This is a bit of an unusual post for this blog. It is a response to a post on another blog, which is itself a response to a first post on the wonderful Subrosa's blog. Rosie's article was prompted by the publication of a paper on wind power economics, which we will return to.
In what is fast becoming a Republic tradition we will interleave the original text in black, with our comments in green. It would probably be easier if you were to go to the original two posts and read them in their entirety first.
Done that? Good, let's go...
Thank you for writing your recent piece on the perceived benefits of wind farms. It has given me the impetus to write this reply which I hope will counter many of the points you raised. I am writing it mainly from memory but can provide references and citations for anything if needed. There are many topics being covered here and their treatment will necessarily be cursory - more detailed arguments will need to wait.
"Rosie there are permanent jobs being created in the renewable industry in Scotland, I know because family members are amongst the numbers working for a German company that is building renewable energy schemes in Scotland. And they are quality jobs with very good salaries and pensions. You either believe that or you do not. eg. Whitlee as I said does not run by itself. Yes the turbines were built in Denmark. Yes they were transported to KG5 by a Danish boat. Yes they were then transported to Whitlee by Danish trucks. But the construction and maintenance of this site is creating jobs for local people. Downstream the knock on is that the local economy benefits."
Yes, there are permanent jobs being created and some of them are probably quite well paid. However, the overall number of jobs is tiny and the main financial gain for any community local to these power stations is the so-called "community benefit" paid by the power companies as a sweetener. In our area the behaviour of one of the power companies has led some locals to consider complaining to the police under the terms of the Bribery Act. A recent declaration by that famous Spanish company ScottishPowerRenewables that extending Whitelee by 15 turbines would bring 60 jobs is just risible. Research reports in both the UK and Spain (possibly also Germany) have shown that the real eceonomy loses between two and four jobs for every subsidised job "created" in the renewable energy sector.
"I am as disgusted as any one that these turbines had to come from Denmark in to KG5 on a Danish boat, right next door to Fairfields aka BAE Govan who are building machines of war for the UK. A direct result of Scotlands industrial policy being influenced from London for far to long. Alex Salmonds stated aim of re industrialising Scotland is viable and good. We need to reverse the carnage of years of Thatcherism. We should be building turbines and wave machines and tidal turbines and boats to service these Scottish renewable generation schemes , not machines to invade foreign sovereign countries and kill their people to take their resources."
It may surprise you to know that not that long ago Scotland was a world leader in the manufacture of wind turbines. In the 1970's and 1980's James Howden & Co of Glasgow made thousands of industrial turbines and exported nearly all of them. I know this because our family engineering firm made much of the hydraulics that went along with them, so whenever you look at pictures of the massive wind farms in the Altamonte Pass in California you are looking at things that came out of Glasgow and a wee village in Lanarkshire. From memory, Howden ran into trouble with blade flexing and fracture - the sort of problem that often besets pioneers in technology - that took them out of the business completely.
"It is disgusting and it is a direct result of us being in union with a country that sees us only as a means to gather more power, money and strength to London using our resources. The Olympics were the most blatant example of that greed and anti Scottish avarice to date. Great for the few Scots who were able to travel to England to enjoy training in the English facilities, which we in Scotland should and will have now after seeing that. God bless the Olympic athletes they deserve their success and glory but Scotland has the right to have our own, as does Hong Kong."
"Back to renewables, I urge you to read the report on this site on nuclear power. http://tiny.cc/mvu2iw It highlights exactly what I said. Nuclear power is the most expensive means on earth of boiling water. It is shrouded in secrecy and inextricably linked to WMDs, which is why the SNP is ideologically opposed to it. Dounreay will be a no go area for humans for ever as it will have waste stored there and the ground will forever be contaminated, as will Sandside beach which they have now given up trying to clean. If renewables get even 1% of the money we have all paid for nuclear since the 50s they will prevail, and prosper. It takes people with courage and vision to buck the nuclear trend as they are a very powerful lobby and pressure group who are deeply embedded in London. I also firmly believe that they assassinate people. See http://tiny.cc/i6u2iw"
The report on nuclear power that you mention comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organisation that apparently exists solely to promote climate change alarmism. Its membership requirements are famously lax, and they include at least one dog as a paid-up "concerned scientist". To counter that, could I please point you towards the paper mentioned in Rosie's blog(when the GWPF website comes back), written by a genuine scientist, that shows that wind generation can never be economical.
Nuclear generation does not always involve boiling water, although every method of electrical generation does have to drive a dynamo at some point. Some nuclear generators use liquid metals, some a gas such as helium, but most are, as you say, just big kettles. Exactly like every other thermal method. The nuclear power industry is not shrouded in much more than commercial secrecy now, mainly because of the large amount of public scrutiny that blogs such as ours can produce. Neither is it inextricably linked with WMDs - most modern power stations are incapable of producing plutonium or enrichable uranium and some can even consume nuclear warhead material, making the world that little bit cleaner and safer. Dounreay is being decontaminated and will be safe for humans because the waste will be stored below ground until it is removed for ultimate disposal, possibly in one of those generators I mentioned earlier.
I hadn't heard of Sandside Bay before but it didn't take much research to discover that the clean-up there is still ongoing and will be for some time. There is a highly detailed list of all particles found - just 217 since 1984, or about one every nine weeks on average . The most active particle found was measured at 50,000 Becquerels, which sounds a lot until you realise that at a distance of one metre it produced a dose equivalent to about 0.003 μSv. This is about the same dosage as you would get from eating about a thirtieth of a banana (my calculations, please check). Given that in an independent Scotland we will have no nuclear weapons, I doubt that the government will require the disguised plutonium plants that many of our old power stations were.
