back to article Ofgem, MoD attack pricey terror-friendly windmills

Britain's fledgling wind power industry has suffered blows from two directions over the weekend. The energy regulator, Ofgem, has attacked the system of subsidies given to wind-farm operators, saying it channels excessive profits to owners and does little to stimulate new build. On top of this, the ministry of defence (MoD) has …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    does the wind blow to order ? (order a gust for when you put the kettle on ?)

    Wind is not the answer. It is not there when it is needed, so we have to store the power generated - how ?

    Let's use the rain generated by all that that air born traffic pollution to power more hydro projects.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reconcile these two sentences

    "It's a bonanza. Anyone who can get their nose in the trough is trying to."

    and

    "Ofgem, has attacked the system of subsidies given to wind-farm operators, saying it channels excessive profits to owners and does little to stimulate new build"

    How do you get your nose in that trough without building a wind farm exactly?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    low flying terrorists are

    hmmm

    low flying terrorists are:

    . sufficient concern to block development of wind farms

    . insufficient concern to block development of nuclear stations

    discuss, while facing up and down simultaneously.

    How does the UK electricity market work at the moment? Is it still the case, as it used to be with "the pool", that at any given time, every power generator gets paid the same, and the price at that time is set by the most expensive supplier that Gridco are willing to buy from at that time? Thus at times of high demand the nuclear+coal people are raking the money in because the expensive stations (CCGT etc) have to be powered up... inquiring minds want to know.

  4. Mike Crawshaw
    Coat

    Place Your Bets!

    On which hype will win!

    In the blue corner, the reigning champion......."STOP TEH TERRIRESTS!!!"

    And the challenger, in the red corner......"SAVE TEH EARHT!!!!"

    Should be an interesting fight, Bob!

    It certainly will Jim!

    (the glittery one that looks like Elton John's dressing gown, please...)

  5. Mark

    Nucular

    When the US government thought to remove the tax breaks for nuclear power, the companies involved stated that without the subsidy, there would be no profit and hence no investment.

    Rather debunks the "5p per unit" cost if the only way nuclear power can manage to do that and stay profitable is a subsidy.

  6. Ishkandar
    Pirate

    Low-level flying

    Perhaps the RAF big-wigs are still dreaming of their days of glory, flying Typhoons over the continent on train-busting missions ??

    If any current RAF pilot wants to play at shepherd while flying at 500+ mph, they'll pay the ultimate price for their folly and Darwinism is satisfied !!

    And Ofgen should say to the generator people what the pie-man said to Simple Simon - show me first your penny !! Build the damn windmills *FIRST* and we'll think about the subsidies later !!

  7. Kenny Millar

    How exactly

    ..is wind renewable? How does that work then, plant a wind tree?

  8. michael

    @storing power

    pump storage we actuley have a few allready

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

    (I think wiki can be trusted in this case)

    but even thought I still do not think wind power is the anser

  9. Tim Spence
    Joke

    If we put up too many wind farms...

    ...will we cause drag on Earth's rotation, and slow it down? Or will we stop the wind entirely?

    I think we need to get a gullible MP to raise these questions in Parliament.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @AC

    No it doesn't blow all the time, but then again the electricity demand on the grid is not constant either. What wind does well is displace the baseload power (~20GW) which is needed all the time, so there is no need for storage.

    Large hydro in this country is pretty much fully exploited so that's not really an option.

    Here's your coat, and I'll just be getting mine too...

  11. George

    Bae Systems have overcome this...

    Why don't they buy that?

    Oh no just complain about it all.

  12. Ed Mozley
    Boffin

    Why not just...

    Put your radar on top of the windmill?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Military Low Flying Essential

    I'm always a little concerned by the comments of people who don't really know what they are talking about concerning low flying. Its first considering why we low fly. There are essentially 2 completely different threats to any bombing mission. Missiles and radar guided guns - the classic air defence stuff - and aircraft. With missiles and radar guided guns, the safest place to be is medium to high altitude. There you are out of range of a lot of stuff, and the stuff that can get you you will have amply warning on your threat receivers and have a good chance of dodging. Low altitude is a poor second best, relying on not being visible to the enemy operators for long enough to draw a missile/gun shot. The absolute worst place to be against guns and missiles is the space between low and medium level - basically between 250 ft and 10000 ft.

