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back to article Carbon Trust: Rooftop windmills are eco own-goal

Rooftop wind turbines are actually net carbon emitters for most British properties, according to new research. Worse still, it appears that even if small turbines became common they could produce only a tiny fraction of the UK's energy requirements. The new report (pdf) is titled Small-scale wind energy and is issued by the …

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Photovoltaics for me

Apparently far better bang for your buck, and given the amount of electricity I use the payback period would be far shorter. Especially if I got a grant. ;-)

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Coat

About time someone raised their head above the parapet.

Even here, in flattest Lincolnshire, where wind is pretty much guaranteed, the pay back period for a 1½m wind turbine (at todays electricity prices) is 50% longer than the designed operational lifetime of the bloody turbine.

Here's an idea: All televisions etc. sold in the UK come without a power cable, but are supplied with an exercise cycle fitted with a generator. The latest generation of fat couch potatoes could get fit whilst watching the drivel that is modern soap operas :-)

Hey, pedal-powered PC's & consoles? Who needs the Wii-fit?

OK, I'm leaving already :^)

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Wind power is dead....

....long live Nuclear power!

(that should get the greenies shrieking)

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Stop sunsidising coal

or nuclear or oil (let the oil companies hire mercenaries to invade Iraq and keep the oil flowing in US$ rather than Euros).

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More R & D needed

I think development is needed on the alternator in low wind/urban enviroments.

They should be rated for different enviroments.

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Bez

@Mark

"Stop sunsidising coal" (sic)

Coal? Surely you mean solar power...

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Paris Hilton

does this mean ...

... that if my neighbour insists on erecting a domestic urban wind turbine anyway, I can build a very small PWR in my shed?

Paris, for the forward-looking energy policy outlined in her campaign video

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It doesn't much please

me that the problems with cooperate energy is that some other bugger controls your lights.

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@Mark

I agree. In fact lets stop subsidising any form of power generation, force the buggers to actually generate it efficeintly. of course they'll all switch to coal fired plants to do that... even without subsidies, coal is a fraction of the cost of other fuels, and there's enough of it right underneath us to supply the UK's generation needs for the next century - and probably longer given how efficient coal fired plants are becoming these days. And then we can switch to fusion.

Personally I see no problem with this but, then I don't believe the whole CO2 scam, so I would say that.

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Electricity prices double?

That would be a madman's dream, or in about 6 years time at the current rate of prices increase . . .

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Anonymous Coward

@Neil Greatorex

At the gym the machines tell me I generate circa 200 Watts, at that rate watching TV would have to be a group activity...

Now, we do have rather a lot of prisoners, ~80,000 so if each of those could give us a few KWh a day on the bikes... Hmm... Prison sentences measured in KWh might help...

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Happy

Excellent

Sounds like a wind generator might work for me then. I live on the coast at the foot of three bloody great mountains. The trees in my village grow at a 45 degree angle! I asked about roof-mounted solar-heating a couple of years ago but my electrician friend told me the few installations he'd done were producing bugger all energy and there wasn't a cat in hells chance of them ever paying for themselves, even with the governments (rather large) grants.

Don't give a flying fuck about carbon emissions but anything to cut down on the bills so I can afford more long-haul holidays.

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Kudos on them for having had the honesty of saying it

... now if we would all stop backing ridiculous schemes like crop-based biofuels, we might actually make a little progress on the environment.

The problem as I see it is that many many of the greens are suspicious of numbers and accounting things like payback time. They seem to think that with good intentions we will sort things out. Accounting is like so... dirty. And they don't recognize that a bad investment in CO2 reduction means money foregone on better investments that might have reduced CO2.

CO2 is a numbers game and the concerned public better get numerate about it otherwise we will all be funding white elephants for years.

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Stop

I was all for it until

I had a wind consultant come round and tell me (entusiastically) that the turbine would pay for its self in just under 10 years! and thats on my farm on a hill in Cornwall 1 mile form the coast in one of the UKs biggest wind catchment areas. TEN YEARS! Also the cost of a 20kw turbine was nearly double the cost of a 10kw one. Are they seriously telling me its they contain twice the raw materials and take twice the effort to make, come on.... how much more work does it take to wrap a slightly larger copper coil.

Just like public transport the way they make it more attractive it to make the cost of everything else even more expensive, rather than reduce the costs of "green" idea.

