back to article Darling's £0.5bn offshore windfarm 'leccy-bill stealth levy

A lot of people are wondering how the British government can deliver colossal bank bailouts and pay rapidly-climbing dole bills - all the while collecting less taxes as people are laid off and companies founder - and yet still find money to subsidise green energy. Chancellor Alistair Darling has found a cunning way around the …

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you say it as though it's a bad thing...

How many billions did Nuclear receive in its early years?

Where did all the basic research funding come from?

Oh yeah.

Us.

Did we subsidise the early nukes to a massive degree?

Check.

Do we still do so by allowing the massive decommissioning and waste storage costs to appear off balance sheet?

Check.

Was the primary aim of nuclear research? Was it generating electricity, or was 'leccy just a handy by-product for selling it to the proles.

Making renewables mainstream should promote innovation and enables economies of scale.

And not before time.

FFS, I know where my money would rather go: chanelled towards renewables or into coal and nuclear.

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Offshore?

Darling: "We must build on Britain’s status as the world leader in offshore wind power generation."

Wikipedia: "In several countries it has achieved relatively high levels of penetration, accounting for approximately 19% of electricity production in Denmark, 11% in Spain and Portugal, and 7% in Germany and the Republic of Ireland in 2008."

Those sites are mostly ONshore. Nicely deceptive.

Bit like John Major's deliberate use of "year-on-year" which the layman takes to mean "every year", but actually means nothing of the sort.

Stupid me. He (Darling) meant "OffSOURCE" - plonk 'em in India. Cowfart (sacred, of course).

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Bah!

Anyone know the current (hurhur) exchange rate for Carbon Credits to ROCs?

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Anonymous Coward

Hot air

Am I misunderstanding something? If 525 Million provides electricity for 3 million house it would mean 175 pounds per house is enough to convert a house to wind generated elecricity.

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Missing the point?

If we're going to build these things, we might as well do it now. The price of raw materials has dropped dramatically in the last while and we have gaps appearing in electricity generation in the next few years.

I'd rather indirectly help to pay for this during a period of low inflation and low commodity prices than in another 5-10 years, with everything increasing in price again and brown outs meaning the planning process is driven by a mad public panic.

Same with nuclear plants. Just do it and stop fucking around. We have a golden period of opportunity (end of one government / beginning of another) for this to be pushed through and for it all to be forgotten about by the time the next election comes around.

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Anonymous Coward

@frank

There's a difference Nuclear would have yeilded huge rewards (just look at how much cash the French make flogging power to us), where as ground/sea based wind farms shall never be anything more then a plaything no matter how much money you pour down the drain.

Sadly we gave up on nuclear becouse people are stupid and now we burn cash on crap becouse it fellates the idiots.

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Nu Labour

Small print reads: 'Your country may be re-possessed if you do not keep up with the re-payments'

i wonder what portion of the Country is a wholly owned subsidiary theough external holding comanies.. if VW can do it to Porsche.. enough back room take-up of the debts and calling it all in at once..

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Coat

Re: Bah!

No idea, but it's probably raisin' now that ROCs are on two-for-one offer.

Raisin? Current? No?

I'll be off then...........

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Pissing in the wind

"Mr Darling also found £45 million for small scale renewables like wind turbines on houses ..."

Why do they keep pissing in the wind with idiotic projects like this? Wind turbines on houses are pointless unless you live atop a particularly drafty hill.

No doubt a lot of money is going to be spent on pointless tech.

Wonder where the lobbying backhander went on this scheme?

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Anonymous Coward

half a billion powers half a million?

So, for about £1000 per household, we get wind farms that will provide their electricity for the lifetime of the farm.

I pay about that a _year_ for non-renewable electric power in my electric-only flat.

Doesn't seem that much like a bad deal to me. Or are you using 10^12 billions, not 10^9 ones?

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Coat

Tell it to Sid....

If only the money people pay for leccy wasn't used to line the pockets of besuited extorionists, it could be actually used for some of this increasingly needed R&D.

Mines the one with empty pockets.

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Anonymous Coward

"As renewable juice costs more to make than coal, gas or nuclear"?

Figures please.