    Against aircraft the situation is a lot worse. A modern bomber, carrying a heavy bomb load, will almost always come out worst against a modern fighter. You can try putting up the classic US Alpha Strike - a package of 70+ aircraft with jamming and fighter support mixed in with the bombers - but over enemy territory with their radar coverage, and their bases closer than yours, you will likely be outnumbered and outgunned. Remember at the start of Gulf War 1, Iraq had something like 500 modern fighters. Western military planners were very surprised when Saddam Hussein decided not to use them to any great extent. The safest place against fighters is really low, below radar, and able to go undetected. This neatly corresponds with a reasonably safe place against missiles so every armed force in the world used these tactics. In Vietnam for example, planes would fly medium or high level missions over South Vietnam, but most A6 missions over North Vietnam were performed at low level.

    The Gulf War (part 1) was an interesting problem. We thought Saddam would fly his fighters, and he also had excellent air defence, especially around his airfields. The Allied side took on their standard NATO roles. The British took on one of their specific NATO roles which was airfield denial. Well known to be the most dangerous job on a modern battlefield. The Battle of Britain taught every nation in the world that you have to protect your airfields or lose. Our tactics getting in and out of the airfields unseen were outstanding. We lost a couple of aircraft to CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) which is an operational risk of doing low flying, especially over the desert, but on the route in and out of Iraq we actually did pretty well. Unfortunately, the JP233 runway denial weapon was dreadful. It required you to fly at a fixed height and speed over the runway for it to work. The Iraqi's realised this and positioned their guns accordingly, and we suffered. What we also failed to do was change tactics. When the air situation turned out to be much more favourable, we should have arguably switched to medium or high altitude earlier. However, lacking the TIALD pods (laser guidance pods) we persisted with low altitude work even after we had finished the airfield denial exercise. We started following a procedure where you loft a bomb onto a target. Essentially pulling up 5 miles before a target, and releasing the bomb as you climb to send the bomb in a ballistic arc into the target. Unfortunately, for a few minutes this puts you in the really dangerous area of above low altitude but below medium altitude. We lost a bunch of aircraft to this silly tactic - including the 2 Johns (Nicols and Peters).

    What it is disingenious to suggest is that low flying was the reason we lost all our aircraft. I think 2, maybe 3 of the 7 lost can be attributed to low flying. The reason we lost a lot of aircraft was that we expected Saddam Hussein to fight and set our tactics up accordingly. And in turn, we also had the most dangerous job of the NATO countries involved. If anything the main reason we lost so many aircraft was simply because we lacked all the shiny kit of the Americans, that prevented us from changing tactics properly when we should have done. This is still a problem now, we have some of the finest trained pilots in the world, but they often lack the gear to do the job. We still routinely only have part of each aircraft fleet fitted with the operational equipment you want to do your job (like the TIALD designators from the Gulf War 1).

    George Washington's famous quote; “An army of asses led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by an ass." is more relevant than ever. The fact that we can send troops to the desert in woodland pattern combat clothes, without desert boots, lacking body armour, and with aircraft ill-equipped to do the job, is disappointing at best, and criminal at worst.

    I've lost friends in this war. As an ex-serving officer I staunchly believe the Government is falling woefully short in the level of support it gives its troops. And to see cheap digs at things like low flying from a media organisation I respect is disappointing.

  14. Skavenger
    Pirate

    Solution: Surround the UK with Wind Turbines!

    Lets build the windfarms taller, that way we generate some electricity (When it does happen to be blowing) and if a terrorist attempts to attack he'll just kill himself out at sea by hitting them!

  15. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    @AC

    "How do you get your nose in that trough without building a wind farm exactly?"

    Well, the point is that you build one and make a lot of money out of the subsidies. Or you invest in the company that produces the white elephants (aka wind turbines). I wonder how many relatives of the New Labour MPs and Govt officials own shares/hold jobs in those outfits?

    But maybe the MOD can reverse the turbines and make them chop the incoming kamikazes (along with a bunch of birdies) to pieces... Alternatively, let's make all turbines out of radar absorbent or transparent material so that they don't interfere with the search radars - can you imagine how much more efficiently these relatives can enrich themselves if the turbines become 100x more expensive?

  16. Peter Rowan
    Thumb Down

    Nimbys at work again

    No analyst would talk about the Renewable energy sector subsidises being a trough. Whoever they asked, probably was a trader with no idea of the sector. Nearly all analysts I know in this sector actually do care about what is happening in the environment and just so happens the finance industry is getting involved now.

    The reason mainly for not many wind farms is that the local NIMBYs are at work and stop nearly every wind farm proposed due them destroying the value of their houses because of the views they have from the window. How much subsidy with nuclear get if it is build? This is article it looks has been taken totally from the Times that everyone knows is known as The Mail with tails.

    Please Reg, be a bit more analytical on you're writing, as generally I enjoy reading what is said here.

  17. IanKRolfe

    @Low flying terrorists are...

    Presumably that's because nuclear power stations don't have huge moving flappy blades that confuse radar. They also tend to be inside large secure compounds, rather than plonked in the sea where any idiot with a motorboat can get to them.

