Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Madness of our worship of wind: They despoil our glorious countryside, add £6 billion a year to our household bills and are arguably the most inefficient solution to our energy crisis

Take a wild guess at how much of the UK’s total primary demand for energy was supplied by wind power in 2020.

Half? 30 per cent? No, in fact, it was less than 4 per cent.

That’s right, all those vast wind farms in the North Sea, or disfiguring the hills of Wales and Scotland, give us little more than one-thirtieth of the energy we need to light and heat our homes, power our businesses or move our cars and trains.

Just think what this country and its seas would look like if we relied on wind for one-third or half of our energy needs.

Last week, Government ministers were considering lowering people’s energy bills if they live close to onshore wind turbines.

They’re also considering relaxing the rules so that onshore wind farms no longer need the backing of local communities and councils in order to get planning permission.

This will give wind farms an easier ride through the planning process than new housing — or shale gas drilling sites.

More importantly, it means further privileging an industry that has cost a fortune, wrecked green and pleasant landscapes and made us dependent on the weather for our energy needs — and thus more wedded to natural gas as a back-up.

The wind industry has already been fattened on subsidies of more than £6billion a year (paid for out of green levies on your electricity bills), it has privileged access to the grid and is paid extra compensation when the wind blows too strongly and the grid cannot cope with the energy output.

Indeed, the way wind power has managed to get politicians and others to think it is uniquely virtuous will deserve close study by future theologians.

Its symbols, akin to a post-modern Easter crucifix, now adorn almost any document that purports to be about British energy needs, signalling ‘goodness’.

Tousle-headed eco-protesters go weak at the knees when they see an industrial wind farm on wild land, while angry anti-capitalists won’t hear a word against the financial firms that back wind companies, somehow convincing themselves that this is all about re-empowering the common man.

When faced with a looming energy crisis, it’s obvious that the Government needs to act fast to secure energy selfsufficiency.

But what is so special about wind?

Why, to the exclusion of all else — in particular, fracking and nuclear energy — has arguably the most inefficient solution been privileged?

I was once a fan of wind power, because it seemed to be free. But it’s not. It takes a lot of expensive machinery to extract useful power from the wind. And once turbines are up and running, they’re not reliable.

Because you cannot store electricity for any length of time without huge cost, wind farms need backing up by fossil-fuel power stations.

This makes wind even more expensive.

As I write this article in still, fine spring weather, millions of tonnes of turbines stand largely idle, generating just 3 per cent of our electricity.

Coal contributes 5 per cent.

As a source of energy, wind is so weak that to generate any meaningful electricity output you need three 20-tonne carbon-fibre blades — each nearly the length of a football pitch — turning a 300-tonne generator atop a gigantic steel tower set in reinforced concrete.

Hundreds of these monsters are required to produce as much electricity as one small gas-powered plant. In terms of land covered, wind takes 700 times as much space to generate the same energy that one low-rise shale gas pad can.

It is not as if wind turbines are good for the environment. They kill thousands of birds and bats every year, often rare eagles on land and soaring gannets at sea.

If you were even to disturb a bat when adding a conservatory, you could end up in jail.

The wind turbines are also near impossible to recycle, with the rare earth metals such as neodymium that are vital for the magnets inside most of their generators coming from polluted mines in China.

Wind turbines are often built on hills to catch the breeze, meaning they inevitably intrude into natural beauty.

My favourite Northumbrian view, of Bamburgh Castle and Cheviot from the Farne Islands, is now visually polluted by a giant wind farm.

But for those who live closer to them, life can be intolerable.

The unresolved problem of wind turbine noise can make sleep difficult.

On sunny days, the shadows of the blades create an unnerving flicker as they pass your windows.

Being next to a wind farm won’t enhance your house’s value — and I doubt any reduction in your energy bill would help.

Nor is it clear that wind farms reduce emissions significantly.

If the meagre 4 per cent of our energy that came from wind in 2020 had entirely displaced coal, we would have seen at least a modest cut in our emissions.

But there are three reasons why that is not what happens.

First, we need other power stations to back up the wind farms when the wind does not blow, and these plants — mostly burning gas — are inevitably less efficient when being ramped up and down to support wind’s erratic output.

The wind industry promises that the more wind farms we build, the more likely we are to find there will always be a breeze somewhere.

But experience shows the opposite. Last week, for instance, was virtually still everywhere; the week before was windy everywhere.

A recent study published in the International Journal for Nuclear Power, looking at Germany and 17 neighbouring countries, confirmed this erratic output.

Its author, physicist Thomas Linnemann, wrote: ‘Wind power from a European perspective always will require practically 100 per cent back-up systems.’

Second, wind turbines themselves are built and maintained using fossil fuels.

Analysis of audited accounts suggests that many wind farms will not work for much more than 15 years before the cost of maintaining the machine eats into income and it has to be scrapped and replaced.

The capital refreshment cycle for these machines is very short. A gas turbine on the other hand can easily last 30 or 40 years.

Third, the one source of energy whose economic rationale has been most damaged by wind power is zero-carbon nuclear.

