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

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

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  1. Greg

    Photovoltaics for me

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

  2. Neil Greatorex
    Coat

    About time someone raised their head above the parapet.

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

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

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

    OK, I'm leaving already :^)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Wind power is dead....

    ....long live Nuclear power!

    (that should get the greenies shrieking)

  4. Mark

    Stop sunsidising coal

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

  5. anonymous coward
    Thumb Up

    More R & D needed

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

    They should be rated for different enviroments.

  6. Bez

    @Mark

    "Stop sunsidising coal" (sic)

    Coal? Surely you mean solar power...

  7. lee harvey osmond
    Paris Hilton

    does this mean ...

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

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

  8. Martin Owens

    It doesn't much please

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

  9. Graham Dawson

    @Mark

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

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

  10. Julian Lawton

    Electricity prices double?

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

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Neil Greatorex

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

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

  12. James Bassett
    Happy

    Excellent

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

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

  13. Jean-Luc Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Kudos on them for having had the honesty of saying it

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

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

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

  14. David Edwards
    Stop

    I was all for it until

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

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

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

  15. David Pollard

    It's rather sad really

    So few can be bothered to do the sums.

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

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

    http://www.withouthotair.com/

    in case anyone missed it.

  16. Hywel Thomas

    @JonB

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

    I like it !

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

    Marvellous.

  17. Mark

    re: @Mark

    Bez, Graham had it a lot closer than you.

  18. Michael Habel Silver badge
    Go

    Re: Wind power is dead....

    +1 QFT

  19. Julian Back
    Unhappy

    They don't work in the country either

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

  20. Neil Greatorex
    Coat

    @ JonB

    Excellent idea...... :-)

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

    Fuel our cars :-)

    Bingo. No more reliance on "big oil"

    Heh!

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

    Mine still has "Phuck off Phorm" in Rhinestones

  21. Henry

    PhotoVoltaics are even more polluting than Windmills

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

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    insulation

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

  23. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down

    A lot of people? Really?

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

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

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @AC

    >Wind power is dead....

    >....long live Nuclear power!

    >(that should get the greenies shrieking)

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

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

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

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

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

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

  25. neil

    @AC 14:43

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

  26. David Cornes
    Stop

    @ JonB

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

  27. Herby Silver badge

    But wind turbines MIGHT work if...

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

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Human power

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

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

    car the extra fuel for weight load is negligible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    the planet.

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

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

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

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

    to see their energy stores.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. Simpson

    nuclear

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

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

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

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    ....and somehow this is NEWS

    Even Paris could have worked this out...

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

    Specialist subject - the bleeding obvious.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Pfft!

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

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

  33. Chris G Silver badge

    Not PV

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

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

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

    Save all Krill Nuke the Whales!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

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

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

    ...

    Whales! Breed 'em to burn 'em!

  35. Ross

    Was it just me?

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

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

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

  36. Geoff Gale

    Development of Higher Efficiency Nuclear Energy Processes

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

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

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

  37. Scott

    @AC

    By Anonymous Coward

    Posted Thursday 7th August 2008 16:18 GMT

    Paris ... Breeder

    Kindly keep you nightmare apocalypse scenarios to yourself

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    RE: I was all for it until

    @David Edwards

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

    Larger turbines require larger rotor blades.

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

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

    Any happier now?

  39. Lozzyho
    Flame

    That's nothing

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

    Only public money...

  40. dervheid
    Unhappy

    @ Graham Dawson

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

    True.

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

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

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

    No, that isn't a typo.

  41. Steve Button
    Linux

    Putting the world to rights.

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

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

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

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

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

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An industry built around government subsidies, shome mishtake shurely!

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

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

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

  43. Mark

    Re: Was it just me?

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

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

    Mwron

  44. Stuart

    Stupid idea anyway

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

  45. JohnG Silver badge

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

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

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

    Agreed - me too.