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@frank

as well as the previous rebuttal to this a lot of the early research into nuclear tech was for the purpose of weapon an military use and the latest generation of nuclear plants (of witch we have next to none) are very profitable even when you include the cost of the minimal wast storage or reprocing how much is it costing us to dispose of the ash from coal after all?

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How to save energy for nothing

What about shutting down the Energy Saving Trust ? I've just noticed on their website they have these gems of wisdom:

"Let the sunshine in - cleaning windows and pulling back curtains during the day will help you take in more natural light and warmth from the sun."

"clean your oven door - you'll be able to check on food without opening the oven and letting heat out"

Thats the planet saved then......

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think of the children

Who will be sitting there doing their homework after school to the tiny lightbulb each home will be allowed to use.

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half a billion powers half a million?

Um. No. What about all the other costs? Coal 'leccy is cheep. Its the rest of the costs that add up.

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Tim

@ Jon G

Entirely agree, it's shocking that they have missed the obvious energy saving device of fitting curtains to your oven door to conserve heat.

BTW, give my regards to Ali.

Tim#3

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good idea but misleading analysis

1. Yes we can see that the plan has some serious flaws - thank you for that conclusion.

2. To bad that the costing is done in such a critically uninformed fashion. Sorry but if I wanted to have a traditionally misleading political agenda down my throat I would surf to a different news website.

The "cost" presented for different energy types is incomplete and uncritical. Just because companies have (in the UK at least) not been required to pay the real cost of their energy production does not mean that the cost is not there. If nuclear power producers would have to pay for the cost of taking care of the real cost of taking care of their own waste they would not be competitive at all would they? If the burning of coal would have to pay for the cost of cleaning their exhausts perhaps their production cost would not be very competitive either.

So the logic behind the analysis is thus: If you and your friends shit on the floor in your living room it is ok because it is cheaper (?) then to install a toilet - yes ofcourse until some one has to pay for the cleaning up after! Is that supposed to be something to aim for?

Just because the general conclusion in the article - that the governmental strategy is crap and misleading - may be correct - does not mean that the analysis made in this article is any better or less spin! And no - I do NOT think that offshore windfarms are the solution to our problems...

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Damn naivety!

@AC - "Figures Please"

Think about it - If wind power were cheaper the Government wouldn't need the Renewals obligation to force the power companies to buy it. They would be buying it in spades themselves and demanding more. Lots of little generators are more costly and less efficient than one big one.

@AC - "half a billion powers half a million?"

You really think that a power company is going to charge you a one-off £1000 fee for what they spent building the farm? You can bet they'll still charge you through the nose for the priviledge each year, not to mention all that maintainence they'll have to do in Saline conditions and all that spare capacity and gas they'll have to keep for that inevitable slow moving winter high!

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Anonymous Coward

For extra lulz

One of the few wind turbine component makers (Vestas on the Isle of Wight) will be closing down the factory. So all your wind turbines will come from abroad. Nice to have so much solidarity with German and Danish manufacturers.

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@AC 14:35 Here are your figures

Figures for energy consumption, energy generation, construction and maintenance costs:

http://www.withouthotair.com/

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Anonymous Coward

The biggest lie...

...of the whole thing is that £525m will be anywhere near enough to fund the infrastructure to convert 3 million homes to wind power. Ten times that might be nearer the mark, but still not nearly enough. Like most of the rest of the budget it was just about trying to grab a few headlines for doing something good in the hopes that it would bury the bad stuff. Looking at the papers today that strategy has failed miserably.

Anyway the tone of your story is a little odd. Why is it such a bad thing that electricity users should pay for this? You seem to be suggesting that a better alternative would be for the government to fund it directly, except that the government's only way of funding something is to take the money from the taxpayer. So which is a fairer way of funding this project; charging the heavy electricity users the most or charging tax payers irrespective of how much electricity they use? You seem to favour the latter, surely anybody with any sense would favour the former.

Oh and lets not call attention to the fact that this highlights the fact that the government still seems to be putting all its renewables eggs into the windpower basket all the while disregarding the fact that windpower is a somewhat unreliable source. Oh damn, I've mentioned it now.

