back to article Windfarm lobby bows to ASA and cuts CO2 saving figures

The British Wind Energy Association, which promotes the UK windfarm industry, has been forced to halve its figures on carbon-emission reductions by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The BWEA had formerly made its calculations on the basis that every kilowatt-hour (or "unit") of electricity generated by a wind turbine …

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Boffin

Time to read Peter F Hamilton again

Time to read Peter F Hamilton again I guess.

There is only one proper, stable and reliable "eternal" energy source out there - the energy differential between deep and surface water in the tropics. That, and to a lesser extent tidal and wave power. All we need to figure out is how to extract it efficiently and ship the extracted energy from the tropics (Hydrogen is not the answer - its energy density and is laughable).

Wind is nothing but the gaffer tape of electricity generation. You can repair a lot with gaffer tape. In fact in some cases you can go on forever on something held together with gaffer tape. However, in most cases the time comes when you have to make some permanent repairs.

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Boffin

For every Wind Power Station you need another Power Station

The sad fact is that for very megawatt of wind-power you construct, you need to provision another megawatt of reliable power to to cover for the all-too-common drops in wind.

The problem with this is that the backup system must be ultra-fast response. None of this 3-5 day response time for nuclear, or the 2-4 day response of coal. You need gas turbine or hydro to take up the slack.

The true cost of wind power is at perhaps 1.5-2 x the capex of a single wind farm when you account for the high cost fast response power sources needed to support the wind farm.

Now at this stage I'm sure that various apologists will weigh in with 'averaging over a power network' However, the reality is that unless you have a continental scale power system with highly efficient transmission system then you will be in deep doo-doo depending on whether the wind blows to hard or too soft. Even then you may be in trouble - see Europe below.

As an example. Texas recently had a major outage when it became super cold and the wind stopped blowing (Coincidence? I think not! Low wind speed at night means it gets extra cold). In the Texas case there were major outages when the wind power component failed and demand rose.

At roughly the same time Europe was having a particularly windy time. From Aberdeen to Istanbul lights started blowing due to the excessive voltage generated by a bunch of Dutch and Danish wind farmers.

Overall, is wind-power a good thing? Or at least a good thing above 10% of demand? Probably not.

Overall does it save CO2? When you factor in the gas/hydro backup supplies required to keep normal supply, definitely not.

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What have you got against wind?

Wind energy is not a panacea for our problems, but the subtext of the article is that its actually worthless. Lighting and heating 214 homes is actually not bad. It has very low carbon emissions and is a pretty benign form of power generation.

Why don't you write about the massive radioactive emissions from conventional coal stations? Yes easily more radioactive material leaves coal power stations compared with nuclear ones. Uranium is a trace element - a few ppm - in most coals and the ash is 'hot' in more ways than one. Good job we make sure its safely contained in a powder from which we make construction materials!

And that's not to mention mercury emissions from coal fired power stations!

Get with the real story. CO2 emissions are - to the best of our imperfect knowledge - really really bad for the climate and ecological systems on which we rely. Wind energy is one small step on the way to reducing CO2 emissions. Don't knock it.

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@Jerry

"From Aberdeen to Istanbul lights started blowing due to the excessive voltage generated by a bunch of Dutch and Danish wind farmers."

What?

You have a point, but you do yourself no favours by making ridiculous statements like that. If a wind turbine's output is not needed, it is simply shut down at a moment's notice - whatever the wind speed.

Moreover, a proportion of demand (no, I don't know how much but certainly more than 0) can be regulated so there is not the 1:1 correspondence between renewables and conventional backup that you assert.

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Thumb Down

Practical low-CO2 energy

Nuclear.

Booyah.

Also, the energy differential between the deep sea and the surface isn't that big. Thermally, bugger all difference. A few tens of degrees at best.

Now add on a Solar Collector to get a huge amount of power topside and build the worlds biggest Stirling Engine stretching to the bottom of a trench and you MIGHT just be able to generate a megawatt or two of electricity.

And where did that blown lightbulbs from Aberdeen to Istanbul thing come from? I can't find anything with a cursory glance over Google and haven't seen anything like that happen... Anyway, aren't lightbulbs a bit more tolerant of buggered voltages et al than electronics?

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Boffin

Time to uprate hydro power

Much of the UK's existing hydro plant was designed for a time when hydro was suitable for continuous base load. Then they developed pumped hydro storage with a plant near Llanberis as a means to balance the grid when everyone switches on the kettle during the ad break on Coronation St. It now makes sense to uprate older base load hydro generation so that water can be stored in the reservoir when it's windy and released faster giving a higher power output than would be possible with the old continuous base-load plant when the regional wind plant is becalmed.

