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« Science by Lucia, cartoon by Josh - 173 | Main | Bury before publishing - Josh 172 »
Tuesday
Jun122012

New Commons inquiry: wind power

The House of Commons Committee on Energy and Climate Change has announced that it is to hold an inquiry into the economics of wind power.

The Committee is particularly interested in the following, although written submission need not address all, of be confined to, these questions:

  • What do cost benefit analyses tell us about onshore and offshore wind compared with other measures to cut carbon?
  • What do the latest assessments tell us about the costs of generating electricity from wind power compared to other methods of generating electricity?
  • How do the costs of onshore wind compare to offshore wind?
  • What are the costs of building new transmission links to wind farms in remote areas and how are these accounted for in cost assessments of wind power?
  • What are the costs associated with providing back up capacity for when the wind isn’t blowing, and how are these accounted for in cost assessments of wind power?
  • How much support does wind power receive compared with other forms of renewable energy?
  • Is it possible to estimate how much consumers pay towards supporting wind power in the UK? (i.e. separating out from other renewables)
  • What lessons can be learned from other countries?
  • What methods could be used to make onshore wind more acceptable to communities that host them?

Looks like policy-based evidence making to me.

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Reader Comments (79)

It's 2012. The Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, committing us to the most costly programme ever legislated in our history. Now they want to examine the economics!

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Yes, all very nice and irrelevant, but what does the EU say we MUST do?

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohnbuk

Well, if they really address those questions seriously, wind is deader than a very dead Dodo. Or am I failing to read between the lines correctly?

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

The last question reveals the true intent of the inquiry, "What methods could be used to make onshore wind more acceptable to communities that host them?

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

As Pharos says. Surely these questions should have been raised - and answered - years ago.

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Crawford

Tim Yeo, MP, is in the Chair.

Expect the conclusion to be " We are getting it about right".

Then in ten years time the lights will start to go out on still winter nights.

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

"Ready; Fire; Aim" comes to mind.
No mention of decommissioning or the impact on wildlife and will the cost assessments look at lifetime operating costs?

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

Will the inquiry also be examining the science behind perpetual motion machines?

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

A blackwash in the making.

"What do cost benefit analyses tell us about onshore and offshore wind compared with other measures to cut carbon?"

Surely, the first question should be, "Why do we need to cut carbon?"

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterEl Sabio

This is a pretty good question!

■What are the costs associated with providing back up capacity for when the wind isn’t blowing, and how are these accounted for in cost assessments of wind power?

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

"Looks like policy-based evidence making to me."

I normally understand sacrasm, but in this case I don't understand it.
The questions look reasonably neutral to me with the exception of the last one?

Jun 13, 2012 at 12:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

Percentage of energy by wind into UK grid when I posted this:

0.6%

http://www.bmreports.com/bsp/bsp_home.htm

Jun 13, 2012 at 12:52 AM | Registered CommenterAndy Scrase

I heard that the biggest eco-crucifixes draw power from the grid when the wind isn't blowing, to power measures to prevent frost buildup and fatigue.

I also heard that this power is unmetered and therefore not factored into their 'efficiency'.

Is this true?

Jun 13, 2012 at 1:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

Why do I get the impression that the skeptics are a small inconsequential minority left further and further behind in the affairs of man.

Jun 13, 2012 at 1:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Steiner

It could be a hard fight, they have the Bishops behind them (present company excepted)

Jun 13, 2012 at 1:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:00 PM | Jack Savage "Tim Yeo, MP, is in the Chair."

In this article at the Telegraph he is suggesting that bribing people is the way to gain acceptance of local wind farms.

"Mr Yeo said that not enough has been done to deliver clear benefits for residents from wind farms.

He said: "[What] we have to do is work harder to find places where wind farms are acceptable but also, secondly, as this is what we're not yet doing, be more creative about sharing some of the benefits directly with those local communities. Frankly, we need to be prepared to bribe them."

Last year, the Coalition proposed cutting the subsidy for onshore wind farms, which comes from household power bills, by 10 per cent.

