back to article Wind power: Even worse than you thought

A new analysis of wind energy supplied to the UK National Grid in recent years has shown that wind farms produce significantly less electricity than had been thought, and that they cause more problems for the Grid than had been believed. The report (28-page PDF/944 KB) was commissioned by conservation charity the John Muir …

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  1. There's a bee in my bot net

    I might have read this if it wasn't for your mental series of articles on Fukushima

    I mean, its all going swimmingly there right? No need to hammer the point home about how safe it is, so you might as well start in on how crap alternative forms of energy production are.

  2. John I'm only dancing

    Nuclear option

    It would seem with fossil fuel reserves running out, this is the only viable option to meet the nation's power demands. Then we get the tricky problem of where do we site the new plants that will be required. In remote coastal areas? Probably not a good idea because they will need all the infrastructure to support the plant building as well.

    One thing is certain, green energy is not as green as they think.

  3. hplasm Silver badge
    Unhappy

    It is an ill wind.

    And it is doing nobody any good.

    Unless they trade in ROCs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Megaphone

      My point exactly

      Great point, was about to write the same...

      Editor: why is energy industry analysis of Lewis Page still being posted on here? Is it because it was so accurate last time or because it obviously isn't part of any kind of agenda?

    2. Anonymous John

      Re I mean, its all going swimmingly there right?

      Lester has never suggested that. The reactors have been trashed by the worst natural disaster imaginable, and it will take time to deal with this. Yet nobody has died other than from the tsunami.

      It's a ringing endorsement of how safe nuclear power is.

      1. Owen Carter
        FAIL

        Give it time

        "Yet nobody has died other than from the tsunami"

        They will; it's just that thyroid cancer takes time while drowning is over in a breath.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Thyroid cancer?

          Isn't that unlikely? I mean if they're anywhere where radioactive iodine is present, they'll have taken iodine tablets. So the radioactive iodine isn't collected in the Thyroid, so you don't get thyroid cancer.

          Lung cancer's more of a worry- and only then if a dust mask hasn't been worn / is faulty.

        2. Brian Morrison
          Flame

          Er, no, actually....

          ....it doesn't work like that. Provided those at risk are given tablets to load their thyroids with iodine while the iodine-131 is a significant hazard (a few weeks, its half life is about 8 days) then they will not get thyroid cancer. That is why a number of children were susceptible to cancer after Chernobyl, because they were *not* given iodine-containing tablets when they needed them.

          I assume you've also read George Monbiot's column in the Grauniad this week? The one where he admits that the green movement has lied about the science behind the risks of nuclear power, where none of the claims made stand up to scrutiny because their assumptions have not been verified and are just plain wrong? You should.

        3. Paul_Murphy

          Yeah

          100 years from now and everyone* who was alive at the time of the earthquake/tsunami will be dead.

          Everyday life includes risk - if the media frenzy over the Fukushima nuclear power plant were to be extended to other aspects of life then you could wave goodbye to: cars, buses, trains, planes, bicycles, not to mention all coal, oil, gas and hydro power.

          (you can see http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf06.html for the power side of things - I'm not even bothering to dig up figures for the transport side)

          As a thought experiment try imagining a world where there is only one source of power (be it wind or oil etc) and see what happens - running out of fuel or covering the land with overkill kit is the most likely outcomes unless you are looking at nuclear.

          ttfn

          *this is meant as an ironic statement - not an absolute truth

        4. Albert Stienstra
          Flame

          Out of 4000 Chernobyl thyroid cancer cases 9 people died

          The title of this post says it all. Mr.Carter's post is exemplary for the wrong ideas hammered in the heads of the population by poltiticians and action groups.

          The 9 people dying out of 4000 Chernobyl cases (mostly children) comes from an official UN report. Of course, this is a terrible situation still, so many sick people.

          Also, the situation in Fukushima is totally different from Chernobyl, as has been commented time and again. Near Fukushima, most of the radioactive iodine is in the seawater. Close to the power station the values are pretty bad, but out towards the ocean the iodine gets diluted pretty quickly.

      2. Scorchio!!
        Thumb Up

        Re: Re I mean, its all going swimmingly there right?

        Indeed, and it is interesting to see the non sequitur, emotive arguments run away with the day. Even so, let's focus for a second:

        Fossil fuels kill more people than nuclear power stations (does anyone here remember acid rain, BTW?).

        Naturally existing radon in places like Cornwall kills more people than nuclear power stations.

        It's been recently discovered that most of our wind farms were wrongly sited if best effects were wanted. IOW people rushed into building projects without first conducting research to see where they ought to be sited.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1303688/More-half-Britains-wind-farms-built-wind.html

        In spite of my love of it, renewable energy will never replace bulk reliable generation by, e.g., nuclear power. A read of Sir Fred Hoyle's "Energy or extinction: the case for nuclear energy" might help people to understand what is going on. The maths for renewable sources simply do not stack up to a reliable replacement of sufficient capacity. Regrettably fusion seems to be as far away as ever.

        Instead of the faux arguments about how nuclear power is expensive and kills people more than any other energy source (again, see stats on fossil fuels) it would be wiser to take a more comprehensive look at the matter of energy, one free of the argumentum ad hominem and free of scare stories.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Running out?

      We've shite loads of coal left, hundreds of years worth maybe. the problem being is that because we've closed down most of the mines it's going to hard to get back at most of it again.

      Better investing some cash getting at out our own coal reserves and looking at ways to make it cleaner than spending money on these fairy wheels that only make money for eurocrats.

      1. Geoffrey Swenson

        Actually, not so much

        Actually we probably have far less coal than commonly reported because most countries reserves are largely theoretical. There is a huge incentive to inflate these numbers.

        The low-cost coal is currently what is being mined. Once this are gone, the remaining coal is much harder to extract. Nevertheless, we probably should stop using coal ASAP because it is such a dirty way to produce energy. There is no such thing as "clean" coal.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        coal

        there is plenty of coal around, your right, and the tech to make it very clean is there too but it will never happen, cost for one, thats why they closed and two, politictians have used the green argument for their own ends so much so that any back tracking would be political suicide, the public sucked up all of this vote winning nonsense, and whilst im not saying its all rubbish, the way it was reported was and any reversal in policy would be very hard to get passed general opinion now

    4. Sean Baggaley 1
      FAIL

      WTF? Seriously?

      At what point did Lewis Page claim the Fukushima plant's problems are anything *other* than serious? He was highlighting the heroism and commitment of the plant's *workers*. Yes, there was a danger, but this plant had been hit by an earthquake and tsunami *five times greater* than its design allowed for. AND IT SURVIVED. Most of what we've seen since then is footage of plant workers maintaining the *cooling system*. The cores were not only contained, but their automatic emergency shutdown procedures *worked*. Unfortunately, as these plants were designed decades ago, that shutdown procedure takes a long time to complete—days, not minutes—hence all the effort that went into ensuring that cooling continued until the core temperatures were at a safe level. This took time. It also required seawater, rather than their preferred demineralised water, so the side-effects were rather spectacular, but not really all that dangerous for anyone beyond the power plant's fencing.

      The point of Page's Fukushima pieces was the *poor reporting*, which blew the whole thing out of proportion.

      To put it another way: Nearly *Ten thousand people have died* in a massive earthquake of staggering proportions, as well as its subsequent tsunami. Countless more were injured. Millions are homeless. It's going to be a long, hard, slog to repair the damage. Did the news media give a shit? No: 99% of their coverage boiled down to, "OMFG! NUCLEAR EXPLOSION! CHERNOBYL! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" Totally ignoring the fact that the total death toll (nil) and injuries (minimal) were trivially eclipsed by the far *greater* disaster surrounding it all.

      Unlike you, I went to some of the primary sources—i.e. not media reports as they're inherently secondary sources by definition—and discovered that Lewis pretty much nailed it.

      The only thing "mental" about Fukushima was the mainstream media's reporting of it. They should be utterly fucking ashamed of themselves. Seriously. It's bad enough when they blether on ignorantly about matters related to the IT industry—and the BBC has yet to redeem itself there—but this? This was just ignorance, FUD and bullshit of the highest order. Thousands died in a massive national tragedy, yet the media's response was to focus on a minor side-story of heroism and turn it into a fucking godawful movie even Michael Bay would have been too embarrassed to commit to film.

      The way the politicians have grabbed for this media circus and milked it for all their worth is an even greater embarrassment. Clearly, damned few people in positions of power have the faintest f*cking clue how nuclear power works, nor of the R&D that has gone into the newer designs that will eliminate the problems we've seen at Fukushima—particularly the long shutdown periods.

      (And, as someone who has lived and worked in France, Denmark and Italy, not just the UK, I've seen first-hand just how much of a con some of the so-called "alternative" power sources are. Wind is just one of them. The future is a mix of sources, but giant wind farms are an expensive distraction, not a "solution".)

    5. Steve X

      Well maybe

      it's because he's been right about Fukushima, and is right about wind power?

      1. Anton Ivanov

        He is wrong. Just elsewhere, not where you think.

        Well, UK can use much more wind power than now and can have a much more efficient grid than now. However the mere mentioning of the way to achieve it will cause all NIMBYs and "Hysterical Preservationists" to die from a ruptured spleen.

        The key to UK attaining cheap and green electricity is to have a working set of accumulating hydroelectrics which can pump up water to the higher mark when there is surplus and dump it to the lower mark to generate electricity during peak hour.

        There is an existing candidate for such a cascade in the UK - it is called "The Lake District". Only a couple of the lakes in it are natural. The rest is reservoirs built by the victorians to feed the industry and they should be put to use as their builders intended. There are plenty of other sites in Scotland, Peak district, Wales, etc which can add to that until the UK has something to soak the wind (and nuclear) energy so it does not need to burn gas at peak time. And if worst comes to worst there is a huge area ripe for building "fake tide" reservoirs to pump-n-dump in the sea which can also double up as tidal plants - the Wash.

        Once this is present the wind farms can and will generate way more than 25%. Ditto for tidal.

        1. Steve Crook
          Stop

          Don't you think it's already been considered?

          But it's a *lot* of water that would have to be pumped for anything but a short boost to grid availability. Given that calm periods can run to half a day or more, you'd need a LOT of water being pumped.

          The scale of the storage problem involves much more than flooding the lake district. For instance, when you let that pumped water flow to generate leccy, you have to store it somewhere until you have spare leccy to pump it back up. However long that may be...

          Think it through.

          1. El

            Could work in some situations

            One of the windiest spots in the US, the Columbia Gorge, also happens to have a hydroelectric dam in the middle of it. Wind would make an excellent supplement to hydro if used to pump water from downstream back to up above the hydroelectric dam. Wind in conjunction with gas or coal fired plants doesn't help that much, because it does nothing to reduce the required peak capacity of the fossil fueled generators.

            1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

              Too many environmental effects

              Unfortunately, there is no free lunch with hydroelectric. The recirculation of water that you describe would be directly counter to the efforts being made to restore the salmon runs on the Columbia and other West Coast rivers. Efforts to restore or halt further damage to these runs include running MORE water through the dams and restrictions on pumping from the river for agricultural, municipal and industrial use (or in your case, recirculating water back above the dam).

              I think we are going to have to bite the bullet on some painful decisions around energy:

              1. Use a lot less, with attendant impacts on standard of living

              2. Nuclear--with the safety and waste disposal issues that can bring

              3. Coal--cheap and plentiful, but polluting even if you don't believe in global warming

              4. Natural gas--probably the best option out there overall, but subject to commodity price spikes and transport problems.

              5. Wind--Not reliable, expensive, lots of "visual pollution", harmful to bird and flying insect populations if large concentrations of wind turbines deployed.

              6. Geothermal--runs out over time, lots of corrosive effects on machinery used, limited availability

              7. Solar--Anotherer decent option, but sunshine is unreliable and transmitting the power generated from rural, sunny areas to cities can be a challenge

              8. Tidal--reliable, but expensive to build and very harmful environmental effects to local waters

              enclosed for the tidal resevoir

              9. Oil--enough said

              10. Hydro--largely exploited. Dams have huge environmental effects and can be very expensive initially. Droughts impact hydro generation

              1. sola

                some dditions

                Natural Gas, while is quite clean to burn, has serious CO2 footprint, so it has an aggravating effect on Global Warming. It is a good option only if the feedstock is renewable bio-methane from landfills, and dedicated digesters. I see a big potential in bio-methane production.

              2. Tom Wood

                Energy from waste

                There are also various energy-from-waste schemes which use numerous methods to turn different types of waste into fuel. They're not going to solve all the energy problems but they do have the nice effect of getting rid of stuff you don't want (municipal waste) and converting it into something you do (heat & power).

              3. Dagg

                Geothermal?

                >Geothermal--runs out over time, lots of corrosive effects on machinery used, limited availability

                Depends. If you are using a geothermal resource heated by magma like Iceland and New Zealand then it doesn't run out. The other hot rock geothermal which is basically a granite based nuclear reactor may run out after a several hundred years.

                Also depending on the source geothermal is no more corrosive on machinery than many other forms of generation.

            2. Terry H

              Perpetual Motion?

              That only makes sense if they have to restrict the flow through the dam due to lack of water. I know that is a big problem in a lot of the SW (aka DESERT!) so maybe that is the case here.

              Still, your solution smells a little like perpetual motion. Because, if you are using wind to pump water back you can never (rarely) use wind to generate electricity. So you've added a huge crushingly expensive infrastructure in order to feed the hydroelectric generators. I hasten to emphasis I haven't studied this particular case, but if it is economical it would certainly be the exception not the rule.

          2. John X Public
            Boffin

            RE: Don't you think it's already been considered?

            Reply to http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1034457

            You are right, it is an immense problem. Gee, it's a shame that there isn't a large industry devoted to solving the problem of storing water and using it to generate power for days on end. Oh, wait...

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

            And that's in the world's flattest, driest, continent.

        2. Scorchio!!
          Thumb Up

          Re: He is wrong. Just elsewhere, not where you think.

          This is one of the most logical and exciting of the renewables projects, is being trialled in the UK, and is being used in Japan:

          http://www.searaser.com/

          This too is of interest:

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7608630.stm

          There are a number of projects which utilise wave power in novel ways. These are among the better hopes, because wave power is as constant and as reliable as the moon-earth relationship. It will not be enough alone though.

          If you do a search on hydroelectrics a number of problems are revealed. They screw up the environment for species other than ourselves. Interestingly the mass effect of hydroelectrics across the earth would seem to be a change to the 'balance' of the planet. The wash, well, once again the question of other species rears its head.

          As to the NIMBYs, do a search and you will find a lot of this:

          https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/business/energy-environment/06noise.html

          The only genuinely successful projects that I've seen are in the Baltic. In one case a community pooled money, bought the kit and sited it away from housing. They now appear to have an unlimited source of energy, but they live on a small island... ...in the Baltic sea.

          1. Owen Carter
            Boffin

            Waves != Tides

            "wave power is as constant and as reliable as the moon-earth relationship"

            Err.. No mate, that would be Tides.

            Waves are driven by, fanfare, The Wind.. ie the same unreliable motive force as discussed in the article.

      2. Geoffrey Swenson
        FAIL

        Lewis slays straw men, fails to convince rational people

        Lewis likes to find all sorts of over the top commentary in some media outlets. After slaying these straw men, he then adds a more than a few preposterous assertions of his own such as stating Chernobyl really wasn't all that horrible, despite creating a large wasteland area in the Ukraine.

        He never really addresses the problems, such as the incredibly high cost Japan will bear to clean up the nuclear mess. Nuclear power is expensive and dangerous and nowhere near as clean or as carbon-neutral as Lewis attests. If I remember correctly, Lewis also is global warming denier, using the same flawed reasoning strategies. It is always apparent that he works his reasoning back from his strong opinions rather than letting the actual facts point to a conclusion. Anything "fact" that is inconvenient to his arguments is dismissed by slaying straw men or creating absurd conspiracies of supposed bias in anyone that disagrees with him.

        While the lack of utilization of current wind power technologies is disappointing, there are possible solutions. If some of the massive subsidies for nuclear power were spent instead to find viable ways to store reserve power, wind will become an important part of the energy mix. Otherwise it may be viable to build a link of low-loss superconducting power feeds around the planet so that surpluses can be delivered to where the power is needed.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Choose a scientifc report, any scientific report

          Meanwhile, in Germany, which is likely to reverse last year's politically disastrous decision to extend the life of nuclear power stations with accelerated decommissioning by the end of the year, the Fraunhofer Institute - the people who brought us MP3's - have decided that wind power is more efficient than previously thought and can easily replace nuclear power. The report, in German, is available on the German wind power federation's website. http://www.wind-energie.de/fileadmin/dokumente/Themen_A-Z/Potenzial%20der%20EE/IWES_Potenzial_onshore_2011.pdf

          And, yes, noises are already being made about how to ban the import of nuclear power from France and the Czech Republic.

