Tilting At Windmills 37

There is a theory in Holyrood that “King Nuke” Brian Wilson’s support for the proposed 550 MW wind power project on Shetland, is based on a desire to see wind power terminally discredited by this over-large scheme.

Of Wilson’s motives I have no view – he was a good man forty years ago at, and immediately after, Dundee University, but like so many his morals appear to have been skewed by contact with Tony Blair.

But wind power needs to generate in serious units like 550 MW if it is to have a real impact on the future of British energy policy. Interestingly, if the Viking project can really be built for £800 million as stated, that is only twice the cost of installing conventional gas turbine plant – and the gas turbines will burn their construction cost again in fuel inside five years, while the fuel for the wind turbines is free.

I confess to having little time for the anti-wind turbine lobby. There are environmental consequences to any energy generation, of course, inclusing wind turbines. All human activity impacts the environment. But compared to the environmental costs of extracting and combusting fossil fuels, the impact of wind turbines is much less damaging.

Yes, you have to join them with roads and cable ducts. Of course that has an impact on the environment – as does mining and smelting the steel, etc. But I am not a fan of closing down human activity altogether to end our environmental impact. Nor is there a great deal of evidence that birds suffer wholesale massacre. The construction will but scratch the surface of the Shetland wilderness – there are no dams flooding valleys, no mountains being moved. That the wilderness should remain pristine for the benefit of occasional sightseers from the cities – who actually never really visit, they just like to think it is there – is not a major priority.

So I hope Viking, and as many other wind projects as possible, speed ahead. Which is why I am furious at the government allowing the closure of the Vestas blade factory on the Isle of Wight. Any amount of public money is available to bail out casino banking young sharps in the City of London – even though it has put us in debt for generations. But it would be “Wrong” to help our too small stake in the wind turbine industry, according to “Lord” Mandelson.

Meanwhile, the taxpayer has been heavily subsidising the nuclear industry for my entire lifetime…

Returning to Norfolk has re-awakened my fury at the government’s abandonment of much of our coastal defences, as impractical and too expensive. Yet the East Coast is full of reclaimed land, around Kent, North Norfolk and the whole of the Fens. We were doing it for centuries armed only with picks, shovels and buckets. The obvious response to the government’s miserable policy is “tell that to the Dutch”. Infuriatingly, erosion on the Norfolk cost is being increased by the Crown Estate dredging sand offshore – to sell to the Netherlands government to improve their coastal defences.

There are offshore wind farms planned around here, including on the shoals off Sheringham. It seems to me that there must be a tremendous opportunity to combine major new coastal defences with renewable energy capture through wind, tide, wave and current. This is the kind of major and imaginative public works project, like building the Hoover Dam, which adds to the investment capital of a nation and provides jobs and economic activity as we enter serious recession.

37 thoughts on “Tilting At Windmills

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  • MerkinOnParis

    ‘. . . but like so many his morals appear to have been skewed by contact with Tony Blair.’


    However, in his local area he is remembered as the promoter who brought Pink Floyd to Argyll.

    That covers up a lot of subsequent sin.

  • MerkinOnParis

    On a more serious note, the wind turbine industry has been a gravy train for those and such as those.

    Get rich quick with the grants available even when the overall project is not viable in the long run.

    Say no to nuclear and make use of the abundant resource we have.

  • Langue d'Oc

    If only we’d invested rather than pissing away billions on a poxy 2.5% VAT cut!

  • Tim Hiscock

    Good discussion. Shetland is a hell of a windy place, this sounds like the obvious thing to do, and your summary or the costs relative to gas turbines makes it look viable.

  • Alaric

    Yesterday, I was discussing the effect dredging has on coastal erosion, and how the short term monetary gain to be had from allowing it to continue seems to outweigh the long-term benefits of stopping the dredgers(I guess it’s partly a case of out of sight – out of mind – literally).

    It does not seem to be in interests of the current government to stop this industry, there is no question that dredging is helping speed up coastal erosion, and I guess that the issue is that who, if anyone, is responsible for saying enough is enough, before we lose more of the Norfolk Coast, and become suceptable to coastal flooding.

    The Pitt Report made 93 recommendations, all of which have been looked at and applied to Norfolk, to prevent future flood risk, however in terms of action, nothing seems to have been done, maybe the problem lies in the fact that we have not experienced devastating flooding such as that seen in Doncaster (and thus have not been forced into action), well, not yet anyway!