    If the government had the balls to back the development of IFB reactors, we wouldn't have the waste problems that conventional reactors have, so we'd reap the ecological benefits without the hazards.

    Not posting as an anonymous coward because I am neither....

  18. Anomalous

    Electricity

    <<Is it still the case, as it used to be with "the pool", that at any given time, every power generator gets paid the same, and the price at that time is set by the most expensive supplier that Gridco are willing to buy from at that time?>>

    No. That was replaced with the "New Electricity Trading Arrangements", aka NETA.

    When the generators learned to game that system too, it was replaced with the "British Electricity Trading and Transmission Arrangements", aka BETTA.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Been here before...

    Is anyone concerned about the "we don't need low level training" suggestion?

    Anyone who has read Vulcan 607 knows that removing specialist training because "we don't need that any more" is very short sighted. Much of the problems encountered with getting the bombing mission up and running was down to the fact they'd stopped training air-to-air refuelling of Vulcans (including filling their fuelling pipework with sealant!), had stopped doing Vulcan low level training (because they only foresaw high level nuclear strikes) and had stopped Vulcan training with conventional bombs (because they only foresaw nuclear strikes).

    The result was a mad rush to get people certified for refuelling, low level flying and dropping conventional iron bombs.

    If we knew what wars we'd need to fight, then we'd probably be able to avoid them happening in the first place. Knowing how those unknown wars need to be fought is another issue. Would that be an unknown unknown?

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  20. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coat

    Just put up enough wind parks....

    and low-flying terrorists get chopped to bits?

  21. The Badger
    Flame

    @Low flying terrorists are...

    IanKRolfe: "Presumably that's because nuclear power stations don't have huge moving flappy blades that confuse radar. They also tend to be inside large secure compounds..."

    So that incoming aircraft obviously have to stop at the gate and hover before the guy with the uniform nods and waves them through?

  22. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Where there's a Will, there's a Way

    If the truth be told, there are all manner of systems readily available for power generation and the ONLY reason that they are not being harnessed to Energise the Grid and supply Power to the Nation, so that it can learn of and Participate in a Global SocioPolitical Virtualisation of Governance and ITs Government Services in a CyberIntelAIgent Design Model for AI Created, Media Hosted, Virtual Reality Reality, is an Unseemly Blockage of Currency Supply and Grossly Negligent Indulgent Loss at the Banks playing the Markets and Spending Wealth which is Creating Debt rather than Generating Credit/Profit/Supply.

    And the major failing seems to be the notion that Growth/Profit generated by an Individual and/or Mega Corporation is attributable to that Being and/or Entity whenever it is the System which delivers Everything........and Currency Flow/Profit Distribution rather than Storage for Future Investment/Old Age [which the Inflationary Model being Presently used decimates] will Revitalise and Revolutionise the Capitalist System to Socialist Ideals .... with both major Systems moving to a Supply of Fiat Currency to generate Wealth and Freedom to Give away Ideas which Generate the Future ...... and all for nothing more XXXXPensive that a Slip of Paper Bearing a Virtual Promise of More Available.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    terrororists - I think we need more like Guy Fawkes

    Sorry - but I think Guy had an excellent idea - perhaps we could adopt a less violent approach and build an arc for our lovely politicians, civil servants, police and other expensive - useless types. (It was good enough for the Galgafrinchans)

    We can build the ship out of parking meters & speed cameras - if we can run the engine on BS - then it will never run out fuel.

    </gets coat and several cardigans>

  24. Mark
    Paris Hilton

    @Kenny Millar

    Yes because everyone KNOWS that when a wind farm takes the wind power away, there is perpetual calm.

    Twonk.

  25. Chris Walker
    Boffin

    Lessons from the World War

    We need to take a leaf out of Fokker's book here and stop dithering.

    Our Teuton friend invented the mechanism by which a machine gun could be fired by a pilot without shooting his propellor off in the process.

    Therefore, all that needs to happen is the boffins need to synchronise the radar beams with the wind turbine propellors in a virtual replica of Fokker's original effort. The trough fills up with corporate snouts, and the MOD gets to keep track of all those naughty low flying terror types.

    This will work, and so I claim my £5.

  26. Mark

    Re:George Washington's famous quote

    I don't get it.

    With one, you have lots of teeth, claws and roar and one braying commander. We still have the teeth and all on all the buggers who are supposed to fight.

    With the other, we have one set of teeth, claws and road and a shedload of braying who are expected to do the fighting.

    So I would disagree with GW here.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nuclear windmills

    ...and we build the bases of the off the off shore windmills from concrete mixed liberally with depleted uranium and lower grade nuclear waste - that should stop 'em washing away.