          1. byrresheim
            Thumb Up

            And a good thing too.

            Elderly people still remember how difficult it was to ween the czechs from tried and proven reactor designs such as RBMK. Still older people remember having heard in their youth about embrittlement (which seemed to be a predominantly french phenomenon).

            However, as nothing has seriously gone wrong yet, nothing ever will*.

            *(Truthfulness of that sentence may vary depending on your definition of nothing, serious, wrong, yet and ever)

        3. Owen Carter
          Boffin

          Or..

          "After slaying these straw men, he then adds a more than a few preposterous assertions of his own such as stating Chernobyl really wasn't all that horrible"

          I liked it when he said that The Japanese did not consider Tsunami's when designing coastal Power stations... I mean it must be True because the great nuclear engineer Lewis said it.. but I just have one question:

          'Tsunami'? that's an old Welsh name isn't it?

      3. Mickey Finn
        Big Brother

        Misplaced trust...

        Good summation Sean Baggaley...

        It is interesting here to put two and two together and ACTUALLY make four!

        Bird mincers don't work, so we will have to import more nuke from France.

        The new portable nuclear systems, such as those designed by Toshiba, operate within a closed loop system... Any slight chance of an accident is consigned to the site where they are manufactured like Sellarfield rather than where they are deployed, and they actually work in practice (as opposed to theory).

        Therefore the conclusion might be drawn that our government in Brussels (and its lackey in Westminster), is FAR MORE DANGEROUS than something like the 30 year old Fukushima.

        We have been using French nuke for a very long time (about 20% of our total energy requirement) and that is OK, other EU member states have similar symbiotic relationships. The EU wants us to DEPEND on these relationships to further blur the nature of the nation state, so that we could not leave, even if we wanted to.

        The agenda is NOT the relatively safe and secure generation of power, the agenda is one world government, and therein lies our real Armageddon.

        ...Oh and did I mention shale gas?

      4. byrresheim

        Did you actually read Mr. Page's Posts?

        Fukushima is not over yet, but Mr. Pages reporting hopefully seems over. There was one point, however, where he was undeniably right: the mainstream's reporting about Fukushima was deplorable. Which is no excuse for him.

        Apart from that, it seems plausible that the wind-farmers business modell is distorted. However, they are not alone in this. Take a look at the business model of Calder Hall - that might make you hug a wind farmer.

      5. There's a bee in my bot net

        Meh...

        >At what point did Lewis Page claim the Fukushima plant's problems are anything *other* than serious?

        He kept going on about how safe it was despite the uncertainty of the situation. Fukushima on Thursday: Prospects starting to look good", "Fukushima one week on: Situation 'stable', says IAEA", "Fukushima: Situation improving all the time" and I'm sure there was one that said Fukushima: A triumph of nuclear engineering. Doesn't sound particularly serious from his article titles.

        >The point of Page's Fukushima pieces was the *poor reporting*, which blew the whole thing out of proportion.

        There was only one article where he focused on the mainstream press coverage. His reporting style was just as biased as the main stream press albeit on the opposite side of the scale.The pro nuke bias and all the trumpeting of nuclear power in the face of a disaster that could have been much worse made his articles all that much harder to take seriously.

        >Unlike you, I went to some of the primary sources

        That's a massive assumption on your part. I see and hear little broadcast news as the main stream media is obsessed with the dramatisation of everything no matter how trivial and for me it detracts from the news they are trying to report. I personally found mitnse.com (which links to the TEPCO reports) very informative, Ars Technica also ran some interesting articles and for the other disparate sources, google was helpful in filling in the details or displacing F.U.D.

        >The only thing "mental" about Fukushima was the mainstream media's reporting of it.

        Again I agree that the main stream media's reporting (what little I saw/heard of it) was appalling and misleading, I was suggesting that Mr Pages articles on the Fukushima disaster were unbalanced*. I enjoy his articles on military technology though, where his writing is clear and unbiased, I guess he doesn't have an axe to grind there.

        >The way the politicians have grabbed for this media circus and milked it for all their worth is an even greater embarrassment

        You'll get no argument from me on that one.

        >The future is a mix of sources, but giant wind farms are an expensive distraction, not a "solution".)

        I agree the future of power generation is a mix of sources, big (power plants & farms) and small (micro and mini generation), nuclear and renewable. I'm not so sure that wind is as big a waste as some might suggest. Sure, betting the farm on wind is stupid, and I suspect the people who are, are those who stand to make the most money in that industry. Wind has its place, and to dismiss one form of power generation (and I'm speculating on the content of the article based on the comments as I still haven't read it) out of hand seems churlish.

        *You probably think that I am anti nuclear power but that is not true. I am a realist and understand that the developed world is selfish and will not easily give up that to which it has become accustomed. Nuclear IS a part of our future (albeit 10 to 20 years away).

      6. Bongwater

        Perfectly Elucidated

        Sean that was perfect, will you run for President of the USA? I will vote for you.

        Also, I love how the current President was filling in his basketball pool and right before he started he was like "Oh yeah Japan sorry about your current issue.... and now on to my picks!"

        I'm picking on him a little I know, just thought it was kind of callous.

      7. Sebmel

        Misrepresentation of the Lewis Page ilk

        Perhaps I don't read the same sites Lewis does but the most hysterical articles I saw on the Fukushima nuclear accident were his vainglorious 'everyone hysterical but me' rants.

        S. Baggaley follows in kind with this sort of misrepresentation: "Countless more were injured. Millions are homeless. It's going to be a long, hard, slog to repair the damage. Did the news media give a shit? No: 99% of their coverage boiled down to, "OMFG! NUCLEAR EXPLOSION! CHERNOBYL! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!""

        Perhaps you two are reading the same sites. I didn't see it at the BBC, or the broadsheets. What I saw was plenty of coverage of the tsunami, it's consequences, and some articles expressing concern about the Fukushima accident.

        All the while Lewis was posting body count comparisons and saying: this is no disaster, it's a triumph... in his best Crimean Sgt. Major voice. At times I wondered if they weren't intended to be read in a Windsor Davis voice and that, perhaps, TheReg was laying on the comedy a little thick.

        Lewis has written as an apologist for the nuclear industry and now he is turning his sights on renewables. The facts are these:

        Fukushima:

        Release of various radionuclides: ongoing. Full extent of clean-up as yet unknown. Current estimates being put at 30 years to sort it out.

        Sea contaminated with various radionuclides. Full consequences still unknown: some fishing restricted and exports affected. Compensation to fishermen promised by government (not Tepco)

        Large area evacuated: no time frame for return home. Tepco suggest some land will be permanently closed. No outline on compensation for farmers and home owners

        Result for nuclear industry:

        Increased insurance costs. Damage to reputation. Many projected generators being reassessed.

        Results for consumer:

        The costs will be passed onto the consumer. The level of begging for taxpayer bailout and its success as yet unknown.

        Bloomberg gets it right regarding the cost and consequences:

        "Japan’s taxpayer, not the nuclear industry or insurers, will cover most of the cleanup cost from the worst accident since Chernobyl, a financial rescue that may spur moves by nations to make companies assume more liability. Tokyo Electric Power Co., in its 13th day fighting to avert a meltdown at its Fukushima plant 220 kilometers (135 miles) north of Tokyo, at most is required to cover third-party damages of 120 billion yen ($2.1 billion) under Japanese law. "

        So Lewis' triumph of an accident, that should cause all governments to build more nuclear power stations is this: a 30 year clean up that Tepco bill the taxpayer for, and a bill for compensation to farmers, industry, fishermen and evacuees that the taxpayer pays.

        That's not a triumph, it's a disgrace... and that's why Lewis has played the health and hysteria card.

        Now a summary of the actual news in Lewis' hatchet job in wind power:

        Intermittent nature of wind power requires some form of buffering. Insufficient buffering in place. Industry currently receiving help in the form of price guarantees (like the nuclear industry).

        That's all... but Lewis sets about it by ignoring that while wind generation tends to be at night, solar generation occurs during the day, providing some of the buffering required. Solar panels continue to drop in price and increase in efficiency. Recently I read that they break even in 5 years in Spain... so perhaps 10 in the UK. That creates an upper limit for electricity pricing (obviously not an absolute but a downward pressure) which Lewis ignores in his scaremongering about wind.

        That's not the end of the story: there are decisions to be made about how, and which, renewables to plug into the national grid. My point is that Lewis writes like a cold war dinosaur. His ideological viewpoint is the one that caused Margaret Thatcher to hand the assessment of the nascent renewables industry to British Nuclear Fuels. They obviously dismissed it, and carried on demanding public funds for their 'too cheap to meter" electricity.

        I don't come to TheReg to read that kind of junk.

        To TheReg: I've read this site for it's insights for longer than I can remember and now I am seriously considering deleting it from the links I open daily because the misinformation in Lewis' articles call into question the site's journalistic integrity.

    6. The Original Ash
      Thumb Up

      Nuclear plants less toxic to local environment than coal

      I'd live near one. You could get a huge house for pennies next to a reactor building!

      You can guarantee you'd never get a black out, and you'd never need worry about nosey neighbours.

    7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    8. Ammaross Danan
      FAIL

      Last I checked....

      ...Lewis didn't write the research paper, nor the conclusions therein. He merely brought it to our attention.

    9. xperroni
      Thumb Down

      Nuclear fallout!

      There is something I don't get: this article is about *wind* power. Why is everyone talking about nuclear power and the Fukushima situation?

      What? Aren't the forums for the Fukushima articles filled of enough flak already?

  4. spodula
    Joke

    Bad siteing.

    If they put a wind turbine in the House of commons, they could power half of London.

    Tidal and Geothermal are the way to go in the country. I really cant see why people think wind is such a good idea. I assume because its quick.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Nuclear energy.

    It's about time people and especially the green lobby opened their eyes.

    There is only one realistic replacement for fossil fuels.

    We need to start building new reactors immediately.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whereas...

    ...the colossal volumes of water that rush up and down our estuaries, twice a day, reliable as clockwork, have been dismissed as a source or power generation.

    You couldn't make it up.

  7. Dino
    Alert

    er electric transport users charge at night??

    Just a thought... plugin hybrids usually need to charge at night - so all that generation at night would come in handy and make more power available for them...

    Problem is the ROCs as implemented, look like they are deeply upsetting the market rather than wind power itself being the problem..

    1. longbeast
      Unhappy

      We can't go 100% nuclear without major investment.

      Nuclear power is great for base load and we ought to be going for about 40% nuclear without any hesitation, but it isn't a good fit for Britain if you want more than that. There will still have to be something to fill the gap.

      We're a small island with no land borders - it's difficult to export power in large amounts - so when our own usage dips at night, the generating capacity has to dip too. Nuclear reactors can't be shut down that quickly, so they end up having to run at full power with nobody to sell that power to. They become uneconomical very quickly under such circumstances.

      Nuclear power is fantastic and cheap for countries like France that can export power overnight, but we can't do that, not without a really seriously huge investment in the channel tunnel power link.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The maths is much easier for current tidal technologies

      And has been proven to generate bugger all power. Until some new method for extracting power for waves comes along, it's not going happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        hmm

        "Nuclear power is fantastic and cheap for countries like France that can export power overnight, but we can't do that, not without a really seriously huge investment in the channel tunnel power link."

        So what your saying is that nobody thought to build a bigger service tunnel when they had the chance? Sounds about right

        1. Anomalous Cowturd
          Stop

          Re: Hmm

          There are cable trays in all three tunnels. And there's room for a few more, if you don't mind the disruption of single tunnel working whilst they are being installed...

          Space is a bit tighter in the service tunnel.

          HTH.

      2. defiler Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Pumped storage?

        I think we currently generate around 20% of the electricity in the UK from nuclear sources. Upping that to 40% will greatly reduce our reliance on hydrocarbon fuels, so that's a good start. Surely, though, there's milage in pumped storage systems. Increase the base load (nuclear is perfect for this) beyond the minimum actually consumed in the country, and then use that extra generation to pump water into reservoirs overnight (or whenever there's surplus). This gives you an excellent store of power which is (a) clean, (b) cheap because you're using "spare" electricity to do it, and (c) very responsive to peaks in consumption.

        It takes seconds to open the tap on a hydro-electric generator, so this is an excellent resource to have. In fact, it could be used to handle the lulls in wind generation (or smooth it out so that less responsive generators like gas / oil can react). Of course that depends on whether wind is actually economical - who knows...

        As for exporting power, we export to France, Holland and Ireland I think. Geographically, we're limited in what we can do though. The peak will (obviously) chase the sun around the world, and there's nobody West of us that's close enough to realistically sell it. Storing it for the next day's peak, though - that's a good plan.

      3. The First Dave Silver badge
        Boffin

        @We can't go 100% nuclear without major investment.

        Sorry, but that is rubbish - of all thermal power generators, nuclear is the cheapest to 'blow off' - the direct running costs are tiny, and unlike coal/gas/oil/waste burners, they are designed with extra cooling capacity. The majority of their costs are from the build phase, followed by the costs of dealing with spent fuel - and unlike coal, the fuel last pretty much the same amount of time whether on full chat or idle.

        1. PJ 1

          "the direct running costs are tiny"

          That's precisely why it is the least economic to blow off. The economics rely on maximising the utilisation of the plant to pay off those build costs. For a conventional plant the cost is mostly fuel so ramping down is fine.

          There is also an argument from practicality that the flow of coolant through the reactor and therefore generation cannot be stauched as quickly as with conventional plant (where the heat source can be killed relatively quickly) as the reactor will continue to require cooling after shutdown and the condenser will not be designed to remove all heat from the outcoming steam without that steam having previously done work in the turbines.

          Furthermore, ramping and blow off increases thermal cycles meaning decreased life of thermally stressed plant meaning in turn more servicing. Now servicing most parts of a conventional plant can be done by a man with a MIG set and a gas axe for a tenner an hour. Not really the case for a nuclear plant where you pay a man just to number the bolts you take out.

          1. Andydaws

            PJ1 - that's complete claptrap

            1 - you're mixing up maximising return, with having sufficient return to run profitably - and that electricity prices vary through the day.

            2 - power output from the fuel in a generation III+ reactor can be varies quite rapidly - there's no particular limiting factor on ramping down (in a running reactor I can cut power from 100% of nominal to about 5% instantaneously, and to under 1% within an hour. On ramping up, there's an inherent limitation caused by the production of Xenon, but again, it's easily manageable by a system called "grey" control rods. It's also not that much of a limiation - the EPR can vary power impressively fast, at 5% of maximum power/minute.

            Remember that France already operates most of its nuclear fleet in a "load following" mode - it has to. 80% of its output is nuclear, but it's daily demand varies (like ours) by more than 2:1.

            3 - you're mixing up temperature with actual levels of heat production - providing I vary coolant flow alongside heat production there's no cycling of temperatures (and hence stresses) involved.

      4. CaptainHook
        FAIL

        Wave / Tidal

        Post Title = "The maths is much easier for current tidal technologies"

        Post Contents = "Until some new method for extracting power for waves comes along, it's not going happen."

        You do realise that wave and tidal power system are different right?

        God what I would give for a decent quoting system in these forums.

      5. Andydaws
        Thumb Down

        whatever makes you think renewables are low investment?

        The latest large windfarm to be committed is the "London Array" It's a near in-shore development in the Thames estuary.

        Its nominal capacity is 640 Mw.

        According to it's owners, they'll be investing €1.9 billion.

        I make that roughly £2.6Bn per Gigawatt, But, it'll only run (on Lewis' numbers) at a 25% availabiltty/capacity factor (the same are the two for wind, as it has a guaranteed market).

        So, that's about £10.3Bn per gigawatt average output.

        A 1630MW EPR costs about £2.5-3bn. That'll run at 90%+ availability (and can load follow in a way that wind can't).

        I make that about £2.1Bn/available GW

        Incidentally, all the Generation III+ designs are able to ramp production up and down by about 3% per 15 minutes.

      6. Captain Thyratron

        What kind of objection is that?

        What solution /won't/ require a lot of investment? Is there some bleeding-obvious way to bring down the cost of electricity cheaply? No matter what you do, you're going to have to build a lot of something. The question, then, becomes which "something" gives you the most zap for your buck.

