Re: Electricty generating speed bumps

I read with interest in the Guardian that the UK supermarket chain Sainsburys is planning on installing the electricity generating speed bumps. I gave my view on this previously in my blog post titled Electricity generating speed bumps, but felt it was worth re-iterating my points made in the previous post. The most important of which that it is not possible to get electricity for nothing and so there must be an increase in energy used by the car, with associated carbon emission increases.

Floating wind turbines and the potential for a UK industry

At the present time wind turbines are either located onshore or offshore. However, those offshore are still fixed into the sea-bed, which results in a limit to the depth of water in which they can be located in. However, recently some companies have been looking at the option of developing wind turbines suited for deeper waters.

These would probably work on a similar principle to the floating rigs used in the oil and gas industry, and so it is no surprise that two of the largest companies developing offshore wind farms are based in the UK and Norway. The BBC are reporting that the Norwegian state oil firm Statoil have launched the world's first floating wind turbine, the Hywind. This has a conventional Siemens 2.3MW wind turbine located on top of a floating rig.

However I would counter that this isn't necessarily the world's first floating wind farm, since the joint British and Dutch company Blue H have installed a prototype tension leg platform with a wind turbine on top. I would also consider this to be more cutting edge than the Statoil proposal - whilst the Norwegian design relies on a conventional turbine, the Blue H design has a turbine designed specifically for off-shore use and so it is interesting to note that it has only two blades.

Whichever option is chosen there will be great potential for using such turbines in the UK. As they are able to be located in deeper waters there are a number of benefits. Firstly, there are far more suitable sites, as at present offshore wind farms are located in shallow waters around areas such as The Wash, Thames estuary and north Wales/north-west England. As they can be situated in deeper waters further offshore they are less likely to be a visual intrusion and so it may be easier to get planning permission. Such sites won't have as a great an effect on radar, which has been a major barrier to the use of offshore windfarms particularly in the UK. It is also likely that such deep water sites will have greater average windspeeds and higher capacity factors, resulting in more generation for the same installed capacity. However there are a number of major factors which will reduce the development of such projects, most majorly the cost.

As such it is important that such schemes are reduced to a price competitive with the alternatives. It is likely that at first this will need to be done through the use of subsidies or other assistance provided by governments. I personally feel that it will be very important for the UK government to support these schemes to improve the renewable energy industry in the UK. This is an area of great potential, and so there is the potential to have a major UK deep water wind energy industry in the UK, which could potentially result in an international industry being based in the UK. The UK already has a head-start on many other countries, as it has companies already involved such as Blue H and a well developed offshore oil and gas industry, not to mention the great number of potential sites. However, it is important that this initial benefit isn't lost, and so I would urge the UK government to assist this nascent industry in any way possible.

Wind turbines cause lifestock deaths?

Accoridng to a BBC news article, there is another problem with wind turbines. According to a Taiwanese farmer many of his goats have died due to lack of sleep because of excessive turbine noise.

My fear is that this will prove to be another issue which is used against UK wind farms in planning. At present wind farms in the UK have problems with planning due to noise and this may make thing worse, especially as the land around wind farms is often used for grazing. Whilst it is unlikely that the risk of livestock deaths will solely be used as grounds for rejecting a wind farm there is the chance that it will further encourage protestors. However, there are a few things which may mitigate this risk. As far as I am aware, this is not a recognised problem so far in the UK. In addition, many farmers earn quite handsomly from wind turbines on their land, and so this extra income will more than make up for the potential loss of grazing land. As such, I believe the majority of farmers will not bother too much about this latest 'problem', with the only farmers who vociferously object being those who don't get any financial incentive from having windfarms (for example tenant farmers and those who's land borders win farms).

Vestas Closing Isle of Wight Factory

You may have realised that the Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas have announced a raft of job losses worldwide, including the closure of the factory on the Isle of Wight which employs 450 people and more details on this can be found on the BBC.

