Tuesday, December 31, 2013

British wind farms handed £5 million to switch off turbines as thousands of homes left without power

Wind farm companies were paid almost £5 million to switch off their turbines while storms lashed the UK over the festive period and tens of thousands of homes were left without power, according to figures published today.

The ‘constraint payments’, which ultimately come from household bills, were payable when the National Grid was unable to cope with the extra power produced during the recent bout of stormy weather or usage was low.

More than £4.8 million has been paid out to wind farm companies since December 15, according to figures compiled from official data, almost as much as was handed over in the whole of 2012.

The total included more than £1.2 million during the first of the recent storms, on December 19, followed by nearly £800,000 on Christmas Eve, more than £400,000 on Christmas Day and nearly £300,000 last Friday.

The money was paid to switch off turbines over a period when winds of up to 100mph hit Britain, with the storms leading to a spate of deaths, travel chaos for millions of people trying to get home for Christmas and power cuts for thousands of homes.

Anti-wind farm campaigners said the figures would infuriate hard-pressed households and demonstrated that wind farms were being erected faster than the National Grid can absorb the electricity they produce.

It was reported on Boxing Day that constraint payments of £30.4 million had been paid out in 2013 compared with £5 million the previous year.

However, this did not include the money handed out to switch off turbines during the Christmas week storms and the total has since increased to £32.6 million. With more stormy weather forecast over New Year, the total is expected to rise further.

Murdo Fraser, a senior Tory MSP and wind farm critic, said: “Families who are struggling with overstretched household budgets at Christmas time and have to meet ever-increasing energy bills will be horrified to see such vast sums of their money being paid to wind power companies for doing nothing.

“This exposes once again the over-reliance on wind developments as part of our energy mix when the Grid capacity doesn’t currently exist to properly utilise the power produced.”

The constraint payment figures were compiled using official data by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity. The first bout of storms saw energy companies paid £653,727 on December 18 and £1.24 million on December 19 to switch off turbines at 31 wind farms.

A further £113,826 was paid out on December 21 and £248,399 the following day before the payments spiked again on Christmas Eve as storms tore across Britain.

As around 75,000 homes were left without power, the wind farm companies were paid £787,959 to switch off turbines at 18 of their developments. Around 50,000 households remained without power on Christmas Day when £432,445 of constraint payments were made.

Another £287,454 was given to the energy firms on December 27 and £126,827 on December 28, according to the figures.

The National Grid has said the system is needed to balance supply and demand and the money handed to wind farms make up only a small proportion of constraint payments made to generators of all types.

A spokesman for RenewableUK, the lobby group representing wind farm companies, said: “December has been a record-breaking period for the amount of clean power generated by wind, with the most electricity we've ever generated in a month – more than 2 million megawatt hours.

“It’s very easy to turn a wind turbine on or off compared to other forms of generation such as a nuclear power station. That is partly why the National Grid sometimes calls on wind developers to constrain their power.”


British wind farms 'slash up to a THIRD off value of nearby homes ... while developers pocket millions'

They are the bane of ramblers and birds alike, but now homeowners are being warned that a nearby wind farm could cut the value of their houses by up to a third, an MP has claimed.

Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for West Devon and Torridge, said some homes in his area are now worth 'significantly less' thanks to giant turbines, and that it is an 'injustice' that homeowners should lose out while developers and land owners potentially pocket millions.

Mr Cox says proposals for scores of turbines have pushed rural areas to 'tipping point' and has called for a new scheme to compensate those whose homes are affected.

Planning Minister Nick Boles has proposed direct compensation for lost property value thanks to developments such as turbines, and also nuclear power stations, rail links and factories.

The minister is eyeing a pilot scheme in the coming months, and it could be based on the Dutch model that pays out an average of around £8,000 to householders that have suffered 'detriment'.

Mr Cox said he welcomed the proposal, which is likely to curry favour across rural Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, where the growing number of wind farms are seen as a blight by residents.

The MP said: 'An increasing number of people are coming to me with clear evidence that the value of their home is significantly less than what it otherwise would be were the wind farm not there.'

He added: 'I’m seeing a minimum 10 per cent to 15 per cent reduction. Some are seeing a loss of one-third of the value... How can that be fair?'

'How can it be right that landowners and developers are making millions of pounds, while the ordinary household is losing the value of what is their pension, or nest egg in old age.'

Wind farms are the source of much debate in rural communities, with a number of protest groups furious at the loss of local beauty spots.

