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Wind power - don't you just love the cost!!


CliveH

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The latest report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation by Professor Gordon Hughes (Edinburgh University) finds that

 

* Meeting the UK Government's target for renewable generation in 2020 will require total wind capacity of 36 GW backed up by 13 GW of open cycle gas plants plus large complementary investments in transmission capacity at a cost of about £120 billion.

 

* The same electricity demand could be met from 21.5 GW of combined cycle gas plants with a cost of £13 billion, i.e. an order of magnitude cheaper than the wind scenario.

 

* Under the most favourable assumptions for wind power, the Government's wind policy will reduce emissions of CO2 at an average cost of £270 per metric ton (at 2009 prices) which means that meeting the UK's renewable energy target would cost a staggering £78 billion per year in 2020.

 

 

 

The GWPF is a think tank headed up by Lawson - the ex Chancellor and Father of the delicious Nigella.

 

 

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Sod the planet - the planet can take care of itself as it has been doing for millions of years - it's my own cash that I want to preserve so that I can spend it on priorities - essentials like holidays, cars, vans, boats etc!
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My greatest fear about wind generation, apart from that i dont think with the initial cost, transport, installation and continued maintenance that they will anywhere near pay for themseves in terms of power generated, or indeed be carbon neutral as the green lobby and the manufacturers would have us believe. It is that in twenty years time when this fad about wind power has dissipated the operating companies have gone bust and all the wind turbines are knackered will they be dismantled or just left to rot away. in the case of the east coast offshore project left to drop into the sea? i think the latter will be the case.

 

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No doubt about it in my mind that the Alarmists have over-egged the problem such that now thy are a laughing stock. The latest debacle of an American Professor stealing documents from a so called "sceptic" organisation and then when those documents did not actually prove any wrong-doing, somehow a fake document go added to the stolen but real documents!

 

Seriously - you could not make this up.

 

But the bi problem with wind power is that it is too variable and that the offshoare ones are falling into the sea due to corrosion and "scour".

 

I am no fan of Lawson - he was a crap Chancellor of the Exchequer and as a politician I treat what he says with a large bucket of salt. Far better in my view to listen to the sceptical voices of the science.

 

And the numbers just do not add up.

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What infuriates me is that there seem to be no facts in this whole debate. There are now wind turbines all over Europe, so the cost of constructing, erecting, connecting, and commissioning these machines must be known to within a few pounds. Their output is a matter of record. The number of days of useful production will be a function of the wind, but we have excellent records for the UK, so there is no reason that an estimate of kW days cannot be produced, or even a target range. There should now be sufficient operating experience to be able to quote maintenance requirements, and so estimate the associated costs. There must, also, be a design life for the sweeps, controls, generator, and structure. Thus, we should be able to see a detailed breakdown of the lifetime cost data for these generators, on a realistic basis, by size, and even by make. That seems to me the essential starting point for any debate over their economics. Subsidies merely modify those calculations, they do not substitute for them. The wind is free, so there is no fuelling cost.

 

Surely this must mean that the cost of power generated will fall over time, relative to the alternatives except hydro, depending largely on the period over which the capital is amortised. If, taking all of the above into account, they only become economically viable (without subsidy), after say 50 years, at today's bulk electricity cost I really don't care. Lets have them on merit, and look on them as a long-term investment that will, after that threshold passes, be a source of cheaper electricity in the future. The break-even point will almost inevitably arrive sooner, as the cost of alternative primary energy sources increases.

 

What I should care about is if the payback time is infinite, because the above costs exceed the value of electricity generated on all reasonable measures, so that the things are a perpetual net drain on resources, sustained only by a rackety subsidy based on the dubious concept of carbon trading.

 

The fact that the economics seem so shrouded in obfuscation is increasingly persuading me that the latter, and not the former, is the case. If that is true, and I don't seem able to find out whether or not it is the case, then the only reason we are building them is to meet a wholly unwise, and ultimately pointless, international commitment given by the last government.

 

Does anyone know, and have truly reliable, independently verified, figures to clarify where we really are? I don't see this as a climate change issue, or even really an environmental issue, but just an issue concerning the economics of power generation. If they truly are economical, over whatever period of time, we should surely have them on that ground alone. But otherwise...............................! :-(

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Hi Brian

 

You may find the full report of interest - I have not read it in full yet as the end of the tax year is keeping me busy.

