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Energy in Demand - Sustainable Energy - Rod Janssen

Fred Pearce provides a good account in the New Scientist about the increasing contribution that renewable energy is making to Britain’s electricity needs.

Renewable energy poised to overtake nuclear in the UK

A wind of change is blowing through the UK’s power stations. Renewable sources of energy like wind turbines could soon generate more electricity than nuclear power stations.

The contribution of renewables towards keeping the lights on more than doubled from 6.8 per cent in 2010 to 14.9 per cent in 2013, according to the Office of National Statistics. Nuclear power, at 19 per cent, is in slow decline – no new power stations have been built since 1995, when it contributed more than 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity.

Onshore wind turbines delivered a third of the country’s renewable electricity in 2013, with offshore wind rising fast and accounting for 21 per cent. A plan approved last…

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The EU’s draft Energy Union document shows the intention to switch the EU’s electricity supply system to a ‘flexible, smart low-carbon grid’, says Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The European Commission today published the draft Energy Union strategy alongside the EU’s proposed emissions reduction target under the UN’s climate process (INDC, or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution). [1]

Richard Black said: “The EU’s draft international climate pledge doesn’t contain any surprises – essentially it is taking what EU governments decided to do back in October, and putting that package of measures and targets forward into the UN climate convention.

“The Energy Union proposals are a bit more interesting and show that in principle the EU doesn’t want to continue with an electricity system dominated by fossil fuels, but switch to the kind of flexible smart low-carbon grid being pioneered in Germany, which should lead to a cheaper and more secure system that’s less dependent on Russia.

“But it’s odd that the proposals contain more fine-sounding words than concrete measures on reducing energy waste given that this is a policy no-brainer and, in the UK at least, supported by nearly 90% of the public.”

Note:

  1. European Commission: Secure, clean and affordable energy for every European (25 February 2015): http://ec.europa.eu/news/2015/02/20150225_en.htm

Offshore-Windpark Lillgrund im Öresund zwischen Malmö und Kopenhagen / Offshore wind farm Lillgrund in the Øresund between Malmö and CopenhagenRenewableUK is celebrating the announcement today that the giant Dogger Bank Creyke Beck offshore wind farm has gained consent from the Energy Secretary Edward Davey.

Dogger Bank Creyke Beck is the largest consented offshore wind project in the world, with an installed capacity of up to 2.4 gigawatts (GW), enough to meet the needs of 1.8 million households, and on its own supply around 2.5% of UK electricity.

The proposed site of the two adjacent wind farms (Creyke Beck A and B) is 81 miles from the shore at its closest point, covering a maximum area of 430 square miles. Each of the sites will have a capacity of up to 1.2GW, and would reduce carbon emissions by almost four million tonnes a year.

It is the furthest offshore wind project from UK shores, while remaining in shallow waters of approximately 30 metres. This means that it will be at the cutting edge of advancements in offshore wind farm development across the world. It is also the first consented phase of the much larger Dogger Bank zone, which comprises six sites with an estimated total capacity of up to 7.2GW.

Dogger Bank Creyke Beck will now enter a pre-construction phase, before the final investment decision is made. It could create up to 4,750 new direct and indirect full time equivalent jobs over the 25-year lifespan of the project.

RenewableUK’s Director of Offshore Renewables, Nick Medic, said: “This is an awesome project. It will surely be considered as one of the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the wind industry. A colossal wind energy power station right in the middle of the North Sea, comprising hundreds of offshore wind turbines over 80 miles off shore.

Dogger Bank demonstrates the sheer potential of offshore technology to turn our vast ocean and wind resources into green energy. It is a project that pushes the offshore engineering envelope – demonstrating how far this technology has evolved in the ten short years since the first major offshore wind farm was installed in North Hoyle just 5 miles from shore.

The Dogger Bank projects now in planning could supply around 5% of UK electricity. We need to make sure that this project as well as other worthy offshore projects around these islands are adequately supported and funded. In return, offshore wind will generate much more than just electricity: it will turn the country into a green-economy powerhouse, creating jobs and business growth for years to come. Finally, we offer our congratulations for the team at the Forewind consortium taking this project to its consent.

Notes:

1. RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries. Formed in 1978, and with more than 590 corporate members, RenewableUK is the leading renewable energy trade association in the UK.
2. The project is being developed by Forewind, a venture between four international energy companies: SSE Renewables, RWE, Statoil and Statkraft.
3. Further details on the Creyke Beck site can be found here: http://www.forewind.co.uk/projects/dogger-bank-creyke-beck.html

4. For more information on the entire Dogger Bank project, see here: http://www.forewind.co.uk/dogger-bank/overview.html

killer turbinesNEW technology has long attracted “modern health worries“. Microwave ovens, television and computer screens and even early telephony all caused anxiety in their time. More recently, cellphones and towers, Wi-Fi and smart electricity meters have followed suit.

Another is gathering attention; the very modern malaise known as wind turbine syndrome. I set out to collect the conditions attributed to wind farm exposure. Within hours, I’d found 50 often florid assertions about different illnesses. Today my total sits at 198, with a range redolent of Old Testament plagues.

The list includes “deaths, yes, many deaths”, none of which have ever come to the attention of a coroner, cancers, congenital malformations, and every manner of psychiatric problem. But mostly, it includes common health problems found in all communities, with wind turbines or not. These include greying hair, energy loss, concentration lapses, weight gain and all the problems of ageing. Sleep problems are mentioned most, but insomnia is incredibly common. Animals get a look in. Chickens won’t lay; earthworms vanish; hundreds of cattle and goats die horrible deaths from “stray electricity”.