It also emerged that the Chancellor is pushing for subsidies to be cut by up to 25 per cent."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/9311365/Bribe-residents-to-accept-wind-turbines-says-Tim-Yeo-MP.html

Jun 13, 2012 at 2:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

Rather than pulling random questions out of the air, wouldn't a simple yet all-encompassing cost-benefit analysis do the trick? If they needed some guidance, I'm sure GE or some other engineering firm could provide them with an example and perhaps lend them a template. BTW, I don't see any questions about human suffering or damage to the environment and wildlife such as birds and bats.

Jun 13, 2012 at 3:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterB.O.B.

I am not knowledgeable enough about UK politics to understand the wheels-within-wheels behind this inquiry, but except for the last question, a competent consultant (or a couple of the regular contributors to BH with interest in this area) could put together the answers to those questions in a couple of weeks. The questions have been extensively discussed for years, and there is masses of data (much of it from the UK government's own agencies) which is publicly available that addresses them.

So why the expensive, lengthy process? Could one of the UK political mavens here provide some insight?

Jun 13, 2012 at 3:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

Jun 13, 2012 at 1:24 AM | George Steiner
"Why do I get the impression that the skeptics are a small inconsequential minority left further and further behind in the affairs of man."

Why do I get the impression you have no idea what your talking about. :)
This "minority" is helping science advance...there are many more examples..try this new thing called..google..
http://climateaudit.org/2012/06/08/gergis-et-al-put-on-hold/

Jun 13, 2012 at 4:43 AM | Unregistered Commentermike williams

@Jake Haye: Windfarms drawing power when not producing it - it will be metered and will show as negative production, but I think they will only draw very occasionally depending on weather conditions.

Jun 13, 2012 at 5:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

However, moai construction consumed a lot of resources, particularly wood, for transport and energy. By 1650, the last tree had been felled. By the time Europeans arrived on the island’s shores in 1722, the number of Easter Islanders had fallen dramatically, and they had been reduced to wars and cannibalism.

I wonder how far down this same track the UK government's ego-driven moai project will take the country...

Jun 13, 2012 at 5:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

The sad thing about this is that they seem to make the assumption that reducing UK carbon emissions is a worthwhile policy goal. Why is it?

If the UK were to totally stop all carbon emissions tomorrow, the effect on global warming would be so small as to be unmeasurable.

You'd have to argue that in some way the indirect effect of the UK making heroic reductions would affect global warming. The only possible way is perhaps that others, the ones that matter, China and India, will be moved by our example to follow suit.

There is no evidence whatever that they will. They are more likely to just shake their heads, think we have gone mad, and export to the rest of the world.

Its all a bit academic, since there is anyway no way that we will be able to make the carbon emission reductions the Act calls for. Its just not going to happen. So the thousands of turbines really will be reminiscent of Diamond's probably mistaken account of the Easter Island statues - a monumental waste of much needed resources on a totally useless and even counter productive project.

Jun 13, 2012 at 6:34 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

In the absence of very substantial hydroelectric capacity, all windmills do to save carbon dioxide emissions is to change the standby from coal to natural gas. Including construction costs, they increase emissions when they produce more than~10% of the instantaneous grid demand.

Jun 13, 2012 at 6:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

johanna: I first realised the stupidity of the UK windmills in 2001 when heading to the house of commons to hear Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, history and psychology graduate. I was waylaid by FoE and it was clear they knew no science or technology.

The 2003 Energy White Paper proposed the 'distributed windmill' power station. It does not and cannot work. In late 2007, David King then Chief Scientist forced ex-seaman and waiter John Prescott to accept his folly and new central power stations were agreed.

What we have had a coup d'etat using windmills to establish top down control under the cover of the fake CAGW scare. It's anti-technocracy - ignorant people keeping professionals out of the loop.

Jun 13, 2012 at 6:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

Crimes against humanity: "are particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings.

There is nothing funny about a clown in the dark!

Jun 13, 2012 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

That's one of the things I love about you BH, your optimism. Me, first I'd like to see who’s on the panel, second I have a funny feeling that it will state off-shore is super-duper wonderful.

But like I said your optimism is infectious.

