back to article RIP wind power: Minister blows away plans for more turbines

It looks as though the wind energy boom is over. UK energy minister Greg Barker has hinted at a significant change in government strategy - cutting subsidies for the deployment and operation of environmentalists’ favoured technologies. The climate change minister hinted that R&D handouts would continue, but for the wind lobby …

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Re: 230 million cups of tea per year!

"Suppose I did not want to sit in a yurt drinking tea, but stand in an office looking out of a window at people operating my aluminium smelter?"

Funnily enough, almost every aluminium smelter in the world is run from renewable power. It's the first rule in the "where do I put my aluminium smelter" rulebook. I believe Google also bought an old, out of use plant because it had it's own hydroelectric dam and could power their data centre.

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Re: 230 million cups of tea per year!

Really? Funnily enough I live just down the road from the soon to be decommissioned Rio Tinto Alcan Aluminium Smelter at Lynemouth. And what is that I see next door to it? Oh, that would be it's own 600MW coal fired power station, purpose built to serve the smelter. And in another coincidence, there is a wind farm on the land surrounding the smelter which feeds less power into the grid at full chat than the surplus from the coal fired plant while the smelter was operating.

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Re: 230 million cups of tea per year!

It does do a good job of putting it in perspective though, but maybe not in the way they think.

You would need *360* of those wind turbines just so everyone in the UK could have 4 cups of tea a day.

Lets hope no-one wants to wash their clothes as well!

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Re: 230 million cups of tea per year!

That is purely an economic decision though and nothing to do with tree-hugging.

Otherwise explain the "greenness" in shipping megatonnages of Bauxite around the world in Diesel-fuelled ships to Iceland for refining using geothermal power, as opposed to providing renewable power sources and refineries locally to the sources and merely shipping the vastly smaller tonnages of aluminium resulting directly to where they're required.

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Re: 230 million cups of tea per year!

It's "green" because the local sources of bauxite are NOT local sources of gobs of electricity (aluminum's a tricky metal to smelt), so you have diverse but necessary resources, and it becomes necessary to bring them together somehow. You either haul the raw material to the fuel or you haul the fuel to the raw material, and since geothermal electricity is nonportable, that kinda answers that question. And since no one seems the slightest bit interested in Gen IV fission microreactors, that prevents putting up an electric smelter near the bauxite and trying to replace the diesel power plant in the cargo ship with a nuclear one like they use in some military ships.

So...anyone got any viable alternatives?

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Senior Conservatives

Told the Minister for Wind to can any further expansion of the windmill business as the peasants in their constituencies were revolting. (Yes, I know.)

That's all there is to it.

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Wind power will still go up

its only as expensive as the subsidies make it. As I have said before on these forums a neighbour has put up two turbines that were made in this country that he bought in from abroad cos it was so much cheaper to get them that way.

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Childcatcher

Would the enviromentalist/Green folks.....

...please once and for all outline their full sensible and sustainable plan for safeguarding the United Kingdom's power needs for the next 50 years?

If we cant use nuclear, oil, coal or gas and cant use tidal ( due to the fact it might affect a breed of shrimp or some reed warbler's nesting site).

So what are the proper workable solutions? C'mon, you've said what we shouldn't be doing so enlighten us. You've had long enough to work out a plan surely? We want some specifics.

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FAIL

Re: Would the enviromentalist/Green folks.....

As expected...tumbleweed.

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Re: Would the enviromentalist/Green folks.....

I think some of them have set out their manifesto in other comments - reduce the amount used. Or, in other words, reduce standards of living, reduce economic competitiveness, and have people dying of cold and diseases not seen in civilised countries for decades.

I have no patience for them.

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Re: Would the enviromentalist/Green folks.....

I think the term for such people is "Luddites". Funny thing about standards of living. It's MACROeconomic. It's easy to go UP but nearly impossible to go DOWN. Short of a form of absolute rule, how do you make people agree to lower standards of living?

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Re: Would the enviromentalist/Green folks.....

"If we cant use nuclear, oil, coal or gas and cant use tidal ( due to the fact it might affect a breed of shrimp or some reed warbler's nesting site)."

Many environmentalists concerned at rising CO2 emissions have been advocating nuclear for years as part of decarbonization. The set includes renewables, nuclear, and the use of gas as a transitional replacement for coal. The sources that are universally derided are oil and coal, rather than all the sources you have listed.

