Thursday, 23 September 2010

Cold wind on hot air

Considerable coverage everywhere on the new Thanet wind farm. The wind power technology is rated as even better than sliced bread. We in Scotland have seen a considerable growth in wind farms - something to do with valleys channelling wind onto flat places. So, we need to give thought to something that appeared in our news quite recently.

"SCOTLAND'S wind farms have produced only around half the amount of power they were expected to this year, Scotland on Sunday has learned. The government blamed the low generation levels on unusually calm weather, but critics said the figures showed the danger of becoming too dependent on renewable energy." This situation is then amplified "Stuart Young, who runs Caithness Wind Information Forum and opposes wind farms, carried out the research by analysing data from the Balancing Mechanism Reporting System website, which the National Grid uses to monitor generation. The site provides a constant flow of information on output from 1,588 megawatts wind farms in Scotland.
His research also showed that for 80 per cent of the time between February and June Scotland's turbines were operating at less than 30 per cent.

And for almost a third of the time they were operating at less than 5 per cent of their maximum output, meaning they were virtually becalmed. Only nine times between February and June had the wind farms achieved 30 per cent efficiency for a full day at a time. There were long stretches, such as from 16 to 29 May, 9 to 15 April and 6 to 23 February when they failed to reach 30 per cent output"

The industry was defended. Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland who is reported as saying "Generally, the wind is blowing somewhere in the UK and the likelihood of low wind speeds affecting 50 per cent of the country occurs less than 100 hours per year."

It seems that the nuclear power stations will be decommissioned. Periods when there is insufficient wind-powered generation will be met by using the coal-fired power stations as back-up. Just how this might work in practice does not seem to have been released but it must take time to go from stand-by to full steam ahead. That is after someone has decided that wind power is failing. The coal fired resources will need to be kept manned. Even if just turning over they require feeding with non-sustainable fuel. They will generate large amounts of CO2. If we factor in the costs to make the windmills, transport them from their foreign manufacturers, erect, maintain and eventually decommission, there cannot be much of a saving on CO2 from wind farms.

Mention is made of the Danish experience as being supportive of wind power. Ah yes but, there is an element of apples and bears comparisons. "Danish wind turbines near Copenhagen. Wind often flows briskly and smoothly over water since there are no obstructions. The large and slow turning turbines of this offshore wind farm near Copenhagen take advantage of the moderate yet constant breezes at this location. While the wind at this location is not strong it is very consistent, with the turbines generating substantial power over 97 percent of the time." We have read about the vagaries of wind speeds in Scotland. 'Moderate' and 'constant breezes' they are not. I haven't kept a check but I think I have seen seven warnings of gale force winds this month alone.

Maybe our political masters who direct their sheep into the appropriate pens should read "The Wind Farm Scam. Dr Etherington argues that in the case of wind power the drawbacks far outweigh the claimed benefits. Wind turbines cannot generate enough energy to reduce global CO2 levels to a meaningful degree; what's more wind power is by nature intermittent and cannot generate a steady output, necessitating back-up coal and gas power plants that significantly negate the saving of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the inefficacy of wind power there are ecological drawbacks, including damage to habitats, wildlife and the far-from-insignificant aesthetic drawback of the assault upon natural beauty and the pristine landscape, which wind turbines entail. Dr Etherington argues that wind power has been, and is being, excessively financed at the cost of consumers who have not been consulted, nor informed that this effective subsidy is being paid from their bills to support an industry that cannot be cost efficient or, ultimately, favour the cause it purports to support"

And who will have to pick up the costs of this enterprise? Once it gets into the National Grid the costs will pass to the energy suppliers. And to whom will they off-load it? Us - the customers.

Welcome to Cameron's Brave New World.

Made in Britain

As a old coffin dodger I remember when that proud boast meant something when seen on a product. Way way back now when we used to actually build things from start to finish and did not rely on 'service' industries employing off the hook foreigners at sweat shop rates.

We could still be doing it if we tried. We have the brains to invent - just how many types of Dyson vacuum cleaners are there? I hear we are well up in the development of computer games of the shoot 'em up, knock 'em down variety.

Something where I thought the developed world would appreciate some innovation must be the protection of the life and limb of their armed forces. That valuable document we know as Wikileaks revealed details of just how deeply the Taliban have adopted the Improvised Explosive Device. The leaked documents show the exponential growth in the use of these in the last six years. The number of British military personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 337, after a soldier from the Queen's Royal Lancers and another from the Royal Engineers died in an explosion on 18 September. One would think that we might have explored all avenues to counteract this cheap but deadly munition. We have electronic measures but in the unfriendly to electrons environment they go off song.

But, wait a minute, the Americans have a new weapon of which great things are spoken. A gadget which fires a spear of water capable of slicing steel is being despatched to Afghanistan to disarm roadside bombs. The device — dubbed Stingray — was developed by boffins at America's Sandia National Laboratories — and 3,000 are heading to US soldiers this year.In this news release, it seems that someone's redacting marker had slipped. Bold as brass, right there it says "The basic concept of the devices was first developed in the 1970s in Britain to deal with IRA explosives" So, where the hell has it been in those 40 years? Looking at the manufacturer' site we see "Nine Sandians made the nation's fight against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) personal in 2009 through on-site service with the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) in Washington, DC" What we had for all those years was developed by these nine guys in the space of a year. From concept to shipment of 3,000 units.

We have had a selection of governments since 1970. All full of promises that mostly lasted little longer that it took the ink to dry on their false and deceptive manifesto. So, not caring for our troops is not an attitude confined to any one political party. The Conservative element of our current Mongrel Parliament spoke of rectifying the Military Covenant. "The Conservatives say they will create a new "tri-service" military covenant, which would include specific obligations and requirements to care for families and veterans. The manifesto promises a new mental health screening service for everyone leaving the armed forces. The Conservatives say that more than a quarter of Iraq war veterans suffer mental health problems and that they will establish Britain's first dedicated post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programme within the NHS.

Operational allowances for military personnel would be doubled and the children of servicemen and women killed while on active duty would be provided with university and further education scholarships. The scheme would be backdated to 1990." They said. They have since said that HM Forces personnel and other Budgets will have the same savagery imposed upon them and many now employed will be 'set free' of the bonds of uniform. The Army does not gave a lot of use for one armed and legless soldiers who benefit from a bit of a blind eye approach and are currently found useful employment suited to their medical condition and they will be in the front line for being made civilians. Retraining is not an overnight process so it is not likely they will get a lot of that. Pressure on the NHS will be increased even without the additional workload and expense of caring for damaged former soldiers.

Truly, Kipling had it right all those years ago
"O there'll surely come a day
When they'll give you all your pay,
And treat you as a Christian ought to do;
So, until that day comes round,
Heaven keep you safe and sound,"

For sure, his employers will care not if he is neither safe nor sound.