Jun 13, 2012 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

All you need to know

Tim Yeo MP Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee

Register of Members’ Interests

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/tim_yeo/south_suffolk#register

Jun 13, 2012 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Simon Jun 13, 2012 at 5:42 AM
Windfarms drawing power when not producing it - it will be metered and will show as negative production, but I think they will only draw very occasionally depending on weather conditions.

You mean like today (and yesterday I think), current UK wind generated power 150MW (0.4%) about half of hydro.

Sandy Sinclair

Jun 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM AC1

Will the inquiry also be examining the science behind perpetual motion machines?
Are you joking? Not a hope. The topic is utterly taboo.

Jun 13, 2012 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterThyristor

Thyristor; taboo? It's the reason why the IPCC 'consensus' predicts CO2- AGW.....;o)

Jun 13, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

Is there anyone on this committee of the intellectual stature of Graham Stringer?

They have the EU behind them, the Climate Change Act, and, according to a recent doctored opinion poll, the public. So what are they worried about? As Streetcred points out, the only cloud on the horizon is the opposiiton of people living nearby.

Here’s my conspiracy theory. They’re worried that one day someone’s going to take a potshot at the things with an air rifle. At that point it becomes a question for the anti-terrorism unit; blogs will be monitored, computers confiscated, and they’re going to have a nasty backlash from their natural allies at the Mail and Telegraph.
I imagine His Grace has plans for going to ground at a secret hideout?

Jun 13, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Tim Yeo says “Government policy on wind power should be based on sound economics and engineering, not political pressure from a small vocal minority – whether that be green campaigners or anti-wind protestors.”

So why only ask those two groups, why not ask someone else for a change ?

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Yes it will be a whitewash.
Lets see if the fools can whitewash the coming blackouts.

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterc777

At least they are going to look into the economics of the Wind Turbine project. It gives the engineers, scientists and consultants who have looked into that an opportunity to influence the parliamentarians. There is some resistance already amongst MPs. Mr Osborne is not totally convinced of the wisdom of pursuing wind power. There is the 100 tory MPs and Graham Stringer voicing anti AGW noises and as the cost develops any opportunity to put some facts in front of MPs is to be welcome. It is a long fight. A bit like a war of attrition. As the deficit continues to balloon with at least 100-125 billion sterling added each year the pressure to look at inefficiencies will increase. Look at what the Spaniards have had to do out of necessity. This enquiry is better than nothing happening on the cost discovery front.

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

That an enquiry of this kind can be held by a committee chaired by such a closed-minded and extreme individual as Tim Yeo, who is also prejudiced by a number of his personal financial interests, is a symptom of the banana repubic government we have these days.

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

When considering the costs, they should examine the costs of maintenance and in particular to assess whether the costs associated with the maintenance of off-shore wind has been underestimated (as I suspect that it has).

They should also consider the related issue as to the safety of maintenance. How many people are killed and/or injured in the maintenance of wind turbines and conventionally generated electrical power? What is the estimated injury toll for maintenance of off-shore wind and what effect will this have on the costs of maintenance and H&E enforced downtime to minimise such risks?

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Two points occurred to me. Why is the first question about cutting carbon? We could cut it by not producing energy! Obviously energy efficiency and cutting pollution are both very important but surely the prime objective of an energy policy should be the provision of an adequate supply of safe, reliable and affordable energy.

The second point concerns making wind farms more acceptable. How about sticking them within audible distance of wherever MPs have their weekend homes (whether "flipped" for tax purposes or not)?

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I am sure Mr Yeo will not be using his privileged position to check the viability of his investments, will he?

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterBiddyb

Yeo: "“Wind farms are over forty times less polluting than....."

'Nuff said.

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM | richard verney

That's an interesting point about maintenance, which I hadn't thought about too deeply before, presumably Health & Safety becomes a major issue over the winter months. So if an off-shore windmill goes off-line due to mechanical issues it may be days/weeks/months before the conditions are safe for the repair work to be carried out. Like all things mechanical leaving it in an inoperative state for any length of time will/may increase the number and severity of problems. Only experience will show what the cost of that is.

