A clarification please. Is Lovelock objecting now because they want to build the things near him, or has he previously made public his objection to the nonsense of wind turbines?
Former climate change alarmist Dr James Lovelock, famous for popularising the "Gaia" metaphor, continues his journey back to rationality. Lovelock is objecting to a "medium sized" (240ft high) erection planned for his neighbourhood in North Devon by infamous windfarm operator Ecotricity. The UK currently has 3,000 onshore …
"One does not exclude the other."
I didn't think that it did, but my question was an honest (if lazy) one. There was no intent to imply that Lovelock was a nimby, although I would certainly have used the term if this were his first rant against wind turbines. Thanks to AdamT for the clarification.
So, no, this is not NIMBYism.
Well, one way to tell would be to see how happy Lovelock would be if a nuclear power plant was being built on the site instead of a windfarm.
It may be odd on El Reg, but I am actually a fan of windfarms (I think they enhance the landscape more than coal power plants and I love watching them rotate off shore) and I am actually a fan of nuclear power - I am even not particularly concerned about the fact I live near a plant.
What does make me laugh, however, is that the majority (not necessarily here) of complaints about (insert green power choice) is that they tend to be sited in locations not traditionally used to hosting power generation plants.
So it seems that the people living in idyllic Devon are happy to use any source of energy as long as people in East Anglia live near the source or as long as the people in the grim North suffer the filthy outpourings of a coal-fired station.
But I do agree that this one statement might not be entirely NIMBYism (unless he had some advance warning, which is fairly likely).
"Well, one way to tell would be to see how happy Lovelock would be if a nuclear power plant was being built on the site instead of a windfarm."
Well, as far as I know he's not spoken against the proposal for a new NPP at Hinkley Point, which is only about fifteen or twenty miles along the coast. Your argument about power stations in picturesque places rather ignores many of our NPP locations being thus located.
I'm pleased that you like the view of wind turbines, as it proves that they do have a useful function. Personally I don't see that as sufficient return on the circa £20billion this far spent on them in this country.
Your argument about power stations in picturesque places rather ignores many of our NPP locations being thus located.
Sorry, I wasnt aware that I had implied that Nuclear Power stations were not in picturesque locations. I did say that the places which are now being asked to host Wind (for example) farms and are now in uproar about it tend to be places which have never been asked to host any form of power plant previously.
Maybe we should dismantle the national grid and make every community responsible for generating its own power - while it may not be completely efficient, it may well refocus people's opinions on what sources of power they like and what they dont.
"Well, one way to tell would be to see how happy Lovelock would be if a nuclear power plant was being built on the site instead of a windfarm".
Logically, he shouldn't be too concerned. But then nothing done by human beings is really trustworthy... as Immanuel Kant noted 230 years ago, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made". Nuclear power *should* be safe, if only it were done properly. We have the knowledge, we have the technology. What we lack are the social and political systems to make sure things are done properly, without skimping, skimming, cheating, lying, exaggerating, and stealing.
Ignorance is a huge problem, too. Look at the following article:
The author explicitly admits that
"Living near Chernobyl or Fukushima is probably safer than a long list of other activities (including, for example, living in places with high levels of air pollution). While there are places close to the Chernobyl plant you wouldn't want to go, and hotspots scattered throughout Belarus, most of the contaminated areas of both Chernobyl and Fukushima represent levels of radiation exposure that aren't substantially different from the higher natural background levels of radiation present on some parts of Earth (like ultrahealthy Boulder, Colorado, say)".
Then he goes on to say, "The thing is, that doesn't matter". Because governments evacuate those zones anyway, thereby both caving in to popular ignorance and reinvigorating it. (After all, "the government obviously doesn't think it's safe").
We've allowed population to grow so much, and lifestyle expectations to balloon, that now the path to maintaining what we've got is getting very narrow, twisty, and dark. The best minds we've got could probably manage to find a way through - but instead we have to kow-tow to the prejudiced, ignorant demands of an increasingly uneducated populace. Oh well, too bad.
Has has been an advocate of nuclear long before this IIRC...
Wind has its place, but not in destroying our countrysides... If they start to build the 3 planned turbines near me, I'll actively protest (well unless they give me free electricity for life)
... and in the 'consultation' that was taken, the only advocate of it i spoke to was a 16 year old girl who was misinformed about nuclear power....
Well the real reason that he is protesting is that Wind Generators, are "Instruments of the Devil".
When the single blade is pointed down, and the other two are up in the air, one can see the face of Satan and his curley goat horns.
Satan is a spirit of the air, so in using the face of Satan to generate power from the spirit and kingdom of the devil, we are actually channelling demonic powers into our very homes - lighting out lives with the light of hell.
The only solution is to burn all Wind Generators at the stake, with the obligatory priests, holey water, the bible and the compulsory reading of the Malleus Maleficarum - the authority on witchcraft and sorcery.
Satan - "Loves a good larf".
Actually we don't "need" wind farms specifically for greener energy. There are many other methods of energy production that are greener than the current most commonly used methods; OK they may not be 100% "green" but neither are wind turbines (think manufacturing costs in green terms vs productive life of the turbine).
i think you've missed the point. you should probably try actually reading the article, because in it lovelock clearly states that nuclear and/or lower-emission natural energy sources (e.g. fracking, gas) would be far more beneficial than wind turbines. the facts and figures also agree with this assessment.
