Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Thanet Offshore Windfarm Official Opening Tomorrow

To be honest I had forgotten about this one until the BBC phoned me today for an opinion, this sort of thing happens quite a bit now because of the internet, I think quite a few professional reporters look at the fairly high profile bloggers producing news stories with some interest.

Here are a few links to news articles about the opening.

How anyone unveils 100 wind turbines I don’t really know, perhaps this is journalistic licence, either that or a pretty big veil is involved.

Back to the Beeb and what they wanted to know, although strictly speaking this is about what they want you to be. In this case I think they were looking for an anti windfarm campaigner that they could interview, I expect this will prove to be a pretty rare beast.

I suppose the problem here is that I tend to write my understanding of the situation on this blog, best as I can, regardless of the subject. So here we go although I can assure you this won’t be what the Beeb really hoped for.

The problem spits two ways, one is the benefit to Ramsgate and I suppose the UK as a whole, the grant funding for wind energy exists and the money is better spent here than elsewhere.

What the benefits to Ramsgate are is a bit hard to quantify but there can be no doubt that the windfarm brings extra money into the local economy.

Then we come to two, which is are windfarms beneficial, putting my science and engineering hat on for the moment, the answers are a bit of a mixed bag.

First it is a bit unclear what the overall carbon footprint is of offshore windfarms, this must include greenhouse gasses produced by manufacturing the windfarm, operating it and decommissioning it.

Then of course the hard economics of what the electricity costs without the grant funding, I say this because there is always the risk of being left dependant on an expensive form of energy.

Then we have the problem of what happens when there is no wind or too much wind for the windfarm, by this I mean that unless we are able to store the wind energy produced then when there is no wind we have to have a fossil fuel backup power station.

If you are using a fossil fuel backup then this must come into the overall carbon footprint equation. Obviously if you have a backup that produces a low carbon footprint, the lowest being nuclear which is much lower that wind energy then there is no point in having a windfarm.

I suppose from a purely scientific point of view the outlook is pretty bleak, it looks like the way we are going at the moment the planet will be inhabitable in something between 80 and 200 years.

The best advice seems to be to stop using planes, boats, cars etc and convert all power generation to nuclear which would give the planet a probable inhabitable life of between 150 and 400 years.

I suppose the obvious question is what if the scientists making these gloomy predictions are wrong? There are plenty of people, even scientist who say they are wrong. I think the answer is then a lot of scientists are going to look rather stupid, of course if the are right then the human race will probably die out.

Now I am not saying that windfarms are not a good idea here I think they will help a certain amount, the problems are not insurmountable, just very expensive.

At the moment most of the windfarm manufacturing takes place in the Scandinavian countries, you don’t exactly need to be Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes to see the problem there.

Wind energy is expensive nearly twice as much as atomic, discounting the cost of dealing with atomic waste, something that is less of a problem if the human race isn’t here to deal with it because of global warming.

There are ways of storing the energy produced when it is windy so we can use it when it is calm but once again expensive, a problem here is that periods of calm weather could go on for a long period of time, so this means retaining some sort of backup, so further expense.

There is also a finite amount of space for windfarms even offshore ones, the sea is big but unfortunately most of it is too deep.


  1. From a Welsh Affairs Commons debate: (Tyrone led the worker buyout of Tower Colliery which proved Maggie wrong by making a profit under its 239 directors)

    "75. Tyrone O'Sullivan starkly expressed his view of the situation facing the Government

    "The choice you have got is you are going to have to import 30 million tonnes, or more, and that puts us again in the hands of other people, or we can produce it at home […] at the end of the day, this Government is going to go down the road of clean coal technology, it is going to spend money on clean coal technology…and they are going to do all that to bring in foreign coal? I find that crazy. I think we should be looking seriously at our coal".[141]
    76. The inability of the Department of Trade and Industry to present a consistent position on the economics of indigenous coal does not fill us with confidence in the Government's ability to make key strategic decisions about the future of the coal industry in Wales. It is disappointing that the UK Energy Minister's emphasis on security of supply and the reliance on coal, much of it imported, for 50% of our electricity generation during the cold winter 2005-06 has not led to a greater appreciation of the potential of indigenous coal. The Government's attitude to the coal mining industry in Wales is at best apathetic, and at worst dismissive. The Energy Review will need to demonstrate a far greater commitment to the indigenous Welsh coal industry in order for us to revise our view."

  2. I get the impression these BBC wallahs think in cliche and yes they do want you to act out that cliche all they care about is audience figures this is why they have weather girls

  3. How many turbines?
    From the first link “This month the National Grid revealed that a new benchmark had been reached when 10 per cent of the UK's electricity came from wind farms.”

    From second link “It will be a landmark moment for the renewable energy industry, and two weeks ago the latest statistics from the National Grid revealed around 10 per cent of electricity was generated by UK wind farms.”

  4. When an intruder waltzed through the multi million pounds Kent police led security operation at Kingsnorth, he/she switched off 5% of the nation's power supply.

    Hence it appears that the total windfarm effort amounts to two Kingsnorths but only on days with the right winds ?

    Corus is opening a new coalmine in Wales. The energy needs of UK will in time dictate the need to undo the savage and moronic damage Maggie Thatcher did to the UK's strategic energy needs.

  5. Apart from the renewable energy benefits, does anyone know how many jobs the wind farm is creating in the area?

  6. Would be even better if a Kent based company had produced the turbines...

    Why should the UK look to Sweden for this technology?

    B Kelly

  7. Because our own workers are to idle and useless to get off their backsides and do some real work

  8. So where's the new cycle path and minor improvements to the Pegwell Bay Concrete Theme Park as Vattenfall promised.

    Isn't also about time, Richborough A Ltd did something with those infamous cooling towers and ironic turbine other than renting it out to film crews with a wasted budget

  9. The bit I don't get is that they are having to install a new radar at Manston because the windfarm is going to make things horribly dangerous otherwise. But the windfarm opens tomorrow and the new radar won't be online for a year. That's the funny thing with safety issues. Things that are said to be dangerous are rarely dangerous enough to halt the money-train.

  10. "Because our own workers are to idle and useless to get off their backsides and do some real work."

    Do you speak from personal experience?

  11. In my opinion Britain is being ripped off by these foreign firms,having spent most of my life on the sea I can say that our government has taken the wrong turning on energy,we have 3000 miles of coastline,no place is more than 75 miles from the sea,and on our doorstep is as much power as we need the TIDES,fully predictable,never failing,and the flow can be controlled by barriers to run at very high speeds where are our british brains that used to lead the world in technology,in 20 years time when the wind farms are rotting piles of steel we will need alternative power


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