      7. Scorchio!!
        Thumb Up

        Re: The maths is much easier for current tidal technologies

        There is such a new technology. The searaser:

        http://www.searaser.com/

        Japanese utilisation of it:

        http://seawaterpower.com/mp-sps.html

        The bloke told me to expect developments this spring. I sincerely hope so.

        Other technologies include:

        http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/mg19926631.600?DCMP=NLC-nletter&nsref=mg19926631.600

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/cornwall/content/articles/2007/04/25/planetcornwall_wavehub_feature.shtml

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/7937285.stm

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10286603

        And so on.

      8. Joel 1

        tidal ≠ wave

        I suspect you are mixing up tidal power with wave power - tidal power can generate plenty of power and has the benefit of being completely predictable. Although you can't generate electricity at high tide, this occurs at different times around the coast, so a variety of tidal generators around the coast can give you continuous power generation.

        Wave power is ultimately wind power - waves are primarily driven by wind (tsunamis excepted).

      9. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        france

        given that we buy a large chunk of energy from France i think there must be ways of getting power across a wee bit of water, if it goes one way it can go the other,

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And...

      ...because it's a big, visible icon for the public, to make it look like the powers that be are doing something.

      Pity 'thinking' isn't on the list of things to do.

    4. proto-robbie
      Pirate

      Right on

      The new Forth crossing, for example: the perfect site for a barrage. And yet the concept never arose. Sure, there are issues, but to not even talk about them?!?

      1. The First Dave Silver badge
        Boffin

        @Right on

        The new Forth crossing is _not_ a good place for a barrage, given that it is downstream of quite a few facilities, such as Grangemouth, that rely on having a navigable passage.

        On the other hand, just about two weeks ago, a turbine-style tidal generator was dropped into the water somewhere off the Minches (I think, can't remember the exact location) - a few more of those space out appropriatly so that their peak times overlap each other seem like a fairly good idea.

        1. Colin Miller
          Thumb Up

          Sound of Lewis

          It's in the Sound of Lewis, just to the east of Islay. It has 10 turbines, each rated at 1MW (peak I think).

          http://www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/pages/press_releases.asp?article=82&date_year=2011

      2. Andydaws
        Thumb Down

        The Forth Crossing

        No, because compared to Atlantic tides, North sea ones are small - perhaps 14 the height. And, since even with a big Atlantic tide it'd take an 18 mile Severn barrage to make 1.9GW average, how much do you think a 3 mile or so Forth barrage could make - perhaps 50-70MW?

        For what'd cost a couple of billion......

        1. Yag

          the calculations are not that simple...

          For example, the oldest tidal station, La Rance, is around half a mile long and have a peak power production of 240 MW.

          With some awesomely good conditions.

          It is still the most powerful tidal station in the world, more than half a century after the start of its construction.

          I'll be surprised if you even reach 50 MW in Forth...

          Speaking about the costs, don't forget that the dam itself can last for a long time, there is no fuel cost (only maintenance), no decommission "hidden" costs (oops, we forgot to take it into account for those lovely nukes) and (almost? can't even figure of any) no risks in case of dam rupture.

          In the end, the cost per kWh is lower than those of nuclear station (If the site is fit for purpose, of course!) and the production is freakingly reliable.

    5. Owen Carter
      WTF?

      Cargo Cults...

      "I really cant see why people think wind is such a good idea."

      That is partly the point.. wind is very visible. Politicians, journalists and other simpletons like big shiny things they can pont to and say "See! THIS is what I am doing for you!"

      They are mostly shiny M&S lovin 'consumers' who like big shiny wind turbines because they match their big shiny cars and tv's and ipods etc.. They are not selling us Energy, they are selling us dreams and ambitions and the promise of a bright shiny future..

      Meanwhile the real future is geothermal, nuclear and solar.

      - Tidal suffers similar problems of poor efficiency, high maintenance and appalling ROI as wind.. Unfortunately the UK might have to destroy the Severn estuary in order to learn that..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Forget windmills...

        ... I want to see more waterwheels. The rivers round here flow 24/7/365. Why can't we make like the old mills and stick a waterwheel with a turbines along the banks?

        1. Manu T

          ... but there's rain...

          And all that rain flows into creeks and rivers and back to the sea.

          As is mentioned (a lot) before why not use that in the UK?

        2. Andydaws
          Thumb Down

          waterwheels - why not?

          because they make 2/10ths of f**k all power.

          Go look at your river. Say it's a metre deep, five metres wide. And flows at a metre a second (which is pretty fast for most rivers), over a drop of a couple of metres.

          Guess how much power you can make, if you extract every single watt?

          20 kilowatts.

          That's not exactly about to make a difference....

          How much power can

        3. Scorchio!!
          Thumb Up

          Re: Forget windmills...

          "I want to see more waterwheels"

          Interesting that you say that, because farmers are increasingly reactivating these old things, converting them into generators, powering their own farms and selling the excess off.

          Another thing we can all do is put thermal energy converters on our roofs. These water filled devices have a valve in them that allows hot water into the domestic heated water supply, and trap a surprising amount of heat.

          Any renewable strategy has to be mixed, so that it works when a single component (e.g. wind) is 'down'. However it is not going to satisfy the need for a stable, bulk, core energy generator. We've become very used to turning on a switch and having instant light and heat, used to burning vast amounts of energy to do what we are doing now with computers. For example I have a 750 w psu to cope with the demands I make on this machine, which has 4 HDs and 2 SSDs, and a ludicrously powerful graphics card. This takes vastly more energy than would be needed to power an early lighting system. Then there's the microwave, the oven, the HD TV, the Dolby amp and sub woofer, the multimedia streaming devices, televisions in the bedrom (not me I should add, though I'm guilty of everything else)...

          ...we've become greedy through familiarity, energy is running out and we are short of time for making decisions. If we do not wake up, both to the fact that we face an energy crisis far greater than the bow wave we're experiencing, and if we do not wake up to the fact that 'Green' calculations for the value of renewables do not cut it, then all of this will founder.

          That means nothing to transfer files onto MP3 players, no batteries for MP3 players, no home entertainment systems, no street lights. We'll descend into what can be described as an energy poor society, clinging onto the last remnants of fossil fuels, using ingenious technologies such as the coal-petrol conversion scheme once employed by the apartheid SA government, the extraction of shale oil, thereby devastating large areas of beautiful earth.

          No. Nuclear. Now. Push ahead with successful renewable technologies, research their use (e.g., as in the case of siting wind farms where they actually work efficiently), and research existing inefficient systems to determine if they can be improved. A good example of the latter would be solar cells. Fred Hoyle did a lot of calculations and found solar cells wanting, but some recent developments may have changed that (making what could be described as 'dendrites', in the form of branches off the cell, branches of those, and so on, and in the form of biological power converters). These need to be researched fully, they need a committed government with a well thought out energy policy, and a much better one than merely stipulating/allowing private industry to hog the sector.

          Energy is more than a matter of mere comfort, it is an integral component of a nation state's security policy, it is the backbone of everything that we do. It's too important to leave a component like nuclear to the private sector.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          rivers

          you can, and doing such things is great on a local level, farmers are getting in on the idea in quite a big way but it would not be possible to roll it out on a massive scale. for the likes of a city

          Defence in depth is what is needed, you must have a back bone of core power generation capable of powering the country if needed, coal oil gas and Nuclear are idea for this, all of them have pros and cons, in the long term however nuclear is the only viable design if we are not to rely on a source of energy that wouldnt run out in the near-ish future. Future Nuclear designes are even more intresting if it can be made to work and would prolong the life of nuclear energy until the sun blows up.

          suppliment this with whatever else you can get, geothermal is sustainable but im unsure how easy it would be to get working efficiently in the UK, tidal is fine if you dont mind buggering up the seas, solar would be useful if it could be made significantly more effecient (solar cells are crap)

          Wind and hydro are ok for local communities but somehow i doubt local communities would want one of those bloody great farms on their doorsteps but to suppliment standard power for LOCAL use would be fine, ie, i could park a turbine on my roof to help my personally, or a local hamlet could put a couple of big ones up, hydro is intresting but i think its safe to say its only a last resort, and i dont like the idea of flooding more of our great country side. rivers would be fine again for local use

          all of these need to be in place to help out when they can, setting your target of x% to be wind in 10 years is stupid, 100% of the power needs to be available 24 7, that means big plants, if its windy or sunny then some of that can be offset reducing the total output to say 80% at any given moment.

          geothermal is probably the only one that could be relied apon at any given time.

          1. Andydaws

            The problem is, the amount of energy available

            Even in areas like Cornwall, the available energy from geothermal is small - you need to drill down 7-10km to get to rocks hot enough to boil water,. And there's then the issue of pumping losses (since you're having to drill two bores and crack the rock between them). You have to refracture the rock periodically, due to plasticity.

            Rock's not that conductive, too. Which means that each bore pair and crack system has a limited life before you get local cooling, and have to drill a new pair.

            It's worth remembering that the Icelandic Government - who have rather a vested interest in selling geothermal - estimate that their developable capacity for export is about 2GW. Not startling, in a country that's got massively more favourable conditions than anywhere in the UK.

            Even in Iceland, the majority of geothermal applications are for space heating rather than power generation. Realistically, you need steam supply at a minimum of 150C, and preferably 200C plus to make steam turbines reasonably efficient.

    6. David Pollard

      Nightly recharge?

      Recharging of cars with night-time wind power would be fine if the wind were to blow every night, The problem is that it doesn't. People just won't be prepared to use their cars only one day in three following a breezy night. So, if the aim is to replace petrochemicals, another power source would be needed two nights out of three. Because this would be used only to partial capacity, costs would be increased and efficiency reduced.

      However, plentiful night-time energy is available on a regular basis from nuclear or other plant that is efficient by virtue of large scale and which it is better to run at near-constant output. That's where the idea of night-storage heating started and one of the reasons why Dinorwig was built.

      Electric cars can make environmental sense when coupled to nuclear power, but not much otherwise. Hybrids that charge up only one night in three seem like an expensive solution to a problem that can be solved better in other ways.

      1. Thomas 4

        One thought does occur

        Well, if wind is unreliable as a means of feeding the grid continually, why not develop some form of storage for electricity generated through wind power and tap into it as needed? For example, on blustery days, wind power can charge up the storage facility and once the facility is full, divert to grid and on slower days, draw energy from the storage facility.

        It probably won't be feasible but it worked for me when I was playing Total Annihilation the other day.

        1. David Pollard

          One thought - three problems

          First, energy storage and re-use introduces inefficiencies. Pumped-hydro, one of the better contenders, returns about 75% of input energy, with perhaps another 5% lost in transmission losses

          The second problem is the cost of storage, both capital and environmental costs.

          Thirdly, there are periods of up to three weeks when no significant wind energy is available and storage would be depleted. Backup generating capacity would still be required in addition to the storage; and this is not cheap. Nor would ii be likely to be low-carbon.

          1. Manu T

            Perhaps we can donate the batteries from our phones and laptops to them

            They're Li-ion or Li-polymer batteries. Suposedly hi-tech and they should be able to store energy for some time. In fact that's the promotional sentence that Bosh uses to sell their Ixo-electric screwdriver.

        2. Andydaws

          Storage

          I can see this'll be a theme

          DO THE FUCKING SUMS!!!

          We've got one big pumped storage plant - Dinorwic. Replicating it would cost about 3 billion, and there's only about a dozen sites in the country that even come close to being suitable.

          Dinorwic can generate about 1,800 MW for 6 hours or so. Call it 10,000MW-hours,

          If you've a wind capacity of 10,000MW - and it's average output is 2,500 MW. And it's subject to (say) a couple of five day periods a year when it generates fuck-all - which is conservative, a ten day outage is closer to the mark.

          5*24*2,500 = 300,000MWh. Or 30 Dinorwics.

          good look finding the sites. And paying for them.

          1. copsewood
            Dead Vulture

            @Andydaws: storage

            An easily findable study: http://www.esru.strath.ac.uk/EandE/Web_sites/03-04/wind/content/storage%20available.html looking at the potential of uprating existing hydro dams with additional generating plant for storage purposes discovers 514 GWh potential storage capacity in Scotland, or about 50 Dinorwics, or the 300GWh you claim is needed plus a substantial margin. The same study suggests no storage is required in relation to variable wind until it meets more than 15% of UK electric demand. In practice, the cost of the storage required will depend upon how much you can afford to spend on avoiding industrial holidays based upon weather forecasting. Before you get into the really high expenditures of building new dam capacity the main additional cost is likely to be in adding additional generating plant at existing dams and in strengthening the regional and national grid in order to have sufficient capacity to take energy mainly stored in Scotland for demand mainly in England.

            We need to do the sums on nuclear as well. Personally, based on the known and externalised costs (e.g. those currently experienced in Japan over failure of nuclear plant and concerning long term waste storage) I find it difficult to justify relying for nuclear on more than 25% of UK electric demand or for more than 1 final generation of nuclear build. If it is important enough to get C02 down over the next 30 years and beyond then we'll need both renewables and nuclear in the near term. Nuclear is useless for peak demand anyway - it is most suited for baseload.

            Given another 20 years of wind development at current growth rates and taking wave, tidal and solar heating from where these now are to where these can reasonably be expected to be in 20 years, I'd be very surprised if nuclear can achieve similar cost reductions over the same period while retaining acceptable safety margins in relation to geological and extreme weather caused risk. But the time to decide whether the next generation of nuclear plant should be the last will be then and not now.

            1. Andydaws

              The people who actually build them disagree

              SSE, who've been seeking sitres for years, currently reckon only two are economically developable - I've discussed them elsewhere.

              There's a lot more to finding viable dam site than simply looking for high valleys, which is what that particular study appears to have done - there's minor issues like the geology of the dam site (you need water retentive bedrock reasonably accessible, and ground conditions capable of taking the loadings from the dam istelf - poor shear strength, etc. rules out lots of sites.

              As a rule, if a site wasn't worth developing for conventional hydro (other than for catchement reasons), it's not developable for pumped storage - if you think of the costs model, you'll see why.

              Capital costs are slightly lower for pure hydro. However, the water capture is free. By contrast, the welectricity input for a wind-PS system has to be assumed to be at least on capital cost recovery for the wind plant, adjusted for the 75% efficiency of the syscle.

              Further, since you're trying to use this to supply base-load, you can't assume peaking prices for the power produced - it's baseload.

              "The same study suggests no storage is required in relation to variable wind until it meets more than 15% of UK electric demand."

              That argument works only if you're willing to assume that the entirity of your system marging can be dedicated for compensating for wind variability. That's not what it's therefore - it'd for peaking load, and for compensating for outages.

              Since (as the study quoted by Lewis shows) that reserve would be called on to generate to compensate for wind outage for a significant proportion of the time, it'd be unavailable to do its proper job. There's therefore a major increase in system exposure.

              "Nuclear is useless for peak demand anyway - it is most suited for baseload."

              define "peak load".

              You may have noticed, 80% of French production is nuclear. Also, they have a similar daily swing as we do - over 2:1 between peak and minimum demand. Do the sums, and you'll see that the swing has to be, at least in part, met by running nuclear plant in load-following mode.

              And that experience is incorporated in all of the generation III+ plant. ESBWR is inherently a load follower anyhow (it's an artefact of the behaviour of the water flow through the core as steam off-take increases), and the EPR and AP1000 both have "grey control rods" to allow it. The EPR is rated to follow load increase at 5% of output/minute between 25% and 100% of full power.

              What muclear (or coal, or CCGT) can't do is true "peaking" - extremely short notice variation to maintain system frequency. That's done by Pumped storage, or by OCGT. But that's a small proportion of overall load - the balancing market is power use, and peaking is a minority of that.

              "Given another 20 years of wind development at current growth rates and taking wave, tidal and solar heating from where these now are to where these can reasonably be expected to be in 20 year about 3% of total"

              I'm not aware of cost reductions happening on tidal or wind. Forecast cost/MWH on the Severn Barrage went up more than 20% between the last report and the current one (in real terms), and wind cost has been escalating, not falling, as reliabiloity challenges become apparent.. Maybe you can show evidence, and I'll share the data on installed cost/MW that I've seen - it's part of the London Array consortium's claim for 2 ROC subsidy, instead of one.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Two more thoughts

          The surplus electricity from wind turbines could be used to generate hydrogen by electrolysis. This could then be liquefied and used to power a new generation of hydrogen powered vehicles and aicraft. Thus allowing an horrendously expensive and impractical technology to feed an expensive and horrendously impractical technology. Or they could be converted to grind corn?

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      OK.

      We'll store the waste in your home town then. That'll be alright with you won't it?