You can't rely on the atmosphere to produce nice gusty conditions just as Coronation Street finishes and several million kettles are switched on. What happens when there are gales at 3am and flat calm at 8pm when you need the power? How about diverting at least some of the funding into pumped storage solutions for the otherwise wasted wind energy to drive, or tidal or wave power, or maybe good old reliable geothermal energy? Could it be that UK.gov prefer wind power because the plant is very visible so it looks like they are doing something about renewable energy? Does it still look like they are doing something when there is no wind and all the turbines are stationary and the other sources can't provide the energy we need?

Instead of huge projects lots of smaller solutions may be better. Only the other day I detected an unpleasant smell near a friends house and was told it was the gasses produced by the landfill of an old opencast mile in the adjacent countryside. So there's some nasty greenhouse gas leaking into the atmosphere. Why not tap it and burn it to produce electricity and heat for the local community. Sure you are still pumping out greenhouse gasses, but at least you are getting energy from it.

Why do the cooling towers from power stations simply dump their heat into the atmosphere in the form of steam, obviously you're increasing rainfall by doing so and water vapour just happens to be a greenhouse gas. A better solution? Use that excess heat energy to heat local houses. Of course the problem here with all those proposed nuclear power stations is they tend to be miles from major centres of population so you can't find the houses to heat. And of course they need to be a long way from the cities that use the electricity they generate don't they because they are perfectly safe.

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idiotic projects like this?

Because they are technically illiterate idiots.

Sarah Boyack - Scottish Labour spokesperson for the environment for example.

Arguing the case for micro-generation technologies said..

"At the moment is it difficult to pin down exactly what performance rates people will actually get from micro-generation devices. That needs to be sorted".

The reason it is hard to 'pin down' exact performance rates is the performance is so crap that any supplier giving out exact performance information would never sell a micro-generation device. Her "needs to be sorted" quip demonstrates her stunning ignorance.

As far as I can tell the only viable micro-(non)generation schemes are heat pump systems extracting thermal energy from the ground. You don't hear much about these, probably because something stuck on your roof is a much better demonstration of your eco green tosserness than something buried in your garden.

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Electricity tax

Taxing electricity to pay for renewables has worked well in Germany. And the nice thing is that in addition to funding the renewables, you are also bringing forwards the time period before they are competitive in the market.

More expensive electricity = better investments from the photovoltaic systems (or other renewable options) that consumers install.

As long as they make the electricity for charging up our electric cars tax free...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: other costs/ half a billion powers half a million?

My leccy spend appears superficially to buy me a shiny new personal windfarm a year; but indeed with other costs included maybe that's only half a farm a year. But a windfarm presumably lasts for decades, not a year or two.

And as for other costs ... what's the cost of replacing N major coastal cities after fossil-fuel-burning induced sea rises put them underwater? :-)

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Unhappy

Question for the pro-nuclear

Could someone explain where the fuel is going to come from?

We've got maybe 80 years left at current consumption rates, and no hope of finding new sources (well, not economically viable anyway), and building new reactors will increase the burn rate. From what I've read, renewables are only slightly more expensive now, and as demand increases, they'll become the cheaper option. Or we could build breeder reactors, which are already more expensive than renewables.

Furthermore, nuclear effectively turns rock into heat, (unlike wind/wave/solar where the ultimate heat output is zero - the same heat would be trapped by the earth whether we intercept it and use it or not) and one of the reasons for going nuclear is to, um, reduce warming?

I feel like Alastair Darling - I just can't make the numbers add up, no matter how much people shout at me to fiddle them.

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Tom
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Doesn't sound bad to me

If we can product 0.3% of our electricity for £500m that doesn't sound too bad to me. Although we can realistically scale it up, it is the equiviliant of £160bn to switch our entire economy to renewables. That is only a price of £2660 per head, which whilst a lot, it is 1. a lot less than we're spending bailing out the economy, 2. if we spend it in Britain a lot will go into the economy and into taxes, 3. it isn't all at once, if done over the next 10 years (to meet our 2020 targets) it would only be £260 per head. That means only £130 per head by 2020 to meet 50% of energy.

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Anonymous Coward

@Re: other costs/ half a billion powers half a million?

