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And another thing......

29th November 2007 @ 2:02pm – by Roland Hall
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Audlem has a greener conscience than most – the efforts to find a green composting site, the various recycling initiatives and more recently investigating the feasibility of generating electricity from the Canal. The concern about the possibility of a wind energy farm up the road at Woore is perhaps at first thought a little surprising.

Having spent a large part of my career in the energy industry the idea of needing to conserve valuable energy is fully understood. However, thanks to our politicians, every fact (or not as the case may be) has to be spun to project the situation they want us to believe. With this in mind my gut feeling is that wind energy is only viable off shore or in the north of Scotland, but I have gone along with the need for renewable sources including wind which the promoters claim they will generate at near full capacity 20% of the time. This means we have to use other sources to back this up for the remaining 80% but they claim it is still economic.

With the dark evenings upon us I recently found myself reading my former profession's latest technical journal which included some letters on the efficiency of wind energy and general energy saving matters. Bearing in mind these were written by professional engineers with no interest in spinning facts, I was both interested and a little surprised by what they were saying. The major influence on generating electricity from wind is the intermittency of the wind.

A study by the Renewable Energy Foundation of a nationally dispersed theoretical installation of 25,000 Megawatt wind capacity demonstrates that, using actual wind data over the last 10 years for the scattered sites, the average minimum January output of that wind fleet would be 3.7% of the installed capacity.

An actual installation of 10,000 Megawatt in Spain has been telemonitored and shows the output as low as 96 Megawatt (less than 1%) and has been below 500 Megawatt (5%) between 0900 and 1700hours. It failed to reach 10% of its capacity for 127 hours in a single week. It also seems that a wind generation minimum occurs around midday when electrical demand is at its peak. The conclusion is that the claimed capacity of 20% cannot be justified and should only be between 0 and 5%.

The government plans to force us all over to energy saving light bulbs. However the technical name for these is 'compact fluorescent' and each bulb contains all the equipment you would find in a conventional fluorescent fitting. This means when you throw it away you are disposing of all the toxic parts that make it operate. The EU is banning mercury in barometers but energy saving bulbs will put more poison into the environment than a few barometers.

Changing to a light that is a little dimmer with slightly poorer colour rendering might be acceptable but a fluorescent fitting in the living room is not! There is a technical issue that means the power saving is not as much as the wattage of the bulb would suggest and also while the cost of a 'compact fluorescent lamp' is more than its tungsten equivalent this is at present moderated by the fact that if they are too costly we will stay with the conventional bulb. When we have no choice, what will happen to the price?

We are told to turn off the standby on our televisions and radios while the transfer to energy hungry digital transmissions continues and uses far more energy.

The government is quick to point out that the UK's emissions are falling and point the finger at nations with increasing power needs. What they forget is that our reductions are due to the fact that we no longer have a manufacturing industry and vast amounts of the goods we buy are made in China.

The environment needs all the help we can give it but the politicians and pressure groups should stop imposing those things they can legislate for which have little or no overall effect, apart from increasing our taxes, and let our scientists come up with the ideas that will produce real benefits without the need for spin.

Roland Hall
(with acknowledgement to Messrs Aris and Parlour, members of the Institution of Engineering & Technology)

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