This uprating involves some fairly heavy engineering work. It needs to be planned to coincide with the growth in wind generation beyond 20% of total supply. We may also need to trade off volume of available water supply in connection with reservoirs designed primarily for water supply given these structures also have generating potential. Most people would prefer to take a shower instead of a bath and leave washing the car or watering the lawn for a few weeks in preference to having 6 hours a day of power cuts or sky high electricity bills.

Fortunately if some of the water supply is replaced with wind electricity backup, this use is more likely to be needed in winter, which isn't when we are most likely to suffer from drought.

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@jerry

"From Aberdeen to Istanbul lights started blowing due to the excessive voltage generated by a bunch of Dutch and Danish wind farmers."

I vote bluff

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Silver badge

@Michael

I do not have that much against wind energy itself, but I do take issue with the wind lobby's figures - especially when they try to push wind in place of other technologies.

The first bogus figure is average wind speed. The met office quote speeds for the top of a pole in the middle of a field. This figure is then used for a windmill on the roof of a house in the middle of a town where the wind speed in considerably lower. As a result, roof-top windmills rarely get up to their minimum generating speed, and the never repay the energy needed to construct them. A future generation of roof-top windmills designed for lower wind speeds might do something useful, but do not bet on it.

The next figure that gets missed out it maintenance costs. A cheep windmill will take expensive storm damage before it can pay for itself. A more expensive windmill will survive bigger storms, but will have a bigger chance of facing a damaging storm in the longer period before it pays off.

The next two figures that get mixed up are electricity use and energy use. Energy also includes transport and agriculture. Transport is large compared to electricity at the moment (electric cars will change that). I have not seen good figures on the energy required to grow crops (treat bio-fuel lobby figures with more scepticism than wind lobby figures). Typical hype mentions energy use then goes on to say windmill will provide X% of our electricity on the assumption that most people will not spot the spin.

One of the really nasty figures is a proposed subsidy. The price of a windmill is selected so a convincing argument can be made for it paying for itself in 10 years (using all the bogus figures a manufacturer can come up with). A subsidy would simply increase the price.

There are some good places to build windmills. When backed by pumped storage, they can make a positive contribution energy supply. A massive collection of windmill projects, built in all the best places backed by new pumped storage facilities in all the best places could provide a noticeable proportion of our current electricity demand. There is no way will wind ever make a major contribution to the total energy demand.

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Black Helicopters

Wind Power can help, don't be so negative.

Yeah, what's with the anti-wind turbine nonsense?

The whole idea of electricity security is that no one source supplies all our power, we need a good mix. Anyone who has spent any time on the west coast of Britain will soon realise that a windless day is as common as hen's teeth. As for Lincolnshire - strong steady winds seem to blow consistently from the North Sea. The big bonuses for wind power are that you can still grow crops underneath (unlike other kinds of power station!) and they can easily be sited in remote communities, negating the need for long power lines. There are many other advantages which I won't rehearse here.

Equally, the main problem for solar power seems to be that they can *only* convert about 10% of the sun's rays into electricity. Well, considering it gets light every single day - even on cloudy days, it is still bright enough to see by outside - surely the real problems are the capital cost and (more probably) the political will to stop being complete asses and *do* something about the real problem. While we are arguing about angels that can sit on a windmill, the world is getting warmer. Nuclear power costs too damn much (£70 billion in decommissioning costs and rising) and won't be fast enough (ten years plus to build a station). Wind power is simple, cheap and creates jobs and electricity. It's not a panacea, but what is?

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@Jerry

Much of that sounds incorrect. However, I think you did hit on one good point.

"Now at this stage I'm sure that various apologists will weigh in with 'averaging over a power network' However, the reality is that unless you have a continental scale power system with highly efficient transmission system".

That is exactly what is needed, a continental super grid would be much better suited to balancing loads. I doubt that such a system would be as impractical as one might at first think.

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Silver badge
Stop

Radioactivity from coal? Pff...

"Why don't you write about the massive radioactive emissions from conventional coal stations? Yes easily more radioactive material leaves coal power stations compared with nuclear ones. Uranium is a trace element - a few ppm - in most coals and the ash is 'hot' in more ways than one. Good job we make sure its safely contained in a powder from which we make construction materials!"

Hey, I can google too - pretty much every source I have found suggests that the radiation released by coal burning is pretty much inignificant compared to background radiation - uSv for industrial release through burning fossil fuels, as opposed to mSv from background radiation. I believe that the phrase 'an order of magnitude' fits that.