    A step back indeed would be for the people of Norfolk to allow for the Flood sirens to be scrapped (and replaced with more high-tech solutions) the Norfolk Resilience Forum lists Sirens in their Strategic Flood Response 2008 document (see below) as a viable method of raising awareness of flooding, it speaks for itself.


    Flood risk, and coastal erosion are linked, however, the government faces high costs if they are too realistically tackle them, which may not happen until the effects are such that, we will wish we had taken action earlier.

  • JimmyGiro

    I’ve just come back from the County Courts building, where the Vestas workers ‘illegal’ occupation was being assessed; the judge adjourned the case until Tuesday the 4th, on the grounds that the application named only one of the workers.

    about 200 folk gathered outside the court buildings, with approximately 10 police focusing mainly on clearance for the occasional traffic.

    Half the group composed of the vestas workers, their family, and some local union support; mainly silent, sombre expressions, waiting for the court results. The other half were the “RMT Union” members; professional placards, loud hailers, and the usual drone of rent-a-slogan; happy in their own presence, the two groups mixed like oil and vinegar.

    I was left with mixed feelings: it was good the lads got all the support they could, but I feel some of these outside groups are milking the occasion for their own agendas. For example, did the RMT Union ask the vestas lads whether the slogan “Sack the bosses, not the workers” was in-line with their hopes of a negotiated solution with the management of vestas?

    The message from some is that vestas blades were making between £70 – £90M profit per year. I don’t know if that is just the Island plant, or the whole of the vestas group. But if the factory is profitable then we (the Island people) should be looking to buy the whole complex, complete with tools, so as to continue the business for local and national benefit.

    Yes the Islanders are very NIMBY when it comes to 170m tall wind turbines, and inevitably the vestas owners in Denmark are going to use that as a moral stick to beat us with. I say there is no hope waiting on vestas to deliver, therefore we should go all out on buying the factory from them.

    On a personal note, I’ve been unemployed for years now; an extra 600 quality workers thrown into the local jobseeking melee means thousands of long term unemployed being reclassified from 3rd choice worker to 4th choice worker; women and minorities being 1st choice, followed by job hoppers 2nd.

  • tony_opmoc

    I have no major objection to windpower on environmental grounds, and a couple of years ago camped very close to a wind turbine for 4 days at Cambridge Rock Festival. It didn’t disturb me in the slightest and looked very impressive.

    But that is not the point. The entire point of any power generation project is that it must produce significantly more energy, than ALL the energy costs associated in design, planning, mining, refining and transporting the raw materials, manufacturing, installation, operation, maintenance, disposal and renewal, together with delivering the energy to the point of consumption.

    If throughout the lifetime of the project, the total energy produced is less than ALL the energy used, then it is worse than a complete waste of time, as you have not gained any energy, but have wasted it.

    If windpower is really worthwhile, then it should be able to demonstrate its worth by selecting an Island that has all the resources required. After you have built the first few windmills and all the infrastructure for mining, transportation, construction etc, it needs to be possible to replicate and build more windmills without using any other form of energy or resources from outside of the Island.

    I am almost completely convinced that this is not possible, and that windpower is a net energy sink, and that you get less energy out than you put in.

    Sure I’ve seen figures that try to prove the reverse, but the figures are corrupt, because they omit a whole host of energy costs that are taken for granted, and which come from other sources.

    A very good book on the subject, that analyses in great detail the physics and maths of Solar and Wind Power, is

    “The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run The World” by Howard C. Hayden Professor Emeritus of Physics from the University of Connecticut.

    If you ignore the pure physics and maths of any major decision making process, and instead proceed on an ideology based on faith and politics, then you end up not solving any problems, but making disasterous mistakes.

    There are other far better opportunities to develop power generation than wind power, most of which are being almost completely ignored, because decisions at the highest levels are being taken by the completely unqualified based on wild beliefs that are not supported by fundamental analysis.


  • Anonymous

    I agree that there are considerable benefits to wind farms.

    I agree that there have been a number of get rich quick on public money schemes. A few landowners have made a few bob…..in the the scheme of things it’s ssmall beer.

    vestas however are an interesting company. Their international expansion plans co-incided with Denmark governments plans to reduce grant aid and support in that country.

    They received considerable amounts of public money in return for promises of sustainable jobs here in the UK. Consider for example the money they received from HIE in return for jobs in Campbeltown/ Argyll & Bute. How many jobs did they actually create? How many were not just cleaning catering security and yard sweeping? How many still remained a few years later before operations were transferred to another, grant part of the UK? And where are operations being transferred to now?

    not so much tilting as milking.