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Meh

optional

all politicians are cnuts

they have one of two aims, to get into power or to stay in power

they represent you up to the moment the party whip comes knocking, unfortunately the options are all worse

as to power , we need it , renewables are there yet, nuclear has risks associated with it, shale gas also has risks associated with it ,the UK doesn't have the resources available to generate sufficient power to meet it needs without importing (I think, happy to be proven wrong) I don't feel I have the info available to make an informed decision and everything is biased to a greater or lesser degree

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Joke

Re: optional

Is that King Cnut?

On the other hand, good thinking. Let's hear from the green tinged ones what their plans are for a sustainable future for the world.

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Boffin

Industrial scale development

When you have sufficient economies of scale an industrial-scale wind industry doesn't need such large subsidies and that's clearly a measure of success. There's never been a time when nuclear hasn't been subsidised, which had all its research costs paid for by the cold war arms race. Ask Fukushima refugees who haven't been and will never be adequately compensated who subsidises nuclear power now: the nuke industry expects limited liability to be subsidised by the taxpayer. Fossil fuels are subsidised by costs of extreme weather - that's your and my house insurance going up. The question is which kind of energy is subsidised the most.

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Re: Industrial scale development

yeah sure lots of them are going to help when the winds not blowing/blowing to hard...

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Meh

Re: Industrial scale development

"question is which kind of energy is subsidised the most."

Answer: Renewables receive by far the largest subsidy per useable KWHr generated.

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Re: Industrial scale development

"Renewables receive by far the largest subsidy per useable KWHr generated."

It would be great to have a link to the analysis if you can provide it.

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And now the joker in the pack: fracking

Fracking shales for methane is the joker in the pack here. Once you set aside the typical hairshirt and self-flagellation response of most Greens and start thinking properly, then extracting the huge volumes of methane we know we have in shale rocks starts looking like huge amounts of sense. It gives us a much cleaner fuel that isn't as carbon-intensive as coal, which is safe and easy to extract, and which can be used safely for many, many things. For one thing, it'll tide us over nicely whilst proper modern safe nuclear plants get built.

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Re: And now the joker in the pack: fracking

"extracting the huge volumes of methane we know we have in shale rocks starts looking like huge amounts of sense. It gives us a much cleaner fuel that isn't as carbon-intensive as coal"

Except methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. I don't know whether fracking produces less carbon emissions than coal, but I consider the idea that it's a replacement for coal to be optimistic.

What I suspect is that fracking will simply open up a new fossil fuel source. The coal will still be burnt anyway. Net result: higher carbon emissions rather than lower. I also don't buy the idea that it's a transitional step. Once it begins I doubt it will ever stop. Once profit is made from new extractions it will go on until it's all expended. The only barrier is preventing it from starting the first place and keeping it in the ground.

It's another form of fossil fuel so it may simply result in our energy infrastructure becoming even more dependent on fossil fuels.

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Someone forgot to say...

... "Nar nar, ne nar nar!!!!"

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Anonymous Coward

Less consumption - nice idea - totally unrealistic. If we went for more efficient usage it would probably not even keep up with the increase in usage as the population / economy grows.

We need cheaper, reliable electricity - not huge subsidies for 'green' projects that just pump up the cost of electricity and are not even green when conventional generation is required for when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow (or both). Solar and wind actually cause grid instability - more of a problem than a solution.

If you want your leccy bills to keep rising and more jobs move abroad - keep subsidising wind and solar.

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Anonymous Coward

Fracking - frack that - look at the crap that goes into the hydraulic fluid they pump into the ground and not all of it comes back up - it pollutes water, you have no chance of ever cleaning it up once it's pumped it and it's even caused earthquakes.

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Anonymous Coward

The only useful statistic when comparing the safety of different methods of generation is lives lost per gigawatt generated - when you look at that you find more people die falling off a roof installing solar panels than die from nuclear power generation / accidents.

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The only useful statistic when comparing the safety of different methods of generation is lives lost per gigawatt generated

Whether or not that is true does anyone really give a monkey's about the safety aspect?

I mean no one wants a disaster but if we really cared about people dying we'd have a serious look at what is going on on our roads for example.

All the indications are that economic motives outweigh safety concerns.

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Anonymous Coward

"When you have sufficient economies of scale an industrial-scale wind industry doesn't need such large subsidies and that's clearly a measure of success."

... and when the wind don't blow? Or blows to hard? Or too soft? It's total crap - just as bad as solar - we need reliable / cheap generation - not variable / unreliable generation that requires conventional generation to be provisioned anyway!

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Anonymous Coward

Exactly

..that happens in Germany. See my post.

