Archive for November 2011
Blogger beloved of climate deniers gets his comeuppance on Horizon
Delingpole links mainstream scientific projections with “the atavistic impulse which leads generation after generation to believe it is the chosen one: the generation so special that it and it alone will be the one privileged to experience the end of the world; and the generation so egotistical that it imagines itself largely responsible for that imminent destruction”.
In a BBC Horizon documentary, Delingpole responds to the argument offered by Paul Nurse that there is a scientific consensus about global warming by asserting that the very idea of a consensus is unscientific. In response to the criticism that he has no background in the sciences he claimed that as a journalist “it is not my job” to read peer reviewed papers, his role is to be “an interpreter of interpretations”. During the interview, he reportedly requested the interview to be terminated and complained about being “intellectually raped” by interviewer Sir Paul Nurse, the President of The Royal Society and the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner.
Here’s a couple of our favourite bits where Nurse puts Delingpole in his place:
Voices from the frontline of climate change
When a Billion Chinese Jump is a stunning and eye-opening travelogue that takes the reader from the Tibetan Plateau to Inner Mongolia via tiger farms, melting glaciers, cancer villages, science parks, coal mines , eco-cities and a Barbie Emporium. Watts’ superb journalistic style allows the reader to witness the climax of two hundred years of industrialisation and urbanisation close up and in glorious technicolour, playing at fast-forward on a continent-wide screen.
Divided into sixteen compelling chapters each based on a different region of China and each dealing with another aspect of the complex environmental and social issues facing her people , each section balances hard, often jaw-dropping, facts and figures with interesting, often amusing and compassionate, accounts of individual lives and interviews. The result is a persuasive, highly educational book which uses human interest stories from the grass roots to bring the issues to life.
China has been performing massive experiments on its environment for many decades. Its river systems are the most highly regulated, dammed and engineered in the world. Its industrial pollution, smog and creeping desertification are quite literally eye-watering. The meteoric rise in living standards for hundreds of billions of people is breathtaking. A choking dependence on coal sits side by side with world-leading green technologies.
Watts puts this all in its historical context, from the peasant culture of rural China to Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ and on to the complex present day mix of state communism and rampant free enterprise, sensitively teasing out the cultural strands that bind and shape China’s actions. He sees Cthe country’s role as utterly crucial to the future of the planet.
“The planet’s problems were not made in China,” Watts writes, “but they are sliding past the point of no return here.”
China has now overtaken the US as the world’s biggest emitter of carbon, although its per-capita emissions are still far lower. Large swathes of her landscape are utterly destroyed by out of control industrialisation in pursuit of growth, but at the same time China boasts more installed wind and solar capacity than any other country, has the biggest high speed rail network, and is pioneering green technologies from carbon capture and storage to electric vehicles.
‘When a Billion Chinese Jump’ is a compelling, immensely readable and well-researched journey that carries the reader to the heart of the Chinese dilemma. The world’s biggest country is at the pivot point of rapid climate change, caught between playing catch-up with the West or re-interpreting the future and leading humanity out of the smog - and apparently determined to do both.
BWEA Briefing on UK Wind Capacity Factors
Many critics of wind energy focus on the perceived ‘efficiency’ of wind turbines and suggest that the technology underperforms against expectations. This is very much a ‘glass half-empty rather than half-full’ approach.
The capacity factor of any power plant is the percentage of generation of its generation against its theoretical maximum output. It is unrealistic to expect any power plant to operate permanently at 100% of its capacity, and in the case of wind energy, where there are no fuel costs, capacity factor is not a reliable measure of productivity.
If taken in isolation, capacity factor is an irrelevant statistic. A wind turbine with a 2 megawatt (MW) generator installed could be power limited to 1 MW; calling this a 1 MW machine, the capacity factor would go up from an average 30% to around 50%. The turbine however would deliver less energy, displace less carbon and have the same energy cost and environmental impact to build.
The UK has one of the best wind regimes in the world and has considerably higher capacity factors than many of the European countries where wind already makes a significant contribution to electricity supplies.
The Digest of UK Energy Statistics, compiled annually by the Department of Trade and Industry, reports an average capacity factor for onshore wind of 28.2% in 2005. This compares favourably with the commonly applied industry average of 30% and is expected to improve year on year as greater numbers of modern wind turbines are brought online. Wind turbine technology is improving with each new model produced, and tower heights are increasing, giving higher capacity factors than with smaller older machines on small towers.
It is a well established industry fact that wind turbines located in built-up areas will generate less electricity than their more windswept counterparts, but it is important not trivialise turbines such as those installed at factories or company headquarters, and providing part or all of their electricity needs: this is carbon-free generation which incurs no additional transmission or distribution charges, and also has additional value in hedging against rising power prices.