Im off to plant some trees, they burn lovely in 5 years time!

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It's rather sad really

So few can be bothered to do the sums.

"Professor David J C MacKay ... knows his numbers. And, as he points out, numbers are typically lacking in current discussion around carbon emissions and energy use."

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/20/mackay_on_carbon_free_uk/

http://www.withouthotair.com/

in case anyone missed it.

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@JonB

"Hmm... Prison sentences measured in KWh might help..."

I like it !

Set maximum daily levels and monitor weight-loss for safety reasons (go underweight and the maximum daily target is reduced).

Marvellous.

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re: @Mark

Bez, Graham had it a lot closer than you.

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Go

Re: Wind power is dead....

+1 QFT

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Unhappy

They don't work in the country either

Household wind turbines won't work in many rural areas either. I live in a windy spot on a hillside and I've investigated installing a wind turbine. The advice I got was that all the big trees nearby would create too much turbulence and the turbine wouldn't last very long. So you need to put your turbine in the middle of a field, not on your house.

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Coat

@ JonB

Excellent idea...... :-)

Another thought. How about we take the current obese generation, operate to remove the fat, render said fat down & use it to................

Fuel our cars :-)

Bingo. No more reliance on "big oil"

Heh!

As an aside, if we do that there'll be no Chelsea supporters left.

Mine still has "Phuck off Phorm" in Rhinestones

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PhotoVoltaics are even more polluting than Windmills

Even with modern chemically assisted techniques it takes a stupendous amount of energy to make pure silicone and thence photovoltaic cells. So much so that if you have a photovoltaic cell on a mount that tracks the sun and clean it every day to ensure maximum efficiency (both totally unlikely in a domestic setting) you will only get 12% of the energy used to make the cell back over the cell's lifetime. Photovoltaic cells are for toys and space agencies only.

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Anonymous Coward

insulation

Many houses I've rented come with single glazing windows, and gaps in the frames through which you could squeeze a mouse (didn't say it had to be in one piece). And who knows what insulation the walls and ceiling have. Surely heavily subsidising insulation for old houses could dramatically reduce people's reliance on fuels, at least in the short term and far more effectively than microgen.

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A lot of people? Really?

"For a lot of people, off-grid living and microgeneration are religious/moral standpoints, not sets of engineering techniques"

A lot of people? Really, Lewis? Last time I checked a more accurate categorization would be "a small bunch of slightly over-enthusiastic wackos". But then, it's a lot easier to beat up on an opposition that you create yourself, because it can't really fight back.

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Paris Hilton

@AC

>Wind power is dead....

>....long live Nuclear power!

>(that should get the greenies shrieking)

I'm not a greenie, but I'll shriek.

We have maybe 100 years of nuke fuel left at current consumption rates. Demand is rising, especially if we want to replace any fossil usage with nuke. We are close to peak nuke fuel production (so prices are going to rise). We are not building breeder reactors. Fusion tech is still 20 years off, as it was 20 years ago. Fuel harvesting tech (Uranium/Thorium from sea water) consumes more energy pumping than we'd get in fuel. Fission tech has little or no technological improvements we can make (cheaply)

In other words, our current nuclear strategy is already as dead as this report says wind powered microgeneration is, unless you are happy to let your electricity bill to double every 5-10 years until the fuel runs out in 2050ish.

Oh, and all of that costs ignore security and disposal (the bill for waste handling in the uk recently tripled to £70bn-ish, and that's not even for a long-term solution). I'd rather put the reactor money into big wind farms, tidal, hydro, geothermal and solar alongside more research into fusion and others. Oh and contraceptives - lets face it, the core problem is too many humans...

Of course, if by nuclear, you mean "bring on the breeder reactors", fine, I'm ok with that. But not in my back yard ;-)

Paris, because I said "breeder". <snerk>

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@AC 14:43

As a greenie, I have to agree, nuclear is the only viable technology we have to meet our energy requirements in the near future. In the longer term photovoltaics/solar heating and wave power. Salter's Duck anyone?

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Stop

@ JonB

Y'know it's funny you should mention gyms... it's crossed my mind more than once down my local, packed to the doors with sweaty people and high-tech electric powered machinery, bright lights, air-con, and a pumping sound system, what their electricity bill must be like, and how ironic it is all the energy they're *paying* for so that a load of people can *expend* a lot more energy??!