 

The analysis from the GWPF is usually better than the spin we get from government departments who have an agenda. The last example left so much egg over Huhnes face (before he went to court over that speeding offence) that the gap could well be filled by this report by the GWPF - if, and it is a big IF ! - they too have played fair with the figures.

 

Huhnes report was caught out fiddling the figures to make wind power look better by including the liklehood that we would insulate our homes better for wind power (and so use less) but we would not bother for other forms of energy generation!

 

This slight of hand made wind power look good. But the report has been panned.

 

Huhnes report also ignorred the significant upkeep cost of wind turbines that is only just coming home to roost. Talk to one of the advocates of wind power and you soon realise that in their disney like world, once you build a wind turbine it just carries on giving free power at virtualy no cost. But the reality is very diferent.

 

Hope you find this of interest - but I suggest we all remember that the GWPF has an "agenda" as well!

 

http://www.thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/hughes-windpower.pdf

 

Enjoy :-D

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We may want to ask the question why are we building windmills when we have such huge gas reserves

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/sep/21/gas-field-blackpool-dallas-sea

 

China has just announced it has also confirmed enough gas reserves for its own energy needs for the next 200 years.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/9117072/China-claims-worlds-biggest-shale-gas-reserves.html

 

The issue is the "Fracking" process used to release the gas. Some say it is safe - others say it causes earth tremours and tainted water.

 

Time will tell.

 

But for now - if the GWPF report is correct - taking £250 in taxes so we can purchase £150 worth of wind generated electricity is not exactly sound financial planning.

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CliveH - 2012-03-08 4:15 AM

 

Hi Brian

..................................................Hope you find this of interest - but I suggest we all remember that the GWPF has an "agenda" as well!

 

http://www.thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/hughes-windpower.pdf

 

Enjoy :-D

Blimey, don't it just!! :-) Well, I tried. Honest Guv, I tried! :-) Not exactly a readable style, somehow, but I think I got the gist. To be fair, the presence of the agenda is quite clear. In some respects, it is about the only thing that is clear! I think there is a good argument in there somewhere, but the author is so anxious to get all his agenda-led objections into his argument, that he clouds the central proposition, and it becomes difficult to extract the salient points.

 

Some of it is, I think, a little shaky, but the core argument hinges on the level of wind plant redundancy necessary to meet the government's target for renewable energy generation using its preferred method. On this analysis, it seems reasonably clear that the government's model is rather a crock. That need not be of concern, if the government is prepared to re-evaluate its preferred methodology. However, to date the government shows little appetite to re-evaluate any of its eccentric policies, and that is a concern, though not specifically related to electricity generation.

 

The impression created by the report is that the government somewhat plucked a target for renewables generation from the air, and is trying to ram it home without examining whether it is a) attainable, or b) economical. Why does nothing change? :-(

 

It seems there may be a fair argument to be made for wind generation - although the report does not rehearse this - providing the target is made realistic. For example, when it is windy all buildings lose more heat than in still conditions. Equally, there is generally more wind in winter than in summer. Finally, some parts of the UK, such as the Hebrides, are far windier than others. The impacts of these factors on energy consumption, and on wind generation potential, are well enough known - so there should be no great problem in ascribing sufficient wind power to cope with the extra demand attributable to windy conditions, scaling that to winter conditions, and possibly biasing wind generation toward those geographic areas which are the windiest. Used in this way, even allowing for the amount of redundant plant that implies, because the fuel cost is zero, wind generators may be more economical than cranking the alternatives into action.

 

There is a clear bias in favour of natural gas for generation, apparently strongly influenced by expectations of large quantities of shale gas, and some slightly naive seeming assumptions as to how easily and cheaply that may be liberated. As you say, on that, we shall have to wait and see.

 

However, one area I think is overstated, is that or redundancy. He readily enough sketches out the difference between the winter peak demand and the summer trough (the true base load), and how in order to meet the former it is necessary to have substantial plant that sits idle for much of the year. He uses this necessity for redundant plant mainly to lambaste wind generation, which is only a fair criticism insofar as the fickleness of wind availability exacerbates the problem, but he seems not to apply the same thinking to whatever source (his favoured gas) must be used if wind cannot. He really only touches on this in the context of needing redundant gas plant to cover for periods when the base load stations, and the available wind stations, are insufficient.

