back to article Windfarm Britain means (very) expensive electricity

A recent industry study into the UK energy sector of 2030 - which according to government plans will use a hugely increased amount of wind power - suggests that massive electricity price rises will be required, and some form of additional government action in order to avoid power cuts. This could have a negative impact on plans …

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  1. James Micallef Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Nothing new here

    Renewables are more expensive than carbon-based, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Our current use of cheapo leccy does not take into account how expensive it really is in environmental terms. If we want to clean up the environment, it comes at a cost, and politicians are afraid to say so publicly.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Discrepancy

    "In other words, nobody would want to build and maintain a power station with no reliable idea how much it would get used from one year to the next"

    "So we're talking power cuts on a fairly routine basis", bit of a discrepancy there, bit of scaremongering perhaps?!

    Interconnectors still seem a good idea. Someone owning one could charge for the electricity sent through it, like a toll road. Clearly if one side of the connector has higher demand and lower supply the market would pay the toll as well as the cost of the electricity from the other end? Especially as this reduces the requirement for thermal backup plant. Can someone explain how this removes the price differential?

    People pollute. Perhaps if everyone had fewer children then there wouldn't be a ballooning global 7+ billion population.

  3. Grumpytom
    WTF?

    3rd World

    Is this a subversive plan to totally f up our country in totality? Just how can you manufacture, home work, keep clean, have water, run sewerage plants et al without 100% reliable, 100% of the time power. This is back to the caves stuff brought about by weird beards, bad science and gerrymandering politicians who are blinded by spin and rhetoric and some sort of international competitive negativity of doom and gloom.

    As I peer at the rain, part of our long wet summer I wonder if all those enjoying the GW grant scams are sunning themselves in Bali or some other exotic venue (soon to be flooded no doubt)

    How come they never meet in Scunthorpe?

  4. Jelliphiish

    hydrogen cell in every home

    and deliveries of H in some containerised format?

  5. Mike Street
    Thumb Up

    Extraordinary Bias from the BBC

    Thank you for this report. I have written to the BBC complaining about Harrabin's daft effort, and quoting the url for this story.

    The BBC's pro-wind bias (and pro-AGW 'consensus') is always there, but seldom as clear as here.

  6. John Lamb

    hydro?

    Isn't hydro-electric a possibility for storing the excess "cheap" wind-generated electricity until it is needed? Pump water uphill when there is extra electricity, run it back down through turbines when there is a shortage. No idea how much capacity we currently have or would need, though.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    normal prices?

    Fossil energy prices aren't normal. They are grossly subsidised by tens or hundreds of millions of years worth of solar power conversion by the earth's biosphere and geology.

  8. The Dorset Rambler
    FAIL

    Let's face it...

    Nuclear is the only real option whether we like it or not.

    There may be a case for small windfarms serving small communities that want them, but vast swathes of the countryside covered in [ugly/beautiful] windmills just aint gonna happen.

    There were plans for a small (I think it was 6 turbines) windfarm a few miles away. You should have seen the fuss with world + dog + local mp all nimby'ing away.

    Refused in the end.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Suprised...

    not really, I mean it's common sense to all but the fanatics and the polititians.

    Not very common in those circles then!

    I'll do the next report for half the price, it cost how much????

  10. Scott 19
    IT Angle

    Hope you don't mind

    I've just comment to the BBC that they may want to spend some of the Chief Excs expenses on researching stories and bloggers, i linked your article hope you don't mind. If it wasn't for Dr Who and Match of the Day i wouldn't use there services.

    And the report sounds very clear and consise on what it was about, 30 pages ain't bad as even an MP could find time between fiddling expesnses to read this and maybe realise a better plan other than lets let wind solve all our problems.

    Just need to design a sustem that is compact and can store leccy at peoples homes when its at o% cost and take it on Dragons Den.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    What did they expect?

    When electricity and gas are in the hands of the private sector they will always look for the quickest return on investment. For a matter such as this, where it will effect everybody, then a national program funded by the exchequer to bring the utilities back into public ownership so that the profits could be ploughed back into the infrastructure, instead of lining foreign share owners pockets. Price hikes will only mean that this recessions lasts longer and longer as people reign in their spending even further. But why is demand increasing? too many people, old generating capacity not being replaced. It comes as no surprise that the BBC is not telling people about these issues, when they have an agenda of their own, and as to politicians being less than truthful...LOL UK Government EPIC FAIL Gordon Clown and the Labour Gang EPIC FAIL in everything they do.

  12. Jacob Sparre Andersen

    Separate payment for capacity and consumption

    Is it only in Italy, that electricity consumers pay for having the right to consume a certain peak effect?

    If we split out the capacity cost and the production/delivery cost, then it will become much more obvious that the economy behind on-demand and nature-controlled electricity production is very different. But at the same time, it will also make the playing field more even, and make it easier to see the price tag.

    If the price of capacity is too high, maybe people will be able to figure out that they don't really need to run the washing machine, the dish washer and the electrical oven at the same time as they are ironing and boiling water for tea (and thus actually reduce the capacity need).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    do some research

    So there is no way to store the excess power collected during peak wind for use later?

    I assume you've not heard of DINORWIG POWER STATION a.k.a Electric Mountain?

    We already have the technology that means we do not need all the old power stations to be maintained to keep us in power during those few hours of zero wind.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're back.

    Good stuff.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Economy 7

    Actually you don't need to mitigate intermittency at all, you just sell it as intermittent like Economy 7 was sold, as intermittent electricity for intermittent use as a slight discount. e.g. charge your cars spare power pack with cheap 'leccy, warm your storage heater with cheap 'leccy etc.

    Power cuts? Why? The only reason we are winding down oil generated electricity is because oil production is winding down. This has nothing to do with wind farms, it is a consequence of not being able to afford high oil prices for electricity generation. Does wind capacity help that or not?

    The cost argument only works when the electricity companies claim they need backup capacity and factor that into the cost, but this just large centralised electricity companies trying to argue that large centralised electricity generation is the future... they have a strong interest in arguing that. Contingency plants not needed for electricity sold as intermittent.

    The bird and bat chopping argument I see sometimes is also false, having lived near those large turbines at Aachen, I have never ever seen a single dead bird or bat in the grass underneath. So I believe this is a bogus claim aimed at trying to make an emotional argument.

    So lets do the windfarms and quit letting the electricity generators complain about the competition.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this for real?

    Firstly, the idea of energy storage is completely ignored here.

    That is surprising in itself because just this week a boffin announced he'd come up with a super efficient green battery that could be used to store large amounts of electricity. Theoretically, enough of these connected to the grid would rule out any possible power fluctuations.

    Secondly, as energy efficiency becomes more of an issue, there will be less demand per home...

  17. Perpetual Cyclist
    Unhappy

    Very expensive electricity...

    ...is not avoidable.

    In case you hadn't noticed, ten years ago the UK was a net energy exporter. North Sea oil and gas were a major revenue generator, for the private sector and the public purse.

    UK oil production peaked in 1999 and has declined at 7% per year for a decade. Gas similarly. We are now a net importer of oil, gas, coal and (French nuclear) electricity. This is not cheap, and it is going to get a LOT more expensive. The UK government has a current account deficit of £800Billion, and yet is paying to bail out private banks who are largely owned by foreign shareholders. The banks, previously our other main revenue earner, are on life-support. What little is left of our manufacturing industry (cars, steel, wind turbines) are all being shut down.

    The current value of Stirling is unsustainable. It is bound to fall hard soon.

    If we don't invest very heavily in renewables, (mostly wind, some tidal) then in ten years a bankrupt UK will be importing 80% of its energy needs using ever more worthless pound notes.

    Renewable energy infrastructure may not be cheap, but the wind is free, forever.

    Nuclear stations will not be built fast enough to offset the decline in available energy, Without energy we do not have industrial society. The UK has a critical energy crisis.

    (Not to mention the global supply peak of oil that happened last year - or climate change!)

  18. J Ford
    Boffin

    Not insurmountable

    The solution to an intermittant supply is to create storage and also adjust demand to match supply where this can be done practically. We have enough time to think up these solutions before wind becomes more dominant in supply.

    Hydroelectric storage facilities to cope with peak demand already exist, although there may be limits for suitable sites to create many more of these. Using wind energy to create hydrogen via electrolysis is another possibility (which could be used for thermal generation or transport).

    On the supply side, all these electric cars and other devices are going to need charging, however an intelligent charging/metering system (similar in principle to economy 7) could be envisaged whereby battery charging is prioritised at times of peak availability. Perhaps this could be encouraged by a variable tariff changing dynamically with supply - with the user setting the maximum price they want to pay for the charge & the system cutting out when this is exceeded (so the wealthy can still pay more if they absolutely *must* need a full charge for their overconsumptive wagons the next morning). If battery capacity and drive system efficiency sees massive improvement and a weekly rather than daily charge routine becomes the norm it will become a case of deciding which night to plug in the charger, people will be watching the 'supply forecast' after the news and weather to inform such decisions.

    Other energy uses could be considered on similar principles, not every use of energy has to be met at an immediate point in time.

  19. Chris Cooke

    pump storage

    This is why we're building new pump storage power stations.

  20. MarkJ
    FAIL

    Fossil fuel, what fossil fuel?

    I like the implication that building a power grid that relies on sources other than fossil fuels is an option. Simple scarcity of resource will crank gas, oil and coal prices through the roof. A KWh of Welsh/Scottish wind or a KWh of comrade Putin's most precious gas, which is cheaper in the long run?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    meh

    i want coal power i cant afford bloody renewable

    no its not a matter of choice im just dead broke trying to support 4 people on a 21,000 pay which the goverment decreed 8 years ago to be more than enough to survive.

    Oh yeah but if i go on the dole i would earn more than that

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Funny...