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But wind turbines MIGHT work if...

...they are powered by the hot air from politicians, or eco-freaks. There is a lot of energy in what they tell everyone else (but not themselves) to do. Oh, to harness the energy...

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Boffin

Human power

Humans eat human grade food, so powering anything is as waste of energy.

Fat poor people eat cheap calories, exercising wastes energy. If they travel by

car the extra fuel for weight load is negligible.

Slim young things jogging about are wasting huge amounts of petrol with an

organic diet, fresh only, refrigeration and fast delivery costs wasting Calories

Eating chocolate and crips before going down the pub proles have surplus

energy as shown stored around their bodies, eating the foods which are

cheap to produce with very high energy density, long shelf life no refrigeration.

The worse the diet the more likely and early death which is even better for

the planet.

The people jogging around, eating rocket salads, fresh vegetables grown

without "chemicals" and lean chicken breast with a mineral water are

the ones wasting energy, the fatties are saving the earth. Next time you see

someone exercising, ask them how they feel about raping environment, ask

to see their energy stores.

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nuclear

They just need to invest in a nuclear power plant design that does not look so scary.

It is kind of hard to sell your house, if the view from the yard is a nuclear cooling tower.

Maybe they could build them 99% underground, or in old salt mines or somthing.

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Paris Hilton

....and somehow this is NEWS

Even Paris could have worked this out...

Basil Fawlty: Next contestant, Mrs. Sybil Fawlty from Torquay.

Specialist subject - the bleeding obvious.

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Flame

Pfft!

That's the problem with subsidies. They distort the cost and we end up with less efficient and in the long run more costly solutions. Then again, it's the government's way of making the rest of society look more like it.

As the old saying goes, every people has the government that it deserves.

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Not PV

Photovoltaic currently can achieve a maximum efficiency of about 41% if what you have is the very latest from NASA. However if Solar power is your thing, go with a solar collector for your hot water. After all, what is the first thing you will do with the leccy from your PVs? Probably it will involve heating water for tea, washing, tea, central heating, tea did I mention tea? With evacuated tube solar collectors you will get your money back in far less time than with any of the other sustainables .

I love the continuous bleat about nuclear `we've only got a hundred years of uranium´.

We have had only a hundred and something years of fossil oil and we haven't done too badly on that and it's not as if technology doesn't advance a tad each year. Do you really think the world is going to sit on it's collective arse for the next hundred years counting the dwindling stockpile of Uranium/Thorium? If science and technology continues to advance at the same rate as now, given another fifty years we should see something useful going on to keep us all in personal climate changing comfort.

Save all Krill Nuke the Whales!

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Happy

We should shrug off oil drilled from underground geological sources...

...and return to our original, natural supply.

...

Whales! Breed 'em to burn 'em!

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Was it just me?

Was it just me that was told the phrase "economies of scale"? Building piddling little generators of any sort is the crap way to go about making 'leccy. That's one of the reasons why we have 2GW stations rather than everyone putting a little windmill on the spout of their kettle.

I'm convinced that using less energy is the way forward for now, what with the other options being shit an' all. It's not like we even need to invent new cool stuff - some insulation here, AAA rated appliances there, torrenting on Economy 7 here and not surfing the web with an 800W gaming rig there.

And does anyone else remember when we had to get up to change the channel/turn the tele on/off? None of that IR zapper malarky. Apparantly if you turn all your appliances off instead of putting them on standby you can save lot's of energy and therefore money. It's true! If you collapse on the sofa and then realise that you;ve gotta get up again to turn the tele on to watch Big Brother you think "fuck it" and don't bother. It's like being at SCS on Boxing Day all over again - double savings!

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Development of Higher Efficiency Nuclear Energy Processes

In December of 2005, Hannum, March and Stanford published an article in Scientific American about a proposed system for 'recycling' used uranium fuel to extract more of the energy available in the fuel. This achieves three main objectives - it extends the value of the current uranium supply, it uses the fuel up so completely that the weapons value of the ore is nil and finally, the long term storage needs for waste is significantly reduced.

