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« Responses to McShane and Wyner | Main | Black tongue-lashed »

More climate backtracking

Jonathan Porritt notes Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's almost complete failure to mention environmental issues to his extremely green-issue-aware party conference. I don't know about you, but I think one could interpret Clegg's reticence as some fairly fast backpedalling.

I know it’s a bit geeky, but here are the relevant extracts from the speech:“We promised a re-balanced green economy. There will be a Green Investment Bank to channel money into renewable energy”.“Imagine how it will feel to visit home after home that our Green Deal has made warm and affordable to heat”.And, er that’s it.

Geoffrey Lean expresses similar sentiments here.

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Reader Comments (29)

If Clegg wants to do some serious back-pedalling, he should start by getting rid of Huhne. But he won't do that because both Clegg and Cameron have vested interests in wind farms. We've just seen the BBC reporting on the world's largest offshore wind farm off the Kent coast. The best that could happen to it would be that it is not connected to the grid. Maintenance problems would be solved, the grid wouldn't be subject to all that intermittent power and we wouldn't have to pay those enormous subsidies (to forign companies) to pay for electricity that is a liability to the grid. But it won't happen; they are too sold on "green" electricity to meet their (EU) renewables targets and their climate objectives.

By the time they realise that wind power actually increases carbon dioxide emissions, billions of our money will have been wasted and we will still be in an energy (electricity) crisis.

Sep 23, 2010 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Your Grace,

You have ruined my day by printing the words G****** L*** .

On Saturdays I take great pleasure in ripping out his half page of drivel, screwing it up, throwing it on the floor, jumping up and down on it and finally chucking it in the bin.

Sep 23, 2010 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

“Imagine how it will feel to visit home after home that our Green Deal has made warm and affordable to heat”

Affordable for whom? The home owner gets it free, while the taxpayer pays twice, once for the installation, and then the feed in tariff. OK, so non-renewable power users pay some extra too, I guess those people pay three times, and keep on paying.

How will it feel? how about BOHICA.

Sep 23, 2010 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete

Phillip Bratby

I completely agree. However, one (very) small chink of light. In the BBC R4 report on the wind farm this morning, it was pointed out that the wind doesn't blow all the time and we have no means of storing unused electricity when the wind is blowing! I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard this.
I sincerely hope that this is a sign that even the Beeb is having to face reality.

Sep 23, 2010 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRonaldo

I tried posting into Jonathan Porritt's blog comments and said how I'd studied the science carefully (the opposite of denier, the word he used) and said we'd welcome public debate etc etc. Comments were "invited" but mine disappeared into the ether (that'll teach me not to save it elsewhere first) but I shall check back later to see if it has appeared. Am I being unreasonable hopeful?

An approximate reconstruction of my email:


As you can see from my email address, I'm committed to green issues and have been for years. However, I studied the science of climate change deeply (the opposite of denier) 24/7 for about six weeks. I found not only that there was no cause at all for alarm, but that the science itself had been badly corrupted and nobody at the tops of the science institutions seemed to be aware of this. I found this state of corruption more alarming than the prospect of runaway global warming due to us.

Most climate sceptics have studied the science more carefully, not less; are more open-minded, not less; are more thorough, not less; are more courteous, not less. We would luuuuuuurve to have a public debate, but although we have long asked for this, nobody has responded.

Check my website greenworldtrust in the science section, to see my story and the science. DON'T just take my word for what I said above.

Sep 23, 2010 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker


Jonathan Porritt is one of those extremists on all things "green", his beliefs being based not on science, but on his superior intellect and breeding. He still thinks wind power is wonderful and that with wind we don't need nuclear. You are wasting your time trying to communicate with him as he is one of those people with incurable cognitive dissonance (his world would collapse if he had to reverse his position). I've wasted my time trying to communicate with him when he was chair of the SCD (now being disbanded, thankfully).

Sep 23, 2010 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Buff Huhne's been keeping up the spin though-

Senior representatives from General Electric (GE), which announced its intention to build a £100m offshore wind-turbine factory in Britain in March, last Wednesday met privately with the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, to issue the warning.