Sandy Sinclair

Jun 13, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Obviously, I know nothing, but, isn't it just possible that this could be a way of justifying a turnaround?
Of course all these questions should have been asked and answered long before any turbines were built; then there wouldn't have been any built, but if one needed an excuse to stop building any more...

I'm just being uncharacteristically optimistic; I must go get a lottery ticket while I'm at it!

Jun 13, 2012 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterMeIKnowNothin

@ michel

The sad thing about this is that they seem to make the assumption that reducing UK carbon emissions is a worthwhile policy goal. Why is it?

Because there's a Climate Change Act I guess. Whether it's a good idea or not, we're committed to it.

If the UK were to totally stop all carbon emissions tomorrow, the effect on global warming would be so small as to be unmeasurable.

Actually Michel, if all of humanity were stop all carbon emissions, that would be unmeasurable too.

The error range in the estimated amount of CO2 entering and leaving the atmosphere annually exceeds the total size of all human emissions. So if all of it stopped, you wouldn't necessarily notice any difference.

Jun 13, 2012 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Richard Verney: “... they should examine the costs of maintenance...”

And of course factor in the increased cost due to the damage by hurricanes caused by not having built the turbines fast enough to stop the warming that caused them.

Jun 13, 2012 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

>Surely, the first question should be, "Why do we need to cut carbon?"

My first thought, too, but no doubt that is 'settled science' (i.e. not science at all).

Jun 13, 2012 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Jun 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM | SandyS
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

We all know that wind is very variable. If its variability was evenly spread accross the year that would effect the overall efficiency and lessen the worth of the technology. However, if there is an underlying pattern to the variabilty this could have more serious consequences.

The committee should examine how effective windfarms are in 'extreme' weather events. For example how effective are they in harsh winter conditions or when flooding is experienced? In other words, it is necessary to consider how wind farms perform when demands for energy and reliable power are at their greatest so as not to exacerbate the consequences of what is already a serious condition.

As one becomes ever more dependent upon wind power, its ability to supply reliable power in 'extreme' weather conditions becomes more significant. If wind capacity (when all is going well) only produces say 6% of the UK electrical energy needs, it is not disastrous if there are occassions when it produces all but no power. However when it is reposponsible for say 25% of our energy needs if it is not meeting its 'warranted' capacity this is more problematic. It is even more serious if this co-incides with 'natural disaster' conditions.

If the UK had been reliant upon wind say for 25% of its power requirements these past two winters there would have been very serious consequences, possibly leading to many deaths to the vulnerable and elderly in our communities.

One needs to know how wind performs in 'adverse' conditions since its performance in these conditions alone may render it a folly.

Jun 13, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Johanna is right when she says that there is enough expertise on this site to provide the committee with the answers to the questions that have been posed but I think the first, and perhaps most important, action is for as many people as possible to write to their MP welcoming the committee's decision to carry out this investigation but pointing out the serious conflict of interest concerning its chairman

Jun 13, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I notice there is no mention of Safety.
Given that the number of deaths in the UK Electricity Generation through Wind Turbines over the last 10 years is far greater than the Nuclear Industry, one would think they would be asking appropriate questions.

Jun 13, 2012 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

the questions will be answered with a sales pitch by the wimill lobby, and cheap shills in search for another porsche and multigbp penshun fund, from the royal society

Jun 13, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

From our very own BBC. decommisioning of 2 x1mw wind turbines on Huddersfield town hall 18th may

'The council has previously admitted that the turbines generated about £2,000 a year but cost about £6,000 a year to maintain and repair.'

Just about sums it up don't you think.

Jun 13, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterpaulus

Real wind data: http://notrickszone.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/EON-wind-supply.gif

0.2% to 38% of grid demand. It's why the windmills can't work for more than ~10% of demand unless we flood the Lake District and the sea lochs for pump storage powered by base load nuclear, the aim being to dump wind peaks into the existing demand, taking out the hydro power by closing penstocks.

30% loss of nuclear power when we could use that directly instead of the windmills is utter lunacy.

Jun 13, 2012 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

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