  46. A J Stiles
    Flame

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

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

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

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

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

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    re. Stop sunsidising coal

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

  48. Tom Silver badge

    Most people who put up a windmill

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

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

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

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

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

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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

    Here are some numbers.

    1kw pv = £3500 new

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

    2kw solar water heater £1200 new.

    total investment $5000 ish.

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

    Result

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

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

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

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

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

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

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear Power

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

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

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

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tom

    >1,000,000 crap innefficient £300 windmills will generate more

    >electricity than a nuclear power station

    The most recent nuclear station in the UK Sizewell B produces 1188MW.

    Your cheapo windmils would have to churn out a kilowatt each. Your 70A 12V alternator produces a maximum 840W giving a theoretical max production of 840MW. When the wind blows.

    Then subtract the energy required to service 1,000,000 geographically dispersed windmills.

    Large wind turbines will always produce more power more efficiently than little windmills on peoples houses, so that's where the money should be spent, if you're going to spend it on windmills.

    >that was built to provide profits for the already rich and will be a

    >serious terrorist target*

    Ah the old commie rant/terrorist fear double whammy super combo.

  52. Robin A. Flood
    Paris Hilton

    STORAGE !

    ALL TOGETHER NOW: It's not the GENERATION of power that's the problem, it's STORING it so it can be used when needed. Jeeze, how often do I have to say it: STORAGE, STORAGE, STORAGE !

    Paris 'cos she understands storage. Or something rhyming with that.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC / Andrew Crystall

    >We have "100 years" as 20 years ago we had "a few decades" of oil. It's genuinely early in exploiting resources of uranium, and even if we did run out of uranium (and you can get a lot back from breeder reactors) we could turn to the thorium cycle, where there's at least several times the fuel avaliable.

    I think that 100 years was already incorporating the underestimates made by typical geo-surveying. A couple of months ago, New Scientist had an article estimating 50-80 years total known reserves and less than 20 before we hit peak production, with no-one willing to gamble on finding new reserves

    I think you've missed the point the AC was trying to make - it's about cost, not volume. Even if we did find a new source of uranium, we can guarantee it's going to be damn difficult to dig out and process, because we have now looked in every place where we might find easy-to-extract uranium. So, we find enough for a 1000 years tomorrow? Great, but you'll find it's somewhere like the bottom of the Marianis trench, on an asteroid, or 30 miles underground. It's going to cost to get it. So fuel price is going to go up.

    The AC also mentioned breeder reactors and the thorium cycle, and I'm afraid (s)he's right - it's no good claiming breeders are a solution unless we start building them NOW. We need them online before the uranium gets expensive, and that's not a long way off. Thorium reactors are a good answer, but again, we need to be developing their tech and building the reactors as soon as possible, and hardly anyone is even looking at them.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    @JonB

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

    I like it as well... in fact let's go a bit further - we should extend this to the unemployed claiming benefits as well... so benefit money could be based on a KWh exchange rate...

    There are currently about 800,000 claiming jobseekers allowance, so we've got quite a good generating capacity there - while they're not doing much else they can help with the energy crisis, thereby becoming a boon for society.

    With 4 hours a day, they'd generate about:

    880,000 x 200Wh x 4hrs = 704,000 KW

    That's 704 MW (Sizewell B nuclear station produces 1,188 MW, so that's over half a nuclear power station!)

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Devil's Advocate

    Of course, this all assumes that oil and gas has begun to run out, or will in the near future. But nobody knows whether this is the case or not, because any calculation based on reserves estimates (a la Hubbert) can be safely compared to pissing in the wind. If you've ever seen the amount of fixing and bullshit that goes into these reports then you know what I mean. They're political / commercial documents and no technical conclusions can be drawn from them.

    What we have at the moment is a crisis of supply, not a crisis of accumulation. I predict that if Iraq begins to ramp up its production in the next few years, the oil price will stabilise and even begin to drop, but not back down to $20-30/barrel. But since a barrel of oil has traditionally been valued at less than a barrel of mineral water, maybe we're all paying closer to what we should be now.