But shirley, as the people of Cumbria have just decided, the disposal of the nuclear left overs is a major problem, its fine saying we need a number of new nuclear plants to meet energy requirements for the next 50 years, but after that, where does the crap go? Yes, everyone reading this article and making these decisions will likely be dead by then and we can perhaps assume we'll of discovered some amazing way to dispose of the waste, but maybe we should just actually plan now what to do with it or even not have it at all?
This is why I like the concept of buried self contained nuclear generation systems, I believe most concepts are breeder based.
You build a 20-500MW reactor, bury it deep underground (ooh what about all those disused coal mines ;) ) and feed cables to the grid.
When it needs decommissioning, you turn it off, done. No clean up, no overheads. At least that is the theory.
If there is a problem, it's well away from people and while there is obviously a financial loss, it will be nothing like the clean up costs being experienced at say Fukushima or Chernobyl.
The amount of dangerous waste from a NPP is tiny - yet look at the mountains of waste from coal mining and coal-fired stations (and the numbers of deaths related to coal production).
As yet, it has been uneconomic to provide dedicated nuclear waste disposal of the small amounts concerned.
>> But shirley, as the people of Cumbria have just decided, the disposal of the nuclear left overs is a major problem, its fine saying we need a number of new nuclear plants to meet energy requirements for the next 50 years, but after that, where does the crap go?
Actually it wasn't "the people of Cumbria", it was the County Council. I didn't ask them to vote that way, in fact I'm for the repository (sort off, read on). Quite frankly, listening to the locals on the news last night, I found myself what scheme they'd been looking at because they seemed to be objecting to a lot of stuff that's not being proposed.
All this crap about "it'll ruin the landscape in the Lake District" is complete and utter tosh. Complete rubbish put forward by pressure groups who (being polite) seem intent on not understanding anything lest it interfere with their fear of it. Not all are like that, but some are (I've met some of them), and some eco people are not capable of having a rational discussion with anyone who doesn't 101% support their position (and I have to wonder even then).
The actual effect would be something akin to a large factory site, on the West Coast, outside the Lake District, and not actually visible from most of it. I can't see traffic being any worse than it is now - Sellafield creates a fair bit of traffic as a lot of people work there.
And one thing a lot of these "it'll ruin trade" people fail to realise is just how much the local economy gets from Nuclear. I suspect losing it would hurt trade a lot more.
Now, I'll come to why I'm only "sort of" for the repository. If that's what we're going to do with "the material" then I see no problem with the repository - for one thing I think the design should allow it to be removed later when we decide we can use it. However, the issue is with what we call waste - ie a large quantity of what would, in better times, be described as fuel. The technology exists to turn this so called waste into fuel, and run it through a different type of reactor - both releasing energy (it's not creating it, just releasing it) and reducing the quantity, drastically reducing the quantity. I believe it also reduces the "nastiness" as well. So we could take a lot of this waste, use it as fuel, and up with a much smaller quantity of less problematic waste.
Unfortunately, the anti-nuclear lobby have stymied that as well - if just saying "nuclear" is enough to get a lot of people into a lather, mentioning "plutonium" will well froth things up. The fact that the plutonium produced is itself fuel for further use is by the by - it's verboten by the anti-nuclear brigade and so far the politicians seem unable to see the long term view.
And before i leave that bit, the anti-nuclear lobby are also responsible for creating some of the waste in the first place. Take a Magnox station and turn it off - for a while it's "quite hot" and highly active. Now, what the majority seem unable to grasp (unwilling I suspect) is that if something is highly active then it has a short decay time, if it has a long decay time then that means it isn't that active. AIUI, the plan was to shut down a station, cool it for a few months while the worst of the highly active stuff burns out, defuel it, and then leave it - take away all the support stuff (cooling systems, machinery houses etc, and just leave the core and containment. Wrap that in concrete, post a few guards to protect it from graffiti (about the biggest risk it faces), and leave it for 100 years - so something about the size of a large house. After a century, the most active materials will have decayed and it can be dismantled by people walking in and picking up the graphite blocks from the core. Littel by way of a disposal problem.
Instead, by insisting on "get rid of it **NOW**" it has to be handled while active, thus actually creating a problem (at great expense) where there was none before.
>> "...one nuclear power station provides as much power as 3,200 industrial wind turbines, without the environmental damage..."
>> Mind you, the ex-residents of Pripyat and Fukushima Prefecture may have a different opinion...
Actually, I believe a lot of people from the Chernobyl area were really happy - they got evacuated from run down slums and housed in brand new houses. The old towns aren't deserted because they are dangerous, they are deserted because they were run down slums that no-one wants to move back to.
And for both places you mention, if you imposed the same exposure limits over here, then large parts of the UK would be evacuated because of the background radiation. And don't get me started on the amount of uranium spread around by burning coal because we didn't build new nuclear power stations to replace the coal fired ones.
NB - before anyone accuses me of being a nuclear industry shill ... I don't work in the industry (though I would object to doing so). Also, there is no element of NIMBY here - as the crow flies I have an active nuclear power station now far away in one direction, and Sellafield not far away in the other (and also the nuclear submarines aren't that far away either when they are under construction - no I don't work there either).
" we need wind farms for greener energy,"
I'm not sure I know exactly what 'greener' means and (therefore) I'm also not sure it is an inherently Good Thing.
If it is just energy production with lower CO2 emissions then I'm in favour assuming all other things being as near equal as they can be.
If it means energy production that satisfies all people who would describe themselves as being in favour of "Green" things then it is much less clear that we need it at all.
wind farms aren't green they are red... herrings.
