Friday, August 14, 2009


As with any renewable, I love the idea. I just cast an engineer's eye around the enviROI in practice in many cases.

Try and make your own mind up. Though between most media and governments I'd say you'd often be struggling to be totally clear.


Guardian - Big oil to big wind: Texas veteran sets up $10bn clean energy project - Setback for UK wind farm push - Were it me, I'd have gone for 'Blow to...' Especially when one reads this: 'The large subsidies paid by electricity users to fund the drive towards wind power are generating profits for existing wind farm owners – without producing many new turbines'
Indy - Save peatlands from wind turbines - More facts than I have seen anywhere in a while. Thing is... are they accurate? I am guessing we'll not hear more as the caravan rolls on.
The Register - Shell pulls out of Thames Estuary mega-windfarm -
Telegraph - Shell disappoints with wind farm withdrawal - I merely note the competencies and responsibilities and agendas of those 'disappointed', but look also at this: Quite simply, the costs of wind farms are spiralling out of control. I think in terms of enviROI+, but most talk seems to be of image. Which is better for our kids?
Indy - Shouldn't local people have a say on wind farms? - There are many factors to be considered here; and most are important, if often different ones to different people.

However what often gets lots is clear data on the actual deliverables of energy to meet these 'targets'.

With expanding economies, and populations, there are frankly going to be demands of land and resources for all sorts of reasons.

In making tricky choices my major concern is that whatever else is going on, we are allowed to assess the merits of these alternative energy options on clear issues of ROI and enviROI (environmental benefits to our kids' futures), and not certain narrow, short-term definitions that are more to help box-tickers' careers, lobbyists bonus payments and contractors' subsidy-supported profits.

Telegraph - Wind Weekend to celebrate wind power - Another week/end, another feature/celebration of stuff that is 24/7, 365/365. I guess it must be good for PR with lazy media. Like me! I'll confess to having linked but not read.

The Register - Research: Wind power pricier, emits more CO2 than thought - I have been asking for more meaningful data, especially on enviROI as well as deliverables, for a while. Ta-da! However, doubtless there will soon be a ton more that totally contradicts this. Seems a heck of a lot of uncertainty still to be pinning £100B and the country's energy needs on.

Telegraph - Wind won't solve energy gap - A piece from a 'side', so the real value is in the thread replies.

Times - Giant turbines to make north Windy Central - 'Each could [my italics] generate up to 7.5 mega-watts of power, enough for 4,000-5,000 homes.' What, I wonder, do we know they can... and will generate. Why is this always left unknown? I am keen to be convinced, but such reporting leaves me always wondering.

Telegraph - Homeowners living near windfarms see property values plummet - A problem, but also something to bear in mind before accusing some of unthinking, unreasonable NIMBYism.

Telegraph - When the wind stops - the other side of the wind turbine argument - Some science (if from a clear 'side' - check the comments in reply. One only, so far)

Gaurdian - A blot of turbines - With a title like that...

Greenbang - Wind power: “Expensive and unreliable” - worth reading on as the headline is not all there is to it

The Register - Greenpeace: UK gov trying to strangle wind power - Um, why? I don't say they are not, but they say they are in favour. Confused?

Guardian - Report finds US is world's top wind producer

Times - Host of new pylons to carry wind farm power

Greenbang - UK wind: only for the rural - Now there's a thing. Who'da thunk and why did no one mention this before? Could have spared all sorts of eco-savvy folk money and looking like enviROI-numpties... like our next PM, for instance. Arthur, bring up more coal from the bunker, if you please! George, throw a few more rods in the reactor! Gives me a warm glow (I hope that's all it is) just thinking of the brain power being deployed on our behalves.

The Register - Carbon Trust: Rooftop windmills are eco own-goal

Times - Country out-performs towns in household wind turbine trials

Gaurdian - Wind farms are not only beautiful, they're absolutely necessary - Just gotta love objective headlines

RenewableEnergyWorld - Software Predicts Electricity Output for Wind - Now this looks more promising, but note reply

ASA - Interesting insights via ad complaint

Telegraph - Giant Upside Down Kitchen Whisks (GUDKW) to save the planet? - Can it be beaten? Personally I'd have gone for 'Blender Blades'... snappier.

