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.