The company warned it would find it difficult to fill some specialist jobs without bringing experts from overseas. It is the first major firm known to have directly lobbied the Government over the controversial immigration cap.

Poor GE. How can they export profits from our subsidies if they can't import people?

He is the second Liberal Democrat cabinet minister to speak out against the cap, after the Business Secretary Vince Cable warned it would be "very damaging to the UK economy".

But not as damaging as our energy policy. Mind you, I did manage to convince some local greens that we could use wind turbines as spinning reserve. When there's surplus from solar or regional wind variations, use that to spin up turbines in low wind areas. Friends chuckling nearly spoiled my sales pitch, but I won the bet.

Sep 23, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer


... disappeared into the ether ...

In fact right now yours appears to be the *only* comment to have appeared on Porritt's piece.

Well done :-)

Sep 23, 2010 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

Jonathan Porritt has more to lose than most if governments cool on warming.
Unfortunately the site seems to have disappeared but, from memory: Porrit's "Forum for the Future" received a pitiful £1,300 from public donations, while over half of its £4.5 million income came from an assortment of government grants.
The purpose of "Forum for the Future"? To lobby the very governments who were paying for it.
No wonder his Porritship is squealing.

Sep 23, 2010 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Phillip Bratby

The best that could happen to it would be that it is not connected to the grid. Maintenance problems would be solved, the grid wouldn't be subject to all that intermittent power

Absolutely correct, as usual. But that is only about half of it, and I suspect you know that. However, for the rest of our fellow bloggers, I will try to explain simply as I can.

One of my many careers was as a marketing manager to Landis & Gyr NA while they were still in the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system business in the USA. Thus although not a electrical system engineer, I still had a very detailed knowledge of how power grids work.

First of all, few recognize the the power grid is a synchronous machine. That means everything runs together, "in phase." In the USA, it runs at 60 hertz, while in Europe it runs at 50 hertz. That means that all the generators must run very closely in phase with each other or else those that lag or lead will go in to "condensing", increasing or decreasing the impedance of system causing the entire synchronous machine to speed up or down. Indeed because of this effect, all of the generators will automatically speed up or slow down to stay in sync with each other. It is just the way a synchronous machine works.

Thus a sudden burst of wind at the wind farm will not only increase the electric voltage, but speed up the entire network as far as the hertz is concerned, and as it is a synchronous machine, all the generators will speed up as well, no matter where they are on the network. And should the wind be gusty, then they will all speed up and slow down as the wind gusts.

The second issue is these massive generators are very, very expensive and to save weight and cost, they are designed to be dynamically balanced at a very specific rotational speed. Whatever that RPM rating is, it is a multiple of the hertz rating of the network. Thus in Europe the all the generators revolve at a multiple of 50 RPM, be it 50, 100, or 500, The number depends on the design of the generator and how many cycles of current are produced in one revolution of the shaft. However, whatever that rotational speed is, the dynamic balance range is very, very narrow and if the generator is under load outside of the rotational speed range, they can and do break.

Because of that every generator on the power grid has an over and under speed trip on it, automatically cutting it off of the load of the network. Should that trip fail the generator will break, often in a specular manner. Many years ago the "Big Alice" generator powering about half of Manhattan Island snapped its main shaft, which was about 24 inches in diameter. It was caused by an unexpected sudden load on the NYC power grid that slowed her down and set her into convulsions. Since then every generator of the USA power grids (there are two -- east and west) trips out should the hertz rate of the grid drops below 59 or goes above 61. I assume the grids in Europe also trip at plus or minus 1 hertz.

So, if you were to ask an electric power grid engineer about the idea of building a massive collection of wind generators that will suddenly increase or decrease their output on a very gusty night, I suspect he will suggest that you have a good supply of batteries for your flashlight or a large box of candles because it is very likely there will be a cascading power failure as happened more than once to New York City as well as most of the American northeast.

Sep 23, 2010 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra


It's right here:

Sep 23, 2010 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Quite correct Don (and it is 50Hz in Europe). An out of sync generator will lift off its mounts in a spectacular fashion. Certainly nukes have under and over speed, voltage, frequency and phase trips (amongst others).