Whilst I realise that this is a business decision, one has to ask why this has been done. Despite the credit crunch, there is still demand for wind turbines in the UK. At the same stage, recent currency fluctuations have made foreign manufactured turbines much more expensive. As such, it would be expected that the plant should be financially viable, and so it has been suggested that the only reason it is not is due to the UK having a regulatory environment which isn't as generous as that in other countries. This is a view I would also subscribe to, and this is why I have signed a petition addressed to the Prime Minister, asking that chnages be made, and I would urge you to do it as well.

World's first wave energy farm in uncharted waters

In today's Guardian there is an article on the Aguçadoura wave farm in Portugal. This has been billed as the world's first offshore wave farm, and consists of 3 Pelamis wave energy devices. However, the project has had a number of teething problems. At present all three devices have been towed ashore for repairs, although this would probably be expected with such a new and innovative scheme.

However, there has been another setback for the project in recent days. The parent company of the Portuguese utility which owns the wave farm has gone into administration due to lack of credit, linked directly to the credit crunch. Many of the assests of the company, including the Aguçadoura wave farm, are now up for sale. However, until the project has been sold, the repairs on the devices can not be carried out which leads to a Catch 22 as it is unlikely that there will be much interest in a new technology that currently needs repairs, especially in the current economic climate.

As such I feel that there should be some sort of intervention, possibly by the gorvernments of Portugal, UK or the EU to allow repairs to be carried out on the devices and get them back in the water as soon as possible to demonstrate the economics of such devices. This is especially important for the UK as Pelamis is a UK based company and if the device is proven to be successful then Pelamis could be a major international company providing loads of jobs within the UK. Whilst the lack of progress on the Aguçadoura wave farm will not be fatal for the Pelamis device as there are other wave farms planned using this device, it will prove to be a major setback. This is why I would urge the government to see if there are any simple measures which they can do (finanical or otherwise) which will prove to be a cost effective way of getting the Aguçadoura wave farm back into action, and once again demonstrating the Pelamis wave device.

Related posts: More on wave energy

Solar photovoltaic grants stopped

I read today's Guardian with absolute despair. Up until recently it was possible for public buildings, such as schools, hospitals and museums to apply to the Department of Energy and Climate Change for grants to help cover part of the cost of the installation of renewable technologies. There was a funding of £50,000,000 for this, and it was split up into the various different technologies. However, recently the last of the money for solar photovoltaic systems was used up, and there will be no more funding until at least the summer.

This is even more amazing as the article goes on to say that there is excess money which was supposed to be used for other renewable technologies, but is unlikely to due to lack of demand.

This seems like madness to me, as one of the key goals of providing funding for grants is to improve the take-up of renewable schemes, thus providing jobs and hopefully leading to better efficiencies with the supply of these technologies, leading to lower costs to the consumer. However, as the grant supply has run out is likely that there will be a dramatic reduction in the installation of photovoltaic schemes, both because many schemes will now be classed as unviable whereas with a grant they were, and even those that are viable without a grant may be delayed until there is once a again more support. This will lead to a lot less demand for photovoltaic systems, and as a result many companies which deal with the supply of such technologies will need to reduce in size to survive, most likely through redundancies, which is the last thing that is needed in a recession. This will also likely to lead to a boom and bust cycle, as when the next round of financial support is provided there will be a lot of pent up demand, leading to a great need for companies to expand rapidly. In this rapid expansion process there is a chance of less reputable companies and individuals entering the business, which is damaging for the whole industry.

For these reasons, I personally feel that it is madness to stop the grants. Considering how much has been spent bailing out other industries, the required money needed to continue the grants until the summer is relatively nothing, and it will help to keep the green jobs revolution which politicians like to talk so much about going.

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Energy storage

I read with interest the other day about plans in northern Ireland for a relatively unique way of energy storage, and the first of it's kind within the UK. The plan would be to use cheap electricity to pump air into underground caverns. Then, when the electricity price increases, release this compress air through generators to produce electricity. In particular this will be useful as it will provide a good way of matching up electricity with electricity demand, which of course is one of the biggest problems with most forms of renewable electricity generation. This is not completely unproven technology, as there are also schemes in Germany and America, and so presumably there is less risk.