We find ourselves in this ridiculous position because nulab ran away from making the politically difficult choice of comminting to a new nuclear programme.
on a personal note, speaking as a transmission line designer, i'd just like to thank everyone for putting my kids through college :-D
Concrete can be green if you use a solar furnace to make the cement for it. I plan to prototype such a furnace in the near future.
Background: The reason for concrete being considered not green is the large amount of energy needed to calcine (burn) limestone and shale to make the cement. This energy usually comes from fossil fuels in a cement kiln. The rocks you are heating don't care how they get hot, so a solar furnace works just as well, so long as you can get it hot enough.
That would be like your ISP's broadband claims of "up to 10 Gbs" (for 1 sec at 4am on Thursday morning).
You'd think windmills in the UK would be quite reliable.
But they're not.
He sounds environmentally concerned but pragmatic.
The best sort of green?
Thumbs up for his PoV. Reliable, consistent renewable energy sources exist, but wind is not one of them and re-structuring the entire national grid to make so seems ludicrous.
> Hence my comparison with ISP's
It's not quite the same thing though(*). The 'up to' used by ISPs mainly refers to the connection speed between your modem and the DSLAM. In most cases this doesn't vary by much from day to day. So when you buy an 'Up to 24Mb/s' connection you're not buying a connection that sometimes reaches 24Mb/s. You're buying a connection that on some lines will connect at 24Mb/s. It's a different thing. If you only connect at 6Mb/s but always get 6Mb/s of throughput then your line is giving you 100% and doing what you have paid for it to do.
It's the difference between:
'Speeds on the M25 can reach up to 90mph'
'Vehicles powered by internal combustion engines can travel at up to 300mph'
What's important is that the latter does not allow you to complain if you drive a Nissan Micra and struggle to get above 90mph :)
(*)Congestion would be the same thing but usually what people complain about are crappy line speeds.
"Too cheap to meter" was always a ridiculous, contemptible lie. If only because (in a capitalist economy like ours) anything as valuable as power will ALWAYS be charged at the highest rate the market will pay.
But nuclear power would be very much cheaper today if it had been properly implemented on a worldwide scale from the start. "Properly" meaning safely, with rigorous checks to make sure no one took short cuts or compromised safety. Then nuclear would have a good reputation, and we would have had to spend a lot less on unnecessarily extreme safety precautions. And of course there would be substantial economies of scale.
Remember why nuclear power stations could never be built on the same land as decommissioned coal-fired power stations? The land was already orders of magnitude too radioactive from coal dust and ash, which are far more radioactive than the levels allowed anywhere near a nuclear station.
"Too cheap to meter" was always a ridiculous, contemptible lie. If only because (in a capitalist economy like ours) anything as valuable as power will ALWAYS be charged at the highest rate the market will pay.
That doesn't mean it has to be metered, at least for some applications. If power generation were sufficiently cheap, it might be more economical for utilities to offer fixed-rate residential subscriptions, for example, since total use is capped by a home's service breaker. If your house has 200A service, at the 110V AC typical in the US, total usage can't exceed about 11400 kWh, if my back-of-the-envelope calculations are right. (Corrections welcome, but it doesn't make much difference.)
Then, if generation and distribution costs are down to, say, $0.005 per kWh - in this hypothetical future of lots of cheap nuclear-generated electricity, and presumably a greatly improved grid, etc - it should be feasible for the power company to offer a fixed subscription of, say, $60 per month. They'd make some profit even if you managed to draw all 200A continuously (which would likely be a red flag for the authorities anyway), and in the usual case they'd make a lot more. And they'd be able to get rid of some residential meters and greatly simplify their billing, plus gain some goodwill with customers, avoid the problem of having to deal with seasonal rise in residential defaults, etc.
Fusion *is* the thing I'm clamouring for and which is a potential problem solver for once and for all... IF we can get it to work. So it'd be nice to see a bit more funding shoved that way. And when I say 'bit', I mean 'lot'.
Ultimately, tying our energy needs to black stuff that we burn is a dumb idea. Currently, in the UK it's a better investment to just buy a tanker-full of petrol than it is to put it into a bank, and we're not even close to running out yet.
The article takes a swipe at wind regarding subsidies. This is fair enough but lets not forget the cost of storing nuclear waste. There’s no even semi-permanent storage facility in the UK. Cumbria county council voted against the only site that has gotten as far as being considered to check if it would be a good idea to store the waste there. The nuclear industry isn’t bearing the full costs for the full life cycle of their waste products. If you remove every subsidy direct and indirect that both industries get, nuclear would not be so cheap then. I think we need at least some nuclear in the mix but we are paying more for it than we realise, just not in the electric bill.
Of course we should take advantage of these advances. And careful account of them too. Renewables are advancing more rapidly than any other form. Carbon sequestration is much younger and less proven. Advances will also improve nuclear over time, but won't get rid of any of the fundamental problems with it. That's why we probably need at least one last generation of nuclear plants alongside an expanding and developing renewables sector, because the renewables sector is advancing somewhat faster while not yet capable of supporting more than about 50% of electric demand within the next 10 years, at a time when nuclear is more mature and a few new nuclear plants on existing nuclear sites will help guarantee energy supply over the next 20-30 years.
"Renewables are advancing more rapidly than any other form. "
Sadly not true. Solar power is barely much better than it was ten years ago, wind turbines have done little other than grow in size, and wave power remains a pipe dream (despite not inconsiderable research funding). What has changed is that misguided subsidies have been thrown at anything that is labelled reneweable.