      1. GrumpyJoe
        Flame

        Then we'll let you clean up...

        the chopped up bird carcasses and let you deal with the noise pollution and the possibility of the bloody turbine in your back garden coming off and killing your entire family then?

        What's that? I can't hear you, the internet needs electricity to work and you don't have any...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        WTF?

        Re: OK.

        I'm pretty certain they wont store any waste in any towns, even the smaller amounts that modern reactors produce.

        If you haven't got anything better to offer than 40 year old scaremongering then I suggest you just keep quiet.

      3. Captain Thyratron

        Sure!

        Vitrify it, put it in a lead-lined reinforced concrete cylinder, and let me see if I can turn it into some kind of yard decoration. Probably safer than the trees--those bastards keep mangling the eaves and heaving breezeblock walls.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      What about solar

      Solar would be much better, after all... Wait, for the UK you say? Oh, well never mind then.

    9. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Whereas

      "have been dismissed as a source of power generation"

      Here on my planet, they've been pursued for several decades. The problem is actually harnessing a useful amount of power from what is a very diffuse source. It's not as bad as wind, but there's no free lunch sitting out there in the sea. Smart people have tried and failed.

      1. sola

        depends on the price

        It doesn't matter if the UK has worse solar potential than the EU average as long as the price of solar electricity generation is comparable or cheaper than other forms.

        Solar generation technologies are continually falling in price. PV the most prominent but other solar tech is advancing too. As others have said, even PV can match grid-parity at a lot of places in the world TODAY, possibly 5 years for the EU average and 10 years for the UK.

        There are a lot of news about breakthroughs in the area of cheap, direct hydrogen/methane production from solar energy. Methane production is the most promising because that can be immediately used by NG power plants and distributed through existing networks.

    10. Andydaws

      Big volumes may rush

      But they don't rush very fast(and slower on average), and they need immense structures to extract any power.

      The largest Severn Barrage option needed a dam 18 miles long, to make an average of 1800MW. And that's the second best site in the world. Do the same on Liverpool bay - the next best site in the UK - you need a 25 mile dam to extract a gigawatt.

      If you think those are good investments, I've got a bridge you may be interested in.....

    11. Scorchio!!

      Re: Bad siteing.

      I think you mean 'a methane trap'.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

    It very much depends where you are: a lot of on-shore wind farms, especially in England, have slightly lower utilisation than 30%. Go North of the Border, to places like the Hebrides and the Orkneys, and you'll find confirmed utilisation values of 60% (Lewis) and 80% (Orkney).

    Not that you actually /want/ your turbines to operate at maximum power all the time; mechanical components wear out faster, electrical components overheat. You wouldn't constant rev your car close to the red line, would you? So it is with turbines.

    What it really boils down to, though, is a matter of risk: risk is a function of both the probability of a catastrophic failure in your power plant, and the impact of that catastrophe. If the blades of a turbine at Whiteless were to fall off, a sheep may be frightened. If Torness or Hunterston B were to suffer a partial meltdown, that would force the evacuation of most of the Central Belt, and the economy of Scotland would grind to a halt - for years. Whatever perceived hidden costs Lewis is alluding to with wind farms, the price to pay for such a disaster such as this would dwarf them. (How many tens of billions for Fukashima currently, Lewis?)

    Of course both are improbable - but one demonstrates significant risk over the other.

  9. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    Treading carefully...

    Maybe I'm more of a rampant green then I previously knew but having read this I'm left with he feeling that ROCs are by far a bigger problem than wind generation itself.

    So the advocates overstated the case and we need to use 25% of capacity or even lower instead of 30%. New technology evangelists lied - what a shocker. Even less of a shock is that a fiscal smoke and mirrors exercise devised by New Labour is an utter unmitigated balls up. Oh and its a stealth tax too, my flabber hasn't been so ghasted since I found that the sun had risen this morning.

    Redo the sums based on 25% or whatever is deemed realistic, replace ROCs with something fit for purpose and move on.

  10. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    FAIL

    And in other news, bears crap in the woods...

    Wind power was never going to be useful for anything other that either local with-storage small systems or for green-credential PR - it's going to be even less so if a bulk change to electric vehicles happens anytime soon.

    Get rid of this idiotic scheme that effectively sells to the grid at more than the consumer pays, and subsidises uneconomic power generation - if a utility can't sell power more cheaply than another, given its amortised costs over its expected lifetime, why should we pay for it?

    If we must use renewables until we get fusion generators working, let's use something reliable - at least the tide comes in twice a day... but then, think of all those little wading birds!

  11. Fatbot

    Joined up thinking

    Your article contains within it one of the answers to the intermittent nature of wind generated electricity - power the pumped storage with wind power. They could be sited together, reducing transmission losses (pumped storage requires high places and its windier high up). The water turbines generate steady, predictable and grid friendly electricity while the wind powered pumps replenish the reservoir whenever the wind is blowing.

  12. fearnothing
    Stop

    To those people so fixated on renewables...

    Stick this in your pipe and smoke it. Nuclear IS our best option right now. Tidal/wave generation has its own limitations that make it unfeasible to produce more than a small percentage of our power, and this report confirms my suspicions about wind - its economic 'viability' is completely artificial and in a free market it would be a dismal failure. The greenies would have us suffer brownouts galore to stave off an eventuality that nuclear plants don't contribute to in the slightest.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    John Muir Trust

    Group opposed to building wind farms on wild land produces report against wind farms.

    I'm shocked to the core.

  14. TakeTheSkyRoad

    Wind better for local use

    Personally my take on wind is that it's best for local generation and shouldn't be dumped to the grid at all. Makes balancing the grid load difficult and also you loose too much to power transmission.

    How's this for an idea... place a petrol station next to your wind turbine and offer electic charging for these new fandangled leccy cars. Your could store excess power locally too in battries and (optionally) offer power from the grid at a higher rate if you run low.

    Maybe Little Chef are missing something here... "charge while you dine sir ?"

  15. ObSolutions, Inc
    Happy

    ןɐɔıuʎɔ ǝɯ ɹoןoɔ

    "24.08% between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive"

    Now I'll grant you that that's quite a bit below 30%

    But wait... November through December one year later. 14 months is an odd range isn't it?

    Well, surprise, surprise! November and December just *happen* to be the two least windy months of the year. Who'd have thunk it?

    A bit more scepticism on the part of the writer would have been nice...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know you aim for the tabloid market a bit . . .

    But how about not calling it 'leccy'? It's a lot easier to take the analysis seriously if you don't refer to electricity with terms an 8-year-old would use. It's not an abbreviation, either - just use 'power'.

    OK, make an exception for portmaneau words like 'fondleslab', which are moderately witty and at least fairly original. But otherwise the quality of the article descends to Sun-like levels. You didn't call nuclear power 'scary glowy makes-lights-work' in the Fukushima articles, as far as I remember.

    1. Smallbrainfield
      Thumb Up

      ^^This in spades

      What wind power is missing is any form of storage, such as pumped storage. Trouble is nobody wants to move house to make way for a stonking great reservoir.

    2. Smallbrainfield
      Stop

      No big surprise though, is it?

      It never occurred to me that it would be anything other than a lobby group. At least the article states where the report is coming from, so you can choose to ignore it if it doesn't fit your worldview. However the data is skewed, there are serious issues with relying on wind generation, not least the thought of all those propellers accidentally pushing us closer to France.

      Mines the jacket smelling faintly of Jeremy Clarkson, ta.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And then someone else does the same thing...

      ...slightly upwind.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As Lewis points out...

      ...you'd have to build an awful lot of reservoirs to store anywhere near the required capacity.

    5. longbeast
      Happy

      Pumped hydro is nice if you've got a good spot already...

      I've commented about this elsewhere in the thread too - smaller scale power storage would be better, allowing it to be sized to fit the wind farm, and not needing too many factors in combination when you're choosing where to put your plant.

      Hot sodium-sulphur cell batteries are the way to go.

      1. copsewood

        Lewis ignores most of the reservoir capacity which already exists

        Current pumped capacity involves having 2 reservoirs with a height difference between them. If you uprate the generating capacity on existing hydro power dams and allow the water level to vary more, rather than have these compete with nuclear for baseload suppy, then you won't need as much new pumped capacity to balance wind and tidal electric output. Then there is the question of whether or not water supply reserviors could be dual purposed during times of low wind but adequate rainfall.

        Intermittent wind electricity can also be stored as carbon neutral fuel by using the Fischer Tropsh process, once captured biofuel carbon can be used for the C02. There's probably no other realistic way you can achieve sustainable air transport anyway, because you certainly can't fly commercial aircraft using batteries or nuclear generators.

        1. Andydaws

          we have about 4GW of pumped storage

          with reservoir capacity enough to run for 6-12 hours. Call it 40GWh

          If we raised the dam height on every single hydro dam in the UK, and converted it to PW, we might be able to have 100 Wh of storage.

          If we build 10,000 MW of wind plant, with an average output of 2500MW, to cover a 10 day period of no, we need 600 GWh.

          Feel free to check the numbers yourself. Then tell me where we can put the other 500GWh.

          What is it about this subject which makes people who are too fucking lazy to do basic arithmetic think they've got a serious contribution to a discussion?

    6. Matt Hawkins
      FAIL

      Hissing in the wind

      "its economic 'viability' is completely artificial and in a free market it would be a dismal failure"

      Unfortunately a "free market" doesn't give a stuff about pollution, the future availability of resources, foreign control of fuel etc etc. Just like bankers don't give a stuff about an investment once they've got their bonus. (I think that has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt.)

      A free market isn't stopping fossil fuels running out and it doesn't give us an infinite supply of uranium (yes it's limited too).

      Nuclear energy is hardly operating in a free market.

      Who is paying for the clean-up in Japan?

      Who is paying for the decommissioning of power stations in the UK? (not that they have worked out how to do that yet)

      Who is paying to store toxic waste for hundreds of years?

      Who paid to build the reactors in the UK in the first place?

      The nuclear industry? Not without a huge, fat hand-out from the tax payer.

      If the economics of wind look less than perfect, Lewis, why don't you do an article on the true economics of nuclear power. The TRUE economics. It won't be easy because many of the costs related to the nuclear industry are open-ended and unknown. It's easy to generate "cheap" electricity when you are running the whole show with free money and you quietly ignore half your costs and get someone else to pay for the waste you produce.

      1. Aaron Em

        "Hissing" on my shoes won't make yours any cleaner

        Having real trouble equivocating around that whole "completely infeasible"thing, aren't you? No matter how inefficient the "TRUE economics" (tinfoil ahoy!) of nuclear power turn out to be, they still can't help but come ahead of something that's not only never seen production use, but which *will* never see production use because it is entirely unfit for purpose as a result of having been based on a flawed understanding of how climate works. (Specifically, the rather charmingly optimistic idea that wind speed over time can be assumed to be constant.)

      2. Captain Thyratron

        Argument by question, or what?

        Who's paying for the cleanup in Japan? Probably the same people who are paying to rebuild all the cities that got destroyed--or did you forget that it took the worst earthquake in Japan's recorded history to cause, in addition to some real problems that have nothing to do with radioactivity, three partial meltdowns that didn't kill anybody? (Additionally, TEPCO.)

        Who's paying for the decommissioning of nuclear plants in the UK? Yeah, probably the taxpayers--the same ones who are getting shafted because somebody decided that those plants had to be shut down in favor of wind farms. Who's paying for those, eh?

        And as for the next two questions, aren't those partly the fault of an environmental lobby that has played on the fears of an uninformed population and done everything it can to damage the case for atomic power, whether economically or politically, by introducing gobs of ridiculous regulations and hindrances to things like fuel reprocessing--just so that they can angrily shout those very questions you pose there? It's like egging some guy's house so you can complain about how ugly it is.

        It takes environmental legislation to reduce atomic power to perceived economic unfeasibility, and it takes environmental legislation to raise wind power to perceived economic feasiblity.

    7. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Sir

      +1 for the cool title

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Bears don't crap in woods...

      ... at least not where I live. Round here they crap in zoos.

    9. The Grinning Duck
      Go

      Easy, tiger.

      Well, I’ve been working in the energy game for the last decade. I call it ‘leccy. Or Electrickery. Or Go-Go-Juice, or just Juice if I’m in a rush. Sometimes it even gets labelled ‘The Crackle Magic’ if the previous evening was more beer fuelled than usual. Electricity? Power? We care not for such trifling terms, I mean this game can be dull enough at the best of times; you have to lighten it up (zing!)

      Client: So, what does this forecast look like without nuclear?

      Me: It doesn’t look like anything; I would have been beaten to death attempting to circumnavigate a fuel poverty riot on the way to your office... Ooh, are those chocolate biscuits..?

      1. Thomas 4
        Thumb Up

        Crackle Magic

        I must now use this phrase in everyday conversation.

    10. Ommerson
      Stop

      Unless it's peer reviewed

      research like this counts for nothing. It's just a PR exercise.

    11. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Boffin

      A quick amble around the internet tells me...

      ...That the estimated clean-up cost of Fukushima is in the tens of billions. This is compared to an estimated cost for fixing the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami in the hundreds of bilions. I wasn't able to find many figures for the clean-up costs of the ichihara oil refinery which arguably caused more environmental damage than fukushima, but what I could find indicated costs in the billions. Most of the costs associated with Fukushima are most likely to be related to early decommissioning costs and remediation of any radioactive leakage around the plant. These are probably inflated because of public fear of radioactivity meaning that pretty much every radioactive particle has to be cleaned up, regardless of the danger it poses. Huge slicks of organic pollutants arguably pose a greater risk, in terms of mutagenesis, teratogenesis and carcinogenesis, but are considered 'safer' by the public, so clean-up costs are generally lower. After all, if you can get away with polluting the environment without having to pay for it, this is an externality.

    12. Ocular Sinister
      Joke

      Nimbys...

      lol... maybe we should tell them we've changed our mind and want to be build a nuclear power station there instead!

      1. Alex 0.1
        Stop

        wait.

        The problem with jokers and your "well how would you rather have a nuclear plant close to you instead" is that my answer, along with that of anyone with any modicum of sense, is yes, please do.

        I live not terribly far away from Sizewell, which houses Sizewell B (1195MW operating capacity) and is hopefully soon going to house Sizewell C (projected 1600MW capacity) giving a total generation at the fairly small discreet sizewell site of 2,795MW of power.

        A quick google tells me that the largest onshore wind farm in the UK is Whitelee, which houses 140 turbines in an area of roughly 13 square miles - and has a generating capacity of 322MW total (2.3MW per turbine).

        EVEN ASSUMING that these turbines could produce 100% output, a replacement of the sizewell plant would require 1,216 of these turbines, over an area of 111 square miles.

        If we take the accepted average of 30% average capacity, that increases to 4,053 turbines over 370 square miles, which per this article still doesn't help with production of power when it's actually needed.

        So when you ask me if i'd rather have the nuclear plants there or a windfarm, the obvious answer is that yes i'd much rather have a nuclear plant on a 245 acre site (1/3 of a square mile) than have my home, my town, and approximately a quarter of the total land area of Suffolk demolished to make way for the room needed for a replacement wind farm.

        1. Thomas 4

          Mathematical conversions

          All this stuff is no doubt interesting but I need it converted into units I can understand. Perhaps El Reg could calculate this stuff in terms of Hamsters or KiloHamsters:

          Everyone knows the running joke about how slow servers are often the fault of hamster power (for those that don't a) get on the interwebs sometime and b) it is centred around the server drawing power from a hamster wheel).

          When I get a chance, I'll have to look into some proper numbers for it.

        2. Andydaws

          A small correction, Alex

          Sizewell C is going to be 2 1600 MW EPRs - so, 3200MW, not 1600.

    13. PatientOne

      @ObSolutions, Inc

      "Well, surprise, surprise! November and December just *happen* to be the two least windy months of the year. Who'd have thunk it?"

      Want to take a guess at which months are also the heaviest in demand for power?

      Nice title, though.

    14. GrumpyJoe
      Flame

      And can you point out to me...

      the two months of the year were nuclear power plants fission less? Be intersting to know. That's what we are talking about after all?

      November and Decemer - cold months - would've been nice to have some, I don't know, POWER to heat us? Nah, no wind no power - blankets are being supplied by you?

    15. Old Tom
      WTF?

      Where's your stats?

      I'd love to see your figures on Orkney and Lewis.