    I was thinking myself (during a thunderstorm) that it might be an idea to buy some candles incase the power went off...

    Looks like it might be time to invest.

    iHate - because I need power to comment on the reg!!!!!!

  23. Mark #255
    Boffin

    @John Lamb and AC

    hydroelectric storage would help through a calm, but only until the water's all run through. The UK's pumped storage facilities can store about 30 GWh, about one eighth of a day's requirements. (Source: www.withouthotair.com )

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    Best to wring our hands and wait, then

    Interesting that at no point in either this report or El Reg's reporting is there any assumption other than that the current "market" is sacrosanct, and not part of this potential future problem. If the world is changing, why should our religious belief in "the market" be exempt from criticism?

    The reality is that we are late weaning ourselves off the status quo, and while yes, the apparent emphasis on wind power does strike one as a stupidly silver bullet approach, when clearly we have a lot to learn about renewable sources, and when diversity seems to be the more sensible approach. But in the same way as the BBC is accused of an unhelpful editorial bias, El Reg's approach does suffer from the same issue. It would be great to see these issues covered in a rather more positive way. The most obvious way of doing this would be to link renewable reports with certain well-known Asus 701 marketing images. (sorry, not sure where that thought came from.)

  25. Hermes (nine inch) Conran
    Dead Vulture

    Vulture Swallows Fossil Industry Guff

    So a group of companies who are heavily invested in fossil fuel power stations brings out a paper slagging off renewables and El Reg swallows it hook, line and stinker. There is a market like this already, it's called Nord Kraft and the scandanavian countries use it to buy and sell electricity. Yes there are times when the price goes negative and there are industries that have sprung up to exploit this,. Yes it had reduced the share of the market for Oil, Coal and Gas fired power stations but only their owners think it's a bad thing. The market is there and it works, this report is just the latest in a long line of attack jobs by those invested in the status quo and should be looked at with more of a sceptical eye than the Reg seems to posess in this field....

  26. Old Tom
    Alert

    Re: pump storage

    To the pump storage respondents:

    Yes, we have pump storage, which is very useful for short-term fluctuations in demand - BUT it can never have the capacity, to last for a couple of days of no wind.

    Yes, we have a connection with France (Nuclear) - but what happens when one February, low pressure sits stationary over Western Europe? France will not have the capacity to bail us and Germany - plus a ruck of smaller countries - out.

  27. Tom Oliva

    As Your Neughbour.....

    In discussions about electricity I find it exasperating that European mainland prices aren't quoted.

    We now pay ~15p a unit

    The French ~ 4.5p a unit

    The Germans ~8p a unit

    So we're being stuffed ~400% for our electricity by peculating politicians + penpushers who are colluding with their inefficient monopolistic cronies in the "private" energy utilities ....

    Strikes me this is like arguing the toss between paddle wheels and propellers as the ship is sinking.

    What pray, do you think the public reaction might be if this was the price of OIL ?

    Energy utilities in the UK have descended into a stinking pit of dishonesty and cheating - speculative billing is rife, the per unit billing is mired in tariff hell and they're hitting on the taxpayer for their capex budgets = no doubt nice work if you can get it...

  28. Titus Aduxass
    Alert

    What a one-sided, scare-mongering report.

    Cheap green electricity is a myth? Wake up and and smell jiggawatts - cheap electricity is a myth! A point very well made by Perpetual Cyclist if I may say.

    The idea that we should stand around saying our only source of energy is nuclear and fossil and yet the sun rises and sets every day, the tides go in and out and - on most days - there's plenty of wind.

    The only nuclear option is fusion. If that ever becomes viable then we have a solution. Assuming, of course, the nett fossil fuel exporting economies can be persauded to stop drillling/mining/selling.

    And carbon capture and storage is snake oil in my opinion.

    The only positive note I can see is that, being almost 105 years old, it won't be my problem.

    Flee the planet!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @3rd World

    " Is this a subversive plan to totally f up our country in totality? Just how can you manufacture, home work, keep clean, have water, run sewerage plants et al without 100% reliable, 100% of the time power."

    Yes you can, industries already buy intermittent electricity at a discount. It's use for pumping and other non time critical batch processes. An example of domestic intermittent power was Economy 7. Note we've also had major problems with gas supply so your nice gas powered central heating won't go on for ever either.

    e.g. you need a storage tank 10% full, so you fill it when you have cheap 'leccy to 100%, and keep it there. If it ever falls to 10% you'd have to use expensive leccy and so you ensure the capacity of the tank means you never have to do that.

  30. Darren Lingham 1

    Wind

    Wind is inherently more unreliable than other renewable sources... which is why we can't rely on it as a primary source. What wind energy can do though, is make up a sizeable proportion of our overall energy strategy going forward. Tidal energy is a much better solution as renewables go since tidal forces are as reliable as clockwork.

  31. Steven Jones

    Simple Arithmetic

    Essentially wind farms have a very large fixed cost (especially when grid enhacements are considered) with vary small variable costs (per KWh). Thermal power stations have a more modest fixed costs but (nuclear apart) high variable costs, most of which is fuel. Only if the cost of fuel for thermals rises to such a level that it compensates for the fixed costs of wind will the total cost of the Wind + Thermal be less than Thermal alone. It doesn't greatly matter what the scheme used is - somebody has to pay it. Of course if fuel costs do increase a lot (and I suspect that they would have to go up by a multiple) then eventually the Wind + Thermal mixture would cost in, but that might be a long time away.

    Now it may be (depending on your views) that the extra cost is justified. However, what we have to be very careful about is a system that doesn't provide energy security. The ROC system is a subsidy system (despite what Lewis says) - it's just that it's a cross-subsidy system wherby thermal power will be charged at a much higher rate. It's probably possible for the government to come up with a regulatory system to force energy suppliers to have the thermal power to cover for windless days, but the market rate for units provided that way on days like that is going to be eye-watering to cover the losses incurred on windy, low demand days.

    Personally I hate the ROC system - if reducing carbon emissions is the aim, then there ought to be a simple carbon tax. In principle, market dynamics would then move us towards a cost-optimised mix based on the price of carbon. Of course there is the danger then of carbon generation by proxy (as happens with manufacturing in China at the moment). I suppose it might be possible to place a carbon taxes on imports, although no doubt that would be an administrative and political nightmare, and the latter is probably enough to kill it. However, if it did work then it would automatically mean that energy-intensive industries would migrate to parts of the world where low-carbon (and hence, low-cost) power can be generated. That already happens to a certain extent with things like aluminium smelting or even server farms. However, that's without the added impetus of a "carbon tax".

  32. Blitz
    Black Helicopters

    Turn the lights off ...

    I once read that if all office buildings in the UK were required to shut their lights off at night and power down non-critical servers and workstations that we would no longer be a net importer of energy in the UK.

    Maybe that would at least buy us some time to put a sensibly balanced energy plan in place.

    I don't remember the figures but the seemed quite plausible.

    And hey, we might be able to see stars at night again.

    Black helicopters - because they won't be able to hide in our reclaimed night skies.

  33. Robin Baker

    Never Enough

    It all goes round and round: The electricity companies are promoting Economy 7 like power again, Ffestiniog and Dinorwig are mentioned (even the Scots are talking of new pump store schemes) The problem is the sheer scale of it all.

    Dinorwig took about 12 years to build and now think of the NIMBYism that would accompany the planning of a new one. It only provides 1320 MW for a limited time, to help with peak lopping where would you put the lakes for all the others we are going to need?

    Also remember why the two Welsh sites were chosen, Ffestiniog as base load for Trawsffynnth and Dinorwig for Wylfa - both nuclear plants that really like to be going 24/7 and steadily.

    I don't know an answer let alone a quick political fix. Stock up on candles and wind-up radios, cook over a hearth with a log fire. 1300 here we come again.

  34. Ian Ferguson
    Dead Vulture

    A little negative, Lewis?

    Just because the current economic plan won't work, doesn't mean we shouldn't TRY to encourage renewable power.

    I agree with you that the BBC and government are almost fanatical in their greenwashing of wind power, but likewise you should be careful not to completely damn it just to be a devil's advocate.

  35. EddieD
    Stop

    Way to miss the point...

    Renewable energy is not over priced.

    Currently our energy is underpriced - shaving margins continuously, and reaping vast bonuses for shareholders has meant that the companies haven't invested in research and development of alternative energy sources over the years, even though it has been known for decades that fossil fuels were a finite quantity, and now we're all going to have to pay for the lack of foresight.

  36. joel 7
    Linux

    BBC To Account

    Another example of BBC reporters way out of their depth. Who's going to call them to account and stop them spreading this dissinformation? More excellent journalism by El Reg though.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    energy storage

    I cannot understand why why huge projects like the Seven barage are suggested, which have little chance of being built.

    Surely with the large number of small bays around our island, we could just build some large concrete walls between the widest points with gates in to let seawater in during high tide, close these at peak time and run the water back out through turbines for the next 6 hours.

    Or even use the incoming tide to generate power as well.

    If we had quite a few such sites then surely a steady supply could be achieved.

    Probably a lot less disruptive than a huge project, and only requiring 1-2 miles worth of concrete walling/infrastructure.

    Am I missing something?

  38. Pete 2 Silver badge

    well, so much for electric cars

    If the amount of power we'll have available in the future is so paltry and expensive, we certainly won't be able to afford all these wizzy new electric vehicles that the trendy members of the meeja keep rattling on about.

    In fact, given the way people live - we'll all come home from work between 6 and 7 and expect to just plug our cars in to recharge them. However, the drain on the grid (if we still have a grid in years to come) would be so huge, that the demand of 20 million homes each trying to suck anywhere up to 10kW would probably kill it. This also makes the unrealistic assumption that the wind will be kind enough to blow a gale every weekday evening, to drive our wind-generators, or that the tides would magically change their timetable to occur at the same time every day throughout the year for the benefit of tidal powered generation.