    Plus they'll glow in the dark - making it much safer for chaps from the RAF and those damn Yanks who see to have more bases here than we do.

    <I know..... very poor indeed>

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    terrorist aircraft

    er... yeah, another valuable contribution from the MoD on that one. Assuming anyone wanted to crash a plane into the UK (which we have no evidence whatsoever that they would. And by evidence, I mean evidence, not hearsay from the spooks), the most likely target would be London, right?

    And the most likely location for windfarms would be.... nowhere near London - chances are Scotland or the lake district. I realise that they would want to track these hordes of terrorist-piloted planes from some distance away, but even so, this is ludicrous even by their own fear-mongering standards.

    As for the rest of the complaints, couldn't really comment. But it does look like the government is using everything at its disposal to make sure it doesn't have to make a tricky decision and actually mandate a significant increase in windfarms.

  29. Mark

    @IanKRolfe

    And how many of these well defended nuclear installations have sufficient ground-to-air defences sufficient to down an aircraft?

    About none of them?

    OK, you cant drive up to a nuclear power station in a car stuffed with explosives, but then that isn't flying low (unless you figure it *real* low...).

  30. A J Stiles
    Joke

    Dealing with NIMBYs

    I have a cunning plan for dealing with NIMBY objectors to wind farms: just cut off the NIMBYs' electricity! Then the savings should be enough for there not to be any need to build any wind farms. Result, everybody's happy!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news in the bad news

    We now know how to defend ourselves against black helicopters. The next issue is how to get the black helicopters to take out each other.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Re: Lessons from the World War

    I think you might find it's a wee bit more complicated than that.

    Wave/particle duality or not, radar pulses and bullets have very little in common...

  33. Steve Browne
    Pirate

    What a load of bollox

    The MoD has f all to do with terrorism, except when they are told to do it. Someone flew an aircraft into some tall buildings 3,000 miles away and the poor dears are quaking in their boots in case it happens here. We cant even take toothpaste on a plane now, cos OBL has scared the shit out of them.

    Sorry, terrorist card overplayed, I no longer believe any of it. It is just used to stymie everyone who disagrees a new form of NIMBYism, but done by the government and its agencies. Hmmm, perhaps they wish to protect their shareholdings and to continue to fund theri friends, I mean what use is a new labour MP without a new labour government? All those directorships available at investment banks.

    The only terrorists I know are in Downing street !

  34. Matt

    Nuclear

    I think the idea is that because they're centralised the RAF's radar can easily protect them (well the jets they launch in response will do the protecting.

    There's also the problem that when the wind drops too low you can't just switch on your coal fired power stations to take up the slack.

    I'm not saying that's right, but I think that's the idea.

    I'd also like to thank the ex-officer for his contribution, very interesting and sad when you think about the loss of life.

  35. Perpetual Cyclist

    When will people learn?

    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/3584

    Read, learn, weep.

    I do not understand why anyone would want to attack us when in ten years we will be in energetic and economic meltdown. We will have gone from net energy exporter to about 80% energy importer in less than 20 years. That and a £50B a year dent in our national finances at current prices.

    We are already heading into recession. We are collectively already £1Trillion in debt. We need to spend every penny we can on indigenous power supplies NOW. If they are renewable and help save the planet from climate change so much the better.

  36. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    @The Badger

    "So that incoming aircraft obviously have to stop at the gate and hover before the guy with the uniform nods and waves them through?"

    I think it's more a question of the incoming aircraft impales itself on the solid concrete dome surrounding the nuclear reactor. Having an aircraft flying into your reactor is not a new threat and reactors have always been designed to withstand it. (Having one do so *deliberately* is a recent development, but concrete doesn't care about that.)

  37. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Terrorists flying a commercial airliner into a nucular powerplant

    Will need substantially more training than they had for 9/11.

    Every year scores of trained PPLs get lost and have to be helped by ATC and that with them having maps and charts and planning their route ahead of time.

    Now imagine a terrorist trying to high-jack an airliner to kamikaze it into a nuclear power station:

    - he will be high on adrenaline and/or controlled substances, will probably have double vision.

    - he won't know exactly at which point over the country he will be able to take over control of the aiplane, therefore he won't be able to pre-plan his route and descent profile to the target.

    - he will have to find the target visually as he can't count on the friendly ATC giving him vectors to the nearest reactor site.

    - he will have to maneuver a large aircraft into a steep dive from perhaps 20,000 feet if he's lucky, or maybe from all of 40,000 (most likely breaking the plane up in the process) or will have to descend gradually giving the whole of the RAF plenty of time to scramble.