  • NomadUk

    ‘The entire point of any power generation project is that it must produce significantly more energy, than ALL the energy costs associated […] together with delivering the energy to the point of consumption.’

    My god, someone who actually understands the fundamental problem. That is precisely the kind of analysis I’ve been looking for regarding solar and wind power. I’d love to have either, but I have this sneaking, deep-seated suspicion that the laws of thermodynamics are being wilfully ignored here.

    People are so used to fossil fuels, which represent the accumulation of tens or hundreds of millions of years of solar energy, stored in what amounts to a vast, underground battery, that they have completely forgotten how difficult it is to generate power and win.

    Even nuclear fission is, I believe, questionable on this ground, *unless* one is building fast breeders and using recycled plutonium. Otherwise, even if the net energy gain is positive, it’s irrelevant, as the fuel will be exhausted (that’s right, gone) within the next 50 to 100 years. With breeders, we could have fission to last us 5,000 years.

    I have a sinking feeling all of this will become moot.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    There are well paid, skilled jobs being created by wind power – and considerably more for the same amount of investment than nuclear (with its massive clean-up costs) could provide. I know engineers who work for Siemens and they have been given constant training – both in the engineering aspects and in health and safety. The technology is evolving rapidly now that it’s been getting some investment and the efficiency of wind turbines is increasing.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Also if wind power is so incapable of generating energy how did our ancestors use it as their main mode of transportation – by sailing ship – for thousands of years right up until the mid-19th century?

  • NomadUk

    Our ancestors didn’t build enourmous towers using metals mined and refined using fantastic amounts of fossil fuel power and high-technology refineries. They sawed down trees, hitched oxen and horses, used muscle power. All of those things run on solar power, ultimately, but at a rate that makes it sustainable over millions of years, rather than one or two centuries.

    The number of skilled jobs being created by the industry, their training, and health and safety concerns mean nothing. All that’s relevant is if the power generated is a net loss because it requires more energy to dig the metal out of the ground, refine it, work it, shape it, assemble it, ship it, install it, maintain it, transport the technicians around, etc., than we get from the windmill itself — or, at least, that the net difference, if negative, is sufficiently small that we can keep it going for a long time to come.

    Why is this so hard for people to understand?

    I’m not saying I know whether or not the process is a net loss or net gain, but what I’m saying is that I have yet to hear that anybody has actually done the analysis.

  • NomadUK

    This analysis is, by the way, precisely the reason that hydrogen-powered cars are not going to save us. It requires more energy to manufacture the hydrogen than you get out of it; therefore the hydrogen can only ever serve as a means of transferring energy from the original source (solar, nuclear, wind, fossil fuel, whatever) to the car. It doesn’t really solve the problem.

    And I never said you couldn’t generate power from wind. The question is, can you generate *enough*.

  • John D. Monkey

    Craig and everyone

    The population of the UK and especially our politicians have their collective heads in the sand over the loooming crisis in electricity supply.

    And to make matters worse, we are as a nation unwilling to reduce our domestic energy consumption significantly.

    This has some severe implications:

    1. Even if we build every proposed wind farm that local objectors are currently stopping, it will add no base-load power capacity, which is what we will need: by their very nature, wind farms are not baseload generators as they only run when the wind blows at medium strength. My back-of-an-envelope guess is that if we built enough of them (covering a huge swathe of the upland areas of the UK) they could at best cover 10% of our needs 90% of the time.

    Needless to say this is practically / technically impossible to any realistic timescale, and politically impossible at any time.

    2. Everyone wants the lights to come on whenever they flick a switch but don’t want ANY kind of power generation or transmission infrastructure to be built near where they live – coal, gas, nuclear, wind, CHP, transmission lines, you name it.

    3. For the more extreme environmental nihilists, of course, it’s no longer NIMBY but BANANA – build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone. They seem to think that if we are forced to we will change our liefstyle quickly. I’m not convinced…

    4. Many of the existing coal and nuclear plants are so near their closure dates that if we don’t build LOTS of new coal / nuclear power stations (about 10-12Gw) by c. 2015/16 then the lights are going to go out at peak times every winter.

    5. It’s already too late for (4) so we are going to have to keep old ones going beyond their existing design life / safety certificates.

