A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sanctimonious drivel over the rejection of the Whinash wind farm proposal.....

The idea that yesterday's rejection of the Whinash wind farm proposal by the UK government [see blog below] will put the world's climate at risk is so farcical that one wonders whether everybody has passed Through the Looking Glass with Alice. This gratuitous claim is simplistic, sentimental drivel spouted without thinking by media and 'Green' pundits alike. Please, everybody, note the following basic facts (and I have been as generous as possible with the figures):

(i) The UK currently accounts for around 2% of the world demand for electricity [this will fall to around 1.5% by 2020];

(ii) The Whinash wind farm proposal would, on paper, have provided c. 0.1% of UK electricity. However, when wind intermittency and other limitations are taken into account, this falls to c. 0.04% effective power;

(iii) In world terms, the Whinash wind farm would have represented, at best, 0.0008% of world electricity supply;

(iv) Lastly, taking into account the need for a back-up from conventional power generation (coal, gas, or nuclear) to cover intermittency in supply, plus the CO2 involved in building (including the massive amount of basal concrete required), maintaining, and regularly replacing the wind farm, the impact on climate (assuming you believe in 'global warming') would have been neutral at best, and, possibly, a tiny addition to emissions.

How on earth will the rejection of the Whinash wind farm proposal doom the world? It is carbon claptrap from beginning to end.

Philip, having just returned from watching that truly marvellous film, Capote. What a terrifying study in the solipsism of authors. Could be an Oscar blowing somewhere in the wind tonight, I guess. Time for a G&T (with lime). Cheers, and well done the government for seeing through the crap over Whinash.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bravo the government: beauty wins over the beast.....

It is not too often that one can laud government with unqualified praise, but today's rejection of the monstrous proposal for a wind farm on the edge of the iconic Lake District National Park is a triumph for the real environment over environmentalist hysteria and hype: 'Giant wind farm plan thrown out' (BBC Online England News, March 2):
Broken wind turbine.
"Plans to create England's largest wind farm in Cumbria have been rejected by the government.

The £55m development would have seen 27 turbines, each 377ft tall, erected at Whinash, near Kendal.

A six-week public inquiry last year heard from campaigners who said the project would destroy the landscape of the Lake District.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said he agreed with the inquiry inspector that the plan should be thrown out.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace backed the clean energy plans, but campaigners were worried about the visual impact on the

Bravo, indeed! I repeat here below, slightly adapted, a recent article I wrote for Country Illustrated magazine on the follies of wind farms:

PROPOSALS to site wind farms on the Isle of Skye, at Whinash on the margins of the Lake District National Park, and across the ancient landscape of Romney Marsh have aroused deep anger in all those who care for the British countryside. As Simon Jenkins wrote in The Guardian with respect to the Romney Marsh proposal, "The decision is astonishing. Romney Marsh is still one of the most precious corners of England. Barham's Ingoldsby Legends claimed that 'the world is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh.'" Its churches are legendary, with the box pews of Old Romney, the wood-boarded belfry of Brookland, and Thomas Becket's Fairford, still adrift in its lonely water meadow. Moreover, the wide Romney Marsh skies match those of the Dutch painters, while the Saxon Way crosses the Marsh in the west. Any industrial plan to compromise such an iconic landscape should only be countenanced if the known gains are absolutely assured and massive. In the case of wind farms, they are not, and the expansion of wind turbines into such areas of outstanding beauty and historic value can only be regarded as an act of government-encouraged vandalism. We desperately need to issue some anti-government ASPOs - Anti-Social Planning Orders.

The serious limitations of wind power have been recently highlighted by two timely reports, one stressing the problems of managing wind power in the electricity supply industry, the other its high costs relative to alternative power sources. Both these reports must cause government to think twice about the foolish drive to force wind farms on to a reluctant public increasingly incensed by the loss of 'wilderness' and historic amenity for little or no gain. It is a strange 'Green' policy that wilfully destroys both habitat and heritage.

The first report appeared in the November Issue of the journal, Civil Engineering, and it is by Hugh Sharman, principal of the international energy consulting and broking company, Incoteco (Denmark) ApS. Mr. Sharman has a deep knowledge of the wind power industries in both Denmark and Germany, and his experience causes him to highlight a major problem in the implementation of wind power in the UK. He argues cogently that it will prove extremely difficult to manage reliably much over 10 GW of unpredictable wind power without a major, and very expensive, programme of new storage schemes and inter-connectors. The difficulty lies in enmeshing the unpredictable output of wind, from remote areas, with the national grid system.