It's a technical read and there are elements of the system that are in development/proposal currently. For those interested, you can find a reprint @

http://www.nationalcenter.org/NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf

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@AC

By Anonymous Coward

Posted Thursday 7th August 2008 16:18 GMT

Paris ... Breeder

Kindly keep you nightmare apocalypse scenarios to yourself

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Boffin

RE: I was all for it until

@David Edwards

"Also the cost of a 20kw turbine was nearly double the cost of a 10kw one. Are they seriously telling me its they contain twice the raw materials and take twice the effort to make, come on.... how much more work does it take to wrap a slightly larger copper coil."

Larger turbines require larger rotor blades.

Because these longer blades catch more wind, the rotor moves faster. This means it must be stronger, and the bearings the rotor runs on must be of higher quality

But this is not simply a matter of a linear increase in forces due to speed. A rotor blade acts as a lever. You know how levers work, right? Low force and high speed at the far end translates to high force at low speed near the fulcrum. So in addition to catching more wind, a significant amount of additional strain must be borne by the rotor bearings, and the blades themselves must be able to hold a higher tension.

Any happier now?

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Flame

That's nothing

You should see the new wind turbine installed in a new school in Greenock, Renfrewshire. It's actually built in a natural bowl, surrounded on all sides by steep hills, I swear.

Only public money...

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Unhappy

@ Graham Dawson

"coal is a fraction of the cost of other fuels, and there's enough of it right underneath us to supply the UK's generation needs for the next century"

True.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the mines we used to operate were closed down by a certain Mr. Ian MacGregor, at the behest of one Margaret Thatcher, and are, for want of a better expression, fucked. It would take a MASSIVE amount of money to get them re-started.

Oh, and since all these pits have been closed for so long, this country no longer has the vast numbers of skilled, qualified miners that would be needed to work these pits, were they ever to be reopened, so that'd need even more money to train miners, or bring them in from other countries.

We must be the only country in the world that would shit on one of our biggest natural resources in this manner.

No, that isn't a typo.

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Linux

Putting the world to rights.

@Greg. Photovoltaics is really not viable in this country. Might be worth putting a solar hot water heater on your roof though, although the installation costs almost make even this un-viable unless you can do it cheaply yourself. (mind you that was about 5 years ago when electricity/gas where a lot cheaper)

@...long live Nuclear power! ... Actually that probably is the greenest thing we can use until fusion. It's just getting rid of the pesky waste.

@ "then I don't believe the whole CO2 scam". Bloody big gamble that one. I'm personally skeptical (about everything), but if you're wrong then we're all toast.

Personally I live in rural Suffolk where it happens to be almost always windy and to install an economically viable turbine, it would have to be one of those great big buggers which costs about £15,000 and would pump energy back into the grid most of the time. Again "economically viable" includes doing a lot of the work myself.

A penguin 'cos they are cute and if all the penguins get killed because of global warming, then we'll all have to have Vista on the desktop.

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Anonymous Coward

An industry built around government subsidies, shome mishtake shurely!

So the government decide to offer subsidies to home owners installing microgen equipment. Then the industry involved decide to fudge up a load of bogus figures which encourage people to take up those subsidies. Why would anybody be surprised about that?

Government subsidies are always abused by suppliers who can make a quick buck.

Anyway the environment would be much better served if the grant money was spent on insulating buildings.

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Re: Was it just me?

Well, they don't make industrial-scale toothbrushes, but "economies of scale" still happen when making them.

And did you realise that by NOT turning off the devices they will continue to use energy?

Mwron

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Stupid idea anyway

Micro-generation with wind is an idiotic idea anyway. rather than pay $10k for a small, inefficient turbine that sits on my roof, I'd much rather pay my money, and have it lumped with another few hundred people's money, to pay for a much more efficient bloody great turbine that sits in the middle of a field, on the top of a hill, somewhere where I don't have to look at it. As long as I get my share of the money/power it generates, what does it matter?

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One would have thought that measuring the wind speed....

.... at the proposed installation site for a representative period of time would be a prerequisite before pissing away a load of money on a wind generator.

From David Edwards: "I'm off to plant some trees, they burn lovely in 5 years time!"

Agreed - me too.

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If they really want to do something useful .....

If the government really want to do something useful, then they would retro-fit every gas appliance currently relying on a permanent pilot burner with electronic ignition. It's obscene that each of these appliances is wasting enough gas every week to cook three Sunday roasts, just so the main burner can be lit when a demand occurs. One popular model of combination boiler even has to run the fan on half speed all the time, just to keep the pilot alight! The technology has been around since the 1970s, and is even cheaper to manufacture than permanent pilot -- but was restricted to "premium" appliances because it **sounded** more expensive!