The simple fact that the wind doesn’t blow all the time also gives rise to other criticisms of the technology; namely wind’s variability and system instability, with various claims made of system back up and plant on stand by needed to accommodate less windy periods.
Wind turbines in fact generate electricity for 70-85% of the time, and a report from the Environmental Change Institute research team at Oxford University, the first methodical investigation of Britain’s wind resource, shows that there has never been a time over the past 35 years when the entire country has been without wind, and that the wind always blows strongly enough to generate electricity somewhere in Britain. The study also showed that wind tends to blow more strongly when demand is highest, during the day and winter months.
The UK Energy Research Council stated in their report The Costs and Impacts of Intermittency that 100% ‘back up’ for individual renewable sources is definitely not needed. The extra capacity required is very small and only a small part of the total cost of renewables. It is possible to work out what is needed and plan accordingly. Similarly none of the 200+ studies UKERC reviewed suggested that the introduction of significant levels of intermittent renewable energy would lead to reduced reliability.
Even for wind power to provide 10% of our nation’s electricity needs, only a small amount of additional conventional back-up would be required, in the region of 300-500 MW. This would add only 0.2 pence per kilowatt hour to the generation cost of wind energy and would not in any way threaten the security of the grid.
Various commentators from the International Energy Agency to National Grid themselves have frequently said that there are no technical issues associated with accommodating larger amounts of wind generation into electricity systems, and in the case of the UK, National Grid report that the impact of accommodating wind is unlikely to become a significant issue until wind generates over 20% of total electricity supply.
As the UK approaches the landmark of 2 gigawatts of installed wind power plant, the most important consideration is that this is a carbon-free source of generation which is entirely sustainable, contributes significantly to the UK’s energy security and Government targets for renewables, and is leading the way in establishing a long-term market for the other renewable technologies to enter in due course.
Reproduced with permission from RenewableUK
Scotland’s first geothermal power station could be built near Aberdeen
Aberdeen’s fabled granite bedrock could become the North-East’s newest energy source. Scientists believe that suitably high temperatures exist several miles underground in the so-called ‘Energetica’ development corridoor between Aberdeen and Peterhead, and also in other locations near Inverurie and Stonehaven.
Normally the temperature four miles underground would be about 150deg C, but granite holds the heat longer. According to geologists this may be accounted for by radioactive minerals within granite giving off heat as they decay. This means that temperatures as high as 210deg C could be found at these depths – and of course the North-East has the drilling technology available locally to reach this hot rock.
A major study is now being set up, funded by Scottish Enterprise, to look into the possibility of building a test plant somewhere between Aberdeen and Peterhead. The geothermal power plant would be part of the Energetica project, which is designed to help consolidate Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire’s position as a global energy hub by creating a 30-mile corridor between Aberdeen and Peterhead which will be home to energy technology companies, housing and leisure facilities.
Energetica project director Sara Budge said:
“As part of our quest to make Energetica a world-class, all-energy destination, we are exploring various avenues for generating renewable energy in the corridor which stretches north from the Bridge of Don up to Peterhead and west to Aberdeen Airport.
“Geothermal is one source we are considering. We have just issued a tender to appoint an appropriate organisation to undertake a feasibility study into the potential for geothermal heat generation within Energetica but also in other locations across Aberdeenshire.”
Lower grid charges for remote areas would boost renewables
Ofgem is about to present draft proposals that would reduce transmission charges from the North and West of Scotland and the islands, greatly increasing the viability of large-scale renewable generating projects in the area.
Currently electricity producers have to pay “locational” transmission charges based on the distance between where power is generated and where it is used. Generators in the north of Scotland face the highest charges in the UK of around £21.58 per kiloWatt hour whereas in London a power provider actually gets a subsidy of £6.9 per kWh, according to government figures. The current charging system therefore severely prejudices the viability of big renewables projects like the proposed Viking Energy windfarm in Shetland.
The report is being produced for Ofgem by specialist energy consultancy Redpoint Energy as part of the agency’s ongoing Project TransmiT independent review of the charging arrangements for gas and electricity transmission networks. According to Scotland on Sunday it will go out for consultation next month. It is anticipated that the report will recommend rebalancing transmission costs to reduce or eliminate the discrepancy in transmission charges across the country. This would give a huge boost to the development of large-scale renewables projects in the North and West of Scotland.
Another likely effect of an equalisation of transmission charges across the country is that it will remove the financial advantage for nuclear new build in the South while increasing investment in all types of generation further North.
Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, welcomed the news of the report but emphasised that these were still draft proposals and said the impact on grid access fees for the Scottish islands was unclear.
Ofgem is expected to announce the new transmission charges regime some time around the middle of 2012.