In a 35-year career in public health, I have never encountered anything quite so apocalyptic. I’ve visited wind farms and compared their gentle swoosh to the noises that all city dwellers live with daily. Quickly, this phenomenon began to tick psychogenic boxes.

There are several reasons to suspect that the unrecognised entity of wind turbine syndrome is psychogenic: a “communicated” disease spread by anti-wind interest groups, sometimes with connections to fossil fuel interests. People can worry themselves sick.

Firstly, there are the temporal problems. Wind farms appeared some 20 years ago in the US. There are now just shy of 200,000 turbines globally. But the first recorded claims that they caused disease came a decade later. Two rural doctors, one in the UK and the other in Australia, made claims repeated widely in newspapers but never published in any journal. Turbines have come to be blamed for chronic conditions like (amazingly) lung and skin cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and stroke. But importantly also acute symptoms, that according to Australia’s high priestess of wind turbine syndrome, Sarah Laurie, an unregistered doctor, can commence within 20 minutes of exposure. If true, what happened in the early complaint-free years?

Then there’s the issue of clustering. The European wind industry sees the phenomenon as largely anglophone, and even then, only in particular regions and around certain farms. Many sites have run for years without complaint. Others, legendary for their vocal opponents even before start up, are hot beds of disease claims. So if turbines were inherently noxious, why do they cut such a selective path? Why do citizens of community-owned turbines in Germany and Denmark rarely complain? Why are complaints rare in western Australia, but rife in several eastern Australian communities?

Opponents readily concede that only a minority of those exposed report being ill but explain this via the analogy of motion sickness: it only happens to those who are susceptible. How then to explain that whole regions and indeed nations, have no susceptible people? The key factor seems to be the presence or absence of anti-wind activists, generally from outside the area.

It is clear the presence of these anti-wind “vectors” is required. Communities which have for years accepted the farms can erupt when activists arrive, spreading alarm and listing health problems. Prominent among these in Australia are wealthy conservative landowners appalled by the very visible presence of the tall green-energy totems, a constant reminder of bucolic decay and the “upstairs-downstairs” disdain they have for those needing income from their often hilly, poorer quality land.

The fact that money seems to be a magic antidote to these ailments further undermines the claims. Health complaints are as rare as rocking horse excrement among turbine hosts. Complaints are rare from those financially benefitting from communal ownership arrangements. It tends to be neighbours of those hosting turbines who make the link with illness. They see the turbines, dislike them and dwell on their misfortune. The perceived injustice can eat away at some, fomented by organised groups.

Wind companies also report residents approaching them with extensive renovation wish lists. One told me of a request for a house to be moved to a lake shore. In rural Australia, residential buy-outs by mining companies are common. Word spreads about shack owners who got lucky. So when a cashed-up company appears, it is understandable that some may see their ticket out via protracted complaints.

Opponents also claim that confidentiality clauses are used to gag hosts, so they can’t speak up about illnesses. I’ve seen several contracts and, predictably, none involve signing away common law rights to claims of negligence.

Finally, there are the apocryphal tales about many families having to abandon their homes. Mysteriously, address lists are never produced. Abandoning unsaleable properties is a sad part of rural decay, a fact which seems to escape fly-in, fly-out climate change denialists.

Previous modern health worries dissipated when the predicted health mayhem never emerged and the feared exotic agents became thoroughly familiar. Hysteria about cellphone towers had its heyday in the late 1990s, at least in Australia, but is rare today. With 17 reviews of the evidence on harm caused by wind farms consistent in their assessment of insignificant risk, how long can this one last?

Source – New Scientist by Simon Chapman (professor in public health at the University of Sydney, Australia)

wind-turbine-maintenance-370x229A new survey released today by the Department of Energy and Climate Change shows that support for onshore wind farms has increased to 68% of the public, while total opposition fell to 10%.

Support for offshore wind also remained rock solid at 74%. There was an increase in support for Britain’s wave and tidal energy industry, which went up to 74%.

Public support for hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ for shale gas fell from 26% to 24%.

RenewableUK’s Director of Policy, Dr Gordon Edge, said: “It’s great to see public support for onshore wind is increasing, with more than two-thirds of people consistently saying they want Britain to make use of it, and that support for offshore wind, wave & tidal energy remains even higher.

That’s why it’s so hard to understand why the Conservative party is turning its back on onshore wind, threatening to kill off the industry if it wins the next election. Independent polls show that David Cameron is totally wrong to claim that people are “fed up” with onshore wind – they show the reverse is actually true, and that being anti-wind is a net vote loser. 

We hope that as manifestos are being written the Conservatives will see how misguided it would be to oppose such a popular technology as onshore wind

The survey, the 12th in DECC’s Public Attitudes Tracker series, used face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 2,119 households in the UK.

Notes:

1. RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries. Formed in 1978, and with more than 590 corporate members, RenewableUK is the leading renewable energy trade association in the UK.

2. The full data can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/public-attitudes-tracking-survey-wave-12

3. The latest survey was conducted between 10 December 2014 and 8 January 2015.

4. Support for onshore wind in the previous wave of DECC Public Attitudes Tracker findings, published in November 2014, was 67% and opposition was 12%. Support for wave & tidal energy was 73%. Support for offshore wind remained at 74%.