As Wikipedia [*spit*] quite aptly puts it...

"The amount of radioactive contamination released by human activity is rather small, in global terms, but the radiation background is also rather low. In fact, the total amount of radioactivity released by humans is negligible in comparison natural background radiation"

So stick that in your coal fired power station and smoke it you scaremongering twat. People should be far more concerned by the fact that fossil fuels are a finite supply, and wind farms are a waste of time.

Bring on the nuclear fusion [which has made progress recently..]

Steven R

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re:Wind Power can help, don't be so negative.

"Yeah, what's with the anti-wind turbine nonsense?"

my main problem is the more pepol beleve wind is a viable alterntive they stop looking at the real need

we need LARGE power stations gnerating LARGE amounts of power even the current genrating capacity is bearly enought and of we switch to all electric infruxtor (cars heating cooking etc) we will need mutiples more so stop faffing around with turbines and strat thinking nuclure

"Anyone who has spent any time on the west coast of Britain will soon realise that a windless day is as common as hen's teeth. As for Lincolnshire - strong steady winds seem to blow consistently from the North Sea."

seam to blow and actuley do are not the same thing I think if we look at met office stats we will find a concibule numb er of wind less days

"The big bonuses for wind power are that you can still grow crops underneath (unlike other kinds of power station!)"

not true due to health and safty you can not even walk close to them I know a wind farm in north of scotland that has to be shut off every afternoon cos the light shining throught the blades causes office workers in the nearby office to get migranes

"and they can easily be sited in remote communities, negating the need for long power lines."

so can nuclear plants in fact most nuclear plantes are built in v remote places and do wnaders for the local ecomany

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Aberdeen to Istanbul

It's not me saying that power overloads occur. Check out the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers) report on excessive power generation in Europe http://spectrum.ieee.org/feb08/5943

Aberdeen to Istanbul may be a bit far - today - considering the poor infrastructure in place, but Czech Republic to the Netherlands overload certainly does happen.

Also for the Texas outage check out http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2749522920080228?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews&rpc=22&sp=true

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Stop

re: It's not a panacea, but what is? ....

AC said "It's not a panacea, but what is?"

This just might be: - http://www.talk-polywell.org/bb/viewtopic.php?t=965&start=0

look up Inertial Electrostic Confinement devices in wiki, or Bussard IEC devices

The basic physics principles appear sound - there is no new science needed, just engineering problems to solve, and it won't cost the ludicrous amounts of money some of the other alternatives are needing:

Wind? Yeah wind is OK, IF it's windy and IF the production of turbines is very low emission.

PV? Not efficient enough especially in northern europe & expensive per watt.

Oil? It'll run out and it's more useful in the long run as a base for polymers

Coal? dirty in oh so many ways.

Gas? See oil

Fission? Good but the greenies don't like it and total lifecycle costs are high

Fusion via Tokomac... always 30 years away since the 60's ! and a tad expensive.

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Flame

FFS...

Factor in not only coal/gas/hydro backup PLUS the emissions "cost" of building a huge wind farm that only works at full capacity maybe 20% of the time and all this talk talk about wind is just a load of hot air. Let's focus on real solutions eh?

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Stop

Hydro or Wind or.........

I'm both an electronic and a civil engineer, so hopefully the comments that follow will be more correct that the guesses of (for example) an IT professional.

Regarding converting 'base load' hydro to pumped storage, the heavy engineering required is actually pretty much an insurmountable problem. Aside from the mechanical and electrical components needing replaced or upgraded, all the hydraulic structures will need redesigned. Basically, you can't just run water backwards through existing structures. Bear in mind the 'plumbing' we're talking about might be a bifurcation, valve house, or surge chamber cut into a mountain core. It's a whole new hydro scheme you need, pretty much top to bottom. After this obstacle, many hydro stations discharge into rivers, which are not suitable sources to extract water from to pump up to retaining reservoirs. You need a hefty reservoir at the bottom too. There are also plenty of run-of -river schemes in the UK that cannot be converted to pumped storage either. It's a grand idea but not feasible for many schemes.

Having typed that, they're currently building the biggest hydro scheme in decades at Glen Doe in Scotland. Given it discharges into Loch Ness and it's general suitability for the pumped storage, someone needs shot that it hasn't been designed as pumped storage from the outset.