A large proportion of the UK's inventory of nuclear waste is the result of somewhat cavalier attitudes during the rush to develop weapons during the cold war. But even including this, the total £76 billion estimated cost of disposal/storage divided by total nuclear fueled electricity produced during the last two decades amounts to just 2.8 pence per kWh. I think this is a price worth paying.
The shame is that because of pressure from greenies and nimbies and government incompetence the UK is behind the curve in new technologies which will consume and transmute a large proportion of the waste.
I would like to know where those figures come from and do they cover the cost of indefinite above ground storage (including the need to guard it)? What about the limited liability that the industry enjoys which lowers their insurance and the security and infrastructure provided by the state? For reliable lower carbon electricity I think we need some nuclear in the mix but it’s not as cheap as the industry makes out.
A recent xkcd 'what if' was suggesting that you could swim in a cooling tank for fuel rods and get less radiation exposure than basic background radiation above ground. If that's the case then vast quantities of waste could be stored permanently and cheaply.
Also I seem to recall that latest breed of thorium reactors could use current nuclear waste as fuel, thus further reducing storage costs.
"thorium reactors could use current nuclear waste"
In the nuclear industry, all the way from mox to fusion, the word "could" invariably means "start shovelling cash into a money pit now".
I could create for you a world-beating wide bodied nuclear passenger aircraft, but I think the cost and the timescale would be impractical. However, I'm prepared to give it a go. About a billion pounds should be enough to get my corporate HQ running.
Just went and looked at the xkcd what if you cited. quite good I thought.
I was particularly taken by the last two sentences;
"But just to be sure, I got in touch with a friend of mine who works at a research reactor, and asked him what he thought would happen to you if you tried to swim in their radiation containment pool.
“In our reactor?” He thought about it for a moment. “You’d die pretty quickly, before reaching the water, from gunshot wounds.” "
@James 51 - I posted the data in comments back in August 2012.
The figures come from something I saw a good few months ago. I had been surprised that the cost is quite low, because the greenshirts had been moaning about the cost of disposal.storage, then estimated at £76 bn.
Data for electricity supplied by nuclear power in the UK is available here; peak annual nuclear production was 90.6 TWh in 1998, which represented 29.2% of the total, falling to 62.7 TWh by 2011:
While a certain amount of long-term storage of waste may continue to be needed, as soon as the industry moves away from designs largely skewed towards weapons production it will be possible to reduce hugely the half-lives and volume of waste products. All our existing plutonium stocks, for example could be 'burned' to make electricity if we were to give up nuclear weapons.
...The figures come from something I saw a good few months ago. I had been surprised that the cost is quite low, because the greenshirts had been moaning about the cost of disposal.storage, then estimated at £76 bn...
Actually, their usual trick is to obtain a cost for disposal/storage of high-level waste (a matter of a few cubic meters per year, stored at high cost), and then multiply that by the total volume of ALL 'nuclear waste' (lab coats, papers, general rubbish from a facility).
I'm surprised that people don't call them out on that more often, but then they usually only shout these meaningless figures at other believers...
"I would like to know where those figures come from and do they cover the cost of indefinite above ground storage (including the need to guard it)?"
Well you are the one claiming its expensive without any figures - how about you research your own?
Also, who says it needs to be stored above ground? Surely the stupidest place to store it, a long way underground is dramatically safer.
Can you really argue that all the subsidies from 5,400 wind turbines every single year for their entire life expectancy couldn't pay for storage of nuclear waste from a single reactor?
If you're gonna do an anti-nuclear rant at least have something of substance to back it up.
"But even including this, the total £76 billion estimated cost of disposal/storage divided by total nuclear fueled electricity produced during the last two decades amounts to just 2.8 pence per kWh. "
From that perspective it seems quite sensible.
If only the debate had been couched in those terms perhaps people would be more reasonable.
See e.g. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7421879.stm
Usually it under-delivers too. Luddite beard-mutterers like Orlowski witter on about intermittency (without actually understanding what it really means - but never mind) but say nothing about the unreliability and unplanned outages at the UK's nuke plants.
The fact is that when you build renewables you know what the total project cost is, from build to tear-down and cleanup, and you know what the energy price is.
So which is going to keep energy cheaper over time? Systems that rely on technologies that have been proven to be unreliable (nukes), experimental (fracking), or on external imports that are subject to supply constraints and speculative shocks (other fossils) - or systems that use a perpetual natural resource and have a known fixed cost?
It's not hard to be rational about this.
Really, it's not.
I'm not doubting that nuclear always costs more than it's supposed to.... however I would suggest that every single friggin' capital project in the world, ever, has come in over budget. It's in the nature of suppliers / proponents to play down costs and talk up advantages. It's true about nuclear, it's true about wind, it's true about every energy technology.
With nuclear, theer is the question - are costs being inflated unnecessarily by insisting on 'safe' radiation levels that are far below natural background radiation? Also, historical costs of nuclear are based on 1st / 2nd generation reactors, and the decommissioning thereof. Latest-generation reactors could be designed with future decommissioning in mind to reduce decommissioning cost.
Ultimately, whatever source of energy we will end up using, we need to accept that it will cost a LOT more than digging up ready-to-burn fuel from the ground where it has been pre-packaged in the most convenient and energy-dense manner possible.