Times - Wind turbines generate bonus for homeowners

Guardian - Spinning to destruction - Not anticipated by whom (Whilst being cautiously in favour, as an ex- Civ. Eng I recall wondering how a gearbox in the North Sea stood up), and when, exactly? At what cost? (ROI & enviROI?) And why?

BBC - When the wind doesn't blow - I read this as I read about a chap who 'saves' by using the energy from his next door neighbours' homes to radiate into his. Not too sure this system works too well.

EU Referendum - Trouble at t'grid

Inhabitat - Groundbreaking Energy Ball Wind Turbine for Home Power - Interesting comments and links to this

EU Referendum - Candour from the Beeb - I am starting to sense that not only has the cart been put before the horse, no one actually seemed to figure out that first you need a path to follow. This lack of informed foresight, intelligent planning and sensible, objective, agenda-free media oversight from major public media with immense resources is nothing short of a scandal.

Telegraph - Wind farms, hot air and spin , Wind farms fail to deliver value for money, report claims -

I tend to share most of the concerns articulated here, especially (ignoring a few other pertinent parameters) those of the actual enviROI.

But as an ideal I want the idea to succeed and remain ready to be persuaded. The advocates have not yet, at least in many UK locations, but may win me round.

However, in the same way, those in favour of nuclear also still have a job ahead, at least for this microscopic jury of one.

'...nuclear energy is the most realistic option for meeting our long-term energy needs.'

May be true economically (though I have seen rather scary numbers on simple ROI here, at least without subsidy - which comes from whom?), but I'd hazard that to tick my environmental boxes as well, a few questions need to be answered. Especially... long term... I'd like to have more confidence that there's a better notion of what will be done with the waste, beyond hoping that eventually a solution will be found.

Daily Mail - A load of hot air: Why spending £100bn on windfarms to please the EU is Labour's greatest act of lunacy - Caution: as the title might suggest, this is not what you might call a 'Pro' stance. I also query the claim; Labour might have had a hand in a few other odd and fiscally unwise efforts to challenge this assertion.

And no mention of enviROI.

Times - Wind power plans may be blown off course - Having just watched a YouTube of one that sounded quite noisy, before it exploded, I wonder what rpm was meant when the guy says 'You can easily hold a conversation under the blades as they whizz around'?

Guardian - Wind farms must be nearer coast to meet targets, says report - I always thought they had to be out there to get the wind (or they could all be stuck on David Cameron's roof) , but nearer at least improves the enviROI of maintenance.

Observer - UK wind farm plans on brink of failure

Times - Shell pulls out of its last UK wind farm project

Guardian - UK overtakes Denmark as world's biggest offshore wind generator

- Some interesting, if unproven and possibly partisan comments in the comments at the end.

Indy - Winds of change: A beacon of optimism

Greenbang - Wind energy “capacity” - just hot air?
So, here’s a surprise. In one corner a pretty extreme climate optimist. And in the other the leader of our country, a very smart man… who spins on his own axis pretty much whenever the political winds shift. Currently a bastion of ‘green’. Who to believe? No help from the Telegraph. Any experts out there who can help. It’s just numbers after all.
Max/min/average ratings. Wind speeds. Efficiencies. Maintenance schedules. Lifespans. Etc.
With a few less clear influences as work: Targets. Bonusses. Subsidies. Fines. Lobbying. Etc.
So… what delivers an enviROI from construction through to decommissioning that has an enviROI my kids’ futures can depend on?

Times - Wind investment at a standstill

Indy Letters - I missed the piece that inspired it, but I reprint this with my usual caveats about being impressed by titles and concerns that today's major media seem quite content to share black and white in sequence, without really being too concerned that teh reader aquires any sense of subtle shades of green...