And what do you think the costs of maintaining coastal windfarms will be? I gotta tell you, it ain't just windy out there (although it isn't at all windy compared to further up where the real power would be.)

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RW
Stop

@ Random Noise

"Why do they keep pissing in the wind with idiotic projects like this?"

Because NuLab are amazingly stupid and evidently uneducated to boot. Plus, they have drunk deep at the well of anti-elitism. Thus, they dismiss true expertise as the views of an elite and therefore anti-proletarian. They depend on their own seat of the pants instincts for guidance, supplemented by the headlines of the more hysterical tabloid papers.

Devoid of any ability to lay down broad principles and then work out the detailed implications, NuLab is constantly seizing on the fad of the moment as the cure for society's ills, with today's fad supplanting yesterday's as regularly as clockwork. There's no long term view about anything.

Their motto might as well be "education and critical thinking are counterrevolutionary and will be crimes punishable by incarceration in thought-reform camps."

Think of Chairman Mao, his Great Leap Forward, and the backyard blast furnaces.

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Weapons research

"a lot of the early research into nuclear tech was for the purpose of weapon an military use"

So we'll be ignoring the cost of the Dounreay fast-breaders then. Must have cost a fair whack to build and currently looking at well over three billion pounds on the decommissioning project.

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Flame

Totally uninformed opinion follows

I have to say, geothermal generation sounds like a much more reliable system both in terms of constant supply and in terms of "fewer moving parts" than wind turbines. It doesn't mess up the look of the landscape either, as coal mining might. I'm sure the engineering isn't easy or cheap (maybe some out-of-work Icelanders could help), but it has to be cleaner than fossil fuels and less hazardous than nuclear. You could even put it offshore so if it did all go horribly wrong you'd just get a slightly larger UK, rather than a scene from "Volcano."

Oh wait, I thought the government might want a solution. Silly me, they just want a quick-fix solution which works on paper, not actual change of any sort.

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Flame

The problem is

the f**kwits are in charge (and dont bother to say the tories or liberals are better because they are a bunch of f**kwits too)

This is not about CO2 emissions or 'green energy' , its about appearing to do something about CO2 emission while in reality not doing a thing apart from make a nice paper money shuffling market(see 2008 banking crisis to know how that sort of thing ends up)

If my electricity prices are going to rise to reduce CO2, then I want that money spent on a generating source that :

1. stays on 24/7

2. does not switch off at 5.30pm(peak demand) due to the lack of wind.

3. does not dump gigatons of CO2 into the air.

Hmm nuclear looks like a nice option

But thanks to the 'eco' lobby , nuclear is out unless you can figure out a way of getting a power station built without the 5-10 years of planning enquiries followed by 2 years of 'direct action' until the power goes out and we kill all those so called 'eco' campaigners

Flames... because in 10 years we'll be back to using candles to light our homes

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Anonymous Coward

@ 80 years left...

"We've got maybe 80 years left at current consumption rates, and no hope of finding new sources (well, not economically viable anyway),"

I think you're confusing proved reserves with probable and possible. Which number are you quoting? As with all resources extracted from the ground (oil is another good one), companies have to be super conservative when they tell the markets how much they have left on their books to avoid misleading investors.

The other point is that exploration for new sources of uranium has basically stalled for the last 30 years because there isn't a market for it in the West - partially because of the Luddite scaremongering of ignorant pressure groups in the last few decades. If they start looking again, they will find more.

But yes, build the windmills too.

PS - the problem you're referring to is retention of heat from the sun, not generation of heat on the surface of the Earth.

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Flame

Wind Turbines

The best place to put a wind turbine is on the other side of the river to the Palace of Westminster. If you want to produce working power, use a tidal turbine. These exist and several companies are promoting them. One is even putting 1.7 megawatts of power into the Irish grid. It's on Strangmore Lough and was installed as a test by MCT of Bristol. So why are we talking about walling up the Severn Estuary, carbon collection for coalfired stations and glow in the dark nuclear power again?

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Anonymous Coward

KW costs

It would be neat if el Reg quantified cost per KWh to business compared to domestic.

But! Remember!!