"I'm not doubting that nuclear always costs more than it's supposed to.... however I would suggest that every single friggin' capital project in the world, ever, has come in over budget."
In aggregate they do come in over budget, because you can't forecast what you don't know, and sooner or later there's something that you didn't expect. But the over-spend shouldn't be more than 10% on a well run capex programme. Most of the big CCGT's recently commissioned were built on budget and on time (which is to say that the modest budgeted contingency covered the unexpected costs).
The problems with nuclear are largely down to less expertise, because we don't build them often enough to have relevant experience and skills in design, planning or construction. That leads to delays and rework, and the problem with construction is that if you build it wrong, you have to knock it down and do it again, or if it is just a delay, you're still paying a large workforce to sit around reading The Sun.
The most famous nuclear overspend of recent times is Olkiluoto in Finland, running at around €9bn against an original "fixed price" quote of €3bn. But if you built a similar plant now you'd know what to expect, what to look for and what contractual arrangements haven''t worked out, and you'd probably be able to do it at the orginal budgeted costs. Problem is that most of the world doesn't build fleets of nuclear reactors, and so we don't have the chance to apply any learning. France did build reactors in fleets, and it worked rather well for them, of course.
And what happens when Europe is becalmed and the wind farms produce nothing (for which there evidence)
Where will the electricity supply come from then?
I have issues with nuclear and fossil fuels (even if there was no environmental issue it's stupid to burn all your resources)
I am tired of all these people telling me about the green job revolution, I have news for them we cant all earn a living from installing insulation, coppicing willow (and probably living in a lean to in the fucking woods). It's also amazing how wind proponents don't live near wind farms.
Funny how nobody ever mentions geothermal boreholes, they are not seasonal, CO2 free and don't cover 100s of square miles.
As long as the Dhole's don't notice you should be fine
"Luddite beard-mutterers like Orlowski witter on about intermittency (without actually understanding what it really means - but never mind) but say nothing about the unreliability and unplanned outages at the UK's nuke plants."
Power generation depends on a handful of key concepts - of particular relevance here are load factor (how much power you get from an asset compared to its maximum rated output), the merit curve (the idea of using the most marginally efficient/cheap plant most of the time), and reserve margin (where you have more capacity than you need to allow for breakdowns or grid problems.
Nuclear reliability is addressed by reserve margin, but for all types of thermal plant you only need about 15% reserve capacity. With wind you need 100% reserve (for the wind element) because it doesn't work at all in periods of very high or very low winds, nor on the coldest days of the year, giving the very low load factors observed in practice, of around 25%.
The merit curve means you run nuclear whenever you can because its marginal cost is the lowest, so it provides continuous baseload, supplemented by the most efficient gas plants. The intermittent nature of wind doesn't work well here, because given that politicians have mandated that it must be used when it is available, it acts like a form of negative and unpredictable demand. That increases emissions because the marginal plant at the wrong end of the merit curve is used to backfill when wind stops, but that is by defintion the least efficient. With the "must run" status of wind, it has an incredible hidden subsidy offered to no other form of generation, but this also hinders the system marginal pricing model, and makes the marginal thermal generation plants unprofitable. So on the one hand wind power sets a high marginal price for consumers, but without additional subsidies newly required by the thermal plant, then your beloved renewables won't be able to offer any reliable power to this country.
From a purely technical point of view, wind power without cheap energy storage is madness. It destabilises the grid, it sucks up subsidies, both direct cash and hidden ones like "must run", it then requires new subsidies to the least efficient thermal plant to keep them available. And the capital cost of wind is ruinous.
There has been a never ending tale of woe in this country about rising energy prices. Unfortunately that rise will continue because your electricity charges need to pay for DECC's new "energy company obligations", which are DECC mandated spending to benefit the fuel poor (an ever increasing number because of DECC's policies), because the renewables operators and their financiers are snorting up the subsidies that DECC have spread on the table, and because having bust the wholesale market, DECC are going to have to implement new energy trading arrangements to subsidies the least efficient thermal plant throuigh capacity payments. That's before rises in world primary energy prices, and before unfavourable movements in exchange rates due to the government spending more than it raises in taxes.
At this point, somebody from the greeny/lefty/hard-of-thinking camp says that it should all be renationalised, because it was cheap, green, and reliable in the good old days (Yeah! Remember the three day week? winter of discontent?). Unfortunately, no matter who owns it, there's no change to the underlying concepts that I've discussed above, and the "profit" that you think you'll take off of energy bills will be lost through incremental government borrowing costs. Anybody who thinks that a government already living £120bn a year beyond its means would be able to easily borrow a further £150bn to renationalise the electricity industry clearly doesn't understand anything.
150bn to renationalise... rot. Just take it back. Certainly we didn't get so much for it in the first place (the actual figure is hard to find) but the private companies have been extracting the piss and a stack of cash from the countries consumers ever since.
So we should just declare the industry (and while we are at it water, rail and all roads) as tax payer property and nationlised, no longer private. Private 'share holders' in these companies are just tough luck stories.
Private 'share holders' in these companies are just tough luck stories.
I referred to the hard-of-thinking, and luckily one turns up! Welcome, Dave 15.