      Looking at figures for April '09 to March '10, the best utilisation I can find in Scotland are Thorfinn and Northfield in the Orkneys which exceed 40%, Burradale in Shetland approaches 50%, and Bruxiehill managed 50.41% in its first 2 months with its .8MW plant. The latter was the only site in the UK to exceed 50% over that period.

      http://www.clowd.org.uk/Downloads/UK%20Renewable%20Energy%20Generation/2009/UK%20Renewable%20Generation%20Summary%20Compliance%20April%202009%20to%20March%202010.pdf

      1. ObSolutions, Inc
        Happy

        ou 'ɹɥǝ

        "the two months of the year were nuclear power plants fission less? Be intersting to know. That's what we are talking about after all?"

        Uhm, no.

        Dunno 'bout you, I'm talking about the contents of the article. Don't see much much mention of nuclear power plants there...

    16. Anonymous Coward
      Dead Vulture

      Re: John Muir Trust

      Yes, wait for it: Nigel Lawson and some bishops will be rolled out in a moment to "educate" us about climate change via the usual suspects.

    17. James Micallef Silver badge
      FAIL

      colour you unable to count

      I think you'll find November 2008 to December 2010 works out at 26 months not 14. Sure the point of having an 3 Novs and Decs compared to 2 of all the other months is still valid (taking as correct your statement that they are the 2 months with least wind). The difference still won't be that much, and the average power efficiency will still be around the 25% mark rather than the 30% mark.

      Bottom line, when taking into account all the pollution effects (not to mention the price of international stability with buying oil off power-mad dictators), oil and coal are more expensive than our energy bills indicate, nuclear is more expensive than hydrocarbon, and wind, solar and other alternatives even more expensive still. If we want to live in the 21st century we've got to be ready to pay for it. Wind might be expensive and unreliable, but it's a resource that together with pumped storage can provide a good amount of power over baseload. Baseload plus a little has got to be nuclear. Use as much as possible local solar, wind, hydroelectric, heat pumps etc especially in rural areas, and even then there's probably a shortfall that needs hydrocarbons to make up total demand for the foreseeable future, hopefully till we master fusion.

      1. ObSolutions, Inc
        Happy

        ǝısdooo

        "I think you'll find November 2008 to December 2010 works out at 26 months not 14."

        Agreed, and point taken. None the less, I think you'll have to agree that it's an odd choice of interval, one that should leave anyone sceptical of why that exact time span was chosen.

        All sides in the climate debate have shown a bad attitude about picking the exact data set that support their cause - treehuggers and denialists all.

        I'm not pro-one or anti-another. I follow the debate with interest, but have also by now gotten used to having my bullshit-counter set to a high level of sensitivity.

        1. chr0m4t1c

          @ObSolutions

          If you read the report you'll find the data was picked because it's all the data that's publicly available, not because it's a convenient extract to support their cause.

          You'll also find that the report is not peddling a treehugger or denialist agenda, it's looking at the claims made for wind based power generation and trying to see if they are held up by the actual figures or not.

          What the report suggests to me is that wind is not a viable stand-alone generation system for our power requirements and it certainly does not make any suggestions one way or the other about climate change - and neither does the article.

          In fact, looking at the report it looks like our best solution *might* be to increase the our pumped-hydro generation capacity to cover (maybe) 36-48 hours, then use the extremely variable wind generation to drive the pumps so we effectively use the hydro as a UPS.

          Really, it's getting beyond a joke - it's impossible to even question whether a "green" solution is practical or viable without being denounced as a denier these days.

    18. The Grinning Duck
      Happy

      Not that odd

      The reason for the date range is down to what Elexon have published. The historic data starts in Nov 08 and ends in Dec 10. Either way, Average outputs from the report:

      2008 (Nov & Dec only) = 31.72%

      2009 = 27.18%

      2010 = 21.14%

      To be fair, all the data are available from the Elexon Exchange website (it’s in the Operational Data section), and registration is free so you can check yourself if you want, they’ve not done anything fancy.

      1. Oninoshiko
        Thumb Up

        Re: The Grinning Duck

        You looked up the ACTUAL numbers and thought about them a little!

        You get a thumbs up! (it's the closest I can find to a shiny star, and everyone likes getting a shiny start.... well I know I to ^_^)

    19. Adam-the-Kiwi

      Re: To those people so fixated on renewables...

      > its economic 'viability' is completely artificial and in a free market it would be a dismal failure

      We can't really know that because we don't have a free market in power generation - fossil fuel providers have not internalised the massive cost of the carbon they pump into the atmosphere. Nuclear and renewables are not fighting on a level playing-field, so it is not a free market - even with government "carbon taxes". Nuclear is effectively subsidised too, since the transport and disposal of waste is almost entirely paid for by the tax-payer, rather than than the producers.

      A truly free market requires that there is no subsidy of any kind and for all players to have fully internalised any costs associated with their product.

      1. Aaron Em

        If the title's too long, why does the field accept it? Learn to maxlength!

        "A truly free market requires...all players to have fully internalised any costs associated with their product."

        In other words, a free market can only exist in theory. Gotcha, thanks!

        1. Adam-the-Kiwi

          re: In other words, a free market can only exist in theory

          Er, yes, exactly - so whingeing about wind generation (or anything else, for that matter) being uncompetitive in a free market is pointless - the energy market is not and never will be free.

          Government carbon taxes and subsidies to renewable technologies are an attempt to partially internalise that particular externality. Since we (in the form of our elected goverments) attach a monetary value (admittedly, not well-defined) to carbon emmisions, it seems reasonable that we offer a (nominally) similar amount of our taxes to non-carbon-emitting power production methods.

          For nuclear, the subsidy is in the form of waste disposal, which is hideously expensive (largely because of our paranoia about all things containing either of the words nuclear or atomic).

    20. Aaron Em

      You're worried about the red-top ways of the Reg...

      ...and "'leccy", of all places, is where you choose to make your start? Don't forget to check out the forest when you get done looking at trees!

    21. Andydaws

      you're confusing availability, or

      proportion of the time generating, with capacity factor.

      The basic physics should tell you that - wind output varies with the cube of the windspeed. If I've a 1MW turbine designed for maximum output at (say) 30m/s, in a 10m/s wind it's making 4% of design output.

      Alternatively, I could design for 10 m/s - but then the turbine will be tripped a significant proportion of the time.

      I'll bet you can't provide a credible source for those 60 or 80% numbers - they're bollocks

    22. Andydaws
      Unhappy

      Move on may be the word.

      The latest big wind development committed is the "London Array"

      It's 640MW, and according to the developers (Dong & Masdar) will cost about €1.9Bn, plus a bit for the grid connection. At £1:€1.15 that's £1.62Bn.

      A reasonable weighted average cost of capital for a decent size energy firm is maybe 9% - let's go conservative, and say 7%. So, just servicing the capital spend will cost about £116M per year. That's before anything for depreciation, operations, maintenance, etc.

      Energy market prices for a 2-3 year contract - about the longest term deal you can get - are about £45/MWh. That'd usually be considerably less for unreliable power, but we'll ignore that.

      640*.25*24*365*45 = £63M. So, covering just over half the cost of capital, never mind those other costs.

      That's why the RO scheme was devised. Wind's generally lowest cost renewable here in the UK, and you can gather how infeasible it is, if you assume low capacity factors.

  17. Bluenose
    Unhappy

    Has anyone considered Climate Change

    All the focus of the climate scientists is on telling us how hot things will be and that droughts will become so bad we will all die. However, climate change impacts all aspects of climate including wind. Therefore one wonders a)if climate change happens as forecast how will wind change and will that increase or reduce the amount of generation capacity from wind farms and b)if we reduce the impact of climate change, will this reduce/increase the amount of generation capacity of wind farms?

    The problem is, as is so often the case, the single agenda community with their rash forecasts of disaster really don't have a clue as the impacts of whatever it is they are forecasting but simply force govts to act by spreading scare stories. And govts in their panic to make sure they retain power are happy to make changes to taxes with no idea as to whether it is a good or bad thing.

    We need facts and this report sets some out. Now we need some more such as whether wind is actually a viable means of contributing power to the grid such that it meets user requirements and not the greedy fingers of the wind farmers. Unfortunately as we all know from the IT disasters, govts are not very good at looking at things from the end user point of view.

  18. CABVolunteer
    Go

    You can't beat nature

    An interesting analysis of the report. I draw a few conclusions, including:

    1. Boost the investment in pumped storage (or other rapidly-assessible energy storage bank).

    2. "Smooth" the peaks and troughs in demand to avoid the claimed problem of the wind-power contribution exceeding the demand when at low levels. Even better, find some mechanism to match electricity demand to the times of high power availability from renewables (wind and tide) and we'd make progress.

    If only we'd invested in renewables the amount of money spent on nuclear power over the last 60 years, the issues would be better understood and allowed for....

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    And the market is rigged....

    So what is new?

    Most markets are rigged so that the purchaser pays more - look at the stock market now and also before the 'big bang'. LP is highlighting the way this one works and that is helpful.

    What will our politicians, civil servants and industry leaders do to change it? Nothing they will tell us proles about, that's for sure!

    I may be wrong but I understand Dr Beeching was commissioned by Earnest Marples in the late '50s to develop a report to show the Railways were inefficient. He did and the Railways were dismantled in favour of roads and motorways. Earnest Marples, I believe, had significant financial interest in construction companies. An unintended consequence was he rise of the "white van man" as the face of road haulage was changed.

    What have the 'Yes Minister' types decided will be the consequences (intended and unintended) of Wind power - indeed all power - without resevoirs to hold excess production. Please tell.... or haven't they thought that far ahead this time?

  20. DrXym Silver badge

    And when an earthquake hits

    Stockpiles of iodine will be distributed, the local population will be evacuated to a 50 mile exclusion zone, scientists will monitor air samples, and engineers will battle valiantly for weeks to contain the crisis caused by some of turbines falling over sideways.

  21. longbeast

    Wishing for better storage.

    For a long time, I've been hoping that sulphur cell storage batteries would take off, replacing pumped hydro for balancing the grid over time. Increasing use of wind power really ought to have made them more attractive - a relatively cheap, reliable, small scale, fast reacting energy storage system ought to be exactly what everybody wants.

    If you pair up every wind farm with a sulphur cell storage battery, all the problems disappear except for the price of building them in the first place. Even then it ought to compare favourably with nuclear.

  22. JimC Silver badge
    FAIL

    Whats depressing is all this has been known

    For hundreds of years... Any traditional millwright would have told you that you only build a windmill when water power is impossible - and that was for corn grinding which is a batch job which can to a reasonable extent be delayed until the wind is available.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Sir

      I see where you're coming from, but unless the laws of physics change there will always be plenty of wind.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Boffin

        @Sir

        You may find this article of interest:

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028063.300-wind-and-wave-farms-could-affect-earths-energy-balance.html

        Essentially; Wind power ultimately comes from the sun heating teh atmosphere and causing movement of masses of air. There is a limit to the amount of energy that the sun pumps into the atmosphere, ergo a limit to the amount of energy that can be extracted. The laws of thermodynamics also tell us that it is not possible to extract this energy with 100% efficiency, so as the amount of work extracted from the wind increases, so does the amount of waste heat emitted.

    2. Dale Richards
      Go

      Climate Change

      Interesting point. Burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere *may* later have an effect on global climate in the form of temperature changes. Blanketing the landscape in wind turbines *will* have a direct and immediate effect on climate in the form of wind speed.

      For the sake of playing Devil's Advocate, I posit that wind power is worse for climate change than all fossil fuels.

      Proceed with this nonsense at flank speed

    3. David Dawson
      FAIL

      Yes, makes sense

      Get people to use electricity "in the middle of the night".

      Only allow industry to operate when the wind blows.

      Doop, the next town over has their lights on now, we'll have to wait!

      You are proposing social engineering on a grand scale. Failure is the only result.

      Don't be so naive.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No...

      But thousands will be killed by ruptured hydroelectrc dams. As happened in Japan, quite recently...

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        I'm sure they are

        We're not talking about hydroelectric dams though are we? And no I wouldn't think it prudent to live underneath one.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Ruptured dams

        ...and as happened in awesome proportions in China... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam

    5. DrXym Silver badge

      Wind / tide etc.

      You can't get people to use electric when the wind is blowing or the tide changes because the wind doesn't always blow and the tide varies on the season, the moon and other factors.

      In order to smooth things out you have to mix generation sources. Nuclear is always on, coal / oil / hydro can meet peak demands, and other renewables supply the rest.

      To lessen reliance on fossil fuel burners you want to capture the excess when it is not being used. The classical way is to pump water to the top of a hill and then release it back down to turn a turbine when you need it again. I'm sure there are other ways to capture energy - heat, capacitors, electrolysis, batteries etc.

    6. Bill B

      Pumped Storage???

      Agree with longbeast. Not sure why the article only comments about pumped storage. There are other ways of storing energy and if anything is true of the renewables business it is that a lot of reserach is being put into it.

      Yes the article is correct. Without storage wind energy is very ineffective. So we need some way of storing that energy without building a Dinorwig every time. One technology being invested in is flow batteries .. although these are in their infancy they could be quite interesting.

      In addition, research is going into increasing the power density and reliability of the turbines themselves so that the things become cheaper to run and install.

      I'm actually a fan of Nuclear Power but i do think that these articles on Wind Energy need to have a certain amount of belief in development behind them.

      There's some pretty amazing developments going on in all areas of the energy business .. Nuclear, wind, wherever. I would really love an article from Mr Page that looked into all of them.

    7. John X Public
      Coat

      True enough

      Meh, wind power doesn't excite me much. Particularly with ROCs distorting the marketplace (surprise!) and the inherently low energy density.

      Still, there is a lot of (mostly) empty land and sea here and there so I don't really mind getting some power out of it. Shame about the cost but then humanity hardly has a good track record of making sensible decisions based on facts and rational debate.

      Also this mob http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beacon_Power will shortly be reselling that cheap/free off-peak wind power at a massive peak-time profit.

    8. Liam Johnson

      sulphur cell storage battery

      Of course, people will not be so happy to have them next door after the first accident where one of these things blows up.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      @CABvolunteer

      This is why "sustainability" crowd keep failing, they want people to adjust to their sh*tty but politically-correct technologies.

      Rather than the other way around.

      I suggest we give them an offshore island to play with. They could build whatever power generation they wanted and they wouldn't be allowed to import any. Good luck to them...

    10. JimC Silver badge

      And I should also add

      That tide power seemed to be the last resort for using water too... I've never studied them in detail but tide driven watermills seem to have been pretty rare.

  23. breakfast

    Energy cost of a wind turbine

    At this level of utilisation it sounds as though the amount of energy generated by a wind turbine over it's lifetime could be dangerously close to the energy cost entailed in building it...

    It's not unclear that we need to go nuclear as far as we can- even some parts of the green lobby are starting to appreciate this.

    I just hope that ITER or something parallel with it gives us workable fusion. That still seems like our best hope long term.

    1. DaWolf

      Er, no

      "At this level of utilisation it sounds as though the amount of energy generated by a wind turbine over it's lifetime could be dangerously close to the energy cost entailed in building it..."

      not unless a couple of months = 25 years. Which it may do in some weird alternate reality, but not in this one....

      1. Tom Reg
        Big Brother

        The industry figure of months is a joke

        If you look at the manufacturing of it only - it does work out to months. But in reality the whole system from lawyers to more lawyers and excessive profits need to be taken in. Then the energy payback gets foggier. For solar, its a joke. Solar panel manufacture is net positive, but the whole enterprise is wildly negative, which is obvious from the prices paid to producers.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But when you consider the way electricity is actually sold...

    Nice piece - except it doesn't take into account how electricity prices are calculated. New Scientist recently had an article on how, contrary to "common sense", wind subsidies actually save consumers money (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727704.900-all-power-to-the-wind--it-cuts-your-electricity-bills.html )</a>

    To quote from the article:

    This is because of the way the electricity markets in Europe and North America are set up. They are "marginally priced"; that is, the spot price of electricity is set by the highest price the transmission company must pay at any given time to meet demand.

    As an analogy, imagine you need 100 apples. One grower has 60 apples on offer for $1 apiece, another has 30 on offer for $2, and a third has 20 on offer for $3. You buy the entire stock from the first and second growers, and 10 from the third - but must pay $3 for every apple you buy.

    The very highest spot electricity prices are seen at moments of peak demand, when coal, nuclear and hydroelectric sources cannot meet the need. At these times extra "peaker" plants need to be turned on. Generally oil or gas-fired, peaker plants have high marginal production costs - generating each extra unit of electricity is relatively expensive because they have to buy oil or natural gas, which are more expensive than coal. Not surprisingly, peaker plants drive the electricity spot price up.