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Anonymous Coward

Nuclear is the only viable, reliable, low carbon method of generation - in comparison the idea (cost and safety) of mining coal, or gas is ridiculous.

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FAIL

German Situation

Politically: The Greenies are now a major political force with up to 20% of votes in state elections. They govern the state of Baden-Württemberg together with the SPD, fielding the PM of B.W. Being anti-nuclear has almost replaced "being an anti-fag christian". Nuclear energy is by default bad in the lefty press and even the conservatives have bought into that after Fukushima. I assume it has something to do with German Romanticism, which had lots of faces through the centuries. Being against nuclear is a matter of universal faith and questioning that Dogma is unwise for the successful politico. Angela Merkel wants to stay in power, so she did the opportunistic thing.

Energy Generation: Still a lot of baseload is being produced by nuclear power. The other baseload provide is coal and new power stations must be built, or the network will become unstable. Solar and Wind are now sporting impressive maximum generation power figures. It's in the dozens of GW already.

Energy Grid Stability: Due to the wildly fluctuating Solar and Wind generators, grid stability is deteriorating to the point where serious damage is imminent. At the Leipzig electricity exchange, there are times when the wholesale price is negative, as production spikes must be "destroyed". So if you own a pump reservoir you will sometimes even receive money for pumping water up the hill. Later, you can make money by sending water downhill and selling at something like 20cent/kWh wholesale !

Currently we don't need any UPSs in Germany to run a computer, but these days will soon be over. Industry already complains loudly about the damage this could bring to expensive facilities like steel rolling mills, which can be destroyed by an outage.

In General, the rise of solar and wind generation capacity has not at all been matched by corresponding storage capacity (e.g. pumped storage). Options for new pump storage facilities are very limited, but lots of ideas float around, including the use of decommissioned coal mines for that purpose.

Prices: Consumers already pay more than 20cent/kWh, which is mainly due to very high feed-in tariffs for Solar power. Wind is much less worse in this respect. The solar industry is bitching loud about a reduction of feed-in tariffs for new installations, which is planned.

In general, I would call it a win for romanticism, not for "cold-steel rationality".

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Here's a thought

Wind farms are best placed away from built up areas.

Much of that is close to water.

Utilisation does not always match periods of demand.

Why not 'make' hydrogen? It can be stored and burn or stuffed into fuel cells to make bateries. Use hydrogen powered boats or vehicles to move it to market. Sure, it can make a bit of a bang, but it leaves no residue.

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Re: Here's a thought

It's the "bang" that's the problem. In terms of power density, hydrogen stinks, it reacts readily (most terrestrial hydrogen is bonded into compounds, meaning you gotta "crack" them through electrolysis and other processes), and it's a very diffuse gas (lighter than air) naturally, so you're going to have to store it in pressurized vessels which introduces its own headaches. That's why the idea of hydrogen-powered car was shot down a few years back--no one wanted to be trundling around a pressurized hydrogen tank.

AFAWK, there's no viable generation-scale energy storage in use. There are several in development, but each has stumbling blocks (lithium-ion is espensive, lithium-metal-air has to content with reactivity to humidity, water pumping requires damming and land, air pumping requires tanks or sealable caves, etc.)

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Re: Here's a thought

@Silent but Deadly:

"Wind farms are best placed..."

...back in the pages of history to which they were consigned by the steam engine ~200 years ago.

Powering anything other than a yacht with the wind is utter stupidity. Trying to power a G7 economy from something that works maybe 20% of the time is total insanity, and proof - as if it were needed - that all politicians are utter f*ckwits.

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Childcatcher

Free contraception?

The biggest factor in increasing consumption is that more people use more electricity. Maybe we should just stop encouraging breeding quite so much.

Make contraceptive dispensers in pub/club/restaurant loos mandatory and free; rescind all maternity/paternity leave allowances; make it legal to promote/pay people who to turn up for work every day and work late when required in preference to those who only turn up for 8 months in two years and have to "pick up their kids" whenever there is a deadline. It might also be an idea to stop pregnancy being covered by the NHS. After all, it's an optional, lifestyle choice. It would save about £30 billion from the NHS budget. Do all those things and the country's carbon emissions would start to fall pretty darn quickly.

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Anonymous Coward

"The biggest factor in increasing consumption is that more people use more electricity. Maybe we should just stop encouraging breeding quite so much."

Don'y knock it - these kids will be paying YOUR pension.

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FAIL

Except they wont. As there wont be the jobs to enable them to earn the money to pay it.