As Mr. Sharman points out, wind power poses an entirely new challenge to the grid operator, above all because big wind farms tend to be remotely located, with the majority sited in the north and west of Britain. By contrast, the demand load lies in an epicentre lying between London and Birmingham. First, wind generators are paid at the station boundary and they do not carry a financial penalty for the fact that up to 15% of the power they generate is lost during transmission. Secondly, of the additional 10.7 GW being built or planned, 6.8 GW will be generated in Scotland. Scotland's electrical inter-connection is currently limited to 0.5 GW with Northern Ireland and 2.2 GW with England. Even with upgrading, it appears that only a small part of the total 7.3 GW ultimately proposed for Scotland can ever be connected. In Mr. Sharman'’s words, precisely "how much can actually be accommodated will depend on the willingness of the politicians and the public to make very large investments in grid upgrades and, possibly, power storage, but these issues are not currently at the forefront of debate, and there are no mechanisms in place to pay off these investments."

One is tempted to add: "So much for integrated government thinking on the energy issue." To date, government has been claiming that the UK's system can accept anything up to 26 GW of wind power. By contrast, Mr. Sharman's detailed analysis illustrates, worryingly, that this is not the case, and that, as witnessed in the much larger wind systems of Denmark and Germany, 10 GW (+/- 25%) will prove to be the safe upper limit of all wind capacity. This means that the push for wind power inevitably fails to fulfil the government's aim of using wind to offset some of the generating capacity now being lost through the closure of coal-powered and nuclear-powered generators. By 2020, we will require up to 50 GW of new generating capacity.

This is Alice-in-Blunderland thinking, and, as Mr. Sharman rightly concludes, wind power cannot be used "at the expense of renewing existing firm generating capacity." Moreover, as a second new report (October, 2005) demonstrated all too starkly, wind power is a tax payer's and energy consumer's nightmare, being, by far, the most expensive option, both on land and at sea. This second report emanates from EEF, the leading manufacturer's group in the UK. The analysis presented makes one wonder whether wind power should even be on the starting grid.

The comparative EEF report argues that, when gas and carbon prices are high, nuclear power is the most cost effective energy provider, at under £40 per Megawatt hour (MWh). Gas comes a close second (also under £40 per MWh), followed by conventional coal and clean coal (both under £50 per MWh). By contrast, onshore wind is nearly £60 per MWh, while offshore wind, at over £70 per MWh, is punitive. Government must have money to burn to contemplate offshore wind.

These rankings and differentials remain effectively the same even when fossil fuel prices are low, except that gas then replaces nuclear as the most cost effective (at under £30 per MWh), which makes offshore wind more than 3 times the cost of gas.

The promulgation of wind energy is thus the surest way to undermine UK competitiveness and growth (not to mention to punish the poor domestic consumer and the voter). Unsurprisingly, EEF regards wind farms as an unrealistic option for providing a fifth of UK energy needs. Instead, they call for an urgent rethink on nuclear power:

"EEF, the manufacturers' organisation has urged the government to back replacement nuclear build as part of a balanced sustainable long-term energy strategy for the UK.

The call is made in a major report published today which sets out a wide-ranging future energy strategy for the UK, to deliver a secure, reliable and competitive low carbon energy supply and which does not rule out any options.

The UK's energy supply has taken on a renewed sense of urgency given large rises in prices (50-80% for manufacturers contracting since the summer) and fears over supplies in the next two winters..."

In the light of these two detailed and meticulous reports, it is abundantly clear that we are going to pay dearly for government's prevarications over developing a realistic energy policy. To date, the approach to energy has been a disgraceful shambles and one which has not even succeeded in meeting its own farcical 'Green' targets (carbon dioxide emissions have risen since Labour came to power). But worst still, along with all the other political parties, there has been a culpable failure to address our central, core energy requirements for the next 50 or so years. These cannot be supplied by so-called 'renewables', such as wind. The only viable option has to comprise some mix of imported gas, clean coal, and nuclear power. There is no other reliable and practical choice. It is time for the politicians to be brave, and to face up publicly to our energy realities.

The rest is ephemeral - just blowin' in the wind. I feel increasingly sorry for manufacturing and industry, not to mention for the domestic consumer, in this area of public policy. It is going to end in tears.

But when we consider once more the loss of 'wilderness' and historic landscapes to such industrialization, we should not hold back from pointing out the sheer folly of the government's heavily-subsidized wind farm policies. Those who inhabit and love the countryside have a duty to stand firm, and together, against such wanton vandalism:
"First they came for the Welsh
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Welsh.
Then they came for Scots
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Scottish.
Then they came for the West Country
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Cornish.
Then they came for the flat and rolling South ..."

It is surely time for all rural Britain to speak out against these wind turbine follies.

And now they have, and the government has seen some sense. No ASPO required in this instance! Well done, indeed, Mr. Wicks.

But, the battle must continue unabated to preserve the rest of Cumbria from such follies (see the FELLS Website).

Philip, off to celebrate with lunch. I shall raise a glass of elderflower cordial to the landscapes and habitats that have been saved from Green hysteria. 'Global warming' hype has a lot to answer for. Cheers.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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