    - at the same time he will have to continuously prey and negotiate with his deity for virgins and other perks he thinks he should be entitled to in the afterworld

    - and after all that trouble he will find that the reactor has a concrete shell designed to withstand an aircraft impact (well maybe not A380).

    The terrorist's job sucks, and then he dies... geez...

  38. Dave
    Boffin

    Fixed Locations

    Surely if the wind turbines are at known locations they only provide blind areas in and around the turbines themselves. It shouldn't be beyond the wit of a good designer to come up with a radar system that just gates out returns corresponding to the location of the wind farm. With a decent number of radar stations you ought to still get reasonable coverage through a wind farm. You'd at least see something flying into the blanked area and could take precautions to keep an eye on where it comes out.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC re: Guy Fawkes

    Um, the primary target of Guy Fawkes and his catholic co-conspirators was the protestant King James I and the majority of the aristocracy who were due to visit the House of Lords (during the official state opening of parliament on the day their gunpowder plot was to be enacted), and not the politicos.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @Ken Hagan

    Ken, I'd guess "safety cases" aren't the bread and butter of the business you work in. They are (or should be) the bread and butter of the nuclear industry and of (for example) the aerospace industry, two industries I'm familiar with.

    In assessing whether a particular proposed setup is acceptably safe or not, the folks putting together the "safety case" combine the assessed probability of something happening with the predicted consequences if it does happen. If something has dire consequences, it can still be considered acceptable, so long as the probability of it happening is extremely small.

    The consequences of an aircraft landing on a nuclear reactor might be considered to be dire, or maybe not, depending on whose analysis you believe. But when it was random aircraft crashing randomly, the probability of one crashing onto a nuclear installation were very very very very small, and so you could arguably justify the risk as acceptable even if the consequences were dire.

    9/11 changes that. It shows that terrorists are capable of using aircraft as weapons of mass destruction, and in the case of the Pentagon aircraft, flying reasonably low and reasonably accurately. So the probability of an incident involving an aircraft and a nuclear installation goes from "almost negligible" to "quite possible really, sooner or later".

    Once you accept that change in probability, you need a slightly more rigorous analysis of the impact of aircraft on nuclear installations than there has been to date. And then the conclusion might be different too.

    Wrt Perpetual Cyclist: thanks for the link. Whether readers agree with your/its conclusions or not, there is plenty of food for thought in there (and food won't be in plentiful supply in 20 years, at least not if it's still reliant on petrochemicals for fertiliser. Fortunately stuff like that can be changed quite quickly when there's sufficient motivation, just ask the Cubans who Monty Don spoke to on TV a few days ago, whose oil supplies disappeared when Russia collapsed).

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Vladimir

    There's just one flaw with your points - a terrorist attack does not have to be successful to cause terror. Even if no damage were to occur to the reactor if it got hit, or if the plane failed to hit a power station at all, the fact that an attack had been attempted would be enough to cause e.g. financial turmoil on the stock markets and panic in the streets of any nearby large conurbation.

    Also, it would be fairly trivial to locate a nuclear power plant in the UK by eye from 20 000 to 30 000 ft or lower, assuming moderately good weather conditions, as almost all are located on or near the coast. If the Luftwaffe can find a blacked-out London by the moonlight shine of the Thames, then there isn't much to stop someone with a good visual knowledge of what they've spent the past several months looking at on Google maps from finding e.g. Sizewell or Hinkley Point.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    What about tidal?

    The UK is surrounded by water, why isn't the government investing in tidal power rather than wind? The tides are far more reliable than wind. It costs a lot to lay the transmission cables underwater but the government are going to pay for them when building off shore wind farms so no difference there. The whirling blades are under water so the MoD are not annoyed because it screws up radar. They don't ruin the view so o complaints from the NIMBYs. You just have to ensure they don't turn the local sealife into sushi....

    The main bar to tidal power is that technology other than that proposed for the Severn barage is very much developmental. However the government could not only satisfy the tree-huggers and most NIMBYs but develop some of the indigenous manufacturing industry in this country by putting some money into the pot.

    @Lewis Page

    Radar is line of sight, it cannot penetrate earth. So if there is a hill between the aircraft and the radar transmitter it can't be seen. In a flat desert like in southern Iraq there aren't any hills to hide behind. But there are elsewhere in the world. So it can be useful elsewhere. Indeed cloud cover cover is enough to defeat laser guided bombs.

    The reason for training so hard is to ensure the skill isn't lost, the RAF have a system to categorise how low and fast pilots can go when training in the UK. How high a pilot is rated depends on the level of recent low level experience he has. By the way, if you pick the right hill in north Wales or Cumbria you can even see the training going on 'below' you.

