Sunday, 6 February 2011

Do Thanet District Council Dream of Electric Sheep? and other Sunday Rambles.

A Sunday morning meander round the local blogs, this is the time I really try to make sense of what they have been saying during the week, writing this into the ramble ensures this.

Prize to the most ludicrous post of the week has to go to the council, with one of their press releases that seems to be saying that the energy from sun falling on a sheep is enough to light 2,500 light bulbs.

I put the press release here at Readit, now revealed as Ken Read of the new blog In2thanet that somehow shows as Inthanet at - man’s best intentions changed by machines or something, actually read the thing.

The claims of the renewable energy companies, that get large grants for building wind and solar energy farms, are so wildly optimistic that I tend to only glance at them now.

OK engineering hat, you can see from the picture at the top of the post, one of these solar panels is about the size of a sheep and the council says that 20,000 of these will generate an average of 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts, a megawatt is a million watts, I will use the 5,000 figure here as it is easier to calculate with.

So that is 5,000,000,000 watts divided by the number of panels 20,000 to give the average power from one panel, I think that is 250,000 watts.

So taking a light bulb as being 100 watts and dividing the power from one panel the size of a sheep 250,000 watts and dividing it by the power of the light bulb 100 watts you get the number of light bulbs it will power 2,500.

If you believe what the council have said you should also notice sheep exploding, due to the massive amount of power they absorb from the sun, conversely you may not believe everything the council says in its press releases.

Staying with he press release blog for a bit, one of the commentators there was under the impression, albeit after a few glasses of port, that it is me who actually writes the posts that appear there, see I can see I shall have to a bit careful over this one.

The latest post there is by Clive Hart, see interesting to see that the architect of the Turner Contemporary recokns that the building is “almost shed-like” and looking at the bottom of the post it seems that Clive is once again leader of the local Labour group.

This gives a slightly Egyptian feel to the various struggles to become leader of the council, particularly as most of the councillors seemed to go along with the councils efforts to rig the leadership consultation.

I do wonder if the council had followed the wishes of the local people who managed to overcome the difficulties put up by the council, and unanimously responded that they wanted to elect a leader, if they would have chosen either Clive or Bob in the May elections.

I did ask the council if I could use one of their online petitions to get a leadership election, their answer was, yes but the council didn’t have to take any notice of it, however many people responded, so I haven’t bothered with it.

I figure that rigging an election will eventually rebound on them, but as the way a council leader is chosen seems to be intended by both the previous Labour and the present coalition governments, to be by the people, it does beg the following question.

What political parties, political ideologies do our councillors really represent, are a lot of them just using the parties names as flags of convenience to make sure they get local influence, allowances etc?

Thanet Life is the next blog down the sidebar to have anything that looks like local news, one again this can be a bit of a Acta Diurna, rather than a Notizie scritte although at least it won’t cost you a Gazetta. With our leader being the strong silent and apparently academic type, one is inclined to wonder if he occasionally uses Thanet Life rather in the way God uses Metreon.

Sorry about that I think I must have put the wrong hat on there for a moment, but one of the council officers did say to me that he thought Bob was the academic type, so I thought I would try something he would understand.

Assuming the title of Simon’s latest psto “In Caverna” is Latin then I translate this as “in the hollow.” See

What concerns me about the recent information relating to council assets, is the defeatist way the council seems to view them as liabilities. The wailings of no money seem to conflict with the last eight years of Conservative local government at Thanet, the vast majority of which the Conservatives say the national Labour government was handing out funding like confetti.

Returning to the Egyptian theme, a dream of seven fat cows and one thin one comes to mind.

In a purely hypothetical way, the image the council wanting to offload a liability to a developer, that had the unfortunate problem of being also the asset “Margate Caves” it does seem that health and safety picture came along at convenient moment.

The problem with the caves and the other assets that were tourist attractions is that without them there are no tourists,to come to Margate to see an exhibition at the new shed-like Turner Contemporary that may take you an hour to view.

The museum could have taken another hour and the caves another and the problem is that the Turner is supposed to be an all year round attraction.

I think the council’s calculations over the money to sort the caves out, which maybe around the cost of a flat or maybe cost of a house, are a bit like the calculations over the energy produced by a sheep sized solar panel.

I think what is happening here is confusion between running costs and capital expenditure. Perhaps borrowing £100,000 at say 5% £5,000 a year £100 per week could produce a tourist attraction that generates £200 per week.

Simplistic I know, but the sort of thinking one could expect from entrepreneurial Conservative types.

Another interesting post from Simon last week was the on the police crime statistics website, Westgate had 79 crimes in December and Ramsgate about 470 putting the marker thingy down on the stations. So I reckon Simon gets a much quieter time than I do.