    6. We have got to re-build the Kingsnorth power station as a matter of urgency, as this is the only way of keeping the lights going in the south-east unless a new gas fired plant is built quickly (and this means without a public enquiry). If necessary this will have to be done over the metaphorical dead bodies of the environmental activists. And the inter-connector from France is not going to save us in the future as the French will need all their own electricity.

    The outlook is therefore very bleak. I have no faith that any government of any political persuasion understands these numbers or is prepared to act on them. And the fragmented, privatised energy utilities will not (and cannot) think or act strategically. Many are now foreign owned, which will not crucial per se doesn’t help.

    Every new report of local opposition to energy projects of whatever type therefore makes me more pessimistic…

  • tony_opmoc

    Duncan McFarlane,

    No one is suggesting that solar and wind power does not have its uses. The human race has survived on it for at least the last 33,000 years when interestingly enough we were still capable of brilliant art.

    I myself have used solar power to great effect and enormous fun flying in gliders.

    But the very basic fundamental problem, is that solar power is a very weak source. Yes we had sailing ships that transported us all over the world, purely by wind power, but there were lots of other energy inputs that had been collected over a long period of time – admittedly powered by the sun. There was the wood from trees, the rope and sails from hemp, the iron ore that had been dug out of the ground and worked and shaped using vast heat from charcoal etc etc…

    Only a small fraction of this energy was utilised in real-time direct, the vast majority had been collected over a long period of time and stored in plants, trees, humans and animals. We were effectively utilising the planet’s stored energy.

    The fact of the matter is that there is a direct correlation between the amount of available, usable energy, and the level of human and animal population that it can support.

    That population is a tiny percentage of current population levels – probably around 5% – if we revert back to energy levels used before the Industrial Revolution.

    That is the situation we find ourselves in now. We either revert, or we use science and technology to progress.

    In the West there is tremendous opposition by very powerful people to using technology to progress. All the signs are that the overwhelming political consensus is to revert (“to save the planet”). These policies if implemented will result in the death by mass genocide of over 6 Billion people.

    This is completely unnecessary, but that will be the impact.

    There are other things we can and should be doing. We should be putting enormous research into development of Geothermal Power. The energy is right below our feet.

    “A comprehensive new MIT-led study of the potential for geothermal energy within the United States has found that mining the huge amounts of heat that reside as stored thermal energy in the Earth’s hard rock crust could supply a substantial portion of the electricity the United States will need in the future, probably at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact.”


    The Bush Government’s response to this and earlier reports was to cease funding of geothermal research.

    We have enormous amounts of stored energy in nuclear weapons, that pose one of the greatest risks to survival of the human race. We have to disarm these weapons.

    Fortunately there is a way to do so, that can safely convert nuclear weapons material to very cheap clean electricity using Thorium Nuclear Reactors currently under development.

    There is no point holding your head in your hands saying I am opposed to Nuclear Power for whatever reasons… We have got it and its further development can save the human race from self destruction.

    All we need is the political will to do it.


  • ingo

    A discussion to my liking indeed. I’d like to start with the points raised by John D Monkey.

    We are in this cal;amity because and precisely due to our allegiances with vested interests and etsablished fossile fuel burners.

    The non fossile fuel obligation provides enough incentives to large scale wind projects but it is wrong to rely on just one method of alternative energy generator.

    There are a plethora of methods out there, from kite power to sea current generators, the latter very promising in their returns and constant.

    The world needs a new generation of wind/storm generators that do not need switching off at force gales, that bend with the gales and take the strain that puts on their design, that have a second use designed into them.

    It is our allegiance to nuclear energy and the making of bombs that so closely guards and keeps secret the realtionships fostered during the past.

    I agree that we have to have a national plan to use our highest capabilities in Europe and produce alternative energies, but from this shower of a Government? from Mr. Balls? I cannot see more than the current sticky plaster policies coming from noLabour.

    Another important point, generating new capacity so we can waste it out of our bad energy leaking housing stock is not the answer. there must be a paraleel plan to insulate and save energy, more than just changing lightbulbs.

    I would also like to see the Government promoting community energy projects, giving the public a chance and choice to generate their own juice and feed it into the grid, just as others are doing on the continent.

    Opposition to power schemes disappeares if locals are offered a stake in these projects, cheaper electricity was had by all.

    Finally, the inherently unsafe grid supply network between countries, taking each others strain at peak times, can only become safer with more and more feeders into the grid, reliance on one source alone is a thing of the past.

