Monday, 28 October 2013

You Don't have to be a 'Climate Denier' to Hate Wind Farms.

For the record, I accept the scientific consensus about Anthropogenic climate change. I also accept the economic consensus about what we should do about it (CO2 pigou taxes, etc...). The political "consensus" that we all need to put on a hair shirt, tax ourselves into penury, provide enourmous subsidies to wind and give up the advantages of modern life, because "the environment reasons" is just Watermelon nonsense. It's an attempt to stifle capitalism by people who've never liked it, but who now use a different excuse to demand capitalism shut itself down. Dialectic materialism has been replaced by dialectic environmentalism, but the prescription is the same: economic planning. They were wrong last time, they're wrong this time.

There are many things we can do to make our energy supply less polluting. And we should pick the low-hanging fruit first. In the UK, much of our energy (39% at the time of writing) comes from coal. Much of this could be replaced with lower-carbon, cleaner, safer Natural Gas. This will require widespread fracking but will allow the UK's CO2 footprint to go down quickest in the short-term. If you are going to go with wind, Gas can be cranked up and down quicker than coal can.

But it's not even clear Wind Turbines are good for the environment, even in Narrow CO2 Terms. Turbines have high embedded energy: they have to replace an awful lot of coal to justify the CO2 used in their manufacture, taking over a year to 'pay back' the energy used in their manufacture. Solar Photo-Voltaic generation is tumbling in price. It will not be long before such power generation will be competitive with fossil fuels, without subsidy. At this point, everyone will be mad to not have a solar panel or two on their roof. Instead of letting the market do its work, Government has done its usual job of picking a winner, littering the countryside with unsightly, noisy, unpopular, expensive, vibrating wind-farms, next to which those politicians will not have to live; but by which they will force others to live in order to demonstrate their "green" credentials but the cost of wind energy is NOT falling. These wind farms will never produce cheap energy.

In Germany, where they have a lot of wind power, when it's windy it overloads the network and barely have sufficient base-line capacity when it's not. On a cold, still day, without French nuclear capacity, Germany would suffer blackouts. Today, it's windy, they will probably get 60% of their energy needs from wind, and will not find a market for their Gas-produced power (much of which must stay on all the time...). This distorts the wholesale energy markets across Europe.

Wind turbines kill birds. I am pissed off by this, even if you're not.

The much touted subsidy (a price guarantee) for recently negotiated for new nuclear capacity is about a third that given to wind power, though it lasts longer. Subsidy is money taken from the surplus generated by productive endeavour, and given to unproductive endeavour and is unarguably a bad thing. This is what the market finds out and the market is working -Solar feed in tariffs are falling as the price of cells falls and their efficiency rises. It has long been accepted the up-front costs of nuclear are so vast, state guarantees are needed for new capacity to be built, but it seems likely Nuclear will be competitive, if the wholesale energy price rises at least in line with inflation as it has in the past. Wind however doesn't generate useful electricity at an affordable price, even where it's enjoyed massive investment and has an arguably net negative effect on the environment. People will pay to not be near them.

So, assuming you want to cut your CO2 output, 1) switch to Gas and Nuclear for base-line power. 2) encourage Solar PV generation. Encourage biomass CHP projects. Wind is an expensive, stupid, ill-thought out sideshow; an economic basket-case which has absolutely no chance whatsoever of solving the energy problems of the 21st century. There are much more effective technologies: Predictable Tidal flow, less intermittent wave power, solar PV rapidly falling in price, Nuclear for the base-load and one-day solving everything, fusion power.

The most important thing to ensure a good environment is that the economy grows healthily. If the economy is growing, people will feel they have a surplus to spend on luxuries like "the environment". And at this, the eco-mentalists will squeal "but the environment is not a luxury". It is, if it's a choice between a job and a windfarm people will choose the former. Most reject the latter, even when they're feeling rich. When times are tight, the people will demand an end to environmental costs and foreign aid. Central to anything looking like a healthy economy is the absence of subsidies, though there is a case for time limited price guarantees to "encourage" development of technologies, this would better be achieved by a simple emissions tax on the polluting power rather than the complex levies which distort the energy markets at present. Look at the economic mess Egypt is in where Governments  are struggling to Govern largely (though not entirely) over the issue of state fuel subsidies which make up 12% of GDP. Such subsidies have a habit of growing like a cancer. Germany is in a similar boat with its enormous subsidy to wind power.

Wind turbines have costs paid by rural dwellers (especially feathered ones) for the green consciences of urbanites. They make no economic sense, and little environmental. Let's follow France, whose nuclear power stations keep Europe's lights on when the wind's not blowing, and in the meantime, FRACK BABY FRACK.


startledcod said...

Tom Lehrer said that political satire was dead when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I think irony died with the news that the RSPB endorses wind farms, the clue should be in the name the Royal Society for the PROTECTION of Birds.

Skimmer said...

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Anonymous said...

Re wind farms killing birds.

My opinion:

I accept wind farms kill birds, but this is relatively insignificant compared to other ways human activity kills birds.

My list of threats, in order of diminishing importance

1) Lunatic land use and farming policy resulting in habitat destruction.

2) Approx 9m pet cats killing birds every night of the year.

3) Indiscriminate slaughter by humans on migratory routes etc..

Why would you rate wind farms as a significant threat?

Anonymous said...

"and has an arguably net negative effect on the environment". Not true. They need deforrestation, rare earth metals (for the generators)which is a messy, environmentally catastrophic mining business in China, they always need additional back-up energy which usually is oil, gas or coal power plants (Germany has increased their coal-power some +30%). There is NO net environmental or climate positive effects. Wind power is 100% expensive, useless and pointless. Also, it has among the highest rates of human deaths per produced TWh, not far from Coal power (were mining is even worse). Nuclear energy actually SAVES lives per produced TWh if it were to replace wind power! You brits withstood the brown fascists not long ago. Now you have the green among you without doing anything? Wake up and follow the money!
/JPC Lindstrom

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