In October, campaigners living near Ilkley in Yorkshire, won a campaign to have four giant turbines dismantled - the first ever wind farm to be scrapped in the UK.

Residents and walkers were delighted by the return of unspoilt views across the rolling hills and deep blue waters of Chelker Reservoir.

And to their relief, the 150ft high turbines will not be replaced after the council refused permission for two even bigger machines.

Angela Kelly, the chairwoman of the anti-wind farm campaign group Country Guardian, says she has seen the value of a number of properties slashed thanks to the presence of a nearby turbine.

She claims she has even heard of buyers withdrawing at the last minute after discovering plans for a wind farm in the local vicinity.

Ms Kelly said: 'There is plenty of evidence that even the threat of a wind farm or a wind turbine  can prevent the sale of houses'.

She added: 'Certainly after a wind farm has been erected properties within sight or sound of the turbines can become virtually unsaleable.

Of the Planning Minister's proposal, Mr Cox said: 'I would completely support households having to be paid compensation for the depreciation of their house value as a result of wind turbines.'

'It is simple nonsense for the pro-wind lobby to say they have no effect on house prices.'

But he warned: 'The devil will be in the detail. How would you differentiate between those that are entitled and those that are not?'

The compensation package was revealed quietly in December’s autumn statement, but was detailed by Mr Boles when her appeared before the Local Government Select Committee of MPs.

He said the proposal was a 'radical departure' from Britain’s current planning rules, but would help speed up major infrastructure that will boost growth, and would bring “individual benefits” for local residents from new development.

His idea goes beyond existing schemes to compensate homeowners for roads and rail links which affect the property by creating noise and traffic.

Mr Boles said: 'I think that everybody recognises that countries have to do difficult things - build roads, build railway lines, build nuclear power stations and other kinds of power sources.'

He added: 'It is better for everyone that the amount of money is banged up in the transaction process - making the decision, let alone building the thing, as little as possible and relatively speedy. With certain projects there has been a principle established of some kind of a benefit being paid to very local communities.'

Mr Boles went on: 'One of the things we are keen to pilot is whether people who have properties very close to a substantial development might benefit from some form of compensation for the loss of property value, something that does happen in some other countries, the Netherlands have innovated with it.'

Reacting to Mr Cox's comments, Malcolm Prescott, managing director of local estate agent Webbers, said: ‘I’ve not experienced this myself... For every person who says I’m not keen on having a wind farm nearby, another will say it’s actually quite nice.'

He added: ‘I think so long as the thing isn’t on your actual doorstep and you can hear it buzzing, people just accept they are part of the landscape. Whether or not they affect property value is specific to each individual home and not something that will affect the entire region.’

Mr Prescott went on: ‘People are still far more concerned about other aspects of the sale. Is it the right location? Is there access to the beach? What are the schools like? Those are the things that really matter to people buying property around here’.


Ethanol Isn’t Green, Isn’t Efficient, and Shouldn’t Be Subsidized

My new Mercury outboard motor came with the following warning: “It is recommended that only alcohol-free gasoline be used where possible.” Gasoline blended with ethanol, an alcohol, does some nasty things to small motors. It corrodes metal, deteriorates plastic and rubber parts and creates difficulties with starting and operating the motors. Fuel lines have been known to leak, causing obvious dangers to operators. Where’s the Consumer Protection Agency when you need it? Not only won’t the government protect us consumers, it caused the problem.

Government legislation mandates the blending of ethanol into most gasoline sold in the United States and has set ever increasing amounts of ethanol to be phased in over time. This policy is an ill-advised attempt to reduce U.S. dependence on oil and to shift automotive fuel to a renewable source. Mandating the use of ethanol imposes more costs than benefits, including hidden costs on consumers that hit the poorest members of society worst, and provides billions of dollars in lucrative business to grateful campaign-donating special-interest groups. Making matters worse, supporters of ethanol make highly questionable claims about its environmental benefits. Ethanol’s got to go.

Ethanol can be made from various plant materials, but in the U.S. ethanol is made primarily from corn. In 2012/2013, approximately one-third of the U.S. corn crop went into ethanol production. U.S. annual production of ethanol has surged since 1998, increasing from slightly over one billion gallons to over 13 billion gallons in 2012. This surge in production and consumption is the result of state and federal mandates requiring it to be blending with gasoline.