 

It is the great Achilles heel of all UK electricity generation policies that we have a large gulf between summer base, and winter peak, demand, and that gulf can only be bridged through deliberate plant redundancy. With a mix of nuclear and coal fired base load stations that was turned into an advantage, because the nuclear was dedicated to the base, with little redundancy, while the coal plants could be stood down progressively over the summer for maintenance etc. So, redundancy became a virtue.

 

Then, we got North Sea gas, and the "dash for gas". The gas plants should have been restricted to the numbers necessary to cover demand fluctuations, because they can be brought on stream very fast, but they were not. So, as the economics of operating the coal plants became more questionable in the emerging electricity trading market, and the gas became more and more used, the older coal plants were de-commissioned rather faster than had been anticipated. Add the pressure to reduce carbon fuel consumption, and the screw gets another turn, and we are left with a lot of ageing plant of all types that cannot meet our projected demand levels, and nothing planned and under construction to replace them, so we have to find something quick. In that context, wind looks "green", and it is available within the timescales, and nothing else seems remotely likely to be able to be readied in time - even if the private sector can be persuaded to fund it. So, my tip for future investment is: buy candles! :-D Conclusion: a very expensive shambles. :-(

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Tracker - 2012-03-07 11:37 AM

 

Sod the planet - the planet can take care of itself as it has been doing for millions of years - it's my own cash that I want to preserve so that I can spend it on priorities - essentials like holidays, cars, vans, boats etc!

 

I'm with tracker on this one .... :-D

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ips - 2012-03-09 9:39 AM

 

Tracker - 2012-03-07 11:37 AM

 

Sod the planet - the planet can take care of itself as it has been doing for millions of years - it's my own cash that I want to preserve so that I can spend it on priorities - essentials like holidays, cars, vans, boats etc!

 

I'm with tracker on this one .... :-D

 

Looks like it's just thee 'n me against the world then dunnit!!

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CliveH - 2012-03-08 5:09 AM

 

The issue is the "Fracking" process used to release the gas. Some say it is safe - others say it causes earth tremours and tainted water.

 

Time will tell.

 

The people saying it causes earth temours are those actualy doing the fracking, they suspended operations after admitting causing two 'earthquakes' in the blackpool area, as for the exploding sinks that we see on tv, well I've got not plans to go to blackpool, so thats ok :D

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Having been involved directly with shale fracking in my working life I can say that it will not under normal circumstances cause earthquakes. The fracking operation is not an explosion it is merely the pumpng of water at high pressure into rocks and expanding the natural fractures in the rock to allow release of entrapped gas. The expanded fractures are then kept open by pumping basically spherical balls into the fractures which will allow flow around them. You are normally talking about frac'ing rock formations at depths of between 1 or 2 miles down and this is only done when the formations above are of certain types.

 

Although up till now we have taken most of our gas from natural resevoirs where the gas is in pockets it has been discovered that vast quantities are trapped inside shale formations over very large areas so the frac'ing process is required to get the gas released. It has been done very successfuly in many countries and is a good source of gas.

 

As for wind power this faces the same problem as any other power source and that is how to store the energy when not required. Also wind turbines have such a limited range of operating parameters that they are either switched off because it is too windy, or do not turn because there is no wind, that they only produce electricity about 1% of the time. Hardly a good source of steady power. Now using wave power could be far more attractive as it is not so visible and the tide is always present at relatively stable rates. In this industry the UK has the lead in the technology and have operating schemes here in Scotland, But it seems our politicians have ben 'persuaded' by some means or another that wind is the answer, especially as it all requires non UK factories to build and run. So, we have to pay for them to make profits, sounds about par for the course.

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Interesting Dave.

 

Any thoughts on the reports of how much we have as reserve in the UK? Seems to me that the reports indicate we are sitting on a huge amount.

 

China is sitting on enough to supply its energy needs for 200 years it seems.

 

So the question has to be - why are we spending so much subsidising a technology that is never going to provide power when we need it or power that can be stored?

 

 

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