A Labour governemt is the best thing for the UK - the Tories are far too interesting in their own self-interests to care about the "people".

In fact "people" and "society" are in general Derogatory Tory terms.

"Us" and "self-interest" are far better bedfellows with the Tories.

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Context

"As ever, the fact that most homes use a lot more energy in the form of gas or heating oil than 'leccy has been ignored"

Not unreasonable really, considering WE'RE TALKING ABOUT ELECTRICITY. Duh.

Since the entire discussion is about electricity generation, I don't think it's too much to expect that the vast majority of people without an axe to grind would correctly spot the context and interpret "...to power x homes..." as "...to supply the electiricity requirements of x homes...".

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Bronze badge

@ 80 years left...

Gen IV reactors have the potential to use U238 as well as U235, so can make about fifty times more power from a given amount of uranium than existing plant. They can also use thorium, of which world stocks are considerably higher; and the UK gets on quite well with the Norwegians who have significant reserves.

At about $45 a pound, though, uranium is cheap enough that industry isn't too bothered yet to put much money into research for Gen IV. In the USA there is hope that it may be used to transmute much of the long-lived waste accumulated from the arms race and the early days of nuclear power. This may be a less expensive option than burying it.

If mined supplies do run short, Japanese research, only tested so far at small scale, suggests that uranium can be extracted from seawater at about $160 a pound; and this premium wouldn't greatly affect the price of generated power.

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Unhappy

It all won't matter

The dang squirrels are going to chew through everything and take your power down.

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pro nuke

there are details on the reserves of uranium on this

www.withouthotair.com

along with all the other problems of energy generation everybody who posts on this thread should read it is is very good

as for dounreay (I lived in the village of reay for 10 years) breeder fast reactors ARE experimental and I do not think it is a coincidence that Vulcan a navel base is right next to it?

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IT Angle

Written verbatim by the Nuclear Industry

It will cost (at last estimate) upwards of £70 billion to decommission some of our nuclear power stations - I think that is before anyone has even decided where we are going to site the waste as well.

We've been paying a nuclear levy for years in terms of extra prices and the original building costs - which, if memory serves, were all paid for by me the taxpayer.

To have a go at wind farms strikes me as partisan nonsense - all electricity generation has it's downside. Nuclear power stations only work about half the time anyway - and they are supposed to provide the "base load" for the grid. A nonsense article written by a know nothing.

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Joke

@ Michael

<<..as for dounreay (I lived in the village of reay for 10 years) breeder fast reactors ARE experimental and I do not think it is a coincidence that Vulcan a navel base is right next to it...>>

My "Vulcan" only gets next to my navel when my missus commands it. Sadly, I've discovered it's also a fast breeder. Ask the CSA.

Or, do you need a grammar checker?

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@andus

pepol complained that my spelling was rubbish so I used a spell checker and made sure all the words where correctly spelled weather they where the right words is a different matter entirety

and according to a friend who has worked in the nuclear building and demolishing industry for nearly 30 years breeder fast is the right term ...apparently

and

@AC

you are talking a load of un supportable stuff France has about 40 nuclear plants they work all the time and will not cost anything like £70 bazillion to decommission the in the usa a nuclear plant adds a little surcharge (about 1c) to the cost of it's power that is invested in a bond or the like and that completely covers the cost of demolishing I have facts to prove this somewhere but can not lay my hands on them atm and even if some of the bristsh ones might cost a lot it is cos most of them where in some shape or form test reactors and tests do sometimes go wrong and it is that that is costing mainly cos of the horrendous heath and safety required on a nuclear licensed site I worked on one as an IT tech and I will if you push me tell you some horror stories about the H&S paper work

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Anonymous Coward

Flawed analysis

This is a misleading article.

"As renewable juice costs more to make than coal, gas or nuclear..."

Not even remotely true if you consider the new construction required. In fact, wind farms may be a small fraction of the price that new nuclear plants will cost the taxpayers.

"Financially speaking, renewable power plants aren't valuable for the rather paltry amount of saleable electricity they produce: you'd never have them just for that. From a money man's point of view, a wind farm or other green powerplant is primarily a machine for printing the ROCs which let you sell normal dirty electricity."