    The addition of wind power, however, changes the dynamics of the market. Wind turbines don't burn fuel, so their marginal costs of production are very low - lower even than coal, nuclear and hydro. Being the cheapest, transmission companies buy from them first.

    On windless days, wind power companies don't get paid, since they only receive money for the electricity they produce. But on windy days, their output ensures that peak demand is satisfied without the need to turn on the most expensive peaker plants.

    In other words, when there is little or no wind, prices on the market are normal; when a lot of wind power is available, it has a moderating effect on prices. The result is that, over time, bills are lower than if wind power were not present, even taking into account the cost of the support regime.

    This price-lowering effect is called the merit order effect (MOE), and the resulting savings can be significant. Its impact on prices in European countries with a fair amount of wind generation has been estimated at between €3 and €23 per megawatt-hour. One study by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (http://isi.fraunhofer.de/isi-de/e/download/working-papers-sustainability-and-innovation/merit-order-effect.pdf) in Karlsruhe, Germany, found that it saved German consumers €5 billion a year.

  25. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    The obvious answer...

    ...is to allow everyone to generate their own power on a local level.

    Either have a nuclear power-pack in every home or replace local sub-stations with one.

    Then if it goes wrong, the effects would be small scale and easily controllable.

    For some reason the government/capitalists will only allow centralised power production.

    Don't they trust us? Maybe they like to have the option of the big bogeyman, we can turn off the lights and you will all die!

    If the disaster in japan has taught us anything, it is not to put all your nuclear eggs in one basket.

  26. Pip2010

    Imagination failure?

    Whoever said wind power was the complete answer to all our energy problems or was already a 'perfected' technology? Surely materials and technologies will improve in the long term and they'll be squeezing out higher efficiencies (lighter/stronger blades and better gearboxes and dynamos etc) it has not had the investment or the research time associated that nuclear has!

    Plus what if we used spill off wattage to produce hydrogen? I hear you can get electrolysers with an ~80% efficiency these days, then we could knock petrol on the head to an extent? Then we can stop worrying about price fluctuations so much and be more self sufficient. In any case having an energy source fairly independent of gas, highly specialised parts and other consumables is surely a positive thing?

    Anyway, all energy production technologies are a compromise and there is no perfect answer when I see a report with zero positives like this I suspect there's an agenda associated... Wind is not unilaterally bad and has a fair amount of positives.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge
      FAIL

      Stop the ROC, can't stop the ROC

      "Being the cheapest, transmission companies buy from them first."

      All well and good in a free market, but that's not what we have. Transmission companies are forced to buy wind under the ROC scam. If they don't buy 11% of their (our) electricity from subsidy farmers, they have to pay fines. Currently that's 41p/kWh or 82p/kWh for offshore wind as they get 2xROCs. That makes it the most expensive, not the cheapest.

      If wind really were the cheapest, there'd be no need for such large subsidies, but it's not. Until renewables can come up with a solution that addresses intermittency, predictability and cost then all proposals like pumped storage do is carry on throwing good money after bad.

      1. Andydaws

        small correction

        ROC producers don't only get the baseline price. They get a share of the fines paid by retailers who can't get enough ROCS to fulfill their obligations. That's added an extra 20-25% to the basic price for every sngle year the RO scheme's been in operation.

    2. Aaron Em

      "The obvious answer"

      ...being, of course, that pluck, free-market initiative, and plain old libertarian moxie count for much, much more than silly little details like being trained and licensed in nucleonics engineering, or indeed being able to tell a lump of enriched uranium from a God damned hole in the ground. "Don't they trust us?" -- *I* don't trust us, not nearly that far! A nuclear tea kettle in every home? Groovy! Down with the Man, man! Hey, why's all my hair falling out?

      1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

        @Aaron Em

        "Down with the Man, man! Hey, why's all my hair falling out?"

        But you have missed the point, nuclear power is safe as houses.

        There must be some other reason they won't allow us to have one each, surely?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Inefficiency is inefficiency

      and unreliability of supply is unreliability of supply. A sufficiently absurd pricing system can make anything *appear* to be good value, but reality doesn't go away.

    4. Andydaws

      If that's wht the NS thinks, it's very, very wrong.

      There's no market anywhere in Europe where all production is paid on system marginal price/. We had a variant of it under the old "pool", but that was scrapped in 2001 with the introduction of the "New Energy Trading Arrangements".

      The only part of the market traded on anyhting like marginal price is the 1-2% of power that trades through the "balancing market"

      I don't think I've seen a bigger piece of ill-informed bollocks and tortured logic in years.

    5. Captain Thyratron

      And that reason is...

      ...that larger power plants are generally more efficient and benefit in pretty much every way from economy of scale; the logistics are also FAR simpler (and therefore more affordable).

      And if that's the lesson you're taking from Fukushima, then I can tell you've not learned a thing from it.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    asdf

    Just tell mother nature to blow harder!

  28. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Storage...

    And there I was thinking that a lot of these techs, and power generation in general, are still waiting on good electrical storage systems. i.e. Supercapacitors (or whatever the insane rated ones for grid leccy storage would be called) are generally the answer. This way power generation can be more constant, thus more efficient.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I was amazed to learn recently

    That wind turbines actually *consume* energy in the form of heaters when it's icy ...

  30. Russell Howe
    FAIL

    It seems that instead of talking averages or peak or whatever

    They should be talking about percentiles.

    Averages are near-enough meaningless without the standard deviation anyway.

  31. DaWolf

    what a pile of crap

    Lewis is getting worse.

    A lot of turbines are linked up to on-site useage, with the remainder going to the grid. No mention of this is even made in this report.

    The John Muir group are anti-wind, and produce an anti-wind study. Amazing surprise!

    Neither is any mention made of the fact that you DON'T AIM FOR HIGH CAPACITY FACTORS. It isn't one of the pillars of wind energy. What you are aiming for is COST EFFICIENT PRODUCTION OF ELECTRICITY..

    Basically, Lewis is biased as hell about pretty much everything to do with energy use, and worse, he's biased as hell while not understanding the subject. I find it embarassing for him that he makes so many basic mistakes, repeatedly, when he really could learn this stuff to a much higher level within a month if he so chose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Poisoning the well?

      "The John Muir group are anti-wind, and produce an anti-wind study. Amazing surprise!"

      And? I'm taking it you are pro-wind. Does that mean we should ignore anything you say in its favour? If you know so much about the energy industry please show us the faults in their argument.

    2. The Grinning Duck
      WTF?

      Page 6, actually.

      Eeer, are we reading the same report? It clearly states that there is unseen or ‘invisible’ generation going on (non metered). It further states that about 50% of industrial generation is not seen by National Grid. There’s no reason to assume that the unseen generation is somehow more efficient than the seen (metered) generation though, is there? Fair’s fair, it’s really rather difficult to perform analysis on data that doesn’t exist.

      But yes, there is mention of non metered generation in the report. I mean, you have actually read the report, haven’t you?

      1. DaWolf

        actually no

        I read Lewis's summary - that's the report I was refering to, and skimmed the beginning of the actual John Muir report.

        I got to this part

        "During the study period, wind generation was:

        • below 20% of capacity more than half the time.

        • below 10% of capacity over one third of the time.

        • below 2.5% capacity for the equivalent of one day in twelve.

        • below 1.25% capacity for the equivalent of just under one day a month.

        The discovery that for one third of the time wind output was less than 10% of capacity, and

        often significantly less than 10%, was an unexpected result of the analysis."

        And stopped reading. Because if you know Weibull functions, this isn't an "unexpected result".

        For a Mean Wind Speed of 6.5ms-1 and a Weibull Shape Factor of 2, 34% of the time the Mean Wind Speed will be 4ms-1 or lower.

        Only someone who doesn't know the subject would put in that this is an unexpected result.

        Having since flicked through the rest, these parts stand out:

        "This Report set out to test a few assumptions. One hypothesis which seemed likely is that if windfarms generate at 30% of their rated capacity on average, then it might be reasonable to expect that they will generate over 30% for about half the time and under 30% for about half the time. However, it is now clear that wind behaviour is not so simple."

        Well, it wouldn't be so simple because only someone who can't remember their GCSE maths thinks that mean is the same as median.

        "Over 30% rated capacity

        20% to30%

        10 to 20%

        5 to 10%

        2.5 to 5%

        1.25 to 2.5%

        Less than 1.25% of rated capacity."

        Bias obvious here. Let's have 6 bands for under 30%, but only one band for over 30%.

        Then you have their numbers (Appendix C)

        "2009 27.18%

        2010 21.14%

        2009 AND 2010 23.63%"

        (27.18+21.14)/2 = 24.16

        Sure there are more, but I have work to do.

    3. Andydaws

      absolute sh*te

      If you added up the total generating capacity (in KW or MW) of the "on-site production" turbines, and compared it with the grid connected capacity, I'll bet you a tenner it's no more than 5-10%

      Domestic turbines are rarely more than a couple of KW in capacity (and have even worse capacity factors) - compared to 1MW plus for commercial applications.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Not thought it through

    @John I'm only dancing

    "we get the tricky problem of where do we site the new plants that will be required. In remote coastal areas? Probably not a good idea because they will need all the infrastructure to support the plant building as well."

    Hardly - nuclear plants in most countries are situated well away from all but the smallest of towns, and they tend to have their own infrastructure in place. Good road links, their own fire station, helipads, canteens, quite often gyms and saunas. All they need is resupply and that applies equally to any other type of industrial site. The infrastructure to support the plant building is *part of* the plant site.

    @longbeast

    "Nuclear power is fantastic and cheap for countries like France that can export power overnight, but we can't do that, not without a really seriously huge investment in the channel tunnel power link."

    I don't see why; where I live (Finland), power is traded with Sweden, Estonia and Russia, most of which occurs via undersea cables running along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Links to France, Spain, Holland, and even Denmark aren't exactly impossible.

  33. Jules

    hydro+wind

    I don't know if it would apply to the UK as much as in Canada where there is significant hydro generated power. One plan I had heard of was to link wind generation with hydro generation whereby hydro generation would be reduced when wind generation was high thereby enabling the water levels to increase or at least not decrease as quickly.

    1. Andydaws

      hmmm

      so, you reduce carbon output by not generating using zero-carbon hydro, when zero-carbon wind is available.

      Can you run me through the maths of that?

  34. Tom Reg
    Big Brother

    Its all about maximizing profit. Wind does that.

    So now its all the rage. The fundamental equation for a system like an energy grid is that the total capitalization*10% + operating costs get passed on to the customer. If you build electrical generation that produces no or almost no electrical power, then you get to increase the total capital invested, which raises prices and profits. If you build actual generation capacity, then the total capital invested does not go up (old plants are turned off), which results in no overall industry profit gain. Thus the industry is turning to the least efficient means available.

    In Germany, E ON Netz published (2005) a report that showed how expensive dealing with wind power would be. Now they are happy with spending all that money and passing it on to the German people. Note that it also shows that to go from 10% of the grid powered by wind to 20% you would need to at least QUADRUPLE the number of turbines - it is a case of diminishing returns.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Short termism

    Non-renewable stocks: (fossil fuels, uranium) a few hundred years with steady supply

    Renewable stocks: 1 billion years, but there are issues with intermittent supply

    Required stocks for the rest of human existence: 1 billion years

    I see a bit of a shortfall in supply in the future..

    We can say that you don't care because we'll all be dead by the time we run out.

    We can cross our fingers and hope that fusion or thorium works nicely.

    Or, we can bite the bullet, accept that there's an extra cost (particularly) right now and get adding as much renewable energy as possible, particularly where the renewables are more reliable such as various water-based systems and gas generation from waste. Meanwhile, work on the demand side by improving energy efficiency, particularly by banning crap new buildings. Then also pump money into research on providing more reliable alternatives and make renewables cheaper (either through cost or efficiency) and _then_ cross our fingers that the research pans out so that our energy needs can be supplied cheaply.

    Oh and for gods sake stand firm and do use nuclear fission and coal (but clean it up) for now.

    I'd also suggest getting politicians that won't lie about the future cost of energy, but I think that's asking far too much.

    1. Oninoshiko
      FAIL

      where are your numbers from?

      Nuclear alone, using fast-breeders, is enough to last us 30,000 years. That is not even counting the concept of moving to the much more common (and potentially safer and cleaner) Th-232.

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-long-will-global-uranium-deposits-last

  36. b166er

    Tit le

    Why not just mandate ground source heat pumps on all new build?

    And, as someone else pointed out, turbines in the water courses.

    There are also large numbers of underground water courses to be exploited.

    Had I a decent head where I live, I'd be installing a turbine in a moment.

    Mind you, if I could get good head where I live, I wouldn't be muttering these infernal tootlings :D

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Energy - of all sorts - generates too many ill informed tirade comments outside the tabloids.

    Nuclear generated electric power has a place - but a small and expensive place.

    So does wind and fossil fuel.

    Two thirds of our planet's surface is covered in water. We have the largest fusion reactor economically available about 8 minutes away and it's going to be here long after humanity is extinct.

    We have PROVEN and SCALABLE technology to make use of sources other than nuclear, wind and fossil but we choose to invest in these 'old tech' sources. The full economics of the 'new tech', even as we know them now, are comparable with current approaches and these are still, relatively, immature.

    Who/what is driving us towards hamstringing our future generations? Guidance appreciated.

  38. Liam Thom
    FAIL

    However...

    The electric cars you mention in the end of the article are the saviour of uncertain electricity production because, together with some cunning electronics, they allow batteries to be charged when there is a force 5. As long as people don't press the "I need to charge my car now and bugger the squirrels" button.

    Also the whole point of a national grid is that you even power out over the whole country. It would be a very large high pressure system that stopped all wind in all of the United Kingdom including the off-shore wind farms.

  39. Daggersedge
    Paris Hilton

    The future may be petrol

    Yes, that's right, certainly not wind, not solar, and maybe not even nuclear, but petrol - renewable petroleum. Have a look at this:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110323135635.htm

    Paris, because she isn't interested in wind power, either.

  40. Your Retarded
    WTF?

    Confusion

    There seems to be some serious confusion as to the basis of this article.

    Are we talking here about output of wind generation as a % of its maximum rated output; or are we talking about the output of wind generation as a % of total national demand?

    If you read the two bold statements on the first page there appears to be some contradiction.

    The first looks like it is talking about the first value (the efficiency of wind generation) whereas the second is definitely talking about what proportion of the total demand was generated by wind. The figures do not seem to be comparable.

    Anyone else notice this? Or have I missed something? Seems unusual for an article by Lewis to be unclear...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, Lewis, what do you suggest?

    Good old earthquake-proof, Tsunami-resistant, decades-to-decommission nuclear power, I suppose?

  42. Lonesome Twin

    The disregarded orphan at the back of the room...

    ... is surely geothermal? Dig 2 holes, put water in one, get steam out of the other. Simples!!! I've never understood why so little attention is given to the one renewable with 100% availability. Can anyone here tell me?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Geothermal

      Sorry to be pedantic, but geothermal is not renewable. It is sustainable (as to all intents and purposes it's inexhaustible), but there's no magic heating up the earth's core...

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        No, it's not magic

        Apart from the stored heat, there is also tidal energy in the mantle, caused mostly by the gravity drag as a result of the Moon.

        There are also some people who think that there are fission reactions happening at various points in the mantle and core generating heat.

        1. Andydaws

          no fission reactions

          but lots of radioactive decay. That's the primary heat source (tidal drag is a very minor contributor).

          Think of the heat profile as you drill down into the rock - if tidal were the main contributor, the maximum stress, hence heating, would be at the surface. Instead, it gets hotter as you go deeper.

  43. Zolko
    Stop

    doesn't this man ever relax ?

    Mr Page's articles about military procurement are quite enjoyable ("buy Yank") but his constant rumble on subjects he obviously doesn't know and where he only takes provocative postures ("the situation at Fukujima is under control") are tiring.

    1. DaWolf

      True

      But he's still far better than one other writer on this site - you know the one, the one who normally disables comments as he doesn't like people saying what an idiot he is.....

      1. Anomalous Cowturd
        Thumb Up

        Too true...

        And who has also taken to turning off the "rate this article" feature as it usually results in a negative rating!

        It wasn't me. Honest!

        Fingers crossed behind my back. ^_^

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But,

      if the situation at Fukujima is out of control and STILL nobody is dying from it, doesn't that actually strengthen his argument?

  44. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I also

    didn't read this article. El Reg's coverage of energy supply and climate is literally not worth my time, and I mention this only to ask that in future you simply don't cover these topics at all, to save me the mental effort of deciding not to read what you have to say about them.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mediocre

    Oh.