    We may be in a period of long-term decline, but it will be a damned long tail, with quite a few surprises along the way...

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear RIP.

    Hands up who thinks that nuclear power will save us from the energy crisis. you poor deluded fools, there is no way new nuclear will be built in this country no matter how strong the will to make BAU continue forever. Peak oil will see that all the costs grow so fast for everything from the steel and concrete to the exotic materials and fuel will just be so expensive that it will just never happen. Even if they started now it would just soak up all the available energy investment money and leave us with multiple multi billion pound holes in the ground. we have so missed the nuclear boat. Time to get that new jumper, start a garden and get on your bike, and maybe just invest in a windmill and solar.

  57. DevonHammer

    CO2 in production

    Firstly I've checked the figures for where I live and it's not worth getting a small wind turbine and I live in the countryside so I'm convinced these things are more about cash than reducing CO2 (plus nuclear doesn't seem too bad an option to me) but on the general green power debate...

    The CO2 cost of production is often comapred to the power generated during the lifecycle. If it costs more than it generates then the method is jumped on as being terrible, but it could still be "carbon quite small" even if it's not carbon neutral. Once the thing is manufactured the CO2 produced for every watt is zero. On the other hand the CO2 cost of building a coal fired power station is immense, but even if it were low every watt of electricity results in CO2. Therefore this is not a like for like comparison. Surely we shouldn't reject something for only being excellent rather than perfect.

  58. DevonHammer

    @ Robin A. Flood

    What rhymes with storage? I'm missing the joke, I've only come up with forage and porridge.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC : A Nation of Cyclists

    The unemployed don't have anything better to do, so they can cycle at peak times as well, coincidentally that also shifts their own demand flattening the demand peak.

    Hmmm.. JSA is running at :-

    * Person aged 16-17: £35.65

    * Person aged 18-24: £46.85

    * Person aged 25 or over: £59.15

    My daytime leccy is around 20p/KWh (for the green stuff) so;

    16-17 yr olds should produce 178 KWh / Week.

    18-24 yr olds should produce 234 KWh / Week

    25+ 295KWh/Week.

    At a maximum that's 42KWh /day (7 days) assuming they can pedal for 8 hours, they need to generate 5267 Watts...

    Ironically if they tried to pedal slower but for longer the night rate would kick in and they'd get even less for their efforts.

  60. rhydian
    Stop

    @Tom

    Your £70 70A alternator was probably a service exchange one, new ones from Bosch/Lucas are about £120 retail (unless I'm buying them from the wrong place)

    But I'm a member of the nuclear camp, In my area (Mid/North Wales) we have both windfarms and a former reactor, and I'd much rather the reactor, as it's much more compact with regards to land use and generates a great deal more electricity for more of the time.

    Also, we have a lot of microgeneration as there are still many farms without a mains connection, these tend to be on Diesel generators, as wind turbines are simply not reliable enough, even the centre of alternative technology down the road (aka Hippie Heaven) have two great big diesel generators as backup to their renewable supplies. To me, that says a lot.

  61. A J Stiles
    Boffin

    Going Micro

    If you really want microgeneration, it would be more sensible to build yourself a CHP system using a diesel (read: used cooking oil) engine, some 24V truck alternators, open-vented lead-acid batteries and old UPSes -- basically, just 24-to-230V inverters, but they can be picked up very cheaply second-hand when the original crappy sealed lead-acid batteries can no longer hold a charge. The engine's cooling system is plumbed through your existing radiator circuit using a three-way valve to select between it and the boiler. You can also add a 230V alternator into the mix, but you might end up having to buy this new rather than bodging it out of scrap.

    The electricity you generate won't be suitable for feeding back into the grid, but you should cut down on your gas consumption by transferring heating to biodiesel (aside: since this is a non-roadgoing application, it won't impact on your 2500, or 5000 if you have a climate-change-denialist in your street, litres p.a.) and generate a fair proportion of your electricity needs. The batteries mean you can have your juice when it's needed. And it doesn't depend on the sun shining brightly enough or the wind blowing at the right speed -- only on people eating chips!