What a load of rubbish. They aren't share certificates or bonds, and if a "money man" with half a brain looked at it he's immediately see that the only options are:

1. Electricity company buys 9+% of it's electricity throughout the year from renewable energy sources, getting the ROCs along the way

2. Electricity company buys none of it's electricity from renewable energy sources throughout the year, but at the end still has to spend extra money getting the ROCs. Not financial good sense.

Which do you think the money man is going to recommend?

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@AC 12:02 GMT

Which do you think the money man is going to recommend?

I think the thinking man is going to see that ROCs are just another tax that's going to go straight back to the man on the street and pick his pocket and should be killed off before they are brought to light.

Unless the so-called "renewables" can provide steady-state power generation over an entended period they will never, ever be more than a pipe-dream. It won't matter how much or little they cost. If they generate a lot and you can't use it right now, what do you do with it? If they generate none and you need it right now, what do you do for it?

If all the "renewable" wankers out there want to have their home powered with this remarkable power source, I say, "go for it". just don't expect me to pay for your stupidity in any way, shape, or form.

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Silver badge

Wind generation is *stupendously* expensive

This is because the biggest wind plant can only generate around 2MW at most - that's their perfect windy day. They shut down if there's too much wind to try to avoid damage, and they obviously produce less output if there is less wind than the design speed.

(Source: BWEA, who lobby for them to be built.)

Interestingly, BWEA also say that the 'energy payback' time (how long it takes to generate the amount of energy used to make the unit), is 6 to 8 months for wind - but 6 months for coal or nuclear.

So even *they* think that coal and nuclear are cheaper.

Each wind turbine/generator set has more moving parts than the turbine/generator set used by a steam-powered turbine*. The frequency of maintenance is therefore likely to be much higher for a wind turbine, although the cost of parts is less as they're smaller.

The 'clean coal' plant E:ON want to build at Kingsnorth would have two turbine sets, producing a total of 1600MW *at any time required*.

- That's equivalent to over 800 wind turbines all running at maximum output, or 40 'normal-sized' wind farms.

Big plant is almost always cheaper to run than an equivalent number of small plants. It's called economy of scale - look it up.

*Wind turbines have a gearbox, yaw and blade pitch mechanism, which steam turbines do not. In a steam turbine the stresses on the turbine are completely predictable, while those on a wind turbine are not.

Show me a set of wind farms that will *always* have at least 40 of them at maximum output? You can't.

Wind farms are a dead end, just like electric cars. They have a place, but that place is coupled with pumped-storage to cover peaks in demand until the 'big iron' catches up.

The Big Iron has to be controllable and run 24/7, so can only be fired (coal/oil/gas/wood whatever), nuclear or geothermal. Anyone who says otherwise is living in la-la-land or doesn't think we need electricity.

We don't have enough geothermal available in the UK unless you dig a mohole, so the only CO2-friendly option we have is nuclear.

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Coat

If it needs doing properly...

...I'll do it my bloody self!

Give me a £200 day trip to B+Q and I'll have my hot water sorted, including a log burner for winter use.

Remember that the state is not incompetent. The state, its owners and those that purchase influence are psychotic megalomaniacs. Incompetence is simply the perfect cover story.

The one with the rooftop safety harness.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: For extra lulz (Anonymous Coward)

Is the closure set in stone? From when?

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DR

@wind generation is stupendously expensive

"Interestingly, BWEA also say that the 'energy payback' time (how long it takes to generate the amount of energy used to make the unit), is 6 to 8 months for wind - but 6 months for coal or nuclear."

in this case it takes 6 months for coal, and 8 months for wind to become energy neutral,

but since you also point out that a coal station produces 800 times the amount of energy isn't it also fair to say that this means that it takes a lot more energy to produce a coal station?

Besides which energy payback is a bit of a moot point because the article is talking about fiscal payback,

how many coal stations does 0.5Bn buy? and how long before you pay that back with daily operation costs, (like maintenance and fuel)?

wind may be more expensive with regards daily maintenance, yet has no fuel costs since the fuel is renewable.

Also, coal power stations tend to have a rather large staff roster, whilst wind farms don't seem to have that.

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