    It will however, give rise to a whole new series of excuses for not going to, or being late for work. Still at least the roads will be clear.

  39. Colin Miller
    Thumb Up

    @John Lamb

    It is possible to store vast amounts of electricity in pumped-storage.

    Consider Loch Arklett, it is about 1km by 3km, and 300 metres above Loch Lomond. If a 10metre water depth variation is acceptable, the Loch Arklett can store about 8 GWh of energy. However, large water-level swings tend to annoy shore-nesting birds.

    Calculation is here-

    http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%281km*1km*300m*10m%29*%281kg%2Flitre%29*g+in+GWh

    Loch Arklett is part of the Loch Katrine drinking water scheme for Glasgow; Loch Katrine has about 4 times the surface area of Loch Arklett, and are at about the same hight above see level.

    I'm not sure how many other large cwms are high above lochs for further schemes.

    Tidal has predictable 25hr cycle (or 12.5 if generating on both rising and falling), and it take several days for the tide to reach right around th cost. Thus several stations placed at strategic points should be able to give a constant capacity (slightly changed by the spring/neep tide monthly cycle).

  40. mmiied

    @ storage pepol

    I am shure he has looked at storage (or somone did) and I know form my visits to both denorwig and festinagogo (sorry spelling v bad) that they can cope with v limited demand

    as to building more considering the difficulties we have building anything cos of nimby isum trying to build a new lake or 2 is nion impossible easer by far to build a nuclear plant and skip the 2 planning inquires (1 for the wind far 1 for the pump storage station) even better if we build enough nuke plants we can sell our excess leky and at least this country will be making something

    sorry that came out more hostile than I intended

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @AC 11:18 Green Batteries

    Were they the AC type of batteries or do they need yet another layer of expensive tech to make cheap wind power work?

  42. teacake

    Re: Pumped Storage

    For those commenters who are bemoaning the lack of mention of pumped storage as an alternative to thermal capacity in dealing with intermittency, the basic problem still stands. Creating pumped storage is extremely expensive and the impact very large, and who is going to want to invest in it unless the returns are very large?

    There has been a study, reported on by Lewis on this very site - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/20/mackay_on_carbon_free_uk/ - which took in pumped storage as an option. If I remember correctly, we're looking at having to convert pretty much every major body of water in the UK to pumped storage. What's that going to do to the ecosystem, particularly if some of it has to be sea water?

  43. Watashi

    Cost up front

    At least you know how much wind power is costing you. As I look out of the window at the warmer, (much) wetter summer weather predicted years ago by climate models, I wonder how much Britian is loosing in tourism as a result of global warming. Hundreds of millions a year?

    Green energy will be expensive, but the argument from the climate scientists has always been that the cost of continuing with fossil fuels will be much, much greater.

  44. MGJ
    Headmaster

    Nuclear

    So Nuclear is the only option then according to The Dorset Rambler; OK tell me where all the fuel is going to come from in the UK. AFAIK we have no real large deposits of any of the potential fuels for fission; what we do have is masses of wind and tidal power on tap, plus some solar.

    How many of our current disasterous wars are based on access to fuel sources from abroad? Do you really want to do that again with uranium (which is not finite in any case, so in 50 years time we end up back here in any case, but with masses of radiated waste to deal with). Nuclear is a short term dead end

  45. Gary Moran

    Usual Greenpeace Propaganda

    So what are the counter arguments to Mr Page’s article:

    < Perhaps if everyone had fewer children then there wouldn't be a ballooning global 7+ billion population.>

    Misanthropy

    <Isn't hydro-electric a possibility for storing the excess "cheap" wind-generated electricity until it is needed? >

    Ignorance – pumped storage can’t cope

    <If the price of capacity is too high, maybe people will be able to figure out that they don't really need to run the washing machine, the dish washer and the electrical oven at the same time as they are ironing and boiling water for tea >

    Control-freakery

    < That is surprising in itself because just this week a boffin announced he'd come up with a super efficient green battery that could be used to store large amounts of electricity. >

    Science Fiction

    < Nuclear stations will not be built fast enough to offset the decline in available energy >

    Propaganda – wind energy is diffuse, so it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to build realistic (as opposed to nameplate) capacity. Plus we also need to build the infrastructure to offset its intermittency. In other words nuclear is a far more realistic prospect for replacing future losses in capacity.

    < On the supply side, all these electric cars and other devices are going to need charging , … , people will be watching the 'supply forecast' after the news and weather to inform such decisions.>

    The Land of La La

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wind power is cheap

    Admittedly current designs are expensive - stupidly so.

    With 'linear' designs like the Sushi-Bar generator your talking £200 for a 1Kw installation. OK its not quite as efficient as a £700 windmill - but since its cheaper than the pole you have to buy to stick the windmill on at 1/5th price its a better investment!.

  47. Duncan Jeffery
    Thumb Down

    moving goalposts

    You can see what is happening here. The arguments are constantly changing to send us down the greenies chosen hairshirt path. There is even a comment above along the lines of nuclear power stations cannot be built quickly enough to address our power shortages. Well, they can be built a bit quicker than the infrastructure needed to distribute windpower and store enrgy to cover baseload shortages. EDF reckon they can complete them by 2012. And the only rreason for the urgency was greenie bleating about how unsafe nuclear is - rather contradicted by the French experience and the fact that many other 'sensible' scandinavian countries are going down this route (Finland for instance). And what is the timetable to doom ? this seems to change regularly to scare us a little more - and all this from yet unconvincing science and forecasts. Its all b0llox I tell you

  48. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Welcome

    Criticising bias with bias

    Lewis, we know that you favour nuclear fission power but please stop your view clouding your analysis so much.

    Our demand for power of all sorts is the source of the problem. As people like Amory Lovins have been arguing for decades generation is not the best solution, using less power is. If we can improve our energy efficiency we will need less generating capacity.

    The ROCs you fume about - calling them a "tax" puts you in with Daily Mail crowd - are incentives to encourage investment and are due to be phased out over time. At least they are in Germany. Even if your supposition that wind farmers will be paying companies to take their power so they can pocket the subsidy does come to pass that would be no less absurd than many of the other schemes in agriculture and elsewhere.

    The economic arguments are very important but they are manifold. I've read a report from E.ON from last year which already indicated that wind energy was being bought on the LEX (Leipziger Energy Exchange) last summer because it was cheaper than energy from gas based generators. So wind energy was being bought instead of gas energy and limiting the *spot* price.

    As for interconnects - the European Commission is pressing ahead to encourage pan-EU distribution networks which should increase both efficiency and reliability by enforcing the separation of network and generation ownership. This is essential if projects like Munich Re's proposed Desertec are going to have any chance of success - a certain degree of skepticism regarding the project is advisable but it is interesting that an insurance company is getting behind the project.

    Your critical coverage of the renewable is welcome when it debunks some of the myths but it is easy to go from debunking ill-informed hacks to simply slagging off the whole issue.

  49. JohnG Silver badge

    French nuclear power

    The French have been steadily building nuclear power stations for decades. I thought the policy of the current UK government was to pay for a steady stream of reports from their friends (like the one under discussion here) but decide nothing and do nothing whilst hoping that the French will have enough capacity for everyone.

  50. Skeetster

    Energy Storage is the obvious answer

    Every home should be installing a large battery storage system.

    When the wind blows it trickles in, when it doesn't it powers our homes. All electrical goods should be be relatively power efficient by 2030, one hopes. This will at least sort homeowners out and undoubtedly create another industry thereby creating employment.

  51. Anton Ivanov
    Grenade

    Accumulators, accumulators, accumulators

    While Britain has very few locations for the classic accumulating hydroelectric there is enough space in the Wash to build "anti-island" style reservoir accumulators for half of Europe. They will also produce some energy "natively" from tidal flow as well.

  52. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    UK to export IT - while the laptop batteries last

    Pumped storage is profitable because it is used every day. To avoid power cuts, you would need easily 20x as much as we have now, most of which would only be used once every year or two. It would suffer the same economic problems as a once every year or two gas power station. Big batteries suffer from self discharge and some chemistries (like Lithium ion) are destroyed by deep discharge. Keeping a huge pile of batteries charged all year in case they might be needed for a day or two is costly.

    I have yet to see what the wind power plan is for our next big storm. Are we going to build expensive windturbines that can withstand a storm that might turn up some time in the next ten years, or cheap ones that will all be blown to pieces on the same night?

    A workable energy policy needs a variety of power sources, storage and not wasting power when there is a choice. If you want to do something constructive, check warming your water with solar power to reduce the energy required for hot water. Unless your home is in the Hebrides, solar heating will probably pay for itself and a wind turbine on your roof wont.

    Just remember it could always be worse. Imagine "Biofuel Britain".

  53. Rob 114
    FAIL

    Wind farms.......

    Sorry, but they are fucking ugly and let's be clear here; the onshore windfarms are cheaper to build than offshore ones and less effective at generating electricity. The one @ Camber sands has ruined the vista of Romney Marsh.

    As someone who is faced with the prospect of being hemmed in by wind farms up in the wilds of East Anglia, i can only presume that the owners of said land and locla councils are being rewarded handsomely for allowing them to build here there and everywhere. What seems to escape these grasping people is that the Environment isn't just about creating "renewable energY" It's also about protecting whats on the ground. Not to mention that the amount of concrete needed to plant thos fucking things in. And as we all know concrete is a major source of C02 emissions.

    If only there could be an adult discussion about energy needs the answer would be clear; Nuclear. It's the only way, but NuLab and it's leaft leaning lentil monkey's won't have it. Tossers.

  54. Matt 130

    Storage??

