Britain is to embark on a wind power revolution that will produce enough electricity to power every home in the country, ministers will reveal tomorrow.
The Independent on Sunday has learnt that, in an astonishing U-turn, the Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton, will announce that he is opening up the seas around Britain to wind farms in the biggest ever renewable energy initiative. Only weeks ago he was resisting a major expansion of renewable sources, on the grounds that it would interfere with plans to build new nuclear power stations.
But what will it cost?
Combined with almost 1 GW of existing capacity the proposed and planned wind farms will add up to 35 GW of capacity.
Mr Hutton's announcement, which will be made at a conference in Berlin tomorrow, will identify sites in British waters for enough wind farms to produce 25 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2020, in addition to the 8GW already planned – enough to meet the needs of all the country's homes.
But since this uses wind that does not always blow are they talking about max output? If so, then assuming 32% average operating capacity (guessing based on reports about existing wind farms) a more reasonable output estimate would be maybe 11 GW. They could accomplish the same goal of avoiding carbon dioxide emissions by building 8 GE ESBWR nuclear reactors (assuming 90% uptime). I wonder whether 7000 wind turbines, deep ocean towers, and cables to bring the power to shore will cost more or less than 8 nukes. Also, the wind towers will require a lot of gas or coal fired back-up electric power plants for when the wind does not blow. That's an added cost the nukes wouldn't have.
You might expect me to think this proposal is dumb because politicians didn't realistically weigh costs and nuclear power might be cheaper. But I'm looking at a bigger picture: Even the second cheapest substitute for fossil fuels for generating electricity is still an improvement over using fossil fuels to generate electricity. Now some of the more skeptical among you about global warming are thinking I've gone soft and sentimental. Not to worry. I'm still really worried about Peak Oil and I'm thinking more and more that we need to reserve natural gas and coal for transportation, fertilizer, and plastics. That'll still leave some libertarians among you unsatisfied. But sorry, I think a world of sovereign national oil companies in control of most of the remaining oil and hiding their real reserves is not a very efficient market. Plus, I think the market is making a massive mistake on energy.
To put that 34 GW number in perspective currently the United States has 13 GW of installed wind capacity. The US had only half that capacity 4 years ago. So a tripling of capacity before 2020 seems quite possible and perhaps even likely. Not sure if Britain will ever become the biggest producer of wind power. Right now Texas alone exceeds Britain in wind energy production.
Up to 7,000 turbines could be installed off the UK's coastline in a bid to boost the production of wind energy 30-fold by 2020. The plans are likely to see a huge increase in wind farms off the coast of Scotland, although plans to situate new farms within 12 miles of the Scottish shore have been shelved.
Instead, the new farms will most likely be in deep-water locations up to 200 nautical miles offshore.
There's a growing movement in Britain against land-based and near shoreline ocean-based wind towers. The opponents share my esthetic reaction. Wind towers might be neat to go look at in a few places. But I want most countryside to remain more natural looking.
Mr Brown and his environment secretary, Hilary Benn, are expected to announce a range of measures including a tighter renewables obligation on electricity companies, a commitment to the Severn tidal barrage and an offshore Thames estuary wind farm capable of supplying a quarter of London's electricity with 341 wind turbines.
The UK's outstanding tidal resources could provide at least 10% of the country's electricity, the government's sustainable development commission has insisted.
What I'd like to know: So then is Brown's government going to abandon their flirtation with a revival of nuclear power? Or are they going to do nuclear and wind? If they do both they could save future dwindling supplies of natural gas for other uses.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2007 December 09 11:41 PM Energy Wind|