When the wind does not blow

It is all very well for Michael Meacher to call for a higher proportion of electricity to be supplied by renewables (Letters, 3 December) but he ignores the main objective of the supply industry: to provide low-carbon electrical power continuously, on demand.

Wind is intermittent and variable. The "cube law" is hardly ever mentioned. (When a 30 mph wind falls to 10 mph, the power output falls by 96 per cent.) The deficiency usually has to be made up by gas or coal generators. Other countries do not have to rely so heavily on carbon credits. The Scandinavian countries have available hydro-electricity. Germany can import electricity from up from up to nine countries. We have one cross-channel cable.

Professor Charles Hughes, FREng

Guardian - Spinning to destruction - Actually an old one I just stumbled across. My main concern with reliability is how it affects the enviROI (gearboxes and salt air don't seem happy bedfellows), but safety is also a maintenance-related issue and concern, too. However, the failure rate, so far, still seems low.

Telegraph - Do you really want a wind turbine? - Oo, facts. There's a novelty.

Guardian - Keep the blades of wind power turning

Guardian - Opposing wind farms should not be socially unacceptable

Telegraph - Wind Farms: the death of Britain - Wind still grabbing the headlines, and not always good ones. And this is a good (bad?) example. Between the piece and the comments in reply the divide makes a climate change discussion seem almost an exercise in polite compromise. It is important, as there is so much money involved. And my main concern remains the enviROI. What beggars my belief is that we have got to this point and there seems still no clear cut trustworthy, objective facts. And when those making the most noise are a target-obsessed government I wouldn't trust to build a sandcastle vs. an often very reactionary press, the issue remains downright obscure. Criminally so.

Telegraph - When wind power blows, jobs will fall - Can't comment on the objectivity of the facts (see above) but certainly a sober outline of some critical issues. Can't help be suspect that an article from a more supportive source would paint a different picture.

Telegraph - How can wind turbines generate so much lunacy? - Ditto. I guess you need to review the comments for 'balance'. But I do prefer cold, hard numbers. And the examples of how badly some media can apparently get them concerning.

Guardian - Live Q&A: George Monbiot on wind power - It's a shame, but I rather find the Grauniad and Torygraph to be bookends when it comes to eco-objectivity, so at least this is likely to provide some 'balance' and maybe even facual considerations to the last few I have come across. I hope. I'd pose a question or two, but seom blogs are now too flamey for comfort. but worth a gander IMHO tomorrow.

Indy - Wind power plan blown off course - Don't know where the Indy rates for objectivity, but that headline doesn't bode well.

BBC - Newsnight - The iPlayer is only good for a week. But the follow up comments offer an interesting mix of viewpoints. I think the BBC really needs to address the qualifications of its 'reporters' in what is a very science/engineering-dependent topic (with a fair mix of enviROI economics in the mix - preferably without box-ticking targets and or subsidy-addicted lobbyists skewing decisions). Both to understand the issues and, as important, share them both objectively AND understandably.

Guardian - Wind power: Local difficulty - an interesting debate sparked and, indeed, still brewing, especially as more on the 'Two E's' aspects come out.

Guardian - Wind power: the silent majority must speak out, says Miliband - Always a tad concerned when minority groups (esp: pols) invoke the majority. Even more when mandates are presumed.

Guardian - A wind farm is not the answer - Get the feeling this is topical... and about as polarised as climate change? How is it that there seem yet to be few numbers that anyone can trust, and hence agree upon?



BERR - UK Windspeed Database -
UK Wind Speed Database -
EERE - Wind Powering America - Its a start. An odd one; but interesting. - For setting up community projects
warwickwindtrials - - NEW - Clear advocates, but lots of useful information to add the knowledge base

Carbon Trust - Small-scale wind energy

Suppliers - Looks useful! - -

See labels below, especially under 'Alt. Energy' for previous notes. If you have anything to add to the headings above... share 'em! Direct to info[at] or via the comments on the blog.

Useful Media -