I also see another potential economic benefit of such energy storage schemes - as the energy is generally stored at peak output this means there will be less need for expensive grid works. For example, if a wind farm would normally produce a peak output of 30MW, and do so for a third of the time and for the other two thirds of the time under a conventional scheme where all eletricity is pumped straight into the grid, the local grid will need to be able to cope with 30MW of extra generation. However, if an energy storage scheme is used, the output could be changed to 10MW all of the time, meaning less has to be spent on grid re-inforcement and there will be greater predictability in production, meaning less need for back-up generators.

The only issue will be whether such storage schemes will qualify for ROCs, and if so at what rate.

Wave Energy

At the present time UK companies are arguably world leaders in wave energy conversion technologies. These include companies such as Pelamis. However, it is clear that in terms of offshore facilities there is a risk that the UK will be left behind. The European Marine Energy Centre is based off of the coast of Scotland, and was and still is at the forefront of wave energy device testing. However this is most suited for prototype devices, and now many of these devices are past this and on to the demonstration or commercial stages.

There have been plans for a while to give the UK the advantage at the next phase of the development process by setting up a project known as Wave Hub off of the Cornish coast which would be a site suited for the demonstration of commercial scale devices. However, this has been delayed several times, and as a result other similar schemes elsewhere in the world are catching up fast.

This may not appear to be a big problem, but there is the risk that many of these UK based companies will relocate to where the assistance given to them is more suitable, such as Portugal where the government has provided enough assistance to allow commercial wave farms to be operational. This will result in many jobs within the industry going abroad, and should the wave industry grow to be as big as the wind industry the number of jobs could be in the tens of thousands. Thus the UK is not grasping the opportunity to create a new industry, unlike what Denmark did with the wind industry 20 years ago - and that led to Vestas being the world leader in wind turbine manufacture.

However, the UK wave energy industry could be assisted in three ways. Firstly there needs to be funding released immediately for not only Wave Hub but further similar schemes around the UK coastline. Secondly, there needs to be improvements to the planning regulations to allow wave farms to be built easier. Finally, the price paid for electricity should be increased. Ideally this should be done with a tariff mechanism with a price per unit for electricity produced to be guaranteed for the lifetime of the project to reduce investment risk. However, it is more likely that the UK government will prefer to continue with the renewables obligation system, and as such there should be an increased number of ROCs given per unit of wave energy generated.

Coal Energy Decision Delayed Yet Again

I read in today's Guardian that the decision on whether to give Kingsnorth the go ahead has been delayed yet again whilst a further review of UK coal use is carried out. This has to be good news for the UK renewable industry as it brings uncertainties to the alternatives, although it is not yet the ideal situation for the UK renewable industry. That will come when the government finally decide against any new coal powered plants and their massive CO2 emissions and instead do everything they can to encourage the uptake and large scale use of renewables.

The Severn Barrage

The Severn Barrage is a big project planned for the Severn estuary between England and Wales. It is a massive project, and an overview of the history and plans are given here.

It is my personal opinion that with such a large resource it would be foolish not to utilise it to generate renewable electricity. The main disadvantage against a Severn Barrage would be the environmental impact on the tidal area. I feel that it is likely that without this scheme there will be much more damage to the environment from global warming. However, it is important that the changes to the tidal mudflats are minimised as much as possible. For this reason I feel that the best option would be for a barrage from near Brean Down to Lavernock Point in south Wales. However, it would be my own personal idea that the environmental impacts of a barrage could be minimilised by allowing the barrage to spend periods where it doesn't interfere with the natural flows of the river/tides. For example, it is likely that there will be times when the barrage would be able to generate maximum output at times in the middle of the night etc when there is minimum demand. As such at these times I would propose that no generation is allowed, and the river is allowed to flow naturally.

In addition, if the barrage is given the go-ahead I would like compensatory schemes elsewhere for birdlife. This could involve the use of land elsewhere which was previously mudflats, such as the Norfolk Broads, being allowed to revert back to their natural state.

Any comments?

Nuclear power

There has been a lot of debate recently about whether there is a need for new nuclear power within the UK. I believe it would be possible to get away with no new nuclear power stations if the vast array of different renewable technologies were properly utilised, and this includes not only wind, but wave, tidal, biomass, energy from waste, hydropower and solar.