    I've not done any research here so I'm just spouting off, but I know there will be times when wind is overgenerating, and times that it will undergenerate. So if there were a means of store and switch at the farm it might be viable alternative to switching back to bad ol' fossil generators; Is it not possible to make the generators switch from supplying the grid, to charging hydrogen cells during periods of oversupply (similarly for tidal generators whose supply exceeds demand through the night)?

  55. Robert Grant

    Stop-start nuclear engine?

    "the entire thermal sector - perhaps even including nuclear - would be dropping in and out of play unpredictably, running their machinery perhaps for just a few hours at a time."

    Nuclear running for a few hours at a time, eh. +5 Informative.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Storage capacity: how hydro can you go?

    When the wind blows, and what to do when it does not? A perennial question, with an answer for some in wilder, hilly places.

    Many hydroelectric power stations pump water back up to the high lochs at night, when electricity is cheap. Electrical energy is converted back into potential energy; the hydroelectric plant becomes a large battery.

    Look To Windward? Those who Bank solely on that resource do so to much chagrain of many energy researchers; it's simply a matter of corporate culture, of tackling the group mind think.

  57. Xris M
    Go

    A very simple solution

    I propose that we have two separate electricity supply networks.

    The first is mainly nuclear based, for all those who want as much electricity as the they can get all of the time, its supply of uranium will come form invading third world countries and eventually strip mining the moon.

    The second network is only powered through non fossil fuel renewable energy sources for those that don’t mind having a limit on the amount of electricity they use and suffering from power outages but keeps their conscience clean.

  58. copsewood
    Stop

    errors and assumptions suggest bias

    There are such major errors, biases and dodgy assumptions in the article it's difficult to know where to start. For example, over a regional area of just a few thousand square kilometers, wind energy is predictable a few days in advance with some accuracy through weather forecasting. So someone operating a plant using a lot of electricity, where the cost of electricity matters to the bottom line, will want to shut it down for a dozen days a decade during exceptional wind calms covering a third of Europe in preference to paying punitive electric charges. We will all know a few days in advance that electricity charges will be punitive. So we won't need fossil fuel backup generation to cover a few days a decade - we will instead use less electricity on those days. Those who have a choice will charge their electric cars in anticipation and limit travel for the duration of the calm. Those without choice will get to pay the premium prices.

    Global warming flood and extreme weather insurance, which we all carry through bigger premiums or through the cost of disasters ourselves if uninsured, isn't factored into current fossil electricity prices. Then there is the cost of trying to get food supply security in an unstable climate future or the cost of not having food supply security - climate refugee camps all over the countryside will look a lot worse than wind generators. The alternatives to wind and other sustainable energy sources, conservation, economies and efficiencies together replacing fossil fuels entirely are not pleasant.

    Lewis - next article please take on board the fact that the above scenarios are not sensible options.

    Instead please properly investigate solutions to intermittent supply including:

    a. arbitraging renewable electricity on a continental basis through high voltage DC interconnector grid links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current

    b. uprating existing hydro plant to store hydro energy behind the dam and deliver it when needed:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_energy_storage#Hydroelectric_dam_uprating

    c. opportunistic price-based electricity demand management (economy 7, smart metering, charging the car and doing the wash after 11pm when wind power is cheap etc.)

  59. mmiied
    Stop

    @anton ivanov

    good luck getting that past the same greenies who want the wind farms to being with

  60. Grease Monkey

    It's a big planet

    It seems most countries are looking at renewable energy in a very local way, it doesn't seem to be something where anybody is looking at the big picture. I suspect that I know why.

    Take for example one massive resource - sunlight. There are countries which get loads of sun and have vast tracts on unused land where massive solar plants could be built. These countries could probably produce enough electricity to export. There are other resources which other countries have in abundance and what is really needed is a world market in electricity. The reason politicians don't like this is that there is a possibility that some countries could effectively hold others to ransom over the price of electricity. In particular I suspect that western politicians do not want to be reliant on the gulf states for solar power. The simple answer to this is for western governments to fund solar power plants in Africa so there is plenty competition in the market and the OPEC nations won't be able to control it.

    Then there is the matter of pumped storage. Some renewable sources are notoriously unreliable, wind being probably the least reliable, but solar has it's problems too. We need the most electricity at night. So why not use solar power from africa, the gulf and parts of mediteranean europe to power pumped storage projects in mountainous areas? Then you have a partnership between countries.

    Yes this lost would cost a fortune to implement, but oddly a recession is the ideal time for big public service projects. Look at the turpikes in the US, built with government money during the recession with government money and then the investment was paid back over decades by the tolls. It created jobs and got money into circulation during a recession and the US ended up with a road network that was decades ahead of most of the rest of th world. Of course our own government are cancelling public service projects left right and centre because of the recession. Maybe they'd have the cash if they hadn't spent it all bailing out the banks?

  61. jef_

    Individual resposibility...?

    If everybody took their TVs off standby etc...

    If I have to get up in the night for a pee I notice that in my living room there are lots and lots of static or flashing LEDs. This is surely not good. Why don't we have a system like in hotels where when you go out everything gets switched off? I know - you need your ftp server up, your wii downloading updates... But do you really?

    My point really is that there seems to be a tendency for people to expect somebody else to sort their lives out for them rather than taking responsibility for it themselves. I guess the '80s never really finished in that respect....

  62. Michael C

    how about a REAL view

    These morons are either 1) in the pockets of people who stand to loose money due to the competition introduced by wind power, or 2) are not up to speed on how wind power is deployed.

    Here's the deal: When a wind farm is deployed, the expected output is 20-30%, not 70-80% like traditional power... Also, multiple farms are combined over a several hundred mile area, allowing areas experiencing low winds to draw power from areas getting high winds. They also don't produce power "willy-nilly" from all the turbines at once, they're in a carefully, computer controlled, system, where turbines are turned into and out of the wind, and brakes are used to slow some turbines when necessary to balance output.

    You'll also hear things like "Though it only takes a 5 knot wind to run the turbine, the minimum startup wind is 11MPH, and we rarely hit that, meaning many turbines that could produce power won't be." BULL, the turbines already running can produce power to kick start another one. No it's not ideal, but the power to hard start a turbine in 7knot winds (which takes a few minutes to spin up the gears), is offset in a very short period by it actually running... Worst case, grid power can be used to start turbines if all the ones in a farm stall.

    You also have to considder where these things are placed. At ground level, you might have no breeze at all. At 150m high, that's a diferent story. Also, farms are located typically in areas of natural wind, due to geological formations, established wind and weather paterns, etc. They don't just randomly stick on in someon'es back yard...

    With a single farm of 100 or so turbines, yes, balancing output is a major problem. With several dozen of these farms scattered across a 700 or 800 mile area , odds are there will be enough aggregate wind to generate the expected 20-30% total output, plus a bit more to account for long distance transmission losses. Using superconducting lines (already being deployed in lots of places, and curently ONLINE AND RUNNING in several countries), and building out new grid technologies, this can be further extended to multi-thousand mile grid ranges.

    Then we add smartgrid technology. Today, items in your homes draw very varied power, typically on a 20-50 minute stagger. Tie a community together with a few hundred houses, and it;s possible that variance can be amplified when multipole houses all pull heavy draw concurrently. Smart Grid enabled appliances talk to the grid to see how many other houses are drawing from available power, and naturally stagger heavy load draw (kicking over air conditioner compressors, starting the dryer, etc). Your personal delay in your appliance turning over is only moments (and imperceivable), but that balance can essentially normalize the load so then all we're dealing with is actual variance by time of day (showers in morning, AC in afternoon, cooking and TVs in the evening, Heat at night, etc).

    Next step, what to do with overproduction... Where available, things like pumping water uphill, or superheating a salt vein can be used as supplemental carbon nuetral power. It's expensive, but it's a one time fee as it requires no continuing fuel costs or disposal efforts, and over a 50 year or longer plan (150 years is typical for a large scale investment like this, unlike 50 years for coal/nuclear), then it;s cheaper in the long term by many fold.

    Also, you can look further into technologies like WindFuels from Doty Energy (dotyenergy.com) which have solutions specifically to handle overproduction from wind and solar, and can actually generate usable regular fuels from that energy in a carbon nuetral process!

    Stop listening to the FUD. Even with additional expenses to handle grid stabvility (which we HAVE to make ANYWAY in order to support electric vehicles on a large scale, it;s still a better investment than other technologies, and it's no impact on the enviuronment.

  63. nichomach
    FAIL

    @Jacob Sparre Andersen

    "maybe people will be able to figure out that they don't really need to run the washing machine, the dish washer and the electrical oven at the same time as they are ironing and boiling water for tea (and thus actually reduce the capacity need)."

    Because people never have to ensure that they have clothes for themselves and their families for school and work the next day, ensure that everyone's fed and all that trivial stuff that, you know, REAL people who don't live in your misanthropic greenie hairshirt fantasy land actually have to do.

    @Gary Moran: Well said, and bang on.

  64. scatter

    Of course fossil fuels and nukes...

    are going to be oh so cheap in 2030....

    No mention of electric vehicles at all. These will be essential because they'll be able to soak up off peak electricity, store it and potentially drop some of it back onto the grid when needed. They'll certainly be able to offer grid services currently, and expensively, supplied by fossil fuel generators. What about demand management? No mention either.

    I know it's a summary report but they quickly dismiss interconnectors (in 1 page!) stating "in our experience if interconnectors remove price differentials between markets, the commercial case for building them can be challenging".

    Challenging? Is that really a significant obstacle? Governments could step in and build them. HVDC interconnectors are exactly what are needed across the whole of Europe and into North Africa.

    I respect Poyry's work a lot but on cursory inspection this one seems to have some gaps. I'd like to see the full version. Just out of interest, does anyone know who commissioned this report?

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Rob 114

    So that's your "adult argument" is it?

