Where have all the windmills gone?

I have been meaning to write about the UK economy for a while but I keep putting it off. The economy is clearly on the mend and the government there is doing some interesting things. But when it comes to ‘green’ policies, Cameron and most of his team have completely lost the plot.  It turns out that not only are energy prices skyrocketing, there are also looming shortages.  Well done, Davey-boy.

There are three interesting aspects of the enclosed Guardian article, apart from the cancellation of a large offshore windmill project in Scotland.  The first is that new nuclear plants are being built in the UK; secondly, some environmental groups are against large-scale windmill projects; and, thirdly, the fear for ‘green’ investors of Ed Milliband’s promising to freeze electricity prices.  A few chuckles there.

Scottish Power has abandoned a £5.4bn plan to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm, after four years of planning, because it is “not financially viable”.

The decision not to go ahead with the Argyll Array, which would have provided green energy for 1 million homes, is another blow to the government’s plans to tackle a looming supply problem and to meet its low carbon targets.

RWE, another of the big six power companies, announced two weeks ago that it was abandoning plans to construct a £4bn offshore wind farm, the Atlantic Array, off Devon. On Thursday, Centrica, owner of British Gas, announced it was selling its stake in another huge offshore wind farm, Race Bank, off East Anglia.

But the Scottish Power move is a particular setback because the company admits that the conditions at Argyll Array, off the coast of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, are some of the best in the UK. It is a favourite spot for windsurfers. The wind farm was to have up to 300 turbines capable of producing 1,800 megawatts, three times more than the current largest wind farm – the London Array, off Kent – and almost 60% of the output of EDF’s planned new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant. Energy groups have complained that the subsidies available for new wind projects are not high enough. Many have also warned that the lights could go off without more power capacity.

Jonathan Cole, head of offshore wind at Scottish Power, said: “We believe it is possible to develop the Argyll Array site; it has some of the best wind conditions of any offshore zone in the UK. However, it is our view that the Argyll Array project is not financially viable in the short term.

“The rate of progress in development of foundation and installation technology has been slower than anticipated.”

Scottish Power said the main problems affecting the project were the ground conditions on the site, particularly the presence of hard rock, coupled with challenging wave conditions that could make construction more difficult. It also blamed the presence of basking sharks, which environmental groups continue to study to get a greater understanding of their activities in the area.

The wind farm has long been the target of a No Tiree Array group, which yesterday welcomed the decision by the developer, calling the plans an “environmental disaster for Tiree and the west coast of Scotland”.

Earlier this week, Keith Anderson, chief corporate officer of Scottish Power, argued that the “carbon price floor”, which taxes companies for burning fossil fuels, should be shelved by the government because it would make the UK’s remaining coal plants largely uneconomic by the middle of the decade. With Britain’s spare power margin already forecast to fall as low as 2% by 2015, the carbon tax would force more closures and “threatens to make us even more vulnerable to the risk of blackouts”.

Scottish Power, owned by Iberdrola of Spain, also warned recently that Ed Miliband’s promise to freeze domestic power prices in a bid to help struggling consumers risked discouraging further investment. It said it would continue to show its commitment to UK offshore wind, with the much smaller 389MW West of Duddon Sands project currently under construction in the Irish Sea.

An application for consent was also submitted in 2012 with Vattenfall for the East Anglia ONE offshore windfarm, which could have a capacity of up to 1,200MW.

RenewableUK, the lobby group for wind power, played down the Argyll Array decision. Maf Smith, the organisation’s deputy chief executive said: “The fact that not all wind farm projects go ahead is a natural part of the development process. Some encounter physical obstacles or financial challenges which mean that they aren’t viable for the time being – although they will be in the future, as cutting-edge wind turbine technology is developing at an astonishing rate.”

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32 Responses to Where have all the windmills gone?

  1. mareeS

    I wrote a bit last week about how Newcastle got on after BHP, and that Adelaide should come and visit. It seems Geelong has already seen fit, as it has a new manufacturing industry in bushfire-proof composite power poles that are being exported to SEA and California, rather than chopping down trees or making tired old cars.

    If a person could bottle ingenuity, Australia would rule the world.

  2. Louis Hissink

    Of course if the Dutch had realised that grinding grains using windmill power was economically a useful thing to do, we’d be still at it. That we don’t can only mean that there are better and more cheaper ways of making flour.