    Control over our electricity should as well be buried in the long run, if everyone strives to generate their own we as a nation become much less dependent on the French and Russians, so who needs control?

  • Anonymous

    Wind power does not work at all if (i) there is no wind, or (ii) there is too much wind. I have no idea, but would guess that the Shetlands are on average too windy.

    Even if the Shetlands have just the right amount of wind it is unlikely to have much in the way of demand – hence the power will need to be exported, and this costs. All those big transmission lines and more worries about their cancer causing potential.

    Optimal wind sites only generate for around 35% of the time. This means that something else (fossil fuel) must be on standby. This adds to aggregate cost. An alternative would be for people to sign up for electricity supply for a random 35% of the time.

    On a per MW basis Wind takes up 1000 times the amount of space required by a gas fired plant. You want a serious amount of wind and you will need to displace agriculture. Agriculture is already being squeezed by bio fuels. Strangely this makes food prices rise – hence the “tortilla protests” in Mexico. High food prices may be a tad inconveneint in the UK but in places like Mexico people go hungry.

    If you get too much wind on the system then it can destabilise integrated transmission systems (like the one you have in the UK). This can cause system wide blackouts. There is a lot of wind in Germany, and they have this problem, although are able to export the problem, specifically to the Netherlands. The Dutch grid operator has needed to issue several warnings about system instability.

    Wind is over twice as expensive as gas. Sure gas costs, but then so do capital costs. The way the economy is structured people expect to earn a return on capital investment. If you raise the capital cost high enough then it more than offsets any ongoing cost of fuel.

    It does not really matter to a rich guy if his electric bill doubles, but it does matter to poor people. Especially when a known consequence of renewables is also to raise food prices. Maybe the threat to the environment is so severe that the consequences for the poor are just tough. People should at least have the honesty to spell out the consequences.

  • tony_opmoc

    Blimey, I’ve seen more sense posted here on the subject of energy this afternoon, than virtually anywhere else I can think of. I’ll put it down to Craig Murray’s magnetic appeal in attracting sensible discussion.

    Energy is after all, one of the most crucial issues we all take for granted in this country, because it’s supply has been incredibly reliable since the day’s of the miner’s strike, petrol rationing etc in the early 70’s. The power cuts then were so regular, that my brother constructed a power converter, such that when we had a power cut, we could still have a minimum level of 240V AC/DC in our home in Oldham powered from Car and Motorcycle batteries.

    Since then the UK Power Supply Companies have achieved a level of availabilty far greater than the 99% promised by the very best commercial computer service delivery systems. I think the top award should go to whatever the company is now called that distributes gas. It used to be called the Gas Board. Despite changing names and ownership numerous times, I don’t recall ever having a break in the supply of gas, which technically must be far more difficult than supplying water, electricity, telecommunications or computer services.

    But the way, the current government has totally failed to prepare for the future, we can expect a level of reliability of supply, even worse than Craig Murray’s ISP.


  • Abe Rene

    Perhaps the Scottish parliament could be persuaded to promote cause of harnessing the vast resources of wind power in Scotland. If so, it will be harder for Westeminster to stop it.

    Concerning the sea defenses of Norwich, is the matter so urgent that it can’t wait till after the 2010 general election? If it can, no doubt you will make it into an election issue at your next try. If it can’t wait, bite the bullet and try to approach Chloe Smith to try to convince her that it ought to be a cross-party issue.

  • Abe Rene


    Perhaps the Scottish parliament could be persuaded to promote the cause of harnessing the vast resources of wind power in Scotland. If so, it will be harder for Westeminster to stop it.

    Concerning the sea defenses of Norwich, is the matter so urgent that it can’t wait till after the 2010 general election? If it can, no doubt you will make it into an election issue at your next try. If it can’t wait, bite the bullet and approach Chloe Smith to try to convince her that it ought to be a cross-party issue.

  • Alaric

    For an objective, scientific view on various forms of energy production in the UK, including the much debated “wind energy quandary”, may I suggest this free online book, written by – David MacKay FRS, who is a Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge

    Sustainable Energy – Without the hot air


    It comprehensively examines many forms of energy production – compares them, and tries to realistically present guidance and solutions, on an individual and national basis.

    It is all calculated in terms of energy consumption and production, according to him, for example

    covering the windiest(or most appropriate) 10% of the country with windmills (at roughly 2W/m2) then we could generate 20kWh/d per person = HALF the power used by driving an average fossil fuel car 50km per day.