    An illustration of what happens when you take away a sustained training regime can be seen with the Fleet Air Arm (UK naval aviation). They can no longer fly conventional aircraft off an aircraft carrier. By now even the last pilots to fly off the old HMS Ark Royal (retired in 1978) will have retired. All that experience would have to developed again, from scratch, at huge cost. Probably offsetting any cost saving from the slightly cheaper American naval aircraft. (There are advantages to the RN way of doing things though, STOVL aircraft can fly more sorties, if short of fuel they can land on the helipads of small warships (demonstrated in Falklands), take off and land in worst sea states. etc. Indeed Sharkey Ward said that he flew in sea conditions that would have grounded him on the old HMS Ark Royal as well as giving this stunning observation - it is far better to stop and then land than it is to land and hope to stop).

    As noted above UK doesn't have a stunning record in picking capabilities to get rid off from its military. In 1981 the Government was quite ready to get rid of all amphibious ships and sell off the aircraft carriers. In 1966 the UK government cancelled TSR2 and order F111s because it TSR2 late and over budget. And then cancelled the order for F111s because it was even later and more over budget than TSR2. The list is pretty long really.

    @AC

    Baseload has to transmit a steady level of power constantly, this is why it is called base load. This is used by the National Grid to ensure the electrical supply is stable (ensuring you get a constant 50Hz and 230V). Wind provides neither a fixed amount of power nor the consistency required. Wind power can take peak load generators offline but if the wind power output falls then that same source has to be brought back online.

  43. Andrew Taylor
    Black Helicopters

    Some facts

    I can't comment about terrorists & low flying hijacked airliners as I have no experience of this although I have flown Ryanair in the past but here are some true statements about RAF low flying & windfarms.

    I live in South Holderness, part of Yorkshire just above the Humber, nearby is the old RAF Holmpton radar station which was decommissioned because nothing could interupt or surpass the information gathered at the early warning stations at Fylingdales & Menworth Hill in Yorkshire, was that statement false or is the latest statement false, you tell me.

    The RAF need to monitor low flying exercises, since when, there is a now defunct RAF firing range just up the coast at Cowden, about 2/3rds of the way between Spurn Head and Hornsea, RAF and USAF aircraft frequently disobey instructions about low flying over built up areas and often carried out dummy runs on unsuspecting motorists driving around the area but when people complained, the RAF had no record of there being any aircraft in the area. That's 2 of the assertions debunked by actual knowledge not rumour or report.

    Windfarms generate electricity, myth the Holderness coast is a prime location for windfarms because of its location next to the North Sea and opposite the European "low countries" and it is normal for us to have winds originating on the Steppes of Russia blowing across the plain of Holderness. I state without fear of contradiction that every time the wind blows any stronger than a gnats fart the turbines are locked for fear of damage and cease producing any power.

    Wind farming is a big joke that is a sop to the over vocal and self richeous green element that is costing this country millions of pounds for no valid reason and is destroying the countryside just to satisfy a blinkered minority.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Aircraft reactor impact

    Surely everyone must have seen the crash test between an F4 Phantom and a representative section of reactor containment vessel?

    The one where a complete F4, including engines, but with water instead of fuel, was put on a rocket sled & hit the concrete at 480mph?

    The one where the only result was a scuff on the concrete and lots of very small pieces of scrap?

    Bear in mind most civil aircraft might be bigger and heavier, but they're also more fragile & mostly empty space. And a direct impact with the fuselage might not even result in the engines impacting anything important.

    Basically an aircraft crash would make a mess, and there'd be panic etc., but the actual outcome would probably be less severe than an impact on a conventional e.g. gas-powered station.

    .

    Re: the article comments about low level training - I guess a career playing with boats doesn't qualify one to comment on flight operations any more than it does to discuss the ins and outs of defence procurement.

    .

    Re: wind power - OK for specialist purposes, but a crappy solution if more widely used. And any business that can only compete on the market through subsidy isn't a real business at all; subsidies have their place but not for distorting the market to suit particular ideals.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Electricity

    <<No. That was replaced with the "New Electricity Trading Arrangements", aka NETA.

    When the generators learned to game that system too, it was replaced with the "British Electricity Trading and Transmission Arrangements", aka BETTA.>>

    BETTA seems to be merely a case of including Scotland in the old NETA arrangements, which provided even more opportunities for certain generators to make massive profits, mostly due to the ability to exploit the lack of investment in the transmission infrastructure north of the border.

    In any case, the current price of power is in the region of £52/MWh. For each MWh of power that a wind generator generates, you receive 1 ROC, which is worth £34.30 in avoided RO Cashout costs, and an additional £3ish in recycle payments, which equates to around £90/MWh. Or 9p/unit.