Nuclear plants all over the world are closing down early, or being cancelled, because they cannot pay their way in a world where bursts of almost valueless wind energy keep being dumped into the grid.

Nuclear plants cannot ‘fill a gap’ when the wind drops — they’re efficient only when generating constantly.

A wind-powered grid can be backed up with gas, or a nuclear grid topped up with gas, but a grid powered by wind and nuclear will not work.

Wind’s champions insist its costs are coming down and that its electricity is now cheaper than from gas or even coal.

But there is a great deal of data, all pointing to industry costs (per megawatthour) not falling but rising, as economics Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University has found.

Building and maintaining wind farms is about to get even more costly because of the rocketing costs of fuel and raw materials.

As for the competition, gas is currently very expensive in Britain, but it used to be cheap and it could be once more — particularly if we open up the North Sea and get fracking.

Then there’s the cost of ‘constraint payments’, which means extra compensation paid (by you, the electricity consumer) to wind farms when the grid cannot cope with their output.

Some wind farms in Scotland have been paid to throw away large fractions of their energy.

Since the introduction of the payments in 2010, the cost to consumers has topped a staggering £1.1bn.

That’s before you consider the subsidies, which data shows have been rising for offshore wind for two decades.

When the wind industry boasts of being cheap and you challenge them to forgo subsidies, they mutter and look down at their feet.


India to Start Building 10 Nuclear Power Plants in ‘Fleet Mode’ from Next Year

With the first pour of concrete for a 700 MW atomic power plant in Karnataka’s Kaiga scheduled in 2023, India is set to put in motion construction activities for 10 ’fleet mode’ nuclear reactors over the next three years. The first pour of concrete (FPC) signals the beginning of construction of nuclear power reactors from the pre-project stage which includes excavation activities at the project site.

The FPC of Kaiga units 5&6 is expected in 2023; FPC of Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Praiyonjan units 3 & 4 and Mahi Banswara Rajasthan Atomic Power Projects units 1 to 4 is expected in 2024; and that of Chutka Madhya Pradesh Atomic Power Project units 1 & 2 in 2025, officials of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) told the Parliamentary panel on science and technology. The Centre had approved construction of 10 indigenously developed pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) of 700 MW each in June 2017. The ten PHWRs will be built at a cost of Rs 1.05 lakh crore.

It was for the first time that the government had approved building 10 nuclear power reactors in one go with an aim to reduce costs and speed up construction time. Bulk procurement was underway for the fleet mode projects with purchase orders placed for forgings for steam generators, SS 304L lattice tubes and plates for end shields, pressuriser forgings, bleed condensers forgings, incoloy-800 tubes for 40 steam generators, reactor headers, DAE officials said. Engineering, procurement and construction package for turbine island has been awarded for Gorakhpur units three and four and Kaiga units five and six, they added.

Under the fleet mode, a nuclear power plant is expected to be built over a period of five years from the first pour of concrete. Currently, India operates 22 reactors with a total capacity of 6780 MW in operation. One 700 MW reactor at Kakrapar in Gujarat was connected to the grid on January 10 last year, but it is yet to start commercial operations.

The PHWRs, which use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator, have emerged as the mainstay of India’s nuclear power programme. India’s first pair of PHWRs of 220 MW each were set up at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan in the 1960s with Canadian support. The second reactor had to be built with significant domestic components as Canada withdrew support following India’s peaceful nuclear tests in 1974.

As many as 14 PHWRS of 220 MW each with standardised design and improved safety measures were built by India over the years. Indian engineers further improvised the design to increase the power generation capacity to 540 MWe, and two such reactors were made operational at Tarapur in Maharashtra. Further optimisations were carried out to upgrade the capacity to 700 MWe.


Experienced Engineers must take the lead in the Energy Transition

Guus Berkhout

In recent centuries, faith and superstition have been replaced by rational thinking (“Enlightenment”). For instance, it gradually became clear that extreme weather is not the hand of mysterious gods but is determined by a complex interplay of natural forces.

Another example shows that, step by step, primitive medicine men became the qualified doctors of today. The worldview of the enlightened thinkers brought us great technological developments in all sectors of society. As a result, the quality of life improved by great strides.

Central to that revolution was the concept that measurements are the source of new knowledge. Engineers played an indispensable role in inventing, designing and making the measuring equipment that is required for making new discoveries. That role has become even more important in today’s highly technological society, where natural and anthropogenic systems interact in a complex way.

Today’s technical universities have a great responsibility to educate the new generation of engineers. Without them, there will be no sustainable future.

Collection and analysis of measurements allow us to determine and visualize properties of complex systems. In practice, this needs to be often done without yet knowing much of the internal mechanisms of the system.

Fortunately, empirical knowledge about system properties – in time and space – is often sufficient to make important decisions about how to deal with system changes. This is particularly important when decisions are urgent, and policymakers do not have time to wait until reliable theoretical knowledge becomes available.

In other words, in practice we often cannot wait for scientific explanations (via theoretical models) before acting. In such a situation, it is wise to collect and analyze measurements rather than use theoretical models with large uncertainties. Think of the Earth’s climate, where it may take many more decades to better understand what is going on.