    I confess not to having read it all, yet, as it is nearly 400 pages long, and I discovered it very recently.

    I would hazard a guess that the grim reality is that, although we may not have black/brown outs currently, that they are inevitable, if there is no clear cohesion among leading scientists and ruling government, outlining a long term energy plan moving this country closer to a sustainable state, with many feasibible enery options, and the ability to transfer seamlessly into a low energy, low carbon economy. I feel that energy prices will continue to rise… and I sometimes wonder, what would happen if the taps stopped running (that is another debate, particularly pertinent to Norfolk considering we are often hailed as being “drier than Jerusalem”).

    On the issue of any sea defence, it is a major construction, of which costs will increase to the point that, major descisions need to be taken sooner rather than later… What I mean to say is that, we don’t currently know the level of risk of saline contamination of our fens (throuh coastal flooding) what I do know is that the UEA are currently modelling/looking into this issue, it would be interesting to see their conclusions, and whether or not they are taken onboard by central/local government… I sincerely hope that this issue is not forgotten about due to public pre-occupation with the media hype surrounding such things as swine flu for example…

  • John D. Monkey


    “Opposition to power schemes disappeares if locals are offered a stake in these projects, cheaper electricity was had by all.”

    Would that that was true!

    Most people (at least the vocal ones!) oppose all infrastructure projects near their homes as they fear these will affect the value of their property. Greed and fear are are a potent combination.

    Nimbys in alliance with the full-time eco-warriors are a potent force…


    Sea defences (to stop coastal erosion) can only work in the short term and are disproportionately expensive. The only realistic long-term policy is managed retreat coupled with financial compensation to those forced to move.

    Coastal flooding is a different issue, and if the scientists are right about rising sea levels also inevitable…

    Agree in general about David MacKay’s book, it’s a good survey of the issues by a non-specialist (although a bit ponderous and long-winded). It points out among other things that hybrid and electric cars use more energy overall than conventional ones and that turning off chargers is irrelevant as they consume tiny amounts of power. Just driving your car 1 mph slower or turning the theromstat down 1 degree saves much more energy!

    Part of the dilemma we face is that only increasing electricity prices seems to affect people’s behaviour, but doing so both transfers money from UK plc to the utility companies and penalises the less well off more than the wealthy.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    I’m not an expert on energy and unless anyone else wants to challenge it i’ll accept that current wind power technology can only provide 10% of current UK energy needs.

    However how much has been invested in developing green energy technologies such as wind power, wave, tidal, hydro and solar power compared to the amount invested in developing nuclear? Wind power turbines are already rapidly increasing in efficiency since they got some investment in the last decade.

    I know from talking to people who work on wind turbines that they’re improving rapidly.

    I agree that we can’t suddenly switch all our energy production to new methods, or cut energy use too rapidly without creating a crisis – but we can gradually diversify energy production and increase energy use efficiency to reduce energy requirements.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Ingo wrote “there must be a paraleel plan to insulate and save energy, more than just changing lightbulbs.”

    Good point Ingo. I think Brown has a scheme like that but it’s got such a small annual budget that the money is always gone in the first few months of the financial year. It needs to be increased a lot – it’d save low and middle income families money and reduce energy requirements.

  • Clark

    Excellent posts on this topic…

    Craig, I don’t think we have to “close down human activity altogether to end our environmental impact”, but I feel certain that a decent standard of living could be maintained at a fraction of our current power usage. It would take ingenuity and time. We have a great demand for heat, but heat is the lowest form of energy, and is disposed of as a waste product whenever we use energy for more hi-tech purposes. Then there’s our frenetic transport activity with masses of commuting, and our throw-away “consumer” society, and our obsession with using electricity for things that could be done more directly.

    Tony_opmoc: Yes, I’ve been wondering for a couple of decades why deep geothermal hasn’t been developed more .

    Various: Yes, it’s essential that we start costing in energy rather than money.

    John D. Monkey: Yes, just doing things slower saves loads of energy. But this isn’t compatible with “consumerism”, is it?

    There’s a whole lifestyle thing to be considered here. People are currently expected to work very long hours. When they’ve finished, is it any surprise that they want to get things done quickly? Who does this benefit? People have no time to research things, look deeply into politics, repair or make stuff for themselves, grow their own vegetables, etc. etc. Craig has pointed out the unholy alliance between arms manufacturers and Big Finance and our government. I think it goes further. All sorts of concerns would rather people become ever more “consumerist”. “Dumbing-down” is related to this, and of course, the mainstream media are deeply involved with this.