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Heart

    micro generation plant

    They should change the regulation in the UK to make it possible for every land owner in a rural area to set up one full size wind turbine without legal hassle from the local communities, neighbours and councils. Look at what the Swedes have done - you can today see one full size windturbine next to every other farm. These are often rather centrally located on those properties and so do not generally interfere with neighbours properties.

    Except for adding their beatiful posture to the views of the "open landscape" in the countryside ofcourse!

    oh - thats why it will never work here in the UK... tsss

  63. Flocke Kroes Silver badge
    Alert

    @"880,000 x 200Wh x 4hrs = 704,000 KW"

    You mean 200W, not 200Wh

    880,000 x 200W x 4hrs/day = 704MWhrs/day

    Sizewell B nuclear station produces 1,188 MW and runs about 24 hours per day, or 28512MWhrs/day.

    If you increase unemployment and prison population by a factor of ten (probably the correct government targets), and double the number of hours they pedal/row then they are almost equal to half a Sizewell B. As a punishment for incompetent arithmetic, repeat "Educational standards are not falling" three times. (This is how politicians deal with problems, so it must work ;-)

    The price of a mini windmill has nothing to do with materials or engineering. Manufacturers can sell sufficient windmills if they can show payback in ten years (with inappropriate figures for maintenance and wind speed). Double the peak power output, and you can double the selling price.

    The interest on a loan for £5000 for photovoltaic + solar heating + windmill is similar to my gas+electricity bills. Now add costs installation, maintenance and energy storage (because the sun does not shine at night, and the wind hardly ever blows). I would rather spend my money on insulation and heat recovery ventilation.

  64. Gianni Straniero
    Boffin

    Water, water everywhere

    George Monbiot will be pleased. He gives micro-wind pretty short shrift in "Heat", saying they're more likely to rip the side of your house off, or poze a hazard to light aircraft, than generate any useful power.

    So now this is dead, can we have another look at mini- and micro-hydro? There are hundreds, if not thousands of sites in the UK where you can re-use existing mill estate to produce electricity. It's not as simple as hooking a generator up to the millwheel and letting the race do the rest, as these handy resources will demonstrate:

    http://www.british-hydro.co.uk/index.asp

    http://www.claptonmill.co.uk/mill.htm#hydro

    Still, it's nice that periods of high rainfall coincide with periods of higest electricity demand, i.e. winter.

  65. conan

    Flats

    Am I the only Reg reader who lives in a flat? All this talk of putting a solar water heater in your home is all very well for those that live in 2-up, 2-down town houses but does anybody have microgeneration suggestions for the (reasonable) number of people who live in a flat, and therefore don't have their own roof?

    Now, my reasons for wanting microgeneration aren't green (I believe the greatest carbon savings come from building the biggest power plants possible), and they're not really even financial (unless you plan to live in your property for 10+ years it just seems to cost, because nobody pays extra to buy a property with microgeneration), but largely motivated by the incredible amount of hassle it is dealing with energy suppliers. If I could open the door to nPower salespeople and laugh in their faces before going back to watching the iPlayer on my 800W gaming rig in a bath I'm topping up with the kettle guilt-free it'd be worth every penny.

    No Paris, because the only flat she knows about is lying on her back

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC open landscape

    "Except for adding their beatiful posture to the views of the "open landscape" in the countryside ofcourse!"

    Ah yes - that old one about ruing the "beauty of nature".

    Although it's not is it.

    The vast majority of this county is covered in industrial scale agriculture, with vast swathes of mono-crop fields. May be OK to look at, but certainly not 'natural'.

    Even the so called 'wilds' of the Scottish highlands, mostly bare hills and heather - are a completely man-made environment, as without us the entire country would still be covered in ancient Caledonian Forest (of which there is about 1% left). Same goes for other such 'wild' areas across the country.