The ethanol mandate has increased food prices, as the surge in demand from ethanol production has raised corn prices and corn profitability. Lands previously planted with other grain crops have been shifted into corn production, lowering supplies of other grains and raising their prices. Livestock that feed on higher-priced grains have had their costs of production and prices go up as well. These higher prices for food items are a “tax” on consumers—financial burdens that fall disproportionately on lower-income families whose budgets are heavily weighted towards food items. One nice benefit to politicians is that explicit agricultural crop subsidies have fallen as grain prices have gone up. In essence, the government has been able to legislatively shift the burden of the agricultural subsidy programs off the budget and onto consumers in the form of higher food prices.

The environmental benefits of corn-based ethanol are in doubt. While ethanol is an oxygenate that allows for the cleaner burning of gasoline, it comes with various other environmental costs. The environmental costs to manufacture and distribute ethanol are usually neglected by its proponents; increased grain output requires the use of more fertilizers, insecticides and ground water. Agricultural water runoff also imposes environmental costs, as does the diesel and gasoline farm machinery requires to grow corn. Ethanol is costly to transport since it is unsuitable for most pipelines, requiring other types of ground transportation that use fossil fuels as well. Drivers using gasoline blended with ethanol find their cars’ miles-per-gallon fall, so more gallons of blended gasoline are needed for traveling any given distance. All told, the environmental costs from using corn-based ethanol may be higher than using straight gasoline.


Colorado monument designation would quash mining claims

A Colorado lawmaker is seeking to put an end to two small mining claims on federal land in his state by having Congress designate the site and surrounding lands as a national monument.

Sen. Mark Udall (D) has introduced legislation that would create a 22,000-acre national monument in Browns Canyon in Chaffee County, Colorado.  To ensure that no mining, or any other new commercial activity, takes place on the site, Udall’s bill would designate 10,500 acres within the boundaries of the monument as wilderness.

Once federal land has been designated as wilderness, it is generally off limits to motorized and mechanical access.  Furthermore, construction of new roads and structures as well as any other “disturbances” are prohibited, as is oil and gas exploration and, of course, mining.

Chaffee County, which calls itself “the heart of the Rockies,” is located in central Colorado.  The land Udall wants to designate as a national monument/wilderness area straddles the Arkansas River.

Under Udall’s bill, the “Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013,” all the land in what would be called the “Browns Canyon National Monument” would remain under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service.  Because it is federal land, no Colorado agency has any jurisdiction over the area.

“Mining on the river could destroy the pristine water quality and scenery that has made Browns Canyon one of the top rafting and fishing destinations in the country,” Udall said (E&E Daily, Dec. 19).

In 2012, two mining claims, covering about 100 acres, were filed on BLM land in Browns Canyon.  At the time, the Interior Department’s Board of Land Appeals had temporarily opened up Browns Canyon to mining claims. Udall has called on BLM to challenge the two mining claims, and the agency has the matter under review.

Ball Could be in Obama’s Court

Having large swaths of federal land declared a national monument has become a favorite tool of those determined to shut off development in the resource-rich West.  Oftentimes this is done administratively through a legally dubious interpretation of the Antiquities Act of 1906, a law originally designed to protect Native American artifacts.

Udall’s bill, which currently has no companion measure in the U.S. House, would accomplish the same end legislatively.  If his bill fails to pass Congress, look for the Obama Administration to create the Browns Canyon National Monument administratively.


The Misguided Eco-Doomers

If you are a regular consumer of environmental news and commentary, you are familiar with the narrative of humanity’s downfall. The story, we are told, looks like this.  If we continue to ignore the danger signs while exceeding the planet’s carrying capacity, the future may get ugly.  For the time being, we are on a precipice.

Although our thought leaders and scholars have been giving us ample warning, we don’t seem to be paying attention. Maybe they should listen to the words of Jenny Price and try a new tack.

But that may be asking too much. Once someone starts down this civilization-is-collapsing road, like Guardian blogger Nafeez Ahmed, it’s hard to stop.  If you want a tour guide to the apocalypse, Ahmed is your guy. He is the erudite version of this fringe chararacter.

I must admit that I find the collapse junkies entertaining. I’m sure they believe the world is headed for a crash and their sincerity and eloquence is enough to scare some of us senseless

Others who drink too much from the ecocide well may sink into a fatalistic state of despair:

"Every time I read the NBL [Nature Bats Last] posts, I get the feeling that there´s nothing to be done with our lives, and our future. We have no future. We just have to wait for catastrophe."

A widely circulated piece from the New York Times recently advised:

"The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality."

The problem that we are advised to confront is the very thing that has greatly advanced humanity in the last 200 hundred years: Industrialization. Indeed, the modernizing forces that shape our lives today are treated with contempt by many of the planet’s self-designated guardians.