Regarding wind farms, I think we've had about enough now. How about the government stopping the subsidisation of this industry and diverting some money to other 'green' power generation? One of the issues with wind farms I think has been missed above is that they are often sited on peat bogs. The access roads, foundations, and borrow pits damage the hydrology of the area and dry the bogs out, leading to decomposition of thousands of years of stored vegetable matter. The gas produced is a much more efficient greenhouse gas than plain CO2.

I vote nuclear fission, here's hoping fusion is on the way.

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Anonymous Coward

Inactive Turbines

Every 'farm' (i.e. bank of multiple turbines) I see, has at least 20% inoperative; sometimes up to 50% idle.

Drive along the A47 towards Gt Yarmouth and that farm on the coast to the north rarely has more than 50% operative - even on windy days.

What a waste of money.

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Paris Hilton

Carbon foot print?

Have they measured the amount of carbon burned from the conventional plants burned to produce the wind turbines?

Have they included the amount of carbon used in the constructions of the turbine systems?

Have they included the amount of carbon burned on the massive ships and equipment used to transport the turbine parts from factory to the final installed location?

Are there enough wind farms to make enough energy to produce the new turbine farms? In other words, and significant NEGATIVE energy balance! More energy to create than is produced over the items life.

How many dangerous and poisonous chemicals and emissions are created in the manufacture of these turbine farms? What happens to the "thrown" away worn out or obsolete turbine parts in the future? What about the hazardous materials in solar panels as they are thrown away in the future?--None last for ever....

These and other total costs factors should also be used when "calculating" the costs of solar panels as well.

Yes, wind and solar can create localized clean air and in some cases even viable, long term power generation needs, but they aren't any cleaner to make or discard than other energy producing equipment.

Paris knows what to do with hot air.

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n
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er.......

wind generators pay for themselves in 20 years.

wind generators have a life span of 10-12 years.

any questions?

no?

then we're done here.

oh keep an eye out for BS....from n-powers renewables site...."The turbines and other plant have a warranted life-span of about 20 years."

key words: "turbines" "other plant" "warranted" "about".

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry but I'm going to bring the Tesla into this...

Electric cars are zero emission are they?

The Tesla claims a range of 227 miles on a charge. Now a full charge at 70A (by Tesla's own specs) takes about 68KWh. Which we can pretty much assume is generated by burning fossil fuels. So we have a Tesla Roadster producing 128g of CO2 per mile.

Oh dear, oh dear. It's in a low tax bracket, but it ain't free. So that doesn't put it in the free VED band A, nor the £35 rate band B, but in the £120 band C. OK so it's still a very low rate for the performance, but I think this demonstrates that it's not nearly as green as it's manufacturers would have us believe.

If they have a conscience at Tesla maybe they should be putting their profits towards funding research into "green" electricity generation.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC Carbon foot print?

I'm no supporter of windfarms and particularly the spin that comes with them, however you are talking a startling load of poo.

It's all well and good talking of the energy used and polution produced in building and maintaining these wind farms, but all the things you said about wind farms apply equally to any other generating plant. Generating plants have a limitted life span, hence the local television coverage of tumbling cooling towers we see from time to time. So the argument is over whether and new plant is wind or something more conventional. And then there is the ever growing demand for electricity, we need more capacity so we need new plant, and again the comparisons stand. Which is better for the environment?

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Paris Hilton

David MacKay's book

Instead of reading random comments, you might want some actual figures, fully referenced.

If so, download "Sustainable Energy - without the hot air". Or buy a nice paper copy from Amazon.

http://www.withouthotair.com/

Short answer - yes wind is worthwhile, but we need even more nuclear.

Paris, because she'd like all of the above.

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Coat

More Nuclear?

Ah yes. Blair's favourite solution. Quite appart from the fact that anything Blair wants to do is automatically the wrong thing to do, I do have a problem with the idea of nuclear power. And that is the application.

Yes nuclear power can be provided very, very safely, but living in the UK we have our government and worse, our civil service. Contracts are awarded to the cheapest bidder, rather then the best and then overseen by a group of politicians (who have no experience in managing such contracts) and incompetent civil servants. The politicians will be hoodwinked by the contractors and the civil servants, the civil servants will be conned by the contractors and the contrators will be messed about by the politicians and civil servants. Even if the contractor is capable of doing the job they will have bid ridiculously low to win the contract and will have to cut corners. What with bidding too low and the messing about of the project board the project will almost certainly go massively over time and budget, further corners will be cut.

Don't believe me? Look at any of the major IT contracts awarded by the government in the last few years.

Would you want a nuclear power station built under those circumstances on the same continent as you?

Mine's the one with three arms and the extra head hole.

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