Let's think about your idea that we renationalise the utilities without compensation. Easy money, and a success story as proven in places like Venezuela, Argentina, Zimbabwe and the like. But who are these mysterious "shareholders"? Obviously you think that this is the idle rich, so you'll be disappointed to learn that the vast bulk of shares are owned by institutional investors. Never mind, Dave 15, that must mean the banks, and we own them already, don't we? Well, a bit of them is the banks, investing the cash of anybody whose money is saved or simply on deposit. But you don't have a bank account, so let's steal from everybody who has, eh? Who else might be an institutional investor? Well, there's all the insurance companies, who need to earn a return on premiums invested. But you don't buy insurance, do you Dave 15, no car insurance, no life insurance, no house insurance, no phone insurance? So let's steal from everybody who does. And the other big group of institutional investors, they're the pension funds. But presumably Dave 15 works for the public sector, who don't save the money, and just promise it from future taxes.
So there you have it Dave 15, nice idea. Let's steal from small time savers, insurance customers, and anybody in a properly funded pension scheme. And then any lefty minded government will go and try and borrow to fund its chronic budget deficits, and who do you think they'll be asking to lend them money. Institutions, maybe? Go look up what the currency of Zimbabwe is at the moment, and see where your ideas lead.
Systems that rely on technologies that have been proven to be unreliable (nukes), [blah, blah, blah...]
Talk about some spurious arguments! No technologies are perfect and thus none are completely reliable. Such a pithy statement does not in this case lend itself to helpful risk analysis.
Fracking is hardly experimental at this point as it is well into production. If you are claiming that we do not know enough to avoid consequences, unintended or otherwise, we could apply the same argument to every technology with equal validity - and not accomplish anything.
Wind (for example) is not constant or consistent. Nor is it available everywhere it is needed. It may or may not be competitive with its alternatives. The same can be argued concerning most sources of energy. Perpetual over the long term if you sit far enough away and squint is not practical if you do not have it when you need it. This adds to the cost of any intermittent power source (see below).
Finally, it would be fascinating to hear how wind, solar, thermal, et cetera will not succumb to inflation driven by economic speculation. Indeed, there is competition now to create new technologies to exploit these resources. As soon as any of them become economically competitive, investors will pour money in expecting a return (which will drive costs to consumers up). At the same time, it is likely that whatever technology is adopted will require some resources to build. Just on a hunch I would imagine that increased demand for said resources will influence their respective prices upward (which will drive costs to consumers up). Fixed cost? Hardly!
I agree it is not hard to be rational about this. I just do not see that you are.
"Finally, it would be fascinating to hear how wind, solar, thermal, et cetera will not succumb to inflation driven by economic speculation."
"Economic speculation" does not drive inflation of resources. First, "inflation" means "inflation of the monetary mass", resulting in what is commonly called "inflation" by politicians and unwashed plebeians, which is nominal price increases. This is driven by money printing via central banks and subsequent pyramiding via fractional reserve banking. No big mystery or dark forces.
If anything, "economic speculation" will drive costs DOWN as capital will pour in to finally get some work done. Notice what happened with all the computational gear?
...The fact is that when you build renewables you know what the total project cost is, from build to tear-down and cleanup, and you know what the energy price is. So which is going to keep energy cheaper over time? Systems that rely on technologies that have been proven to be unreliable (nukes), experimental (fracking), or on external imports that are subject to supply constraints and speculative shocks (other fossils) - or systems that use a perpetual natural resource and have a known fixed cost?..
Um. I think you are letting your politics run away with your sanity.
What you have just claimed is that items with a fixed cost are always going to be cheaper than items with unpredictable costs. This is simply not true.
For example, I might want a new car. I could design and make one myself - perhaps from a kit - but I can't predict the cost of that precisely, and there may be unanticipated problems - like having difficulty sourcing an appropriate engine. On the other hand, I could buy a top-end Ferrari, and I bet the salesman can give me a precise price on that.
You seem to think that the Ferrari is gong to be cheaper...?
PS I notice that a wind turbine just fell over in Devon. I gather that it's a new design, imported from Norway. So that makes wind power 'unreliable, experimental and dependent on external imports' . Oh dear!
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" or systems that use a perpetual natural resource and have a known fixed cost?"
Except it's not.
The floating cost is the cost of whatever covers the power budget when they are not working, which on land is expected to be 75% of the time. But it could 94% (there is a wind turbine in the UK listed as running 6% of the time. WTF motivated anyone to site it where it is I have no idea).
And as for "natural" resources well they all are. Unnatural would be creating a black hole and harvesting the radiation as material hits the event horizon.
A technology I predict will be perfected before fusion becomes a reality.
"Luddite beard-mutterers like Orlowski witter on about intermittency (without actually understanding what it really means - but never mind) but say nothing about the unreliability and unplanned outages at the UK's nuke plants."
Wind turbines have outages on a DAILY, even HOURLY basis compared to a couple of times a year for nuclear FFS - how can you possibly compare the 2 in terms of providing stable power?
"It's not hard to be rational about this. Really, it's not."
True - you should try being rational, you might find the world makes more sense.
What, spend £30 billion on an asset that generates for eight hours a day, at cyclical times not always associated with peak demand? That'd just make the problems of wind turbines even worse, because until (if ever) you can store the energy cheaply, you still need to have thermal plant available to cover 100% of peak demand.
As long as the true costs (not necessarily monetary) are reflected fairly and clearly.
With all present nuclear fuel there is an undisclosed cost with storage of waste materials and with many renewables there is an undisclosed cost be it dead birds, visual impact, noise etc..
There is also an undisclosed cost for fossil fuels with regard to defence/war costs and the lives of our people sent to some distant land to be possibly maimed or die - just to keep the oil flowing because we have no political alternative fuel source!
