Archive for category Wind energy

What would you like for your Budget? Surprise me, Darling…

Tomorrow Alistair Darling announces his new Budget for the UK. This is an opportunity for him and his party to actual concretise some of the past promises they have made about ensuring that the UK leads Europe in its approach to the environment. It’s also an opportunity to counter the more than justified criticism of existing policies, or rather the lack thereof. Basically, Darling needs to put place some clear, firm and positive measures to show that Labour really is taking Global Warming and the reduction of CO2 seriously.

We do already have a few teasers - or at least all the newspapers are saying the same things. So-called ‘gas guzzlers’ are likely to be punished with a forecourt tax aiming to discourage people from buying them in the first place. Tax discs may be marked more clearly to indicate emissions levels of different cars.  There are even suggestions of more radical proposals such as making parking more expensive for vehicles with higher emissions. Continuing with vehicles, energy companies will apparently be forced to increase the amount of biofuels (sustainably source, of course) they sell on a yearly basis - maybe a good move, but as we know from ongoing discussions, not one to please many environmentalists, and certainly not the ideal long term solution.

These proposals are all very well, but they certainly don’t show the government getting tough on the environment, and neither will raising green taxes or continuing to increase duty on fuel. This we’ve seen before, and, quite frankly, the impact will be minimal. So the question is, does Mr Darling have any surprises, real surprises, hidden under his hat?

Well we can hope, but what should we hope for? Personally I have one hope, although I fear it will not be fulfilled: as well as continuing with the deterrent approach - mostly taxing emissions - it’s time to do like Germany and introduce incentives, specifically a reasonable, interesting, Fee-in tarif for anyone producing surplus electricity via renewable sources. Just in case you’re not sure what this is, it’s really simple - if you generate electricity for your home or business via a renewable source - solar, wind, geothermal - and you produce more than your building requires, you can sell it back to the grid. This generates revenue, enabling you to pay back your investment in renewable energy faster (the cost to install a solar voltaic system for a 3 bedroom house is in the region of £20,000 today).

Germany is today the leader in electricity generation from sources such as wind and solar, and installations outnumbered those in the UK by as much as 1,000 to 1 last year. Why? Because people had a reason to invest beyond just ‘being green’. Because they had a way to pay off their investment within a reasonable period.

So I’m crossing my fingers for tomorrow, but I’m not holding out much hope. I will however continue to rant about this: we all know - governments included - that we need to move fast, and instead of just using the infamous ’stick’, this government needs to provide some ‘carrots’ - real, tangible ones.

No Comments

Worldwide wind turbine shortage - bad news, or good news?

According to an article in last weekend’s Observer, there is currently a worldwide shortage in wind turbines. Apparently tax perks in the US have generated a huge demand, sapping even European supplies and leaving new customers facing long delays, to such an extent that the target dates for the construction of new British wind farms are even being put back.

This is certainly bad news. More and more people are being converted to the cause, only to find that their desire to generate CO2 free power will have to wait several years. Exciting projects to enable rural villages to become completely self-sufficient and even generate revenue are being delayed for the foreseeable future, and far larger projects such as the building of offshore windfarms for the UK are going to miss their deadlines. None of this helps us in our overall goals to reduce our CO2 emissions.

There is however another way to look at this problem and see it as good news, the glass being half full and not half empty. Demand for wind power has reached such a level that the market just can’t keep up. In spite of the doubters, those who worry about noise pollution and ruining the landscape and of an inefficient technology, in spite of global warming deniers, more and more people and institutions are turning to wind power as a viable solution for generating renewable, CO2 free energy. Some have even cottoned on to the fact that you can save and even make money by selling on the excess electricity that you generate.

Yes, there are not enough turbines to go round today, but that has to be a good problem. So, for just a moment I’m going to celebrate the fact that maybe, just maybe, a first tipping point has been reached….. before starting to worry about the next issue: how can we produce more turbines fast enough to keep up with demand.

Answers on a postcard please!

No Comments

The Quiet Revolution that should make a lot of noise

Wind power seems to be a controversial renewable energy solution. From an industrial point of view there are complaints about ruining the landscape and noise pollution, and from a consumer point of view, wind turbines are ugly and noisy additions to the neighbourhood. Perfect territory for those represented by one of my favourite acronyms - the NIMBYs.

The thing is, the UK is apparently the windiest country in the EU. Wind is free and, with the effects of global warming, apparently increasing, so it makes every sense in the world to harness this gift from the heavens to generate zero emissions electricity wherever possible. We just need to find a way to do it that doesn’t have so many NIMBYs up in arms that there aren’t any back yards left in which to put a turbine.

From an industrial point of view I agree to a certain extent that we have to choose sites for turbines carefully in order not to destroy every beautiful view in site, and the evidence does point to noise pollution being a real problem for those living to close to today’s propellor-shaped turbines. However, there are plenty of other potential sites, and all windy countries must continue to identify them and install a maximum number of turbines.

From a consumer point of view we need to find a way to be able to install turbines that can work in built up areas where the wind is disrupted by buildings or trees, that are not considered such an eye-sore, and that make less noise.

In looking around the web at what’s available today, I’ve found what i believe to be a huge step forward for both industrial and consumer installations: Quiet Revolution.

Quiet Revolution have produced a vertical wind turbine. Based on an award-winning helix shaped design, the key advantages of the Quiet Revolution turbine - also called ‘Small Wind’ are that it is more efficient as propelled by wind from any direction without any adjustment, virtually silent due to its more aerodynamic shape, and far more pleasing to the eye (ok, I’m not sure about the use of ‘aerodynamic’ when talking of a tool that relies on wind resistance, but I think you catch my drift). They are already taking orders for their free-standing model, and are working on a smaller model to go on top of houses, which should be ready for installation in late 2008 according to their web site. There’s also a larger version that can be built to order.

Their free-standing model, the QR5 costs £25,000 with an additional installation charge of £5,000 - £10,000, but it generates 10,000 kw/h every year - enough energy for the electricity demand of 5 low-energy houses. The domestic version has not got a price yet, but, whatever it is, we can guarantee it will come down as orders come in. At any rate, if you live in a windy place, your electricity bill will come down to zero.

Wind energy is a crucial part of our future, but it is a technology that is still being developed. I would bet a good slice of money on Quiet Revolution playing an important rôle. Watch this space.

No Comments