    A report commissioned by a group against wind power is praised by a journalist who is also against wind power*.

    I really don't know whether it's as useless/fantastic as the ranters on either side say. And after reading that article I'm even less knowledgable.

    (*nothing wrong with that in itself, just that certain writers on the register seem to pick and choose which evidence they praise, depending on whether it fits their pre-conceived ideology)

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    F*ck it, let's not have air.

    Well actually the solution lies in wind, solar, tidal and the existing infrastructure. The problem is that we're using too much electricity. we need to gradually use less energy, while the renewable technologies improve. in theory we'll reach an equilibrium at some point, where we produce more then we consume using green tech.

    Investing in old techonologies like coal/nuclear/gas does not made sense.

    If someone came and said, "Oh i have this improved 286 machine, it's more efficient then the ones from 1990", you still won't buy it because it's redundant and not worth the long term investment, whereas, with all their short comings, renewables (with reduced consumption) are just more "elegant" ways of producing electricity.

    And I don't know why Lewis, and so many people here are so dead against preserving what little nature we still have (I guess some people just like concrete more then forests)

    1. Liam Johnson

      like concrete more then forests

      And your answer is to cover the planet in windfarms, solar plants and hugh tidal systems. I am sure that will be very pretty, we can paint them all green.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Flame

        nope

        my answer is to consume less

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Energy Bills going up - why?

    The less we use the lower the profits by the energy companies. Now they have been privatised they need to keep shareholders happy so low profits are a no no. To keep profits up they raise the price and hence we have to use less. We use less profits go dow.... etc

    Simple equation, simple solution - privatise the utilities, Gas Water, Electric. It makes me shiver knowing they are all in foreign hands now.

    1. Andydaws

      Nationalise the lot

      they could all be run as well as, say, Northern Ireland Water, eh?

  48. Andy 18
    FAIL

    2 small points

    Some interesting points. However:

    Wind Power and Solar Power complement each other nicely. When it's not windy, it tends to be sunny and when it's not sunny it tends to be windy. So, if you are looking at the big picture and get the mix right, the variability of output is less of a problem.

    Also, the report gives numbers for output to the grid, not for generation. Few installations of wind power are just for power generation for the grid. It actually pays better to generate the power and use it yourself. For example, the 3 big turbines at Bristol docks export very little to the grid. Most of their output goes to power the docks.

    Of course, if you are a nuclear power lobbyist (albeit unpaid).....

  49. David Gale

    Lewis missed the point

    Let's take Lewis's stats at face value for the moment. What does it tell us? It tells us that we need a strategic architecture aligned to a national energy strategy. Not piecemeal policies that pander to one or other lobby groups. If wind is a renewable source, don't carp about not being able to store its energy, build the storage capability... and whilst you're at it, who would advocate the UK having the smallest gas storage facility in western Europe? Sensitive to price fluctuations? Moi?

  50. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    Oh! What a surprise!

    The truth is out at last.

    The one thing you can rely upon is "Wind can give you a pain in the belly"

  51. ennui

    Gravity Control will beat any other system

    Gravity Control does not depend on wind, water or fuel. It can generate power at 1 cent per kilowatt all the time. A Power Plant costs a fraction of a Nuclear Plant and does not pollute and does not need fuel after start-up.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Clucking fueless

    Resident troll still in employment i see. Lot's of fanbois too - i don't get it.

    If you want a non-medical nuclear engineer's opinion about Fukushima look no further:

    fairewinds.com

    If you want to get the severity of the accident then you need to look at the medical effects of ingested radioisotopes for starters - when you do that you'll no longer be able to say 'oh Plutonium, yeah but not much". There's no such thing as a "safe exposure" - there are exposures that are statistically unlikely to affect you greatly, but the medical science around this is always developing - and governments, nuclear industry and Lewis would rather you didn't follow those developments.

    As for wind and renewables - they'll not be perfect and they may cost a lot but that's by the by when you're trying to prevent climate change.

    You can make the argument that nuclear is needed too (which I don't really buy) but don't let anyone tell you nuclear energy is cheap -

    There isn't a decommissioned plant in the world that doesn't need constant, expensive, tax-payer-subsidised, militarily-backed, uninsurable care for at least hundreds of years.

    No-one has worked what to do with high-level waste properly which is why so many plants have left everything in their spent fuel pools (they're very vulnerable to accidents).

    And all for 30-40 years of electricity, at least some of which has been primarily a PR stunt to convince populations to tolerate low-likelihood very-high-risk nuclear weapons factories on their doorsteps.

    You can keep 'em. Listen to Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds, he knows his shit. Lewis don't know shit about this no matter how many cleaner fish he has.

  53. camnai

    Set out all the costs

    Too many posts to read, so I might be covering old ground...Mr Page's analysis of wind-power costs seems valid as far as it goes, and the problems with alternative power sources on cloudy days when there's no wind between tides are obvious. However, wind power here is being tasked with all its costs, while those of nuclear, thermal, and even hydro power are not. Not Tokyo Electric Power nor the Japanese government nor GE/Hitachi will ever pay anywhere near the financial loss and massive dislocation being suffered by the people of Fukushima, and they will certainly never pay for the extra time I've had to spend in a largely unsuccessful attempt to find my brand of cigarettes, whose packaging plant is in that area and hence not functioning right now. They will not pay for the Fukushima residents who for the rest of their lives will wonder if any minor ailment is the first symptom of (slightly more than background-level) radiation-induced cancer. None of these costs will be factored into the price of nuclear power. The companies--all too big to fail--will pay what they manage to convince people they can afford, and the citizens will bear the rest, which will not be considered part of the cost of nuclear power.

    Similarly, motorists do not pay at the pump or in road taxes for the wars in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, or the security measures in airports and elsewhere made necessary by western interventions in the Middle East to secure oil supply. Oil as an energy source is not tasked with the costs of air-pollution or plastics-caused health problems--nor for the research into exactly what these problems are and how they can be countered.

    Hydro maybe isn't as bad, but people moved out of the way of a power dam, or people at risk because they live below a power dam, or people downstream who don't get as much water any more, are never fully recompensed for any of this.

    I am not suggesting that we should abandon these conventional sources of energy. We need them. But any discussion of the relative cost of different sources should also take into account the free ride these very efficient conventional sources currently enjoy.

  54. Charlie D
    FAIL

    Irresponsible writing

    Somebody sent a politician to do an engineer's job (writing this article, that is). Any engineer knows that you do not design things to perform at 100% capacity 100% of the time - it will break when it is forced over the line. If on average it is running at 20% capacity, that means a competent engineer ran the calculations and decided that 80% was an appropriate factor of safety. This author is simply out of his league. Unless, of course, the original plan was to strike up irrational fear against the entire windpower industry. Who would do such a thing? Oh, right. The fossil-fuel-power industry. I forgot. Stupid of me.

    1. Steve X

      wrong

      When a piece of machinery (like a wind turbine) is quotes as, say, "2MW" that is it's *rated* capacity, i.e. the maximum continuous output already taking into account the safety factor.

    2. blackcat
      FAIL

      You sure?

      " Any engineer knows that you do not design things to perform at 100% capacity 100% of the time"

      Only if you are a very poor engineer. Rated capacity and safety margin are not the same thing. Something working at 100% rated capacity will still have a safety margin.

  55. Jim 70

    Build them in windy places.

    Surprise Surprise, windfarms in calmer places have low output.

    Build them here in Shetland, a force 4 is a calm day here!

    Guardian quote:

    "Proof of Shetland's potential comes from a modest wind turbine called Betsy. One of five small turbines on Shetland's only wind farm, the 660 kilowatt machine is believed to be the world's most efficient wind turbine, reaching between 52% and 59% of its maximum potential output, double the average of most on the British mainland."

  56. Shane Mussell
    Coat

    Taken a long time to realise the truth..

    I have been involved with wind farms for quite awhile now and have to say this is pretty spot on.

    EVERYONE involved knows that they are just a way of the energy companies getting out of paying fines etc...

    They are pretty impressive in engineering terms but then so were those follies back in the day ;)

    Mines a jacket as it protects against trolls and people are blinded by the boobies in the Sunday sport (you know who you are).

  57. Some Beggar
    FAIL

    "A new analysis"?

    That's a little generous. It's a vanity piece by somebody whose main business is photoshopping oo! scary! pictures of windmills onto pretty pastoral scenes:

    http://www.syvisuals.co.uk/

    and whose previous work on wind generation was subsequently demonstrated by independent analysis to be bordering on innumerate.

    Why on earth are you reporting this as if it were a significant piece of research? Regardless of your personal position on wind generated electricity, this isn't research, it's purest propaganda.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What the...

    Who is Lewis Page and why does he keep doing this to us?

  59. NoneSuch
    IT Angle

    A Cunning Plan

    Step 1) Find where Jeremy Clarkson lives

    Step 2) Surround his residence with wind generators

    Step 3) Casually mention 'Mexico makes the best cars in the world' to him.

    Step 4) Utilizing the hot air produced, set new efficiency records and generate all the electricity you could ever need.

    Easy Peasy.

  60. Aggellos
    Grenade

    living near a rather large so called wind farm

    Well firstly Wind farms are not exactly green take the large nasty whitelee winfarm in scotland with over 140 turbines built on moors,

    1. each turbine takes up 2 acres of land with a big nasty concrete base which destorys 2 acres of peat moor which is rather good at carbon absortion x 140 leaving the windfarm with a huge carbon footprint.

    2. from my window i am lucky to see even half of the turbines turning at any one time and even then the ones turning and not turning at full power.

    3. the effect of local wildlife like hawks and kestrels plus other non predatory birds has been devastating.

    4. also the infrastucture required to take the power to the grid is not the most pretty nor is it cheap.

    5. even those in charge of the farm are admitting it will produce only 30% of the estimated total planned for during developement.

    And all this in one of britian supposedly windest spots, time to wake up and see windpower lobby for what it is bloated self intrest groups funded by the very businesses tasked with building wind farms, sophistry i tell you thats all it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Estimated

      "even those in charge of the farm are admitting it will produce only 30% of the estimated total planned for during developement."

      Ever noticed how each new windfarm that is planned is trumpeted with claims that it "will produce produce enough electricity to power X thousand homes"?

      It's always WILL isn't it? Not even that marketing catch all of "up to". If the generation companies were insurance companies you'd hear that the wind farm "COULD power UP TO X thousand homes".

      I can only assume they work out how many homes will be powered by the wind farm based on the peak output of the wind farm divided by the average consumption of a home. A fairer way of calculating the figure would be to take that 30% or 27% (or whatever the estimate is now) of peak and then divide it by the average domestic production.

      As anybody who works in the power generating industry will tell you however the really critical times are sudden peaks. Favourites being just after popular TV shows when everybody puts the kettle on. It's these sudden surges that really play havoc with the grid. You need lots of capacity online and standing by to keep the current flowing and voltage up when on those kettles go on. Not enough capacity online and the voltage will drop and you've got a brown out.

      Wind farms are hopeless in this situation because they depend on the weather. You can't just bring them online when you need them if there's no wind. That's not to say that wind farms are necessarilly a bad thing, but they have their problems and limitations. So they have to be part of an overall strategy. Right now Britain's strategy seems to be nuclear and wind with a small side order of tidal. Sorry, but that just isn't going to work.

      Those of you who are going to answer that we can buy in power from mainland Europe are failling to spot two important things. One being that Europe's demand for electrical power is growing as fast as ours. The other being that buying electricity from abroad sticks us in the same sort of hole as buying oil or gas from abroad.

  61. nederlander

    My car averages only 25% of its top speed. Should I crush it?

    I welcome the report as it's always interesting to see real world data. (A rare privilege in the energy industry.) However, I found Lewis' analysis a little lop-sided as he failed to take some important factors into account.

    1) The report only covered on-shore wind power which is a minor and outdated sector, much more beset by unreliable/low wind, and much more constrained in turbine size than offshore.

    2) Wind sector has received some government support but nowhere near what the nuclear industry has received.

    3) In criticising the 25% capacity figure, Lewis failed to compare wind to nuclear. What is the average output of a nuclear power station, compared to nominal capacity? I'd be willing to bet its about 25%.

    Wind power has its problems for sure, but they include neither the long term contamination of the bioshpere with radioactive isotopes, nor the extinction of the species due to climate change. For that I commend it.

    1. Andydaws

      "What is the average output of a nuclear power station, compared to nominal capacity?"

      Sizewell B, including a six month outage for repairs on the pressuriser, has averaged about 90% through life so far. Most LWRs average around the same mark - they typically run flat out for about 500-550 days, then come down for a refuelling and repair outage of a couple of months.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        90% of its rated electrical output perhaps

        but less than 20% of the energy it creates is turned into electricity - the rest warms up the sea and air.

        1. Andydaws

          Two errors in that

          One, you're way out on the thermal efficiency of nuclear stations - I worked on AGRs, which run around the 40% mark. LWRs don't do that well, but 35% is a reasonable expectation.

          Incidentally, the same applies to any thermal station.

          You also obviously don't realise that the second law of thermodynamics also applies to wind turbines. There's a derivation of the second las called Betz's limit that derives how much energy from incipient wind can be extracted by a turbine, and how much ends up in downstream turbulence, etc - i.e. low grade heat by another name.

          The theoretical maximum is about 56%. Must turbines work well below that.

          I'm always amused by the lack of understanding of basic physics and engineering amongst wind enthusiasts.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Amusing

            "I'm always amused by the lack of understanding of basic physics and engineering amongst wind enthusiasts."

            It doesn't amuse me. It scares me that so many people believe that wind power is 100% free and 100% carbon neutral and does absolutely no harm to the environment.

  62. VooDooMonkey

    Un-Necessary Title Goes Here

    Wind power is not a resource best suited to mass production of energy. Quelle surprise!

    When will the powers that be get their heads around the fact that centralised energy production is not the way forward.

    The way forward is for every house to have it's own supply of electricity from solar panels on the roof and a small wind turbine at the bottom of the garden.

    The way forward is for every commercial premises to have their roofs covered with solar panels and at least one wind turbine in the car park.

    The way forward is for every street light to have a solar panel on the top.

    With all of the excess energy from the above going to the National Grid. Trying to use wind and wave energy to power the whole of the national grid is just pointless.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. JP19
      Stop

      The problem today is...

      The world is fully of technically illiterate morons who don't know they are technically illiterate morons, probably because nowadays no one is allowed to tell you you are thick for fear of damaging your self esteem.

      Micro generations schemes are mostly so incredibly crap that anyone with a clue would not give them a second thought. The batteries required to make solar electrical power a viable 24 (never mind the /7 to cover overcast spells and the winter) source cost more than the electricity they can charge and discharge in their lifetime. Just the batteries required to replace one nuke with solar micro generation bollocks will cost 7 or 8 times more than the nuke.

      Microgeneration windmills are crap, it takes around 15 million of them to replace one nuke, and tjhey don't produce power when you want it, and nukes last 40 years while you will be lucky to get a 2 year guarantee on your new micro windmill, and far more people will be killed erecting them and when they start falling to bits and falling down than a nuke will ever kill.

      Time-shifting sunlight for street lighting - just lol. An attractive idea only when you are utterly clueless about the economics of what is required to achieve it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Un-Necessary Title Goes Here

      I don't think the execs of the "grid" will like that.

      Away with heir bonuses and huge wages. Let everyone make their own energy :-)

  63. Michael C
    Thumb Down

    fail

    This measures individual wind farm output. Bad move. Wind farms need to be considered on a whole, cross connected, providing a balanced load to the general grid. Studies showed that a grid spaced over 500-700 miles can have a less than 2% output variance, where a single farm can vary by more than 80%.

    Yes, the data is relevant to the owner of a single farm that is directly connected to a LOCAL grid, or where few other farms share loads, but if the grid is properly built out, better yet using superconducting trunk lines (like those deployed in many place in Europe, Long Island, NY, and more), then the load can be normalized.

    Also, there are uses for the overproduction and off-peak wind. elctrolysis... Convert water to H2 to feed Fischer Tropshe processors to make petrol. The H2 production can be scaled up and down in fractions of a second, and in a few hours can make enough H2 to run a synthesizer for a day. H2 production is independent, and can be used to balance the grid. It can also be run the other way to generate heat to run a turbing in peak load times. The synthesizer runs at a predictable pace, and used what H2 it has (and coal, CO2 waste, or natural gas), to make petrol, greases, oils, and other high alcohols. There's great research out there on this. Fuel manufacture and off-peak wind are symbiotic industries.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  64. Andydaws

    Michael C

    And no, wind farm output is still substantively "connected" - for example, a large scale blocking high, producing low wind speeds, is continental in scale. When our own windfarms were producing next to nothing during the cold snap in December, output was low as far afield as Germany and Ireland.