All energy for our use has certain costs involved in the production and distribution - what those true costs really are composed of is often hidden from view not allowing a balanced decision to be made by the people.
I personally find Lovelock has a reasonable pragmatic approach to these costs, but again it is down to the individuals interpretation of say the value of a bird or human life.
Only the heads aren't monuments of a failed civilisation. New evidence shows that the civilisation of the island was working quite nicely right up until the point it was wiped out by diseases introduced by Europeans:
The only way it can accurately be described as 'failed' is if you take the broad view of any civilisation that no longer exists is automatically failed by default. So the Parthenon in Greece is the monument of a failed civilisation?
> European diseases and enslavement, the same as everywhere else in the Americas and the Pacific.
Eco-guilt replaced by white guilt? I can live with that.
> So the Parthenon in Greece is the monument of a failed civilisation?
Yes. Some writing are left. The rest ... well, look at what's up. PIIGSified utterly.
Guilt of any kind is counter productive to making positive change and tends to lead to a 'what the hell' effect:
Given what we know of the effect of guilt on human behaviour, "Eco-guilt" is likely to provoke people to actions perceived to be less environmentally friendly, and "White-guilt" is likely to make white people behave worse towards non-white members of the human population.
I'll gracefully leave leave the other part of the argument with regards to 'failed civilisations' because we are obviously working with different definitions and I find it fruitless to argue over the definition of a word.
the fuckwit government subsidised it far too generously.
I don't know if you lot have looked out of the window lately but my next door neighbour is laughing his tits of after putting up a couple of whoppers (27m high) last year. They've been running practically flat out for the last couple of months and are exceeding their production expectations by over 4* and that would be even higher if they'd put some bigger alternators on them.
Should these conditions continue for the expected life time of the windmills the real generation costs are going to be well less than 5p/kwh - and he's getting, what? 32p for them.
And he was ripped off over the installation and purchasing costs because the price he paid was the market price and not the 'build cost + a healthy profit', which as far as I can tell is about 1/4 of what he paid.
"Um? A couple of hundred years at most. Where are you getting your figures? La-La land?"
Well, if it's only a chunk of the UK irradiated for a couple of hundred years, I'm sure the local residents will withdraw their protests!
In all seriousness, the fact that a fuck-up has such dire potential consequences means that there really can be no such thing as "too many safety systems".
Having lived in the Selby area I'm very familiar with coal-fired power stations including Drax, Eggborough and Ferry Bridge.
They may be quite big up close but for the amount of power they generate for the UK they are a mere speck on the landscape. The amount of space required for wind turbines to produce equivalent power could eclipse whole counties.
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When we finally invent fusion power plants, or some other magical power source, the wind turbine can be taken down. The materials can be recycled easily. The concrete base it sits on is small and easily removed. There is no chemical/nuclear pollution on the site at all. After a few years there would be no evidence it had ever existed. So the whole argument about "ecological heritage" is total bull****.
We already have magical power. It generates electricity when we need it with almost no emissions. It kills fewer people kWH than any other power source. Its plants emit less radiation than coal-fired power stations. There is plentiful fuel to last the world hundreds of years. And most magical of all, you can reuse its waste to make even more power.
That's good old fission for you. Nuclear power? Yes please.
Not quite. There are also the buried power cables within/near the farm to install and remove. And the grid connection cables (maybe not buried). I'm not sure the "no chemicals" is quite right either. There is high voltage equipment which can involve various toxic chemicals for cooling and there is "high mechanical load" machinery which certainly involves flamable liquids (find the youtube video where the overloaded turbine actually catches fire). So, the eco heritage argument might still be weak but I don't think it's fair to call it total bull...
There is no equivalence between wind and nuclear or any other proper energy source. Proper energy sources divide between those suitable for base load and those suitable for peak demand as well. Every wind turbine has to be backed up by gas because other power sources cannot be brought in fast enough to respond to the vagaries of the weather. Wind turbines are a monument to the greed of some and the congenital idiocy of politicians.
I've no problem with any power source (I just wish we'd use less of the stuff), but I get tired of the moaning about them being inefficient or useless when the wind isn't blowing. At least when they're sited the source of power (the wind) comes there naturally.
The same can't be said for obtaining and transporting all that coal or oil to the power stations, it doesn't just magically arrive there. A huge coal mound or spoil heap is just as unsightly as a wind turbine.
and yet again, someone ignores the point that *wind turbines dont remove the need for other power stations* - in fact, they make it worse, because when the wind drops you have to use rapid-response power plants to fill the gap, which are less efficient than just running a high-efficiency plant at the high rate all the time.
can you imagine the environmental damage it will do to decommission these things, after they've killed off all remaining wildlife in the area of course.
nuclears a bit iffy too when these are basically military reactor designs dressed up as power plants. and then we have the cheek to go around other countries saying their reactors are military spec even when they aren't.
Firstly the wind intermittency in a NIMBY back garden is not equivalent to the wind availability in the UK plus coastal waters taken as a whole. When considering UK wide supply and demand we also need to consider supply and demand balanced to some extent based on wherever we import and export electricity from and to. It becomes possible to increase wind to more than 20-30-% of UK electric demand to a greater extent also by the idea that less pumped storage is needed than otherwise when run of the river hydro can be made intermittent by raising and lowering water levels behind dams as required to fill the smaller gaps which exist than are imagined. If you can make the electric output of existing hydro dams intermittent so that the combined hydro and wind outputs are related to demand, the problem is largely solved using existing hydro capacity and some water supply dam repurposing, with a relatively small amount of pumped storage.