Now the initial rush, perhaps caused by Simon’s post has died down the website works ok see

Posts all over the place on the biggest story this week, the closure of Pfizer, perhaps the thing we need to keep in the top of our minds is the enormous cost of clearing and decontaminating this site, something that Pfizer should have to cough up if an alternate use can’t be found.

I will ramble on as the day progresses.


  1. Michael, your analogy of a sheep and a solar panel makes humorous reading but what concerns me is:

    Are TDC Planning Dept considering a planning application based on an efficient 1000x greater than the actual output of this solar park?

  2. Every time they want to use farm land (or parks) for other uses I ask myself the same question: does Thanet really need three full-size golf courses?

  3. Readit you seem to be assuming that the average power produce by one sheep cell would be 250 watts. By average power I assume they include nigh time and dull periods so I would think 50 to 100 watts would be more realistic.

    Peter and Readit I think the underlying problem here is that it is the grant funding and saying that they are saving the planet that is causing the problem.

    Massive projects of this sort in deserts look viable with current technology, growing food on farmland here looks to be the best option for the environment at the moment.

    The underlying problem is that unless you can store the power you need an alternative source, either fossil or nuclear.

  4. Some 13 years ago now, I attended a meeting of the EFL Schools:Kent Police liaison committee in Broadstairs.

    Aside from some fairly practical stuff (and a lot of gossip) the single most illuminating moment came when the then liaison officer explained how policing in Kent was arranged essentially at a flat rate - effectively the same number of officers per square kilometre across the county, irrespective of population density (according to him this was a Home Office requirement).

    Has this changed - assuming it was ever the case?

  5. One of these days our government will realise how futile wind power is and mass our engineering brains to harness the flow of tides, water is the greatest power there is, the tides will be moving trillions of gallons of water every day for all the time the moon is in the sky,its there for the taking.

  6. Michael, I took my information directly from the planning application details:

    Application F/TH/11/0029

    Planning,Design and Access Statement.

    1.1 This statement is submitted in support of a planning application to use part of a field at the above site as a solar farm with a generating capacity of approximately 4 to 5 megawatts (MWp) comprising approximately 20,000 panels and associated apparatus.

  7. Readit there may be the difference between generating power (in the application) and average power (in the press release) here.

    I suspect one is for a new installation with all panels clean and working on a bright sunny day near the middle of summer, the other a justification from the council who as an organisation probably need a written memorandum to tell them that it gets dark at night, when we turn the lights on.

    Stupid organisation really, it would be so much easier if the sun came out at night, when we need it to see by.

  8. I think the council press releases are prepared by the council wages clerk and he or she is used to adding a few more noughts:-)

  9. As I understand it, the little p after MW indicates peak power and in this case is only indicative of the size of the installation, not how much energy it will produce. By saying the generating capacity is approximately 4 to 5 megawatts (MWp) it gives the impression that output is between 4 & 5 MW day in and day out.

    At least the watt is used as a unit power, rather than the new variable unit of “the number of homes” that seems to be coming into fashion when talking about the electrical output of generating plant.

    Unfortunately the energy market is manipulated by the various feed-in tariffs which are based on government policy, instead of applying the same criteria to each energy source.

  10. Readit 23.24 I think the little p expresses the maximum power under laboratory conditions, best possible light, with the solar panel orientated in the best direction to the light source and at the optimal temperature.

    The person submitting the planning application obviously wants to get planning consent so used this figure, I suppose a person objecting to the application could reasonably use the worse figure, the power output at night, around zero.

    The council’s motives here in adding the extra noughts is a bit of an uncertain one, I doubt they will just be able to say they made a mistake, even if that is what happened, I suppose I could ask them, but then I probably wouldn’t get a reply for ten days and the reply probably wouldn’t make sense.

  11. What makes me think it is some kind of mistake is the application quotes 4 to 5 Megawats and the press release quotes 4000 to 5000 Megawatts.

    I can think of no multipication factor such as days in the year or hours of sunlight which would give such a round number.

    Only a confusion of Mw and Kw would fit the bill, but as you say the council will not own up to that.

    The matter is somewhat crucial as a 13Ha greenfield installation providing 5000Mw is far more "green" than one providing 5Mw when weighed against the rural loss

  12. Michael, have you heard anything about TDC wanting to build a lifeboat house on Margate main sands? This comment was posted on the Margate Architecture blog:

    "Reading in the local paper the council wants to build a new lifeboat house on the beach where the boat is tempary housed, if you look at the size of the building its now in it will be as tall as the shops and extend into the beach some 60 ft it will be massive we must stop this stupidity NOW !!!"


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