    Incidentally, our load isn't connected to a "local" grid - it covers the entire UK, plus interconnection to Ireland and France.

    Also, as someone who has the grid operator for Long Island as a client - it's our own National Grid, through their US subsidiary - the idea that there's an operational superconducting grid line is news to be - or anywhere in Europe. There's an obvious reason - no-one's yet developed a near-ambient temperature superconductor - and the operational implications of running a liquid nitrogen (that being the closest anyone's yet come) temperature line don't bear thnking about.

    As to electrolysis / fischer-tropsh as a source of synthetic petrol. I'd have a thought about the costs, and end-to-end energy efficiency cost of that (I've worked in the past with a firm calle "Methanex", who made synthetic petrol from natural cas in New Zealand, using that process).

    Let's start with energy efficiency. When you electrolyse water, if you're using the hydrogen only, you've immediately wasted 46% of the input energy that being what departs with the oxygen molecule.

    You're then taking it into a process that requires heating catalysts to something in the order of 900C (from memory). Most of that heat ends up getting wasted. You'd also need to find a way to supply the proces with carbon monoxide - you could, I suppose split CO2 at very high temperature, but that'll waste even more power. Let's very generously assume you'd get out fuel with 50% of the energy value of the hydrogen input...(I'd estimate 20% ould be closer to the mark).

    And, of course, you'll be supplying that very expensive (the Methanex plant I worked on would have cost about $2Bn in todays money) and energy inefficient plant from a rather problematic power source. It's intermittent, which is fundamentally unsuitable to a process like Fischer-Tropsch. Bringing the New Plymouth plant up to temperature took about 4 days, and once up there, it needed to be kept continually hot. Try cutting power to a plant like that randomly, and you'll screw it royally.

    The electricity would be expensive, too. Even on a nameplate basis, wind is similar to nuclear (the London Array is costing €1.9Bn for 640MW, a 1600MW EPT is a bit under £3Bn), but runs at only 25% capacity factor - meaning that London Array costs €1.9 Bn for an average output of 200MW, even on an optimistic 30%. That's something approaching £10Bn/GW.

    Incidentally, the output of London Array is worth about £80M at current market prices. The capital charges on borrowing €1.9Bn at a normal average cost of capital for the power sector (7%) are about £115M.

    So, you want to add even more capital cost on to that, and to reduce the actual amount of energy produced - based on the electrolysis efficiency, and the plant efficiency, to about 23% of the electricity produced.

    Something's telling me you're not an engineer, or someone who understands energy economics!

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just When You Need Them

    The days, or rather nights, when we tend to need to most power are the cloudless ones in mid winter. This is when it tends to be coldest. Of course these tend to be when the country is sitting in the middle of a high pressure zone. And what happens then? No wind. And so the wind farms will be producing zero output? Not quite. When temperatures are sub zero wind farms may be drawing current from the grid to keep the ice away.

    How many baskets are our eggs in exactly?

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wind schmind

    Even James Lovelock (the Gaia chap) says that wind power is pants and we should explore nuclear - lets face it, the first time one of the windies parents died because their life support machine failed due to their being no wind, we would be going nuclear faster than a speeding neutrino.

  67. A J Stiles
    Boffin

    There's a limit anyway

    Wind only contains so much kinetic energy. Turbines extract KE from the wind, slowing it down. So downwind of a turbine, it won't be blowing as fast as upwind of it.

    There comes a point eventually where the more turbines you build, the less energy each one is going to be able to convert.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Boffin

      Re: There's a limit anyway

      Wind is just air moving from areas of differing pressure. The air will take the path of least resistance between the two. The obvious ideal is to build a line of turbines perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction. And then to space them sufficiently far apart laterally to minimize the effects of turbulence.

      It's not rocket science... Not quite.

  68. pfalcon

    Wind power: Even worse than you thought

    The science fraternity has known for a LONG time that you solve the problem of irregular Wind capacity by having the generators create hydrogen supplies from water using excess electricty generated when it isn't practical to sell back to the grid. In times of low or no wind or when demand is high, the hydrogen is burned used to create electricity.

    Wind farms should be using this model to effectively supply the grid n demand instead of simply pumping what it has straight in. Of course, it means a more expensive system up front - but you'd think the pollies and industry would see that its a better fit for the curent system, and ultimately scales better...

    1. Andydaws

      however the "science community" isn't known for it's engineering

      or economics nouce

  69. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down

    ROC's are the problem

    Indeed they are. I asked to be on one of those solar energy panel schemes but was told my premises were unsuitable. Complete hogwash I might add. My roof faces the sun most of the day with NO obstacles in site. They just plump for areas where it's easier to install and which returns the biggest profits. It's a postcode lottery more than anything to do with if your home can generate the power.

  70. bamalam
    Boffin

    Efficiency, Efficiency

    The best comments on this thread seem to be coming from Andydaws. As he points out so eloquently the key thing is enrgy efficiency. Even if you could use spare electricity to crack water to make hydrogen you are going to lose a lot in converting it. Storing something like Hydrogen would be a real nightmare as well. It could only be done on a short term basis. On a smaller scale vanadium reflow batteries might work just to smooth output which seems to be one of the problems of wind but even then you are spending a lot of money on infrastructure that is not generating extra power only coping with the inadequacies of existing generation, in this case wind.

    As to pumped storage, look up Dinorwig which is the biggest generating pumped storage station in Britain, cost around 435million GBP back in the early 70s yet can still only run for about 5 hours flat out. New pumped storage would be prohibitively expensive even if you were to wreck the countryside by putting the feed pipes above ground.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Efficiency shmufficiency

      h2 storage/conversion was over 80% efficient by 1990. Nuclear still runs at less than 20%.

      1. Andydaws

        Tom 7 - what unmitigated drivel

        As I noted earlier, any process that involved splitting water into hydrogen inherently wastes just under half the input energy, as the energy is split between the hydrogen and oxygen molecules produced.

        To be of any use, you've then got the need to compress the resultant hydrogen - think of the scale of storage you'd have to come up with to hold any useful energy content at atmospheric pressure.

        And, In 1986, I spent a stint on a nuclear plant making 660MWe, 1575 MWth, at Heysham in N Lancs. Do the sums yourself.

  71. Andydaws

    thanks, Balaman

    I have to apologise, I'm at the severe disadvantage of being an engineer who later trained in project finance, and has worked with the energy and utility sector for the last 30 years.

    It tends to leave you with a low tolerance for the bollocks produced by people who latch onto gimcrack schemes.

    Here's a good rule of thumb - 1GW of pumped storage costs (today's costs) about £1-1.5Bn- that's be with a relatively small upper reservoir similar to Dinorwic's (6-10 hours running).

    Costs don't go up linearly with the size of the upper reservoir, but the number of suitable sites falls off rapidly. Scottish and Southern Energy (who are the old "North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board" pre-privatisation) has reviewed multiple sites across Scotland, and currently only regards two as suitable - Coire Glas and Balmacaan, both of 600MW (1/3rd of a Dinorwic). It also think it can convert Sloy, but that's a staggering 60MW.

    Coire Glas will require an upper reservoir about 1 1/2 Km long, 500 metres wide, and - Balmacaan's similar in area. Each would be good for 30GWh (so, about 2 days running).

    Not a lot, is it?

  72. P. Lee Silver badge
    FAIL

    SLAs are not comforting

    It doesn't matter that Fukushima survived a five times larger assault that it was designed for. What if the earthquake or tidal wave was 6 or 7 times larger than the sla? Is it safe or were we just lucky so far? With fossil fuel/renewables you get a local, known impact and that's all, with nuclear you can get a massive impact from catastrophic failure. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.

    Wind does appear to be unreliable. Perhaps we need more development in dialing-up / dialing-down fossil fuel stations so even if we need them going full-pelt at peak times, we can reduce burning during the windy periods.

    I'm pretty sure we're not currently planning to ditch carbon fuels altogether or even mostly (which seems to be the assumption of the anti-renewable arguments - it can't replace carbon therefore there's no point), but if we can reduce their usage, then that is a good thing.

  73. Billinho

    Energy Storage

    If you are trying to balance the grid then fast reacting energy plant is what you need. Currently pumped storage is king of the hill, but there are other promising technologies that look really promising, such as thermal batteries (see http://www.isentropic.co.uk/index.php?page=technology). These don't need very specific geographic circumstances, sound very efficient (but no figures yet), are scalable (down to 100kW so can be placed locally around a network) and can accept electricity or heat as their input.

    If I had any money to invest, I know where I'd be putting it (& it isn't nuclear, wind or solar)!

  74. Andydaws

    P. Lee - you might be interested in this:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

    "Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste"

    It's worth noting that most fly-ash contains about 2,000Bq/Kg. By weight, that's about 15 ppm. The normal discharge limits for water from Fukushima are 40Bq/Kg, by contrast.

    A 2000MW coal station like Eggborough makes about 100 tonne/hour of fly-ash. Over a 40 year life, that's about 35 million tonnes. Or, about 525 tonnes of uranium (and probably about half as much again) dumped unconstrained into the environment. That's more than half the entire core content of Fukushima R 2 or R3. So far, there's no indication at all that uranium has been released from any of the Fukushima reactors.

    Add to the effect of that perhaps 3-6000 death/year in the UK from lung disease linked to coal particulates.

    You've just, inadvertently, given a lovely example of the blindness of people to chronic impacts of non-nuclear power generation.

    Remember, too, that isn't dependent on a "black swan" event. It's routine, year after year.

    There are other impacts, too. You want more wind power? Great - I've shown elsewhere on this thread that at current wholesale prices, wind just about covers half it's financing cost, much less things like operation and maintenance. So, let's assume we've got to see wholesale power prices at least double. That adds 50-60% onto retail prices - more if you've also got to finance large pumped storage developments, or fund low-utilisation fossil fuel plant to offset intermittency.

    Fuel poverty campaigners have reasonably good evidence that upping the price of power by 5-10% causes about 2,000 extra premature deaths/year. Apply that to what having a wind/PS system, and you're adding perhaps 5-10,000 additional deaths/year.

    Just because it doesn't make headlines doesn't mean it's not happening.

  75. Andydaws

    indirectly related to the subject...

    "The global energy market consequences of the devastating earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 are already starting to be felt, but so far, impacts have been more in spot LNG markets than in oil markets.........

    .....Nuclear operator TEPCO is reported to be in the market to add 10 natural gas turbines at existing thermal power plant sites in Japan. The expected increases in natural gas demand for Japan have already taken much of the surplus off global LNG markets. Indonesia cancelled its spring tender for five spot cargoes of spot LNG and instead is sending this supply to Japan. Russia has also announced that it will increase its LNG sales to Japan, while Qatar has redirected two cargoes back from the United States to Asia. As more countries investigate whether they need to shut down nuclear plants for safety inspections, the increase in LNG demand could extend beyond Japan. LNG prices rose by over $1.50 per mmbtu in Asia in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and are now rising in Europe."

    http://theenergycollective.com/jamescoan/55372/global-market-impact-starting-be-felt-japan-nuclear-accident

    For context, the spot market price is now around $4.20 mmbtu, so that looks like spot markets have spiked by over 50%. However, only about 25% of our gas supply is subject to immediate impact from world prices, the rest is on medium term contracts (although the effect will feed through over time).

    We make about 40% of our electricity supply from gas - and of that, about 80-90% of the unit cost is fuel. It ends to be the "market maker" because of flexibility.

    I think our wholesale electricity prices are going up about 10% because of Fukushima....

    1. The Grinning Duck
      Heart

      In one ear, out the other.

      It’s a noble effort, mate, but I think you’re fighting an uphill battle. When it comes to energy, people just want to hear that renewables will fix everything, anything else is anathema, and they certainly don’t want to have even a cursory glance at how the industry actually works. When it comes to the report that this article is based on, anyone with an internet connection who can build a (very) basic spreadsheet can verify the results. Anyone. But very few will. Even large businesses don’t really look at what’s going on; when CRC kicked off, I had clients who owned large retail chains and, quite spectacularly, let each individual store manage their energy (literally each site was choosing their own supplier(s), and keeping bills in a filing cabinet somewhere – if they kept them). I regularly meet clients who come in with just a vague idea that they want ‘green’ energy, but no idea what that means or really why they want it other than having the notion that it’d be good for corporate social responsibility. More often than not they’re looking to ‘go green’ because some renewable evangelist has worked his/her way to being influential just by virtue of being the only person in the company who even pretends to be interested in energy. It’s depressing, really, but it keeps me in a job, I guess.

      Having said that, you could maybe calm down on your rational, knowledgeable posts; people might learn something and I don’t want to have to go out and get a real job just yet…

  76. Andydaws

    Duck, you're not kidding....

    "But very few will. Even large businesses don’t really look at what’s going on; when CRC kicked off, I had clients who owned large retail chains and, quite spectacularly, let each individual store manage their energy (literally each site was choosing their own supplier(s), and keeping bills in a filing cabinet somewhere"

    Ain't that the truth.

    I've just finished some work for one of the "big 6", who've had a clause in their deals for business customers mandating adherence to a forecast profile, and allowing penalty charges for divergence. They've had it in place for years. I helped them set up a processing shop offshore to monitor behaviour, and apply the charges.

    I anticipate fireworks.

  77. Jean-Luc Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Don't shoot the messenger

    Skipping for an instant the nuke/no-nuke aspects, it is refreshing to see a study examine whether, in fact, a certain class of renewables makes sense for a given country.

    You could do worse than reading David MacKay's 'Sustainable energy without the hot air', which examines precisely these points and flags wind energy's backup requirements as a major issue. He also addresses water-based storage. And tide energy.

    A lot of these things have relatively simple physical parameters that define them. Not least the physical size of the required installation. And, often, when you look at the details, what passes for good "global warming policy" is anything but.

    A case in point in North America is bio-fuels. We've spent years shoving $ into the through for corn farmers. It sounds cool to Greens as well. But it doesn't make much sense, though Brazilian sugarcane ethanol (walled off by high tariffs) do make some sense.

    Even at an individual level, people are duped into purchasing solar panels or wind generators that return less energy than they were worth.

    As more and more money gets thrown at the global warming issue, there is more and more incentive for special interest groups to try to funnel subsidies their way. And voters and Greens would be wise to make sure that the proposed solutions do indeed make sense. Not least because every $ wasted on a boondoggle is a $ not spent on a real fix. Good intentions are not by themselves a solution.

  78. Al fazed
    Happy

    I told you so

    This "news" has been common knowledge since about 1995, amongst the rest of us.

    I've written comments several times indicating how we're being shafted AGAIN, by our wonderfully knowledgable "GREENING" overlords.

    Is everyone asleep here in BLIGHTED ?

    Isn't hind sight wonderful, if a bit costly.

    ALFAZED

  79. Peter Rowan
    Pint

    Not bad writing Lewis

    What Lewis has done has got a discussion going, he has taken a report from a political think tank and commented on it. This has at my count so far got over 200 posts, some with some good detail from both sides of the argument, this is his job. To get people like you and me to start thinking and even to question our ideas and believes, if after this we have changed our minds or kept them the same then this is good journalism. A bit controversial, but good all the same. I may not like it as it does knock some me in my comfort zone sometimes, but to keep alive, we do need people like Lewis to prick us with some ideas we may not like. Well done Lewis and keep it up.

  80. M Gale

    245 comments and no time to read them...

    ...so forgive me if this has already been mentioned.

    I'd say the inability of the system to dial its thermal use down when a known-intermittent source is bulging at the seams with juice is less a fault of aerogenerators and more a fault of the system. You've put down plenty of reasons why the current business model needs a kick up the arse but not much convincing me that wind, wave, solar etc are all hopelessly crap.

    Still, good troll I suppose.

    1. Andydaws

      M Gale

      "I'd say the inability of the system to dial its thermal use down when a known-intermittent source is bulging at the seams with juice is less a fault of aerogenerators and more a fault of the system. "

      That rather starts with an asusmption that output from wind turbines is somehow favoured, or desirable.

      Electricity is electricity. Its desirability reflects the characteristics of the means of generation, nothing else - and intermittency of one source is that sources's problem, not of others.

      " You've put down plenty of reasons why the current business model needs a kick up the arse but not much convincing me that wind, wave, solar etc are all hopelessly crap."

      That wind can't cover it's own cost of finance isn't a business model problem - it's a problem that wind is expensive to implement and produces small amounts of ouput.

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