  66. jimmy
    Thumb Down

    Rob @114

    i suggest you have 3 options:

    1) accept wind farms

    2) Have a great big coal/gas/nuclear plant put right next to your house

    3) Have your electricity cut off and sort your own power out

    i know which option i would take.

    how ugly are wind farms compared to say telegraph poles, roads, other peoples house etc etc etc. you're just a stupid Nimby stuck in your ways.

    your children and childrens children will accept them as if they were television aerials/transmitters/telegraph poles just as you accept these today.

    get used to it or sort your own power out!

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Batteries

    In 2030 Germany is targeting 5 Million electric vehicles, with a combined energy storage, at 30kWh each, of 150GWh. Presuming the UK would do similarly, and presuming that maybe 50% of them are on-charge, this is ~70GWh available on-tap. Peak demand in 2007 was 61.5GW all told.

    Car owners would obviously get some reward for acting as back-up capacity.

    The car batteries would be limited to maybe 30% depth of discharge - so 20GWh is a reasonable figure.

    If a "replace whole battery" policy was adopted, at the filling station, then there would be many more batteries than cars, and all of the extras would be on-charge at the filling stations, ready to contribute to shortfalls in the grid.

    Finally, once the batteries reach end of life - say 60% of original capacity, they can be held in battery farms doing this grid levelling function till they're properly ruined at 30%, only then are they melted down and re-made.

  68. Volker Hett

    What are normal prices?

    Fossil fuel is on the rise again. Nuclear electricity production is highly subsidized, i.E. nuclear waste handling and risk management and insurance.

    I don't htink that we'll have energy as cheap today in five years. Wind energy might be competitive in less than 10 years because fossil and nuclear fuel are more rare and thus expensive then.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    buzzword hell ...

    "misanthropic greenie hairshirt fantasy land"

    BINGO !

  70. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Coat

    I'm sick....

    of hearing endless made-up justification for green facism. Just go ahead and do it. All the figures I believe suggest it would be a major catastrophe, and shaft the country's infrastructure so much that we'll lose what remains of our manufacturing capability. It will probably cost many lives as well.

    Perhaps this is what you want? All I know is that environmentalism will be politically dead after a year of green power, and will probably never rise again. I have enough money to leave the country, and both my parents are dead, so I'm going to be all right. Go on. Do it.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Nuclear

    I find it most interesting that people keep saying Nuclear - Fossil fuels are well known for being finite - Why in that case do you never hear - SO IS NUCLEAR - And the more it is used the quicker we will run out.

    Wake up and smell the coffee anything that uses physical fuel be it fossil or radioactive for power is not sustainable.

    Whether we do it now or in thirty years so called renewables are the only way forward; I won't make a guess at what forms they will take.

    It's also blatantly obvious from this report that it was paid for by the people who run our current system - This report and many others like it will go down in infamy much like the "Cigarette does not lead to cancer" ones of yesteryear.

  72. Pete 2 Silver badge

    @Rob 114

    > Sorry, but they are fucking ugly

    hey, what's wrong with us fuglies?

    However, I would humbly suggest that even the most raving city-dwelling greenie, once their power has been off for a couple of days, once their fridge contents have rotted, their pile of dirty laundry has taken over the bedroom and the romance of "dinner by candle light and no TV" has waned, will be leading the charge in their bulldozers. Screw the view, screw the poor 'ickle birdies and the endangered lesser-spotted dung-beetles; Their new battle cry will be " I WANT MY LIGHTS ON." and "I WANT THEM ON NOW!"

    Idealism has it's place - usually in nice, comfortable armchairs, away from the hustle and bustle of cold, stark reality. Preferably in the company of other, like thinking individuals. Where they can engage in mental jousts of "risky shifts", trying to out-do each other with more extreme and impractical eco-bollox. However, once this nice, safe environment has disappeared in a prolonged puff of NIMBY-ism, what's left is a house full of screaming kids. Bratish individuals who, due to a daily diet of console games, TV, internet, instant gratification and instant microwave nosh, have the attention span of a butterfly - but the voice of a fishwife with her err, fingers caught in a mangle.

    You can only hide behind The Guardian for so long - after that you've got to face them (and regret all those thoughts about "our children are the future ...") and explain that the reason they can't have hot food is because the electric cooker needs power, and they can't have any icecream because the freezer's gone off, and their videogames won't work because the electricity has been cut. And they can't even go and read a book as there aren't any lights - either. Once these people get to become voters, they will have a hard-nosed craving for power, power and more power. Too bad for communities who live in low-lying coastal regions. Shame about the increasing number of "dusty" coutries, and their parched populations. Pity that all the wildlife has curled up and died, but it's all the price they will be willing to pay for not letting the lights go off again - after the hard and well-learned lessons of their electricity-rationed childhoods.

  73. call me scruffy
    Flame

    It's good to see that we've sold the pass _AGAIN_

    How many records did Britain's fusion reactors set again? The hot ones I mean, not the paladium debacle.

  74. scatter

    Apologies...

    I glossed over the description of the commissioning organisations on the first page of the article :)

  75. Kit Temple
    Go

    Solution to the problem

    "If there were enough thermal plants in existence to cope with rare (but nonetheless certain to occur) events such as nationwide calms during winter evenings, some of these plants would almost never be in use."

    Well - my suggestion is that you let people volunteer for a cheaper electricity rate. In return for 20% reduction in their electricity bill, they lose power to their house for a few hours each year during these extremely rare calm events - this way you don't need the spare just in case capacity.

    I think there will be a fair proportion of people who will volunteer to put up with the odd electricity cut in exchange for cheaper bills.

  76. David Kelly 2

    Must keep the thermal generators online

    The primary cost of generating and distributing electrical power is the cost of capital, the time value of money, not the energy input. No matter that interest payments are carbon free, the payments go somewhere where somebody is eventually going to use it for something physical probably releasing supposedly bad carbon.

    No matter the windmills are built and running, the conventional nuclear and coal plants must still exist of sufficient size to carry the load when wind is low. Not only must these plants exist but they must be up to temperature and online. It takes days or weeks to start an idled plant. Utilities provide electricity to power street lights for free because it costs just as much to run the plant all night as it does to throttle down and then up for morning.

  77. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Denmark seems to manage it

    And last time I checked, our pragmatic Scandinavian friends were getting 20% of their power from the wind and weren't sitting round in the dark or living in abject poverty. They've invested in a diverse energy supply and interconnectors to even out the troughs and peaks.

    Their bacon still sucks however.

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    The big issue

    With Wind & Solar is energy storage. And I don't mean long term storage, although that needs to be developed as well. But storage capacity that can buffer wind & solar on the order of seconds to minutes will go a long way towards grid stability.

  79. mmiied

    @ac 14:10

    "find it most interesting that people keep saying Nuclear - Fossil fuels are well known for being finite - Why in that case do you never hear - SO IS NUCLEAR - And the more it is used the quicker we will run out."

    yes but it is a much bigger finitety (I know it is not a word)! and the portental energy dencity of nuclear fule (espicley including berader fast cycles) makes it much easer to ship form whever we can get it from (even space if we need to)

    "Wake up and smell the coffee anything that uses physical fuel be it fossil or radioactive for power is not sustainable.

    Whether we do it now or in thirty years so called renewables are the only way forward; I won't make a guess at what forms they will take."

    everything we have done since we started a civisulation has not been sustainbale we just hop from one to another the point is if we keep moving forwards we get places if we stop we sink and die!!!

  80. Mike Richards Silver badge

    @ Duncan Jeffery

    'EDF reckon they can complete them by 2012. And the only rreason for the urgency was greenie bleating about how unsafe nuclear is - rather contradicted by the French experience and the fact that many other 'sensible' scandinavian countries are going down this route (Finland for instance).'

    Setting aside Finland not being in Scandinavia...

    ...and Finland being the only one of the Nordic countries actually *considering* new nuclear power...

    ...That's turning out to be something of a fiasco. The Olkiluoto 3 plant should have opened this summer.

    You may have noticed from the conspicuous lack of news - it hasn't.

    It's now 50% over the stated budget, the French state company Areva is in dispute with the Finns for $1 billion and is not even willing to give a date when the plant will be commissioned. The utility company is even threatening to default on the project. And that's before the Finnish Nuclear Regulatory Authority criticised the number of defects. Everything from the concrete slab its built on upwards has been found to be substandard. The concrete was too porous, cracks were found in the concrete and some of the welders were not properly qualified to be working on the project.

    The second reactor of the European Pressurised Reactor design at Flamanville is also well behind schedule and massively over budget - and that's the revised budget which was 25% higher than that quoted for Olkiluoto. The EPR design has still not been certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the US and a couple of American utilities have just dumped the design because it could cost upwards of $8 billion a reactor.

    It'd cost less than £2 billion to build a HVDC cable to bring an equivalent amount of reliable, clean hydropower from Iceland to the UK. That'd also solve the bugbear of providing power in the event of calm weather of Western Europe and help keep their economy ticking over nicely.

  81. Tawakalna
    Happy

    couldn't care less..

    ..I'll be dead in a couple of decades, why should I give a damn about saving the sodding eskimos, they didn't do anything for me!

    bah, eco nonsense, it's all a big con and an excuse to tax us.

  82. Nigel 11
    IT Angle

    Another argument for the Severn barrage?

    If we built the Severn barrage it could generate about 15% of our electricity needs. That's tidal power, so there would be slack periods of zero output twice a day when the level of water on both sides of the barrage is about the same. The time at which this happens is tuneable to some extent. For example, the operators might allow a lot of incoming tide to bypass the turbines at 4am when little electricity is needed, so as to fill upstream as fast as possible, thereby storing energy for six hours later when there would be a use for it.

    If there were times when surplus wind-generated electricity was available, could the barrage also be used as a massive pumped-storage system, either by running the turbines backwards, or by installing pumps as well as generator-turbines?