I look at it this way. Nobody in their right mind would consider building a power station over whose power output they have zero control and which will at best, on average, produce about 30% of its rated power. The trouble is that in the UK we have had about 13 energy ministers in the last 14 years (all Labour except the current Libdem) and the one thing they have in common is that in the scientific and engineering fields, they are totally illiterate. They have also been advised in the past by Porritt who has the same characteristics (scientific and engineering illiterate), is very green and is anti-nuclear. He was responsible for producing a report on wind power which is dreadful and full of mistruths (to put it politely). Our energy ministers have lapped it up, being exceedingly gullible. The foreign companies selling wind trubines to this country must be laughing all the way to the bank at out gullibility in buying these huge white elephants.

For a country once proud of its engineering achievements, it is enough to make you weep; and those great Victorian engineers must be turning in their graves. Having to buy engineering white elephants from foreign countries ( and our current energy minister proclaiming what an achievement it is and how many more we will have)!

And BTW Don, I have been an expert witness at wind farm public inquiries, so I have studied the technology in great detail - but it makes no difference what facts you present; if the facts run counter to government policy, then they are ignored. A bit like climate change policy!

Time to think of something else and lower my BP.

Sep 23, 2010 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Good article from Delingpole:

Sep 23, 2010 at 8:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrian Williams

Cracking good article from Delingpole, agreed.

Note the scores (and note the tenor of approved remarks too):
Porritt..................................1 (er, me!)

Sep 23, 2010 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

I can write from personal experience as someone whose whole community is under a planning blight to support the development of an offshore 1.2 GW 'boiler plate' capacity wind farm off the Norfolk coast. These large offshore wind farms use AC-DC and DC-AC conversion technology to help both with long distance transmission to the 400kV supergrid and syncronisation to the 50Hz AC transmission network. In my case the proposal is for a 45 acre substation consisting of 4 buildings (15m x 70m x 30m), 5 supergrid transformers, quad boosters, capacitor filter banks and switch gear all 50km from the coastal landfall and immediately adjacent to a village of 300 people on some of the highest ground in Norfolk.

The proposal is nonsense and only makes financial sense given the subsidy through the Renewable Obligations Certificates.

Fighting the application is like banging your head against a brickwall. No amount of science, common sense etc. can get past the green energy mantra!

Sep 23, 2010 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Paul: In today's post-modern world, science and common sense have indeed been subsumed by all things green. But we must never give in. Never. We must fight them offshore, on the beaches and in the villages.

Sep 23, 2010 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Paul Dennis

The DC transmission link you describe is old-hat. The first serious use of this is the Pacific DC Intertie between Bonneville and LA. However that is an aerial conductor system. Imagine the result should the sub-ocean cable necessary for the off-shore system you described have a short? After all it is just a cable laying on the bottom of the sea. Now that would be spectacular.

Every week someone somewhere drags a ship's anchor over one of the many communications cables in the various oceans and seas even though the cables are clearly marked on the navigation charts. And then there are the bottom trawlers. And then there are the bad guys who just may want to see the lights go off all over the place.

I might also add that while the AC-DC DC-AC conversion will permit some control of phase, massive fluctuations in the output of the wind turbines due to gusting will still cause serious issues as the issue is the load on the network. The DC-AC output conversion station is still effectively just a generator as far as the network is concerned. Increase the amount of current in the network above the that required for the load and the network will speed up in terms of hertz. Decrease the amount of current, and it will slow down. Change it too much, it will trip the on-shore generators. That is just the nature of the beast. As for the wind turbines, I assume they have brakes on them, but they have been known to FAIL

The reason why the Pacific DC Intertie works is because it is a scheduled base load. Trimming of network load is done with fast response turbines (typically gas turbines aka "jet engines" running on natural gas) locally and under the complete control of the operators. Since the Bonneville generation is hydroelectric, there is no bursting of output as you would see with gusts on wind turbines. It is a scheduled production and steady.

I agree with both you and Phillip completely, obviously nobody who has any real understand is permitted to have a voice. It will be a costly fiasco if built.