Today, the crucial question that technical universities must ask themselves is: “Is the low-carbon-society ideology really as blessing for nature and society as we are forced to believe daily? After all, CO2 is the building block of life on Earth, isn’t it? If we want to use more organic products, we need more CO2, right?” And as for ‘green’ energy, are solar and wind energy not unreliable? And is the combination of these energy sources with hydrogen storage not unaffordable? Aren’t these the typical matters for sound engineering judgment?

In recent decades, the believe of policymakers in theoretical models has increased dramatically. This is partly due to the impressive computing power of modern computers. In fact, the confidence in computer models has become so large that modeled measurements are increasingly replacing real measurements in government policy. In doing so, governments are creating their own little world. We therefore see that more and more policies are not based on reality, but on political dreams. Ideology-based models increasingly determine what must happen. The most well-known examples are climate policy, energy policy and covid-19 policy. With this irrational development, we are falling back into the pre-Enlightenment world of belief and superstition, now determined by what computer models tell us how to act.

Instead of universities being critical of this trend, they have gone along with it. This may certainly benefit them financially, but it has driven university research into political hobbyhorses. This is bad news for the quality of university education.

For example, at my ‘alma mater’, Delft University of Technology, not real measurements but the output of climate models are assumed to be the guideline. Based on these models, technology is developed with the idea of stopping the global ‘warming crisis’. Think of the belief that wind turbines, solar panels and biomass plants will meet the world’s energy needs in a sustainable way. My university has even awarded an honorary doctorate to European Unions’s (EU) vice-president Frans Timmermans, a champion of green superstition. Because reliable and affordable energy is the key to prosperity and well-being, that honorary doctorate is a historic university failure.


The New Greenwashing – False Advertising about Green Energy Jobs

In the private sector, false advertising can get you into legal trouble. In the public sector, it’s often good politics.

Supporters of renewable energy want you to believe that green jobs at union wages are a benefit of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). For example, NYSERDA CEO Doreen Harris recently boasted that for every job lost because of the green-energy transition, ten will be created. And Governor Hochul pledged last week to prioritize union labor in the green-energy transition, and the CLCPA mandates the application of New York’s prevailing wage law, which essentially requires union-standard wages and benefits be paid to workers on public construction projects, even when they far exceed market rates.

But Harris and Hochul are wrong — these jobs are a cost of the public policy, not a benefit. And expensive prevailing wage jobs only increase the cost.

How are they a cost?

Consider that the Climate Action Council claims that the CLCPA will cost up to $340 billion while providing benefits of at least $420 billion, for a net gain of at least $80 billion. The state’s numbers are probably wrong but set that aside for now. Instead, imagine that the cost was only one-tenth as much, just $34 billion. In that case, the net benefit would increase to $386 billion.

That would be a huge increase in the net value of the policy, but it would mean many fewer green jobs, because there would be less spending to hire people. Can anyone seriously deny the state would be better off if the net benefit of the policy was higher?

In other words, as a policy requires the public to pay for more jobs — or to pay more for those jobs — it becomes more costly to the paying public, not more beneficial.

Either state officials don’t understand this themselves or they hope you don’t. And admittedly, you’ve probably never been told that jobs are a cost. But it’s true.

But what about the jobs that will be lost in the industries negatively affected by the green-energy transition? That labor is freed up to perform other beneficial economic activity. And this always happens when an industry declines.

For example, almost half of the 100 largest industrial firms of the 20th century have disappeared, and yet with the exception of occasional recessions, employment rates have remained strong. Even more dramatically, two centuries ago, 90 percent of the U.S. population lived on farms. Today it’s only about one percent. The descendants of all those farmers are not unemployed today — instead they’re doing all the jobs that didn’t even exist a century ago.

The free market does a great job of creating all the jobs we need to replace those lost. For job creation, we rarely need any government policy except “get out of the way!” Governor Hochul has also pledged to make New York the most business-friendly state in the nation (it now ranks 48th). If she actually accomplished that, the market would take care of providing all the jobs people need.

Oh, yes, a public policy can create jobs in a specific economic sector, but that’s not the same as creating overall economic growth. Only entrepreneurs can do that.

Politicians promote industries that sound good, and which will reward them with votes, but they have no real skin in the game. If the businesses fail, or need to be propped up with taxpayer subsidies, there’s rarely any cost to the politicians who supported them. In fact, spending more taxpayer dollars on money-losing businesses can actually buy them more support. But entrepreneurs have to find opportunities that have real economic value, or they’ll lose their shirts.

This doesn’t mean the transition isn’t sometimes difficult for those who lose jobs in a declining industry (and public policy can help them out). It just means that if we could transition to a green energy future with fewer jobs, we’d have green energy and whatever other goods and services those other workers would be producing as entrepreneurs took advantage of having more available labor. We’d be producing more, and then we really would be better off.

There will, of course, be jobs associated with the transition to green energy. But for the broad public, that is part of the Climate Act’s cost, not its benefit. Government officials telling you differently is false advertising.




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