    The major with wind power is that it's got an annoying tendency to stop blowing right when it's least convenient (4:30pm on a weekday when it's snowing). Given that nuclear and coal units can't start quickly to take up the slack, open cycle gas and oil-fired generation is called on, which pumps lots of lovely CO2 into the atmosphere.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    f4 crash test? subsidy?

    Got any references to that f4 crash test?

    Mind you, folks have got a lot more chance of hijacking an airliner than an F4, and when you do, in comparison with an F4 an airliner's a lot heavier and carries a lot more fuel (fuel which last time i checked burnt hotter and for longer than water; what would have happened at the Twin Towers if there'd been water instead of fuel???????).

    "And any business that can only compete on the market through subsidy isn't a real business at all"

    Rules out noocular too then; BNFL went titsup because it couldn't pay its way, its successors want the taxpayer to pay the noocular cleanup and insurance costs, and if they can't have that taxpayer money, they're not playing. Same in many other countries too.

    Would you like to apply the "no subsidy" logic to the road network too, or are roads considered a "necessity" needing taxpayer funding on a "predict and provide" basis (a bit like airports), whereas electrickery isn't a necessity but a luxury, to be paid for in full by the people and businesses using it (like the rail network)?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Scenery

    I think the windmills are pretty. Sure, they don't exactly generate a lot of electricity, but it's free. Are we still really using 1940s-style radar to spot incoming terrrrrsts, not Foftrac or some form of transponder or satellite monitoring or whatever? Do terrorists have their own fleet of advanced planes that we don't know about, hidden in the deserts of Durkadurkastan?

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windmills don't cause wars

    .. militarys cause wars. I say we pack all the various militarys in the world and ship them all to Greenland, where they can all fight amongst themselves. Inside of a few years the war like gene would be extinct, and the human race could enter a new phase of evolution :)

    Seriously, we all know that aviation will be controlled via computer in the next few years. And frankly who cares about 9 /11 this particular phantom keeps on being dredged up, more people die on the road everyday than died in 9/11.

  49. Nigee

    unknown knowns

    Or should I say forgotten ones to go with UUs and KUs. Low flying will remain an important skill, and might become more important as UAVs are used increasingly for higher altitude work and air defence systems optimise to deal with this and their descending munitions. However. it's not so much low flying per se but tactical flying at low altitude. In 1982 the Argentine AF showed that it was quite difficult for air defence systems to deal with short exposure targets presented by aircraft flying tactically in suitable terrain. Flat deserts and lots of low tech, low skill guys chucking lead in the air are a different ball game. But it's only the third world that has lots of guys!

  50. Charley
    Boffin

    Re: What about tidal?

    That'd probably bollocks up the Royal Navy's submarines.

    And yes, the icon is a urine take, much like the post.

  51. Mark Fisher
    Alert

    F4 Crash Test Did Happen......

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9503EFDA1130F933A1575AC0A9649C8B63

    ...but the significance of the results is disputed.

  52. Andrew Cannon

    Subsidy for cleanup? Ask the government where that went...

    In the great cash grab that successive governments seem to like, the decommissioning fund that had been set aside by the nuclear operators was "donated" to the treasury and conveniently lost (sound familiar?). The cash was there, but it went towards paying for some chavs dole/booze money.

    Oh, as for the link to the F4 test, how many links would you like?

    http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=SUNA,SUNA:2006-05,SUNA:en&q=phantom+nuclear+reactor+crash

  53. Steven Jones

    Hitting a Nuclear Reactor

    We don't need to speculate on the ability of a terrorist to fly an airliner into a nuclear power station - the 9/11 perpetrators managed to fly an airliner straight into the front of the Pentagon. OK it's a very big building, but it's not that tall and the plane hit just above ground level. Finding a nuclear reactor in clear visibility on the coast would be easy.

    What would have to be done is to make sure that if a Nuclear reactor was hit then it wouldn't result in the release of large amounts of radioactivity. I've no idea how strongly the containment domes are, but they are going to have to be mighty strong. A 777 packed with fuel at takeoff can weight up to 350 tonnes. Travelling at 500MPH or 222 metres/sec then that would be around 8,600MJ of kinetic energy. Even if we allow for some considerable reduction in maximum takeoff weight and allow say 5,000MJ. That's the same energy as in approximately 1,200Kg of TNT (of course that's a fraction of the energy contained in the tanks of a fully fuelled 777).

    Whilst much of the fuselage is very light weight and fragile, there are some very dense objects (engines, undercarriage etc.). The experience at the Pentagon was these it was these heavy objects which punched holes through what was a very solid building (both sides I believe).