    So whilst windmills may be man-made - they're no more man-made than the entire setting of the British countryside they'll be sitting in!

  67. Secretgeek

    Micro-gen DOES work!!!

    A relative of mine had no connection to the grid for a whole year, his only source of power was a 6 foot turbine and this was more than adequate for him and his family's electricity requirements. So there, it does work, have it!

    Admittedly, he was living in a caravan in a field in the country at the time so in fairness his leccy requirements were almost nil.

    But apart from that.....

  68. Peter

    Say what, Sancho?

    Now there's a thing. Who'da thunk and why did no one mention this before? Could have spared all sorts of eco-savvy folk money and looking like enviROI-numpties... like our next PM, for instance. Arthur, bring up more coal from the bunker, if you please! George, throw a few more rods in the reactor! Gives me a warm glow (I hope that's all it is) just thinking of the brain power being deployed on our behalves.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @ AC posted Friday 8th August 2008 12:41 GMT

    Exactly something the greens, planners and nimbys all conveniently forget.

    I'm with you.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    It's a little known fact....

    that wind turbines can wreck your house as well. Why do you think we stopped using windmills mid 19C. The short answer is because of the oscillating loading caused by the sails most of them had to be put out of use before they fell apart. The cost of maintaining them was higher than the cost of fossil energy. If you buy one big enough to make a real contribution to your energy consumption do not under any circumstances fasten to to your house.

    Nothing new here then.

    Of course you might want to stay awake on a windy night with your wind turbine is drumming away. On the other hand you could take it back to the DIY store and complain about the noise. Do not be surprised if you get the answer "What do you expect? It is a windmill".

  71. Sam

    Alternative alternative

    Piezoelectric cloth?

  72. Jon Kale
    Boffin

    @Anonymous Coward - Devil's Advocate

    While you're almost certainly right to disbelieve any published numbers for "proven" (meaning "not proven") and "probable" (meaning "wishful") oil reserves (famously, the House of Saud has published near-identical reserves numbers for the last thirty years, implying that, conveniently, they're finding oil as fast as they're pumping it), a more enlightening view of the industry comes from looking at the jobs they're hiring for now, and what those hires are doing.

    At a party the other week, I was chatting to a girl who turned out to be an exploration geologist who spent her days inspecting "empty" oil fields to try and work out whether it was worth sinking a butt-load of cash into them to try and recover the last few percent, and what the oil price needed to be to make them profitable. (Precising), her opinion was that from an exploration perspective we hit peak oil several years ago: finding new reserves is becoming harder and harder, they're in ever-more unappealing locations and they're not as big as they used to be.

    However, if you fancy a career staring at seismograph plots trying to work out whether there's any Texas T left under them thar hills then this is your time...

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @conan : Flats

    Oh I did chuckle at the idea of Conan living in a flat....

    I too am flat bound with no outside space for any of this junk at all. However I suspect those of us with such a massively small land footprint are also those with the smallest carbon footprint. Given that flat dwellers are mostly in towns and cities within either walking or public transport distance to work, there's probably not much more you could do.

    @AC: Ah yes - that old one about ruing the "beauty of nature".

    Quite right, it annoys me when farmers go on about "maintaining" the countryside, like it needs their bloody maintenance! It's hardly going to revert to a concrete wasteland without them is it?

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    You wouldn't get much power out of me

    I had a similar idea about prisoners generating electrcity and posted it elsewhere on the internet around 2005. The unemployment figures are roughly 1.65 million (not quite sure where I read that), so in addition with prisoners all doing exercise i suppose you could generate enough to power a light bulb or two. I think those who suggested/agree with it should stand as Labour MP's as it is the same barmy intellectual nonsense coming from the PPE politicos. If you alerted your current (Labour) MP to this, I'm sure it would become a reality in 2057 or something like, but it would all grind to a halt due to Health & Safety/Diversity/Equality legislation, not to mention cost. As for turbines, there's no demand for them. I spoke to a couple of (would be) installers and they said that in the majority of cases customers wouldn't get planning permission. I'm off for a stroll in England's grey and unpleasant land. Ooo, a brown envelope full of cash... aren't turbines brilliant?