Take industrial agriculture, for example. Do you believe that large scale mechanized farming, with its fertilizers and pesticides, has been a net plus for society? Now I’m not saying industrial agriculture is perfect; it has a major environmental impact that can’t be ignored or swept aside. But on the whole, are we better off today because of our industrialized food system (which still has plenty of room for improvement)? Or should we nix the tractors and go back to the horse plow? While we’re at it, should we go back to using cow dung instead of synthetic fertilizers? Should we nix the herbicides and go back to pulling out all the weeds by hand?

These are not trivial questions. For there are people who sincerely believe that organic farming is sufficient to feed the world. It is not a fringe view, either. The U.N. was touting agroecology a few years back, citing it “as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.”

Evidence-based science tells us otherwise.

No matter, in a recent piece, Nafeez Ahmed told us of a new study that “raises critical questions about the capacity of traditional industrial agricultural methods to sustain global food production for a growing world population.” He then referred to that UN endorsement of organic farming:

Two years ago, a landmark report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food demonstrated that agroecology based on sustainable, small-scale, organic methods could potentially double food production in entire regions facing persistent hunger, over five to 10 years.

(This is the equivalent of those who insist that wind and solar and a heaping of hydropower could potentially meet the energy needs of the world by 2030. Nobody punctures that bubble more effectively than this guy.)

The problem with doomsday prophets like Ahmed isn’t so much their incessant warnings about imminent eco-collapse, but more the solutions they proffer, which, if carried out in the developing world, really would lead to societal catastrophe.


Australia: Climate policies helped kill manufacturing, says adviser

THE unprecedented cost of energy driven by the renewable energy target and the carbon tax had destroyed the nation's competitiveness, Tony Abbott's chief business adviser has declared.

Maurice Newman also says climate change policies driven by "scientific delusion" have been a major factor in the collapse of Australia's manufacturing sector. "The Australian dollar and industrial relations policies are blamed," Mr Newman said. "But, for some manufacturers, the strong dollar has been a benefit, while high relative wages have long been a feature of the Australian industrial landscape."

In an interview, Mr Newman said protection of climate change policies and the renewable energy industry by various state governments smacked of a "cover-up".

He said an upcoming review of the renewable energy target must include examination of claims made in federal parliament that millions of dollars were being paid to renewable energy projects that allegedly did not meet planning guidelines. Mr Newman's comments follow those of Dow Chemicals chairman and chief executive Andrew Liveris, who said Australia was losing its natural advantage of abundant and cheap energy.

"As far as new investments go, our primary energy sources of natural gas and electricity are now or will soon become negatives to any comparative calculation," Mr Liveris said.

"Average prices of electricity have doubled in most states in recent years and the unprecedented contraction in consumption threatens a 'death spiral' in which falling consumption pushes up prices even further, causing further falls in consumption," he said.

Mr Newman said Australia had become "hostage to climate-change madness". "And for all the propaganda about 'green employment', Australia seems to be living the European experience, where, for every 'green' job created, two to three jobs are lost in the real economy," he said.

"The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling. Global temperatures have gone nowhere for 17 years. Now, credible German scientists claim that 'the global temperature will drop until 2100 to a value corresponding to the little ice age of 1870'."

Mr Newman said the climate change establishment, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, remained "intent on exploiting the masses and extracting more money".

"When necessary, the IPCC resorts to dishonesty and deceit," he said.

In Australia, Mr Newman said, Victorian Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan had told parliament how politicians and bureaucrats were paying tens of millions of dollars annually to wind turbine operators that had not received final planning approval.

"It could be hundreds of millions of dollars and we have a government that is keen to rein in the budget deficit," he said. "If you can save a million dollars that should never have been spent, we should be doing it."

Senator Madigan said the issuing of renewable energy certificates to one of the non-compliant wind farms, at Waubra in Victoria, reflected "a culture of noncompliance arising from systematic regulatory failure that impacts every wind farm in Victoria".

He said the issue involved "the pain and suffering of little people living in rural Australia, environmental damage, fraud on a grand scale, deception, lies and concealment".

The clean energy regulator has defended the decision to allow the Waubra wind farm to receive renewable energy certificates.

Mr Newman's comments came as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission revealed that in the 18 months since the carbon tax commenced, it had received 3132 complaints and inquiries in relation to carbon price matters.

The Coalition has committed to bolstering the watchdog's powers, with additional funding and new penalties to ensure that companies lower energy costs after the repeal of the carbon tax laws.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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