Central heating boilers are the easiest ones to do, because they have to have an electrical supply available for the solenoid valve and the pump (NB, better fit a pump over-run timer while you're at it. There was at least one boiler made featuring a combined, single probe intermittent pilot ignition sequence and pump over-run control, which together with its gas valve could almost have been designed to be retro-fitted to old appliances).

Multipoint water heaters may be more of a problem -- a subsidised replacement programme may prove more effective (and we could also be sure all open-flued ones are replaced with room-sealed ones).

It'd be a massive job, for sure; but they already did one big retro-fit to every gas appliance .....

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Boffin

re. Stop sunsidising coal

Changing the price of energy will not affect the amount of CO2 produced in manufacturing a windmill; so the result is still the same - a micro windmill in an urban environment will create more CO2 (in manufacturing) than it saves.

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Tom
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Most people who put up a windmill

reduce their overall energy usage. When you have something to sell you dont use it to light empty rooms etc.

Can anyone explain why I can get a 70 amp 12v Alternator for my car for less than £100 and yet the same thing for windpower is several hundred.

And why use windmills on your house when there are better methods of extracting wind power? This is a 3000 year old highly inefficient design and can easily be improved on - conveyour generators etc.

1,000,000 crap innefficient £300 windmills will generate more electricity than a nuclear power station that was built to provide profits for the already rich and will be a serious terrorist target* - assuming its not already under water due to climate change. And, paradoxically, reduce consumption.

*imagine how easy it is to launch a thick copper wire over pylons to take it (or indeed any large power station) off grid. The IRA nearly cut off the whole of London with a few handgrenades.

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Anonymous Coward

Solar and wind do work even if they say it wont.

Here are some numbers.

1kw pv = £3500 new

1kw windmill = £350 if you have a welder and a hacksaw - less if you go second hand.

2kw solar water heater £1200 new.

total investment $5000 ish.

the pv will supply most of your summer time electric requirements, the windmills - 3 are needed to back up 1kw of pv - this is because windmills work at night and in the winter, oh and on sunny days as well.

Result

Gas bills of £1 a month in the summer when the boiler is off and the 2kw panel supplying all Domestic hot water.

Electric bills dramatically reduced to less than £40 a quarter at todays prices. plus backup if the grid goes off.

Anyone who is doing the calcs on last years energy prices gets it wrong, anyone who thinks electric and gas is not going to double has their head firmly buried in the sand.

Peak oil will mean peak everything else, the great thing about renewable is that you dont need a lorry or a pipeline for yet another delivery of energy - just wait till the sun comes out or the wind blows. TPTB dont want you to have this kit as it gives you some autonomy from the grid, the power companies want you to keep paying the bills like a good little consumer.

Building mounting turbines was never a good idea, traditional buildings just shake apart. steel or straw buildings are a much better bet for mounting turbines but the best idea is to stick em on a pole in the garden.

Bottom line is that if you get this kit then your bills will decrease dramatically so you may still be able to afford the petrol to get to work.

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Anonymous Coward

Nuclear Power

...is pretty much the only viable long term option. People always spout off about nuclear power being so dangerous because they know fuck all about it really, and even less about the alternatives (Fossil, Chemical) and the enormous environmental problems associated with them. In terms of sheer volume and longevity of resultant waste, many chemical processes leave far longer lasting and more toxic wastes than (properly processed) nuclear sources.

As someone else mentioned, economies of scale...yes, I'm right with you. The whole stick a turbine on your roof in an inner city area always seemed to me an incredibly idealistic and improbably way to generate anywhere near the kind of energy the average household wants to consume. Is anyone really surprised it doesn't cut the mustard!? I know most hearts are bleeding for `the environment` these days but c'mon, get a grip!

Nuclear energy is by far the cleanest and most efficient way to produce energy that we know of. Until someone comes up with something better than sticking a few turbines up, we should probably go with it - unless we can make the prison population pedal really hard for a few hours every day. Just need to lock more people up, in the name of environmentalism! Doesn't seem far fetched the way we are going! (You are a parasite, a leech on Gaia, mother earth, and you must be punished for existing! You snivelling human parasite! Begone!)

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