Sep 23, 2010 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Phillip Bratby

I have been an expert witness at wind farm public inquiries, so I have studied the technology in great detail

When I read your first posting on this thread it was clear you had a very in depth knowledge if you pointed out the maintenance issues. Not one person out of a thousand has a clue unless they have been involved with power grids. They are quite a beast. You can see (with the computer SCADA systems like I sold) masses of electricity slowly move around the network like great schools of electric fish. Really you can and nobody can explain the physics. We tried to model it on our computers but it defied modeling. It has something to do with the interactions of the load and generators and the fact that they are connected in a network -- that is any two points can have several paths between them, often many.

And controlling it is very, very touchy and a black art.. It is a genie in a bottle just waiting to burst out and these wind farms will help it do it. PG&E deals with wind farms only because California State agreed to pay for the extra control equipment needed and they can predict the weather well enough to avoid having the wind mills tied in when things are iffy. They simply disconnect the wind farms in all but the most predictable conditions. And even then they never use it for base load. And they have enough spinning reserve to cover the output of the wind farms should they fail.

In short, a total joke. Makes absolutely no sense because at any one time the wind farm isn't needed for handling the load, even peaks.


Sep 24, 2010 at 5:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Another chink of light?

Following the "opening" of the Kent offshore windfarm, today's Daily Telegraph's second leader comments on the unreliability and low efficiency of wind generation and makes the point about the need for back-up generation, which adds enormously to the actual cost of wind.

Is reality starting to dawn?

Sep 24, 2010 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterRonaldo

Don Pablo and Philip,

many thanks for your insightful comments re the grid and DC transmission. In the UK we have several sub- sea DC transmission networks including the interconnects between France and England, between Scotland and Northern Ireland and now a new one under construction between Holland and England. All use XLPE insulated cable. I don't know if these are laid on the sea bed or trenched. We'll continue the fight, explain our arguments using reason and science and eventually the penny will drop that wind is an expensive and irrleveant diversion as far as energy supply, security and green issues are concerned.

A key issue is the subsidy. Companies are established to secure planning agreements and permission then sell the project on to major developers who think that there is a profit to be made through the subsidy. Looking at the figures I can't see why anyone in their right mind would invest, even with the subsidy. maintenance costs are proving to be many times estimates.

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Hey but in Australia, the government is planning more windfarms.
Great glorious green Gwindfarms too!
I am assured that they will be marveleous and not cause any of the problems described above.

It may be because we are bronzed Aussies and can make anything work with bailing wire.
Or perhaps it's because we walk upside down around here.
Something like that anyway.

Sep 24, 2010 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAusieDan

Paul Dennis

You are absolutely correct, it is all about the subsidy. One of the largest wind farms is in the Altamont Pass in central California not far from where I live. It was created because of a subsidy and kills many, many birds every year Altamont Wind Farm and so is actually closed down during bird migration season twice a year.

As for the claim that the new bigger, higher turbines don't kill birds, watch what happens to this eagle. WHACK THE BIRD The longer blades merely increase the disk size the birds can whacked in. They will be more efficient at killing, if anything.

And as Ronaldo points out, they don't work anyhow. Total waste of money

Sep 24, 2010 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Paul Dennis

Oh, another thing, about the cable on the sea bed. It is very, very, expensive to lay undersea cable in trenches and so it is usually only done when there is a sandy bottom and near the coast. The last kilometer of a undersea cable is usually buried and covered with a iron armor shield. That also makes it a bitch to repair the cable so they usually just lay the cable. As for a rocky bottom no way.

Another amusing fact: the plastic covered cables attract sharks. While it may be the AC current running inside them to power the repeaters for fiber optic cables, sharks love to chew on them. However, this suggests that DC power can attract sharks too.

I am just waiting for Jaws to put in an appearance.

I really, really doubt that they have thought out long distance (more than a couple kilometer) underwater very high tension cables. The cable will have to be heavily armored . Or buried. In either case, VERY expensive.

Sep 24, 2010 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Paul Dennis,
Why not use your blog to publicize this issue?