    Now I've no idea on how a concrete dome is engineered, it's ability to withstand and deflect such an impact, but I'm sure it is an engineering challenge. We also know from experience that it is possible to hit fairly low buildings with an airliner with some accuracy. It would be unwise in the extreme not to design for this.

  54. Ishkandar

    Firing through the prop

    Actually it was a mad Froggie who first came up with the ingenious idea of firing through the prop. He figured out that only 5% of the bullets actually hit the prop blades, so he fitted steel triangles to the blades at the points where the bullets would hit. Then all he had to do was to dodge the bullets that whanged off those steel triangles !! Told you he was mad !!

    Anton Fokker then went on to develop the syncroniser that syncronised the firing of the bullet with the turning of the blades after examining a downed Froggie plane.

    However, if you fired syncronised pulses of radar to miss the windmill blades, the "opposition" can fire similarly syncronised pulses at your receivers and you are basically b***ered !! I believe it's something called ECM !!

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lessons from the World War - Fokker you

    Anthony Fokker was a Dutchman - so only as Teutonic as us Brits descended from the Anglo-Saxons

    He also had access to a patent on synchronised gear from a Swiss engineer Schneider (and was sued for infringement later).

  56. Tim Spence

    F4 vs Concrete wall

    For those of you interested (I love this footage)...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--_RGM4Abv8

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Re: low flight training

    The RAF only needs to do all this training so they can kill thousands of people thousands of miles away to "protect our interests". Whose interests, exactly?

  58. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    RE: ...militarys cause wars.

    That's just plain wrong. Actually, politicians cause wars. And public votes for politicians, so you and I cause wars. If you want to stop all wars - kill everyone on Earth.

    @AC: "a terrorist attack does not have to be successful to cause terror."

    Well, how many times they need to do that before the public stops to pay attention? I'd buy at 2, sell at 4.

    So far, our own Govt does more to terrify me than the terrorists. Flouride in the water? What next? Bromide?

  59. michael

    hitting reactors

    "Also, it would be fairly trivial to locate a nuclear power plant in the UK by eye from 20 000 to 30 000 ft or lower"

    the plant yes but I know form experance taht even on a site I worked on (it contractor) I could not have picked the reactor out of the office buildings even when it was pinted out to me

  60. breakfast
    Thumb Up

    Does it cut both ways?

    Does this mean that all anyone needs to do to defeat the RAF and/or the british military is put up some windmills?

    No wonder we never invaded Holland.

    Would the absolute incapacitation of armed forces by the presence of windmills cut both ways? Would they render us safe from invasion as well? If so we could get rid of the MOD altogether and just put up loads of wind farms and be safe in perpetuity. Also, we could all make cups of tea on windy days. Everyone knows you need more hot drinks when it is cold and windy so supply must inevitably match demand in this circumstance. Now THAT is good science!

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Defence Procurement

    Re: Re: the article comments about low level training - I guess a career playing with boats doesn't qualify one to comment on flight operations any more than it does to discuss the ins and outs of defence procurement.

    Its attitudes like this that have unfortunately left us in the mess we are currently in. Let me give an example from my time in the RAF. The RAF discover that JTIDS is a real force multiplier and makes a huge difference to operations. Defence procurement dive in and source it, but decide to only buy enough units for about half of our fleet. Then the RAF has to pick up the pieces and try and deal with the penny pinching. Operations take priority, so a number of units are shipped out to the Falklands and out to the Gulf for operations, and operational spares. This leaves the UK with about a 1 in 4 ratio of JTIDS units to aircraft. Before a pilot leaves to go on deployment they need to be current in the gear they are going to use in theatre - so training on JTIDS is essential. Now the pinch. JTIDS is useless unless the whole formation you are flying with has it. Its not something that you can put on 1 aircraft and gain an advantage, its all or nothing. So the RAF engineers spend a huge amount of time moving the units around trying to get enough units onto enough aircraft for meaningful training. And you know what, sometimes they fail. Sometimes too many boxes are unserviceable, sometimes all the engineer time is taken up with fixing real problems, rather than dealing with kit shortages. Each time the engineers don't manage to get enough boxes on enough planes, training time is wasted. A huge quantity of man-hours and flying-hours are wasted trying to deal with a bit of penny pinching in defence procurement.

    Of course, there are plenty of great examples of this. During most of the 90s, most of our Tornado fleet was grounded because of defence procurement decisions to reduce the quantity of spares in the supply chain at a time when RB199s were having lots of problems.

    Some procurements are done very well (from a military perspective), but my experience is that the vast majority are done very poorly, by people with little to no idea about the real life implications of the procurements they are making. These days we routinely get servicemen embedded into procurement teams to try and prevent this happening. But their recommendations routinely get overturned by beancounters. Where's the BOFH when you need him?

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