (CON), North Dorset
Aidan Burley (CON), Cannock Chase
Bob Blackman (CON), Harrow East
Nick De Bois (CON), Enfield North
Steve Brine (CON), Winchester
Robert Syms (CON), Poole
Caroline Nokes (CON), Romsey and Southampton North
Brian Binley (CON), Northampton South
Steven Barclay (CON), North East Cambridgeshire
Julian Lewis (CON), New Forest East
Lorraine Fullbrook (CON), South Ribble
Tony Cunningham (LAB), Workington
Christopher Chope (CON), Christchurch
Dan Byles (CON), North Warwickshire
Edward Leigh (CON), Gainsborough
Richard Harrington (CON), Watford
Jacob Rees-Mogg (CON), North East Somerset
Guto Bebb (CON), Aberconwy
Kris Hopkins (CON), Keighley
Iain Stewart (CON), Milton Keynes South
Mark Spencer (CON), Sherwood
John Stevenson (CON), Carlisle
Bill Cash (CON), Stone
Andrew Griffiths (CON), Burton
Simon Hart (CON), Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
Peter Bone (CON), Wellingborough
Charlie Elphicke (CON), Dover
Justin Tomlinson (CON), North Swindon
Mark Pawsey (CON), Rugby
Stuart Andrew (CON), Pudsey
Marcus Jones (CON), Nuneaton
Alun Cairns (CON), Vale of Glamorgan
Richard Drax (CON), South Dorset
Martin Vickers (CON), Cleethorpes
Craig Whittaker (CON), Calder Valley
Bob Stewart (CON), Beckenham
Adam Afriyie (CON), Windsor
Jack Lopresti (CON), Filton & Bradley Stoke
James Wharton (CON), Stockton South
Julian Sturdy (CON), York Outer
Heather Wheeler (CON), South Derbyshire.
Nigel Mills (CON), Amber Valley
Simon Reevell (CON), Dewsbury
Mark Reckless (CON), Rochester and Strood
Paul Maynard (CON), Blackpool North and Cleveleys
Jeremy Lefroy (CON), Stafford
Jackie Doyle-Price (CON), Thurrock
Philip Hollobone (CON), Kettering
James Clappison (CON), Hertsmere
Sammy Wilson (DUP), East Antrim
David Tredinnick (CON), Bosworth
Roger Williams (LIB DEM), Brecon and Radnorshire
Nicholas Soames (CON), Mid Sussex
Graham Evans (CON), Weaver Vale
Douglas Carswell (CON), Clacton
Patrick Mercer (CON), Newark
Rory Stewart (CON), Penrith and The Border
John Glen (CON), Salisbury
Mark Pritchard (CON), The Wrekin
Caroline Dinenage (CON), Gosport
Neil Parish (CON), Tiverton and Honiton
Stephen McPartland (CON), Stevenage
Greg Knight (CON), East Yorkshire
David Ruffley (CON), Bury St Edmunds
Tracey Crouch (CON), Chatham and Aylesford
Priti Patel (CON), Witham
Karl McCartney (CON), Lincoln
James Gray (CON), North Wiltshire
Mark Williams (LIB DEM), Ceredigion
Andrew Rosindell (CON), Romford
Oliver Heald (CON), North East Hertfordshire
Andrea Leadsom (CON), South Northamptonshire
Ian Liddell-Grainger (CON), Bridgwater and West Somerset
Charles Walker (CON), Broxbourne
Andrew Percy (CON), Brigg and Goole
Andrew Bridgen (CON), North West Leicestershire
Andrew Turner (CON), Isle of Wight
Mark Garnier (CON), Wyre Forest
Andrew Bingham (CON), High Peak
Stewart Jackson (CON), Peterborough
Philip Davies (CON), Shipley

[end quote]

Huhne: Good Riddance

I understand that before the now notorious speeding offence, Huhne had already accumulated several driving convictions. If he had taken another three points on his licence (instead of the points going on his wife's licence) then he would have been banned from driving.

So it looks like this arrogant self obsessed technical ignoramus drives without any consideration for anyone else. A bit like his approach to high office in fact.

Regrettably, even though we are well rid of this egotistical bigot, the general thrust of the coalitions approach to the wind turbine scam is unlikely to change - at least in the short term.

I picked up on an email that a long term political insider said this about the government and Huhne's demise:

I don't believe anything has changed with the departure of Huhne,
other than we have lost one of our more arrogant and ultimately stupid Ministers.”

 I don't know who made this comment, but it sounds about right.