"There is not one shred of evidence, (except Trumps bizzare, "I am the evidence") that we are damaging tourism, quite the opposite in fact. Not one shred of evidence that house prices are affected. I firmly believe we are very close to solving the base load problem for wind turbines. Consider the following statement. " Scottish & Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD), working with industrial gases and clean energy technologies business BOC, will develop an integrated ‘whole hydrogen’ system which can harness wind energy to produce and store hydrogen that is then used as fuel for the bus fleet, as well as for generating electricity at times of peak demand." http://tiny.cc/5kv2iw
"We are very close to the point where wind energy can and will be stored as hydrogen. Global companies like BMW, Honda and Diahatsu, have working fuel cell cars on the road right now. These companies are not building these cars for fun. All that comes out of the exhaust is water vapour. Hydrogen is less dangerous than petrol as countless test have proven, see them on You Tube or Google. Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, unlike uranium. It can be produced harvested and stored without causing pollution, unlike uranium. And it along with free wind and tidal energy is our future. The nukes are very worried for very good reason."
Trump is a blow-hard but even blow-hards are sometimes right. I am not yet aware of any empirical evidence regarding tourism but I do know that many people who know about and care for our most precious asset - our land - are very worried: see this report from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland as an example. Turbines are garganutuan industrial installations in our most scenic rural locations and bring sound and motion to otherwise undisturbed places. The only saving grace is that their load factors are so low (generally 17%-25%) they are not moving too often.
House prices? The value of my own house is depressed by the prospect of a range of 420-foot high turbines on the ridge behind, and one of my friends is worried about having to leave hers because of the forest of turbines that will soon surround it.
We reached the point where we could store energy as hydrogen a couple of hundred years ago; it's nothing new. However it is inefficient and expensive, and not something you would normally create generating capacity for. That will probably change once cold fusion nuclear power is available. Hydrogen is a good fuel for tranportation, but using current technology to create it for electricity generation is just stupid. It also means that we would need to reverse the current policy of keeping thermal plants running as a back-up for wind.
As an aside, I own a small company that makes machines to generate hydrogen from water. They are in use all over the world, every day. Cracking water is not difficult but it is expensive and can be very dirty.
"Finally you mention the decommissioning of a wind turbine. Compare the annual costs at the moment of Dounreay which is being decommissioned and will take decades. Even then it will still be a hazard and off limits to you and me. On 1 April 2005 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) became the owner of the site, with the UKAEA remaining as operator. Decommissioning of Dounreay is planned to bring the site to an interim care and surveillance state by 2036, and as a brownfield site by 2336, at a total cost of £2.9 billion. ( That has predictably increased, to over £3bn.) Please read further and see the scale of the problem and the appalling history, this is just one wee plant. Now consider this? If tomorrow Whitlee was told to decommission, do you really think it would take that amount of money and effort and time to recycle the metal towers and cable, and take out the foundations and restore the landscape? There would be a local out cry if they tried to put that land back to what it was. It is now regarded as a great recreation area that thousands, including me, use every month. Mountain biking walking running and education tours for school children."
Once Dounreay is decomissioned it will not be off limits to anyone, by definition. It will take a while, but that is mainly because of operating standards that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s and that are considered woefully inadequate now. Whitelee, and every other windfarm in the world, will never be fully decommissioned. All of the superstructures - the turbines, blades and masts can be removed and recycled and the access roads can be bulldozed back to a more "natural" aspect. But the peat that was destroyed will take centuries to re-establish, and natural watercourse will be moved forever. And every single mast is built on top of a 1,000 tonne block of highly alkaline concrete which will be left to pollute the naturally acidic peat until Hell freezes over (which it will do if Beelzebub installs wind turbines to power his furnaces). That's 140,000 tonnes of concrete buried just in the hills above Eaglesham. Until the end of time.
Whitelee was a recreational area long before the turbines arrived: they have now disrupted the bleak peace of an area I and my family used to walk in and enjoy many years ago.
"The future is wind, tidal, hydro, and hydrogen Rosie. Whether we are in man made global warming or not, we need to treat the planet with more respect and stop leaving poison and filth for our kids to clean up. It is an industry whose time has come, and Scotland is perfectly placed geographically and politically to rebuild our country on it. I say, well done SNP. Their vision is clear and concise unlike the view through the London prism which we had forced on us previously."
Wind is useless - too intermittent and not sufficiently energy dense to be a viable base load. Tidal has enormous potential, but also enormous engineering challenges and Scotland has already thrown away a world lead in this technology. We are already exploting most of our hydro capacity. The future is coal, gas (natural and shale), hydrogen, synthetic diesel and a handful of other technologies. The mad single-minded emphasis on wind power is the way that ignorant politicians make it look as if "something is being done". The SNP have done many good things and I fully support their headline aim of independence for Scotland. But in this instance they have shown themselves to be driven by a tabloid agenda just as much as any other bunch of professional opportunists. I will return to this in a future post, where I will put forward the proposition that the SNP are possibly one of the major obstacles to the achievement of Scottish independence.
Sorry KBW, but wind-powered generation of electricity is an expensive, useless irrelevance.
Updated 1/11/12 to fix the link to KBW's post.