Sep 24, 2010 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

Not an electrical engineer but I think this is a fair description;

The direct output of a wind turbine is A.C. at either 60Hz or 50Hz to match the frequency of the distribution grid. The power supply company has to keep its supplies within margins as a lot of consumer's equipment is sensitive to frequency variations within a band of +/- 2Hz or less. The turbine has to be connected to match the phase of the grid and to stay within those limits. This has to be done every time it connects to the grid which is a frequent event as it has to be set to automatically disconnect when the wind exceeds or drops below a threshold. These problems, and several others, are overcome by means to keep rotational speeds constant by electrical and mechanical means and to phase match at time of connect by electronic means.
The limits to the output of a generator of a given size are dictated by wind speed: too low and it becomes a motor and has to be disconnected, too high and its rotational speed controls are overcome and it disconnects, between those extremes, it produces anything between next-to-nothing and its rated capacity. Outside those extremes, it produces nothing at all. Numbers used to indicate capacity in Watts are the installed capacity (makers plate) which is the theoretical capacity when the wind is just right - a sort of Goldilocks number.

Hope this helps. Corrections gratefully received.

Sep 24, 2010 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

You are sorta kinda correct. The phase matching is a nightmare, for the reasons you give. However, the limits on the hertz rating are really the other generators, which have a very narrow dynamic range. Given you could destroy a multi-million dollar, pound, euro generator, the power utilities are very particular about what you do to their power grid.

The conversion from AC to DC is dictated by the fact alternators are much more efficient than DC generators (which is why you have an alternator in your car). The conversion AC-DC and back allows electronics to control the hertz rating. And finally, to some degree, it can control the voltage as well, but not when there is a surge, and can do nothing about the sudden loose of power should the wind die. That is almost as bad as a high wind.

Given all the issues noted above, I agree with Phillip and Paul Dennis, wind farms exist simply to put money in the pocket of greedy speculators sucking up the subsidy. They make no economic sense.

Side issue --- another GREEN wet dream dispelled. Recently, there was the XPRIZE of CARS, a $10 million purse for producing the most efficient automobiles. The big winner was the Edison2 which started out as a hybrid design, but ended up with just a gasoline engine with which it won.


From their website they explain:

Edison2 pursues efficiency through the absolute virtues of low weight and low aerodynamic drag. Although we anticipated developing a hybrid or electric vehicle – hence our name, Edison2 – our studies on efficiency led us away from the significant added weight of batteries needed for an electric or hybrid drive to a one-cylinder, 250cc internal combustion engine fueled by E85.

Have any of you priced one of the new hybrids compared to its gasoline powered alternate? I have had a Nissan Altima for 14 years and it is up to about 150,000 with no problems at all. I get 29 MPG in the mountains, and over 32 on the flat lands. So I looked up the 2010 Nissan Altima and the Altima Hybrid.

2010 Altima
MSRP basic model $19,900 26 MPG

2010 Altima Hybrid
MSRP basic model $26,780 34 MPG

Since I have an Altima which I dearly love, I have no doubt that the next one will last 15 years as well. But when I asked the dealer about the warranty on the battery for the Hybrid and how much it would cost to replace in five years, I got the run around. I haven't looked into it deeper, but if any of you have let us know.

Is Green worth the price? Not at all in my book. Almost $7,000 extra upfront cost and no idea what a replacement battery would cost when it fails, which it will.

Sep 24, 2010 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Re simpleseekeraftertruth

The limits to the output of a generator of a given size are dictated by wind speed: too low and it becomes a motor and has to be disconnected, too high and its rotational speed controls are overcome and it disconnects, between those extremes, it produces anything between next-to-nothing and its rated capacity.

Better than that, when wind speeds are low, they need power. So during low wind conditions, they're a drain on the grid. Also can be pretty nifty polluters given the oil inside their nacelles. Burns nicely, which is a challenge for fire services on-shore and pollution management off-shore.

Sep 24, 2010 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer


All I can suggest is that your MEP Roger Helmer would be very simpathetic and helpful and it is his patch, I'm sure.

Sep 26, 2010 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

I am going to establish my very own project since you don't see any great jobs available.

Could anybody provide any suggestions or websites about how to apply for government grant money to start with my own small business? I've been looking over the internet but just about every web site requires for money and I have been previously told by the unemployment office to stay away from the sites that request cash for grant info because they're rip-offs. I'd be truly grateful for any assistance.

Nov 11, 2010 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterCanadian Government Grants

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