    An argument against the barrage is the ecological effect of reducing the upstream tidal range. (NB not eliminating it and turning the estuary into a lake, it's a barrage, not a dam!) If it could be operated to store surplus windpower, it should be possible to maintain most of the current tidal range, though not its daily regularity. Would this be better on the environmental front?

    Something does have to be done to switch to renewable energy. Otherwise within a few human generations, most of the planet will become uninhabitable by large mammals such as humans (submerged, or too hot and humid). Myself, I do think that we ought to ensure that humanity has the possibility of a long-term future, and therefore we *have* to cut down on the burning of fossil fuel.

    Or are we all lemmings at heart?

  83. Andy Pellew
    Go

    Closed System ...

    You see where this all falls down is the "Closed System" model they have used to look at the UK's Energy Needs ... We buy in electricity from France. Why not use their spare capacity at time of "slow" wind? They'd happily sell it to us ...

    Oh but wait, that won't get the generators the massive government subsidy they are clearly gunning for will it?!

  84. Emily Parry

    Mass naivety

    1) Government report states problems of cost for tackling climate change with renewables (paragraph 5.2, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, July 2009):

    "The new ... measures ... in the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan [includes not just the Renewable Energy Strategy but also a number of other policies] will add on average an additional 6% to today’s household energy bills by 2020. Including all previously announced climate policies will increase this figure to 8%. The Government estimates that, taken in isolation, the measures included in this Renewable Energy Strategy would increase household electricity bills by 15% and gas bills by 23% by 2020 compared to what they would have been without these measures. The overall bill impacts of the UK Low Transition Plan are considerably lower primarily because they include policies for greater energy efficiency, and hence reduce energy bills."

    2) Any massive structure affects the environment - note just because it is in the sea does not make the impact any less.

    3) Climate changes future weather, but this is expected to increase strength/area of wind power in UK.

    4) Any 'unused land' has a biodiversity/habitat conservation value, nutrient/carbon storage value, potential use value (especially revelant in UK as housing, road, industrial developers and those of us who like to 'see' unused land e.g. conservationists fight over our 'spare' land).

    5) Countries will never work together to share energy resources until there is one sole goverment, and one international military force.

    6) High Voltage Direct Transmission lines/cables (I think what might have been meant earlier by 'interconnectors') are cool, but only get cost-effective over quite large distances, bigger if I remember correctly than the distance from Glasgow to London.

    7) Batteries in every home? Nice for those who can afford not to live in rented flats/tiny shitholes.

    8) Vehicle-to-Grid power may allow for greater wind penetration (Kempton and Tomic, 2005 and Lund, 2007). I'm working on that but you'll have to wait a few years before I can tell you anything about the UK specifically. Quick explanation: smart grid, plug-in vehicle types, time charging with low peak demand/high electricity available. Best support comes from companies with vehicles run on shift patterns - can fulfill role of otherwise expensive spinning reserve generators that switch on/off with wind intermittency. Role of Combined Heat and Power emphasised by Lund for Denmark.

    9) But elec cars still pose same problem as home batteries, and distributed home generation e.g. solar thermal/voltaics or small scale wind: feed in tarrifs mean money for those able to afford these new tech, or rich enough to own a home big enough (or with it's own roof - e.g. only top floor of a block of flats could do photothermal/voltaic) to situate these new tech e.g. driveways, garages for cars.

    10) You might like to point out as another flaw in reporting from the BBC/gov. on this: They intend that home generation through photothermal/voltaic etc. are given feed in tarrifs, and that income from these is free of income tax (box 3.2, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, July 2009). Bare in mind my last paragraph, and ponder this: the medium-rich to rich get richer, the poor stay as they are and the gap widens.

    11) No single solution is an answer. We need solutions are varied and adaptable, and suited to individual areas/peoples/weather/whatever, as the tropical rainforest is suggested to have life. Bio, or should I say, techno-diversity is the key, as is an attitude that sees all people, regardless their status or profession, as deserving of equal environmental health (note post by Anonymous Coward about £21k not deemed enough for a family to live on).

    12) BBC never wants to comment on the fact that the number of people in this country needs to be no more than it is, less babies, more emmigration, less immigration, whatever. Then spread us out a bit more nicely, can I have a garden for when I have kiddies, please? That would be nice. The BBC reports on a mythical UK where everybody seems to have a house and a garden, and a car, and can afford holidays abroad. If that's not propaganda, I don't know what is.

  85. Matt 32

    Huh?

    >your children and childrens children will accept them as if they were television

    >aerials/transmitters/telegraph poles just as you accept these today.

    Do folks who write stuff like that have any perspective of the scale we're talking? That the U.K. would need tens and probably hundreds of thousands of windmills?

    It's an industrialization of the landscape on an unprecdented scale.

    Storage schemes like hydroelectric is something the world needs less of -- we need to restore rivers and lakes to natural cycles and improve the habitat.

    Investing in dual infrastructure -- wind and conventional -- is pretty much the definition of stupid.

    Nuclear, as others pointed out, while better then fossil fuels is still finite. It is the best option though for rational people who can balance economic and environmental needs for now.

    Not a single dime more should be spent by any government on interdeterminate power sources like wind -- hmmm, when and where it blow and how good are our models?

    What that money instead should be going towards is developing the drilling technology for deep well geothermal systems that can tap the earth's heat and do so in a manner that is 100% predictable over the course of decades, not what we think next week's winds will be like. Geothermal can produce electricity as well as steam to drive heating and cooling systems. Well heads could be built in industrial areas in towns and cities.

    Geothermal IS where a post-fossil fuel, post-nuclear world will be, at least if the adults take charge and use rational, sensible thought.

  86. jimmy
    Grenade

    Army power = cheap electricity

    here's a thought. instead of spending $60 billion a year on employing 50 000 men to worry arabs and muslims why don't we send them up the Pennines, the Welsh and Scottish mountains and get them building wind turbines?

    That'll reduce the cost of building them to a few % of what they cost now and they'll use less of their expensive weaponry too. Everyone's a winner. We could even get the Navy building offshore turbines too. We could build the turbines in months or just a few years with all that ready paid spare labour.

    My point being; There's plenty of money for it we just choose not to. Blowing all our taxes on the military seems to be the priority right now and then the building cost gets pushed onto our bills, we complain and blame the greenies for what in effect is a government that sends tax money in the wrong direction from what we actually want.

  87. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge
    Go

    la-la-la

    For those bitching about storage problems, how about vandium flow batteries?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanadium_redox_battery

    These are a relatively new development, so still subject to improvements in materials and methods. However, they are still considered practical enough for one large-sacle pilot project to get the go-ahead in Australia...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huxley_Hill_Wind_Farm,_Tasmania

    Apologies for wikinonsense - I did read about these in the 'reputable' media some time ago (New Scientist to be precise), but am at work and don't have the time to hunt down the references...

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    ignorance on parade

    Remind me, when I'm asked to come up with a plan to provide energy to a growing world at anything like current prices, not to consult the motley crew of El Reg writers and commenters, in which I quite advisedly include myself.

    Because it's clear that we're way the **** out of our league on this complex technical and economic policy topic, and most of us bring nothing to the discussion but the same, tired litany of ideologically-transparent slogans and infantile name-calling.

  89. Dennis 1

    Mirros

    Please please please. Will someone stick severeal million mirrors over the sahara and send us the power via hvdc.

    yes we industrialise on a massive scale a landscape, but to my knowledge not a landscape anypone really cares about.

  90. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I agree

    The cost of renewable energy is going to be astronomical to start with and will probably remain. The real question though is what is which is more expensive in the long term, the devastation of climate change or renewable energy?

    The problem at the moment is we seem to be heading towards getting the worst of both worlds, because our attempts at playing politics with climate change have made little meaningful impact on the type of resources we use.

    Tackling climate change properly means more than planting a few trees, selling your bad emissions to a clean neighbour and supplying 1/10th of a power station with a few windmills. It means spending billions on all forms of renewable energy and combining them into something meaningful. Until the magic glass of water that will power London appears, there is no alternative if we don't want to spend many thousand times the cost of clean energy repairing the damage of massive storms and flooding and perversely watching people die from starvation and drought.

    And don't think food from the oceans will save us, we've already done a spectacular number on that and if a few of those toxic waste ships we send to dump their loads on developing nations sink in the wrong places, there will be no sea life.. or clean water for that matter - where do think rain comes from?.

    The few remaining glaciers aren't going to provide much water for much longer and certainly not enough for the billions of people that will need it when everything, including the water they provide, is contaminated with toxic pollution falling from the sky.

  91. davenewman
    Happy

    The old CEGB could handle 33% wind power

    The old CEGB did a detailed study in the 70s of how much electricity could come from wind. They found that up to 1/3rd wind power could be handled by the same techniques as they use to handle the difference between peak and night-time demand, as other plants are turned on an off. Beyond 1/3rd, we need something like pumped storage, or interconnectors with other countries.

    Nowadays, there is less spare capacity, but many of the generators use gas turbines, which can be turned on and off quickly. So if there is little wind across the whole UK, gas turbine plants can be turned on.

    That is an efficient way to run electricity generation. The only problems are those created by splitting up one industry into a lot of separate companies, who each want to make a profit, no matter how deeply their grandchildren will be flooded.

  92. jimmy

    @matt 32 1544

    UK peak electricity generation is 60 000 MW

    Biggest wind turbine is 5MW

    I make that 12 000 wind turbines

    However as discussed by many above you can only expect perhaps 20% generation by wind.

    I make that 2400 Turbines.

    So i'm afraid your statement is a little wrong.

    As for 'industrialization of the landscape'. Have you not opened your eyes recently? Roads have obliterated our landscape with a huge covered area of asphalt. Has anyone complained about that?