Even without uprating and repurposing hydro, this report to Parliament based on Oxford University research of wind availability UK wide over a 20 year period shows the intermittency problem to be greatly exaggerated:
I've read that report before, but sadly it isn't borne out in practice here in the real world. The company I work for is one of the world's largest operators of wind turbines (nice subsidies, y'see), and we expect on-land load factors in the mid twenties (%) year round, and sometimes down as low as 15% across an entire quarter. On the coldest hundred days of the year we reckon we get 6-8% of rated output.
There's no way you can fix such variability with pumped storage (ignoring the multiple conversion losses on such a scheme, or the lack of sites), and import and export doesn't really change the equation that much. It is possible to have virtually no wind output over most of Europe for days at a time. That report rather ignores the unfortunate costs associated with the fact that there are often long periods when there is little or no wind, and you therefore need a reliable back up capable of supporting all demand.
Wind power is a toy - a profitable one for operators, but one that it isn't going to keep your lights unless somebody can efficiently store the power, and you carpet both land and sea with the things. If you've been paying attention you'll have seen our idiot politicians have decided we don't have enough land nor sea, and have decided to sign an agreement to build yet more of their bloody toys in Ireland. But that won't alter the figures, and it's just a means of pouring yet more money into low carbon posturing.
I read the report. It makes interesting reading.
Combining wind, solar and "domestic combined heat and power" allows you get away with <13% of the reserve capacity over you'd need over the 1980-2001 period to cover if say you relied on wind (or solar) alone.
As usual you need to check the assumptions
Firstly WTF is this "domestic combined heat and power"? Only AFAIK such units have just become available for use in cities, although I imagine some farmers have used them for years.
and on page 5 you've got a "capacity factor" for wind of 35%. Where did this come from as in the UK it's expected wind will run at most 25% on shore and 30% offshore?
And BTW the most that these renewables cover is 10% of the UK electricity demand, no more.
Could multiple renewable technologies working together over better capacity coverage than any single one?
Will they. No.
The next obvious step is to have the Chinese start manufacturing the wind turbines; that should drop the price by about 75%. It would also reveal the out-of-order approach... ...The Chinese would burn coal like mad to power the massive windmill factories.
Obviously humans need to stop burning coal....now. A new nuke plant takes 20 years from conception to power-up. Natural gas is the *obvious* transitional fuel for the next 30+ years; starting *now*.
"solar and wave/tidal precede wind in importance"
No they don't. They have exactly the same problems of intermittency and poor load factors. Solar doesn't work at all for fifty per cent of the time, and has very low output during winter, giving an annual load factor of around 10% in the UK, and tidal would be about the same, maybe up to 15%. Tidal can be predicted, which makes management easier, but it doesn't alter the costs by that much - tidal power at 02:00 is of little use, and you still have to have conventional plant to cover slack tide coinciding with demand peaks.
hardly qualifies as an article as it ignores to many facts to mention.
can only assume the hack that wrote this pointless drivel was having a thinly disguised rant based on misinformation.
the register should not be a place where anally retentive hacks can vent unfounded ill informed dogmatic opinions
Wind farms were never a sensible 'solution' even if you pretend the CO2 problem exists.
Wind is NOT constant, even at reasonable height over the UK, it doesn't generate electricity in the reliable form required.
Further it is damned expensive, intrusive and ugly.
Indeed, it is quite possible to predict that most wind turbines will never produce as much energy as was expended in creating them.
Wave/tidal I could live with, nuclear seems perfectly acceptable.
Heavens, given the economic mess we are in I would abandon the EU just to let us keep all the coal fired power stations they are forcing us to close open. (Yes the EU really is forcing closure of coal power stations in order to have us buy French nuclear power or Russian gas.... you couldn't make it up for Yes Minister).
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As previously mentioned, I grew up in the Selby area with is surrounded on all sides by coal-fired power stations. As far as I'm aware Selby cancer rates are not abnormal.
Now if you'd made a joke about it turning local residents into boozy, fighty near-humans I could have laughed along with you but you didn't.
So I'm not.
"As previously mentioned, I grew up in the Selby area with is surrounded on all sides by coal-fired power stations. As far as I'm aware Selby cancer rates are not abnormal."
I think you'll find he's an American.
BTW is it true there are gate signs saying "Do not enter. Feral children" in that area?
"I get electricity from a 'responsible' supplier, they buy it from windmills."
And you get common sense from nowhere.
How do you think they keep your laptop running when there's an anticyclone over most of Europe, and pitiful windpower output? Do they pay for some magical low-emissions backup? Or are you swallowing their ridiculous marketing?
Answers on a postcard, please.
I am somewhat amazed that in 135 comments no-one has pointed out just how wrong this sentence is: "The UK currently has 3,000 onshore turbines and 6,000 are planned: this is the main reason why electricity bills are soaring out of control ".
The reason electricity bills have risen a great deal is because gas prices have risen a great deal. That's about 70% of the rise. Less than 20% can be attributed to renewable energy subsidies. (The rest is various other things, inlcuding insulation scheme subsidy). I know Orlowski hates wind turbines, but we should at least hold him to get his facts right. It's not a hard thing to discover.
In fact wind turbines generally act to reduce (wholesale) prices because their power has very low marginal cost. How that affects consumer prices is up to the power companies...
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