    Returning to energy: I’ve read that our AC electricity distribution system is only 30%-40% efficient, ie for every watt you use at home or at work, 3 or so watt need to be generated. High voltage DC distribution could greatly reduce this, and stop the 50Hz magnetic fields that are implicated as a cancer risk.

    “Let the Power Fall” I posted some time ago. That’s “Fall”, not “Fail”, and not “drop to nearly zero”!

  • Strategist

    From http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/britain/vestas_bosses_suffer_setback_in_eviction_attempt

    Vestas bosses suffer setback in eviction attempt

    “Vestas workers who were “sacked by pizza delivery” have defeated bosses’ attempts to evict them from their factory occupation.

    Executives at the Danish multinational firm failed in their court bid to end the protest against mass redundancies at the wind turbine manufacturing plant on the Isle of Wight – but stepped up their efforts to starve the workers into submission.

    Bosses had sent some workers dismissal letters hidden in pizza boxes, but a judge ruled that the company had not properly served notice on the occupiers and deferred further court hearings until August 4.

    Speaking from the occupied factory, employee Michael Godley revealed that the company had promised to provide food and drink, but had only given the occupiers ‘a slice of pizza and some water’.

    ‘Then the dismissal letters arrived hidden under the pizza,’ he explained.”

    You’ve got to laugh, haven’t you.

    Phone up Domino’s and complain – “I didn’t order P45 on the menu”

  • Derek


    Do not confuse overall efficiency with transmission losses.

    A coal fired power station is typically 30-40% efficient, but the losses in the National grid are only 7%.

    Using HVDC transmission could potentially reduce that figure down to 3%.

    HVDC has its own set of problems it would not be suitable throughout the grid.

    The best way to reduce grid losses is to build the power plants near centres of population.

  • lwtc247

    It is said the tosser tories under Thatcher closed the clean coal technology plant at Grimethorp, Barnsley Yorkshire, which was funded by the numerous countries inc. the US and Japan.

    On perusal of various articles, researchers there are said to have found a 50% efficiency rate by burning coal at higher temps and there was talk of fluidised beds etc. The colliery itself closed in mid 1993.

    Now under the ‘ZEIG HEIL, ZEIG HEIL, ZEIG HEIL’ party a.k.a. NeoLabour tossers wash their hands of Vestas in 2009.

    Different colour, Same stink.

    When people vote in elections, they are simply voting for a new colour scheme.

    How sad is that?

  • Clark

    Derek: thanks for the info. 93% efficient’ eh? Are those the grid companies’ own figures? It does seem remarkably high, given that you can stand under a transmission line with a flourescent tube and watch the thing light up…

  • ingo

    HDCV cables are also earmarked for a massive 700 billion scheme called desertec, a European Union effort with many major companies to build a legion of Concentrated solar power plants in North Africa and parts of Arabia.

    It is an awesome project that has planned in some 30-40 underwater cable connections to the EU grid system, slowly weaning us off fossile fuels.

    off course this project, planned to culminate in 2050 will not stop other innovative ideas to come to fruition, the more alternatives we try, the better we are prepared for the future.

    I also would like to switch tyhe national electricity supply to DC, its so much safer and more reliable, but thats not a priority.

    Insulation of old properties on the othe rhand is worth it, this country hasn’t got a clue what its real energy uptake really is, because most of it is being lost through badly insulated roofs and windows.

    Planning new ecological housing must not be used to green tinge companies with dubious building records, they should be examples for others to follow, but will they?

    Will the new eco town in Rackheath North Norfolk have eco jobs nearby so that travelling will be minimal, will there be a re evaluation of plans I once drew up to run a tram through Norwich and Norfolk, connecting Rackheath with the inner City? Will these eco houses be build from materials that come from the local surrounding countryside, such as straw, wood and recycled concrete (Coltishall runways)? will these houses be self sufficient, will there be grey water recycling via reed beds, will there be a community energy generator of sorts and will there be a central sewage system or individual units/dry compost toilets etc. etc.

    I somehow doubt it, I expect some national builder in need for a green nose to come in and build some cheap and inferior housing, I do not expect services and schools to be build in the first phase, that would be too sensible, not do I expect the builders to keep to their promised agreements (section 106)

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