    WInd turbines cover very little land area for what they are. And the land is useable underneath too.

    If you're lucky enough to have a view (i'm not), i'm afraid being able to see a huge wind turbine is not an excuse to NOT build it. We have a few turbines within a few miles and i've gotta say they look great and a hellava lot nicer than the great big condensing towers of a conventional power plant with it's own human generated cloud above.

    Do you complain about all the aeroplanes overhead, have you looked? Take some time one day and count them, no one complains about them obliterating the blue sky above. Why? because they're accepted and everyone ignores them despite the fact that for instance in Manchester i can often count 5 or 10 con trails blotting out the sun (when it doesn't rain).

    As for geothermal. i like the idea, Iceland does it but that's because it's close to the surface. it maybe too pricey though. You'd have to drill some pretty deep holes to get geothermal in the UK.

  93. John Savard Silver badge

    Pricing

    Obviously, if the power grid is such that a fossil-fuelled power plant is used for a few hours a year, then for private enterprise to build one, with no other way to be paid for it than by charging an enormous amount for the power it generates, that amount would be enormous.

    But if the government paid for building the plant, then the costs would be spread over a longer time period, as, say, a tax on the power from other sources. It would, of course, still add up to reliable power costing the same amount of money.

    Advocates of green non-nuclear power, though, will tell you the solution is to learn to live with unreliable power. There wouldn't be a need to build new coal-fired power plants if only hospitals got electricity when there was a nation-wide calm; the existing ones would be sufficient. People who don't like it can get high-priced power from their own generators.

    I'm in favor of nuclear, but let's not overstate the argument.

  94. Paletti

    Some other important considerations...

    Petrol energy to replace wind energy when wind did not blow? I guess petrol energy won't disappear totally but the idea is to have several sources of energy especially clean ones. One thing to remember is that wind mills are dispersed geographically from north to south which means the wind don't stop blowing all at once. Another thing to remember is that a part of the energy produced no matter the source it is kept as a reserve.

    Regarding the prices, well petrol will be more and more expensive also... and most comes from outside the EU but the factories need to produce the windmills employ many people in the EU...

  95. Dustin 1
    FAIL

    My only question is...

    Why arent those wind towers coverd in solar cells as well? Seems a waste of space.

  96. Apocalypse Later

    Global warming is caused by witches

    If you have to believe in a climate myth, choose one that is easy (or at least possible) to solve. Burn a few witches, job done.

  97. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Flame

    Time to train as

    A candle maker.

    All these schemes to micromanage the power all rely on replacing domestic appliances with smart ones... then replacing all the electricity meters with smart ones that can talk to base

    So you can imagine the future.

    Mrs Brown, you are hereby charged with boiling a kettle at a prohibited time.. you are guilty because we have the record of it

    As for reducing the load by switching stuff off... the factory I attend has a 9Kw compressor and each of the robots uses upto 8kw of power each (theres about 26 of them)

    If our supply voltage or frequency varies then what tends to happen is that the machines shut down unpredictably with loss of production... and expensive tooling if it goes off at the wrong time.

    Wind power cannot by its nature supply this unless you are prepared to back it up with thermal stations, which will be gas as it takes far too long to start/stop coal or nuclear.

    What I suspect will be built to supply the UK with power will be a series of wind farms, and a series of interconnects to the french grid while EDF builds nuclear stations along the north coast of France solely in order to export a continous supply of power to poor old blighty.

    Nuclear is our only option to give us a decent baseload of CO2 free electricity, and as for "nuclear power is bad m'ok" people I give you a quote from James Lovelock

    "Whats worse: 50 000 people dead from a nuclear power accident or 500 million dead from global warming?

    flames......... because where it all ends

  98. Bryce Prewitt
    FAIL

    Nuclear isn't finite.

    Keep up with the times you luddites. Nuclear isn't finite, hasn't been for years - read up on breeder reactors - and even if it was, we've hundreds, if not thousands, of years worth of fuel.

    Stop creating excuses to send your country back into post-war austerity.

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    I don't care

    Bring it on, I say. This country could do with a kick in the ass. Anyone remember the 3 day weeks? I don't give a shit, break the country for all I care. It'll just mean I can spend more time at home with my kid rather than sitting behind a desk starring at a screen.

    * Disgruntled with this fucking country!

  100. Sameer
    WTF?

    Ever heard of a battery?

    Did the author of this article take the short bus to work? It's whole premise is fatally flawed. Thermal generation of power isn't the only game out there. Chemical storage of electricity is as old as electricity itself (that just happens to be how humans discovered it). There's also hydroelectric storage (pump water uphill when you have too much power and generate by allowing water back downhill when you don't have enough). Plenty of utilities already use both methods (as well as many others) to smooth out power demand peaks and troughs.

    Then the second page teaser gets all nutty about electric cars?!? That not an extra problem, it is a major aspect of the solution. It's called Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G). Google it.

    Bottom line: V2G uses a smart grid to utilize the very large battery packs on fleets of electric vehicles as a buffer. Within pre-defined user limits, they absorb power during times of overproduction of electricity, and can then feed it back into the grid if demand is exceeding supply. It makes EV's with V2G tech valuable to the grid and that value can be passed on to the consumer.

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Nuclear

    Seriously people, everyone who keeps bleeting on about nuclear material being finite, but it is believed that if use all the fissionable material available on the whole planet including sea water, we would have enough energy for about 5 billion years...and if i read that right thats using energy at around 25x our current world usage.

    now yes yes, much of that is currently beyond our reach but given our sun will have died long before then its kind of academic, the need will create the changes needed to access that material

    So lets stop peeing in to the wind and build Nuclear stations and invest in Fusion.

    http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/cohen.html#breeder

  102. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My thoughts.

    I've spent some time thinking about this for an old boss.

    1. Put £100 a year on each household bill.

    2. Give me the money, and not some over paid bunch of consultants who'll rip people off.

    3. I will then, starting in devon, completely solar roof every house (for nothing) I come across, keeping the cost of the electricity, I get from it.

    4. I will also, starting installing SAR20ZIX-S's in houses.

    5. I will also install Gledhill Torrents also.

    5a. I will also introduce Baxi Ecogens (modified to have the exhaust gases blow over the heat exchange outside to ensure the ASHPs run at maximum COP, even in winter.)

    6. I will not employ consultants, business analysts, middle management or ex MPs.

    7. No firm can take on a new job, until they finish one.

    8. As my electricity becomes over productive. Whole new industries will appear as if by magic, to store my electricity overnight.

    Hey presto. 20 years from now, we have no net residential energy use, at all.

  103. jason bennett

    @Flocke Kroes

    I think you will find that sustainable biofuels (i.e derived from waste materials such as ligno-cellulose) could go some way to ensuring future supply of liquid transportation fuels. All other transportation options seem to rely on electricity which we simply don't have the capacity to generate!

  104. jason bennett

    @copsewood

    The electric car is perhaps the biggest environmental red herring in existence..........

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10077965-54.html

  105. jason bennett

    @jimmy Posted Wednesday 22nd July 2009 16:49 GMT

    I think you will find the answer is 60,000 wind turbines.

    From your figures: largest wind turbine is 5MW operating at 20% efficiency giving 1MW per turbine

    Meaning 60,000 turbines required to generate 60,000 MW

    EPIC FAIL

  106. Matt 32

    Ah that it's then

    A basic inability by people to do math!

    >I make that 2400 Turbines.

    There's 85,000Mw of power generation capacity currently in the U.K.

    That's 17,000 sky-scraper sized turbines @ 5Mw.

    Ah, ok...so you only want 20% to come from wind power so that's 3,400 turbines.

    But wait, there's more.

    As other posters above pointed out, the efficiency of wind turbine fields is only around 20%.

    So to replace 20% of the current capacity, you need to build 100% of it all over again in wind turbines. So that's 17,000 skyscrapers using your assumptions and correcting the math for errors and ommissions.

    Now, how much of domestic heating, cooking, and transportation should we look to move over to electricity instead of fossil fuel? You're not going to conserve your way out of that pickle -- more capacity is needed. Will it be built with fossil fuel or nuclear? Or will it be built with wind?

    If one is truly serious about using windpower to seriously reduce carbon usage and fuel imports it's not hard to envision a system needed 45,000 wind turbines to produce enough base load at their miserable 20% efficiency while also shifting big time to electric vehicles and electrically powered homes.

    In any other context many of the folks supporting these wind turbines would be screaming bloody murder and chaining themselves to bulldozers and crying how ugly, awful they are. But somehow because it's cool, they go along with peer pressure and declare them cool.

    Airplanes are an irriation -- if there was something positive to take from 9-11, hearing for the first and only time in my life the sound of silent skies was amazing for that week. But they are a necessary annoyance. Highways, powerlines, cities -- all mar the landscape, but we can at least usually limit their impact.

    Windmills necessarily must be thrust upon the highest spots if on land, creating the greatest possible visual pollution, and for what? They are not economical due to the need to still build base capacity. They are, arguably, of environmental value but not at a scale that they merely replace 1/5th of a nation's power, leaving what...4/5ths, 3/5ths to still come from carbon?

    I'm not one to argue for inaction in the pursuit of the perfect, but wind power so utterly fails questions of basic logic we should not be spending our money on it. At least not on land, far off shore perhaps. We know nuclear makes economic and ecological sense today and can get use through the next few decades. Logic says working to use the earth's own heat will be a far better solution then either nuclear or wind or hydro power -- and that's what our "moon project" today should be.

  107. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still want that electric car

    I still want that electric car. Yes, I know current electric cars are more polluting in the sense that they 'cost' (environmentally) more to make and to end-of-line, but I believe that will change over time. The reason I want the electric car is because is moves the pollution from the car (often badly tuned and inefficient) to the electricity supply (where there's an incentive to make it as efficient as possible). The result is air that is a lot cleaner, and cities where you don't choke trying to walk down the street.