  75. William Bronze badge

    The Green Brigade

    Oh, I remember those chappies and chapesses from my student days. They spent fortunes on clothes that looked like there were from a jumble sale. Obviously they were not from a jumble sale as no self respecting jumble sale organiser (or donater come to mention it) would ever sell anything as grotty. Oh no, that look was designer.

    They also used to smoke considerable amounts of skunk. Of course not a thought was paid to the carbon footprint created by growing the weed. (HINT: If you changed your house into a grow house then your electicity bill would be that of a small factory and the police would be alerted.)

    I won't even begin to go into all the chemicals that were introduced into the environment by their consumption of other drugs. Not to mention the deforestation and exploitation in third world countries.

    But they were so self righteous about it all. I recall they once had a protest and blocked a dual carriageway in Manchester. Reclaim the streets the proclaimed. They had a megawatt sound system blaring out music whilst they all danced around in their designer rags smoking weed and ingesting e's and snorting coke. In the background a fuckoff big generator powering it all. But hey, they had a point to make - right. SAVE THE PLANET!! Tossers.

  76. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Go

    Trehugger comments...

    We have maybe 100 years of nuke fuel left at current consumption rates.

    - assuming we don't dig any more up. That figure comes from 'proven reserves', which essentially are those we found before the 1960s (when we stopped looking). Any reasonable estimate gives upwards of 1000 years (at increased consumption rates), and that's not counting breeder reactors, which would do away with any shortage at all...

    Demand is rising, especially if we want to replace any fossil usage with nuke. We are close to peak nuke fuel production (so prices are going to rise).

    - peak nuke fuel!??!! there is an essentially limitless supply in all the world's granite! This cries out for a cite...

    We are not building breeder reactors...

    - actually, we are not building reactors full stop. We should start immediately...

  77. A J Stiles
    Flame

    Greenies and big generators

    There was one event billed as "green" whose organisers attempted to ban petrol and diesel generators from site.

    Such a policy would almost certainly have led to most of the electricity used there originating from disposable batteries; probably about the most magenta* way of getting the stuff, especially given that this was in the days before white LEDs, so torch bulbs were filament bulbs. Disposable batteries create way more pollution than even those cheaply-made 2-stroke generators that have suspiciously-increasing VA ratings every time they are advertised.

    * work it out .....

  78. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Stop

    What is this?

    "A couple of months ago, New Scientist had an article estimating 50-80 years total known reserves and less than 20 before we hit peak production, with no-one willing to gamble on finding new reserves..."

    The New Scientist? Citing a once-reputable magazine which has turned into a Greenpeace house mag? For a comment on this estimate from the British Geological Society, see http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19526140.700-uranium-reserves.html

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

    Umm. I have looked at the theory of AGW. Oddly, it's not a proven hypothesis. It goes like this:

    1 - The CO2 concentration has been going up.

    2 - The average temperature of the world has been going up

    3 - If the two are related, it might be that the CO2 (which 'absorbs' sunlight), is causing a bit of warming which causes more water vapour to form in a runaway feedback. Note that there are several ifs there.

    4 - We can model this proposal on a computer, and if we pick the right figures, we can get the model to match the earlier warming.

    5 - So the world is in peril unless we lower the CO2

    Normally, a scientific hypothesis remains theoretical until it has actually made predictions which can be tested. Oddly, this hasn't happened with AGW. No predictions have been formally made and tested at all. Various phenomena, such as a stratospheric 'hot spot' are implied by AGW, but these have not been found to exist in reality. When increased CO2 and temperature are found in ice core data, the temperature always comes before the increased CO2. When this contary datais produced, odd mathematical fudges are produced to explain the lack of corroborating evidence away. Occasionally, people with embarrassing counter evidence are denied the opportunity to print. Appeals are made to 'concensus' and 'authority', but no one is proposing or funding investigations which are designed to prove or diprove the hypothesis.