However, it looks like it will not be possible to reach the necessary point where renewable energy sources are able to produce enough power for the UK, and even with drastic changes to policy it is still unlikely. Thus, it seems like the only option is to either create new fossil fuelled plants, or new nuclear. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. In an ideal world, gas would be used as it releases relatively little in the way of carbon emissions and it is flexible. However the UK's gas reserves are dwindling at a very quick rate, and so there is increasingly the need to rely on overseas gas. This has it's own problems, as the recent dispute between Russia and Ukraine shows, and so there is the need to find an alternative. Of the two non-renewable alternatives to gas there is coal or nuclear. Obviously nuclear has a radiation risk, but new coal plants like that planned for Kingsnorth in Kent emits massive amounts of carbon emissions, and so I would class new nuclear plants to be the lesser of two evils.

If you have comments post below.

Electricty generating speed bumps

Due to today's lack of major stories relating to the renewable energy sector in the UK I thought I would give my opinion on a story I read in the Guardian last weekend. This article dealt with a new idea to generate electricity using the kinetic energy in traffic by utilising updated speed bumps. This seems like a very good idea on the face of it.

However, one has to question where these will be sited. It is a fact of physics that energy cannot be created or destroyed, and so the energy from the electricity will have to come from the vehicles passing over the new devices. As such the vehicle will lose energy (presumably in the form of speed) whilst it travels over the speed bump, and so if the driver wishes to maintain the speed it will need to increase fuel consumption. As a result there is the potential that siting these will result in increased fuel usage in the vehicles to allow the electricity to be generated. It would also be the case that this would be a very inefficient way of generating electricity, since the internal combustion engine in the vehicle is less efficient than even fuel oil fed conventional power stations, and on top of this there are the inefficiencies in associated within the speed bump.

I do appreciate however that since the idea of a speed bump is to slow the traffic down this could be a good thing, especially if the bumps were tuned so that they only took energy out of the traffic when it was above a certain speed. In these cases it would be good, and for this reason i could see these being particularly useful in areas where braking is happening, such as at the bottom of long hills and also on stretches of roads where it can be determined the drivers will slow down after the speed bumps.

No windfarm UFO strike

According to Ecotricity it turns out that the UFO damage to the wind turbine which was so sensationally reported on the front page of The Sun as well as many other international news sources wasn't done by an extraterrestrial body after all. According to Dale Vince, the MD of Ecotricity, this damage was in fact more likely a result of metal fatigue. The turbine manufacturers are currently looking at the damage to try and determine exactly what caused it. Whilst all the other turbines have been checked and have been given a clean bill of health, I can't help but wonder what sort of effect this well publicised failure will have on future wind energy projects throughout the UK. I can imagine the anti-wind lobby is already looking how best to use this to their advantage and I personally wouldn't be surprised if this incident is used to object to new wind power generation applications, particularly those involving Enercon and Ecotricty.

More information can be found on the Ecotricty website and the BBC website.

Shock news - a civil servent with sense!

I read in today's Telegraph that the head of the UK's Environment Agency, Lord Smith proposes that more should be done to increase the use of renewable energy on public land. His proposals include fitting all public buildings with solar PV and solar heat technology, making sure all new public buildings have the minimum environmental impact possible, and the use of vacant public land for the siting of wind turbines where practical.

Whilst his proposals would be relatively costly, I believe it will have multiple benefits for the country. Firstly it will reduce the carbon emisions through decreased use of fossil fuels, which would also help tthe balance of payments at the national level. Secondly, it is likely that at least part of this new equipment will be constructed within the UK creating and safeguarding jobs at this time of economic woe, with further jobs being created at the installation stage. Linked to this, such a large procurement of such technologies may help in reducing their cost through increased unit production, and therefore greater efficiency. Finally such a scheme will prove to be an example that such radical changes can be done (as has already been proved elsewhere), which will hopefully encourage greater uptake of renewable technologies within the private sector.

The original article can be found here.


This is a new blog which has been created with the sole purpose of informing people of the major changes affecting renewable energy within the UK, as well as my personal opinion on these occurances. In addition there will also be my views on the renewable energy which I come across.

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