  108. Dillon Pyron
    FAIL

    We're already seeing that in Tejas

    Seems that Austin has started to roll out a solar power plant. For several years they've been selling "Green Choice", where electric customers (such as us) sign up and pay a higher rate today, but are guaranteed that rate for ten years.

    Well, Austin Energy now says that they can't pay for the plant with just those of us who are suckers, erh Green Choice users and will have to hammer everyone. Oh yeah, the price tag is something like $100M. To supply about 1000 homes. Oh, did I say A YEAR!!!!? One can build a nuke plant in 10 years that will service 10,000 homes.

  109. Mickey Finn
    Big Brother

    They are all the same...

    Lewis Page wrote…

    “ROCs are often misleadingly described as a "subsidy", but they cost the Treasury nothing:”

    I would just like to inform you, that NOTHING COSTS THE TREASURY ANYTHING!

    Where do you think they get their income from?

    On the broader issue:

    In a “brave new world”, where all our electricity needs are (under ideal conditions) generated by the wind, conventional generating systems, will not be switched off, they will be merely resting, as it is not possible to bring any of these systems up to full capacity from cold immediately, they have to be kept ticking over.

    "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power"-- Mussolini

    This is what is really going on; government (and its unspeakable mouthpiece, the BBC) is in an unholy alliance with big business, and ALWAYS at the hapless citizen’s expense.

  110. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Please, do your homework

    Could people who haven't yet got around to read http://withoutthehotair.com please refrain from spouting hot air on the subject? There's a 10-page synopsis (http://www.withouthotair.com/synopsis10.pdf) as well in case you've got a short attention span. There's really no need for anybody to embarrass themselves to the extent shown here.

  111. Perpetual Cyclist

    And, when you have read without hot air,

    Please visit this site

    www.theoildrum.com

    and learn about the future of energy, which is not what you might expect.

    BTW Mackay is neighbour of mine. Just been elected as a fellow of the Royal Society.

  112. Martin Coule
    Grenade

    Ooh look, vested interest in the nuclear industry!

    Job advert - "Poyry Energy (Nuclear energy recruitment site)

    We are delighted to be supporting Poyry in their Staffing solutions across sites at Devonport Naval Base, Sellafield Cumbria, Warrington Cheshire and Aldermaston Berkshire. We are constantly looking for Mechanical and Electrical Engineers"

    Gosh, who would have thought that the nuclear industry (with all its billions of pounds PR budget) wanted to diss the fledgling green market with it's PR budget of approximately zero? "Energy too cheap to meter" was the boast with nuclear power. Perhaps the same will happen in reverse with wind power - once we start spending the billions in development that was spent on nuclear power (and will continue to spend in decommissioning costs - thanks guys) instead on decent wind turbine designs, then perhaps wind and solar will become too cheap to meter, rather than these "Big Lie" nuclear jokers.

    I haven't seen so much blatant propaganda since I last read the Daily Mail.

  113. David Sidebotham
    Jobs Halo

    Cut the crap

    All energy is expensive. It is just that the final bill for carbon based energy has not yet arrived. we are told it will be hear in a few years. Just enough time to build a few wind turbines and reduce our energy demand.

    We are getting confused between the price and cost of energy. It is now time to increase the price of carbon based energy so that the price of developing wind power is reasonable if not favourable. I would suggest a tax of 50p per kg of carbon based fuel. This will fix the balance in sustainability and will also provide some £80bn per year to the exchequer. It will also benefit development of nuclear power and waste to energy schemes which are only marginal at present.

    Of course there will be issues with manufacturing import and export trading and our higher cost but this can be resolved by carbon rebates, which could be beneficial to our manufacturers in the long term.

    It is time to look forwards and fix the situation. Stop clinging to the past of low energy prices. Stop resisting change. As Bob Dylan prophesied "The times are a changin" .

  114. jimmy

    back to you matt 32

    i thought you might find that hole in the argument (wind farms only generating 20% of their rated output according to some).

    i hate percentages as should any mathematician.

    There's a difference between generating capacity (your quoted 85gigs) and my value of peak demand (60gigs). that's quite a margin. makes our numbers and percentages uncomparable. perhaps when using average wind turbine energy production (ie 20%) you should compare that to average UK energy use (ie less than the 60gig peak demand).

    You could argue that a 5MW wind turbine has a capacity of 5MW (when it's windy). i don't suppose you know exactly how much an average power plant produces compared to it's rated capacity? and i'm talking about how much energy it puts out from actual day to day use. i'm aware that if needs be they can be cranked up to produce more but due to the way we use electricity this isn't possible all the time.

    According to the BWEA website there's 3.6gigs of 'capacity' at present from 2500 turbines. that's one coal power plant that hasn't been built. And one plants worth of coal we no longer have to buy and burn. i would view that positively rather than your rather negative view.

    roads are ugly, planes are ugly, wind turbines are ugly but it looks like they're all necessary. i would say wind turbines are not ugly but that's my opinion.

    So looks like we'll need a lot more turbines. perhaps 4 times the amount. Denmark has done it and we have better wind resources than they have. i don't see why we can't do it too.

    Also, you shouldn't use the word 'efficiency' when quoting 20%. 5MW is the peak capacity 1MW is perhaps the average output. wind turbine efficiency is up to 61% (the Betz limit) comparable to fossil fuel stations. Although this is irrelevant when the energy is free and coal/nuclear etc aren't free.

    As per the BWEA website up to 12gigs can be generated without needing to use storage solutions. about 4.5 times the current capacity. = 10% required electricity for the nation. using 0.5% of the land area of the UK of which 99% is unused land which can still be used for farming/nature reserves etc.

    i agree with your 'moon project' statement. geothermal is effectively earths natural nuclear power and is almost completely clean. the problem is cost and no government is going to try that anytime soon even if it makes perfect sense to spend the $60 billion a year we waste on defence on this and get it done in less than a decade.

  115. windywoo

    Greenie is a pathetic attempt to distract

    As with any name calling, using the word greenie as an insult is just a way to distract from the fact that your argument is weak and needs a loaded word to give it weight.

    Fossil fuels were always a short sighted solution, but those who control their supply have short sighted profit driven goals. Its all very good to describe environmentalists as tree huggers and greenies, but fact is every single thing humans rely on to live and survive comes from the planet. Use it up and what happens to humans? If you are proposing that we just continue to party on as we currently are and ignore the consequences I can't fathom what has made you so uncaring.

    Real people got by just fine before washing machines and cars, perhaps they didn't have as much spare time to watch football or Corrie but they didn't feel the need either. If we want to keep the luxuries we have we have to make sacrifices somewhere else.

    If we invest in nuclear power now we are putting off this debate for another generation, and we had better hope that generation has more sense than the current one.

  116. Emily Parry
    Coat

    I'll get my *lab* coat

    Here's my plan:

    First get people to acknowledge that while at present fossil fuels underpin mostly growing energy needs, that even after alternative energy is developed we will still be left with growing non-energy dependencies. Want me to explain? Email me.

    Second get them to integrate the environment and human factors. Greenies need to understand not everybody can make sacrifices, but some can. Greedies need to scale up their selfishness to wider parameters, expanding the identity of self to include the whole world - forgive me for going Zen on you, but: protect your body and you protect yourself, protect the world, and you protect yourself.

    Third is my actual UK-based PhD study: looking at whether or not electric vehicles could balance a greater level of penetration of renewable energy systems through smart charging and V2G power. Of all other energy types, only electricity can be put usefully to the same diversity of purposes that fossil fuels are, and all our alternatives (wind, wave, hydro, solar, biofuel) while insignificant on their own can all be used to make electricity or subsidise it's use (e.g. solar thermal, Combined Heat and Power, transport biofuels), meanwhile we need fossil fuels for other, far more important things.

    Fourth I want to try to inspire people to start looking at rationing fossil fuels in such away that use might become sustainable, and suggest through ecological, geographical and chemical science that we find ways to predict where fossil fuels will develop, and start planning and thinking on a global, million-lifetime scale.

    Anybody who wants to help me sort the world out instead of stamping their feet and screaming "we're all doomed!" please get in touch! The more people that get involved, the more knowledge and experience I have access to, and the better our progress. I'm not no expert, I'm a generalist, but I do know how to use the expertise of others.

    Emily Parry (elp25@bath.ac.uk) - working towards PhD

    Dept. Electronic & Electrical Engineering, University of Bath

    Background: BSc Environmental Science, A level Biology/Chemistry/Physics

  117. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    @windywoo and something about food!

    That would be potentially 7 million generations of people using Nuclear power, you would hope in that time they might have worked something better out, but again, the solar system would be annihilated by that point anyway. Look this is really simple, lets not needlessly bugger the planet, i think we can all agree on that but lets get things straight, since we have viable power solutions (nuclear) for the considerable future, we should worry about the single biggest world problem that isnt 100s of years away, that isnt based of half truths and lies that is based on fact,

    The world can not generate enough food to support the whole planet, that resource is finite, changing climate trends will take 100s of years (if its even nessary) over population on the other hand will have serious effects on the world, not just developing nations, within the next 40 years that isnt your grandchildrens life times, thats potentially yours!

  118. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a mythical UK where everybody seems to have a house and a garden, and a car,

    It's not mythical, people can buy these things whatever their income on credit.

    Seems to me a few less loans and credit cards would kill 2 birds with one stone.

  119. Simon Robbins
    Thumb Down

    What are the real costs?

    As we well know the costs of nuclear power as presented to the public is heavily understated:

    http://neweconomics.org/gen/12345news_mirageandoasis.aspx

    Renewable energy just like any other form of energy generation needs a diversified approach in order to maintain reliable production. The shot-term bias of market economics will not stop this country innovating in the area of power generation.

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