    There are now sets of embarrassing data, indicating, for instance, that the Earth is no longer warming up. Oddly, no one pays attention to these...

    So, no, I don't think it's a gamble to reject this hypothesis. If I'm wrong then we might live in a Mediterranean climate, but there is no AGW proof, just assertion in the face of ever more negative evidence. I am being asked to drink the Kool-Aid and then jump on a passing comet....

  79. John B Stone

    But is its carbon footprint lower than fossil fuel?

    Shouldn't the question be whether its lifetime carbon footprint is overall less than generating the same energy using the most efficient fossil fuel? Not whether it is carbon neutral.

    It's not going to be economic anytime soon though.

  80. Mark

    Re: What is this?

    "1 - The CO2 concentration has been going up.

    2 - The average temperature of the world has been going up

    3 - If the two are related, it might be that the CO2 (which 'absorbs' sunlight), is causing a bit of warming which causes more water vapour to form in a runaway feedback. Note that there are several ifs there.

    4 - We can model this proposal on a computer, and if we pick the right figures, we can get the model to match the earlier warming.

    5 - So the world is in peril unless we lower the CO2"

    So what's wrong? This is true. Aoart from #3 which is "absorbs IR radiation from the earth" and #4 is misleading (are they supposed to pick figures that predict the wrong climate???).

    What predictions haven't been met? Ten year old climate runs are correct within known errors for the climate seen in the ten years so far since they were done. Were they supposed to fast forward the earth or create a new one to test the models against?

    As to "the earth is no longer warming up", this supposes

    a) that the earth was warming, which shows AGW HAS been accurately predicted (from way back in the 17th century!!!)

    b) presumes that you can draw that conclusion from the result

    (b) is quite amusing: you're accusing climatologists of picking the right numbers and yet you go straight ahead and do it yourself! Hilarious!!!

    Oh, and when you're living in a Medditeranean climate, what about those people who WERE in the Med? Will they just have to put up with Saharan climate? Or will they move north to avoid death? And we already have shitloads of problems with BNP and the Daily Hate Mail reader complaining about "johhny foreigner" coming over here and living.

  81. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark : As to "the earth is no longer warming up", this supposes

    >a) that the earth was warming,

    Yes, it supposes that.

    >which shows AGW HAS been accurately predicted (from way back in the 17th century!!!)

    This is a random conclusion though, simply because the earth warmed in the past doesn't mean it was man-made. The earth cooled in the past, presumably you don't assume that mankind caused the last ice-age?

    The recent events in Georgia, and our utter inability to influence them should make it abundantly clear that we need an alternative energy supply regardless of whether or not the AGW deniers are wrong or not. We're dependent upon a broad array of utter nut jobs for our fuel supplies.

  82. Mark

    @JonB

    "This is a random conclusion though, simply because the earth warmed in the past doesn't mean it was man-made. The earth cooled in the past, presumably you don't assume that mankind caused the last ice-age?"

    Nope, CO2 was predicted in the 17th century.

    How do you make that out to be a random conclusion? Even odder, your query IS a random conclusion.

    No, the 17th century did not have Arrhenius decide that humans caused the last ice age. Where did you get the idea he did?

  83. jason bennett

    @AC

    "We have maybe 100 years of nuke fuel left at current consumption rates."

    This argument put forward, mostly by the "green brigade" really gets my goat. Yes if you are referring to known Uranium deposits they may only last for 100 years. What this fail to take into account however is a number a rather large points. Firstly more reserves are being found, improvement in extraction techniques can make existing reserves far more viable. Secondly, why do people (mostly ignorant of how nuclear power is generated) believe Uranium is the only element that can be used in fission stations? Ever heard of Thorium?

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