Pensions are an illusion that we all keep kidding ourselves with. Give it another 15-20 years with the baby boomers living their 20th year on pension and it will be on the verge of collapse.

There wont be enough people to pay into them to support the growing group that is using them for longer and longer.

Then what about the growing group at the bottom (the underclass) that will never pay in but needs welfare to keep them fed and clothed? Where is the money for that coming from, the few lucky million or so left with a job having to pay 90% tax to pay either end?

We need someone to stand up and say it's not going to work. So maybe controlling the population is the key but no one dares mention that either.

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Anonymous Coward

Wind and solar are expensive 'anyway' - when you add a storage system it just makes it even more expensive - it's a nice idea but realistically nuclear can generate much more reliably, cleanly and cheaply. When people stop judging it based on 30-40+ year old reactors it would be seen in quite a different light.

You are only going to get a small percentage of our electricity from renewables (perhaps 15% at most) and that typically has to be duplicated by conventional generation anyway. The choice comes down to do we keep importing gas and coal and producing CO2 or build more nuclear plans.

Reducing consumption with energy efficiencies may 'help' but will be dwarfed by our increase in demand as our population rises and economy grows.

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Anonymous Coward

"It might also be an idea to stop pregnancy being covered by the NHS."

However, of course these people pay their taxes and their kids also end up paying taxes and your pension in the future. To continue your tripe - let's say you ride a bike - well that's your choice - if you fall off and are injured let's not give you NHS treatment as it was your choice. Oh you like pasties and cakes and become diabetic - well guess what that was also your choice - so tough luck...

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Anonymous Coward

Soylent Green and 'retirement' is the answer to all of the water, energy, food and pension crisises, plus without old codgers doddering about on the roads it might ease congestion too! :)

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I read the actual book......

Make Room! Make Room! while on holiday in Canada last year. Very different to the film (Soylent Green isn't made from people and coffin dodgers aren't "processed") but a lot of the points in the book are quite valid in terms of changing weather, growing populations, welfare and food/water shortages. It's basically a simple crime story set in a not very nice future for the masses while the elite live in air conditioned luxury.

Worth a read and could make a interesting and timely remake if closer to Harrison's book.

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I love The Register

I swear to God, reading the discussions in these forums is as good (if not better) than the original article some times.

It's heartwarming to see interesting discussions from people with different but objectively founded points of view.

El Reg forum posters, I salute you!

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Anonymous Coward

Time for some hard facts - deaths per TWh - here are the stats of the number of people who die per TWh for various methods:

36 for oil

16 for coal

4 for natural gas

0.44 for solar

0.15 for wind

0.10 for hydro (or 1.4 if you include the 170k who died when the Banqiao dam failed)

0.04 for nuclear

Now to my reckoning that makes existing nuclear (much of which is 20-40 years old) around 10x safer than solar, 100x safer than gas and about 1000x safer than oil.

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Anonymous Coward

With those deaths per TWh stats - most likely nuclear will get better / safer (as many of the existing nuclear plants were early designs 30+ years ago). The arguments against nuclear power plants (terrorism etc.) can be levelled at dams as well - probably easier to get close enough to blow up a dam than it is to get near a nuclear power plant and as Banqiao showed it can be devastating.

Would be lovely to think we could all have solar panels installed - but the reality more people would die installing and maintaining them than die as a result of nuclear power. It's like air or rail travel - far safer per passenger mile than road but when a plane crashes and 200 people die it is mega news (as it should be) - but the far greater number of people who die each year on the roads mostly goes with little mention.

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Silver badge

Some of the protest against air and rail travel goes to economics. It's easy to picture air travel is expensive; keeping people in the air when they weren't can't fly under their own power takes energy (one estimate of 747 fuel efficiency was in the range of 5gal/mile--yes, gallons per mile).

As for rail travel, detractors pose a simple challenge: find a self-sufficient passenger rail network, capable of operating completely (including train acquisition and track maintenance) on its own revenues. AFAIK, no one has stepped forward with one yet.

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@AC:

"The arguments against nuclear power plants (terrorism etc.) can be levelled at dams as well.."

Dam failures have killed *a lot* of people throughout history, so no wonder envirofreakazoids like them. No carbon (or even CO2) and they reduce overpopulation.

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Anonymous Coward

5gal/mile - but carrying 400 passengers and their luggage plus staff plus food etc.

5gal/mile is the equivalent of 100-150 cars at 20-30mpg - so to shift those 400 people from London to Manchester on a 747 or by car is probably fairly similar fuel wise.

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