  3. I don’t now what you or anyone is worried about. Towards the end of the article it is mentioned that Ed Milliband promised to “freeze domestic power prices”. Did you see that? The English are ruled by people with the power to control prices and that is no small power! Surely everything will be fine with such powerful people looking after them.

  4. incoherent rambler

    The noticeable thing about Scottish wind farms, is that that they are switched off most of the time (too windy).
    If sanity returns to the UK ruling classes, the UK will need 10-12 new nukes to be built at very high speed.
    The problem is looming power shortages, the solution takes 5-10 years to build.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    Another problem they are finding is they don’t last as long as advertised.

    Wind farm turbines wear sooner than expected, says study

    The analysis of almost 3,000 onshore wind turbines — the biggest study of its kind —warns that they will continue to generate electricity effectively for just 12 to 15 years. The wind energy industry and the Government base all their calculations on turbines enjoying a lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

    This was of land based wind turbines. I strongly suspect that offshore turbines will be even worse, since pounding by the sea, weather and corrosion issues are quite often underestimated for new seaborne gear.

    Which makes Scottish Power’s decision even more sensible.

  6. Walter Plinge

    The wind farm was to have up to 300 turbines capable of producing 1,800 megawatts, three times more than the current largest wind farm – the London Array, off Kent – and almost 60% of the output of EDF’s planned new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

    A typical example of how Green boosters fudge and exagerate. The London Array may well produce 60% of Hinkley C’s output — when the wind is blowing at the optimal speed. I’d be astonished doubt if the usuable output exceeds 10% of that of a nuclear power station.

  7. Uber

    Not at all related but I have to get this off my chest.

    I’ve just ordered something from an international company that has a warehouse in Sydney. To get it paid for and delivered from Sydney was going to cost DOUBLE the price of getting it from an overseas warehouse.

    This is too depressing. We are a banana republic. (Apparently AusPost were going to charge $9 for a 10 gram delivery of 150km – international shipping was $3. Sydney were charging a 30% markup on the purchase price, even after converting the international price from USD).

  8. Walter Plinge

    I was watching a doco yesterday evening on the origins of the industrial revolution and why the French never had one. Cheap and abundant power (from coal), engineering and scientific ingenuity and a lack of bureaucratic interference is what did it. The French tried unsuccessfully to copy Watt’s steam engine but failed due to bureaucratic over-regulation. Many previously advanced Western countries, us included, are heading down the French path by making energy artificially expensive. Cheap energy fuels the economy and wind power is never going to provide that.

    Here in Victoria we have hundreds of years worth of easily-winnable low grade coal. We should be exploiting it for all it’s worth. Time think about nuclear power several centuries into the future.

  9. james

    Wind and solar power might prove a boon if they prove capable of further development in decades to come.

    But it will indeed take DECADES at the very least, putting giant eco-crucifixes up all over the shop only discredits renewable energy when the inevitable failures come.

    Right now it is just a giant, moralistic rent seeking exercise.

    I am a little jealous of those who have managed to suckle on this particular teat, they are in clover and the left makes sure they can seldom be questioned in the MSM.

  10. incoherent rambler

    Uber:

    Importing vendors in Australia will pay these costs:

    - ACMA registration (varies but work on $1000 per electronic item).
    - eye gouging freight charges (in both directions)
    - GST (in advance), they collect it when it imports
    - customs charges and levies
    - airport charges and levies

    A $100 dollar (cost) imported electronic item gets to $130-135 dollars by the time you have finished with freight and the business of government. Then we add Auspost, the we add profit …

  11. Walter Plinge

    A point I missed and which the aforementioned doco drew out: wind power is to the current economy what water power was to the industrial revolution: subject to the vagaries of nature and unreliable. With only water power the industrial revolution would never have happened.

  12. cohenite

    People who advocate wind and solar are either making money from them through government subsidies, are liars or fuckwits.

    In a discussion on Barry Brook’s blog involving Peter Lang and some green morons one of the green idiots said this:

    “Although a single wind turbine is indeed intermittent, this is not generally true of a system of several wind farms, separated by several hundred kilometres and experiencing different wind regimes. The total output of such a system generally varies smoothly and only rarely experiences a situation where there is no wind at any site. As a result, this system can be made as reliable as a conventional base-load power station by adding a small amount of peak-load plant (say, gas turbines) that is only operated when required.”

    What this cretin was saying is if one wind piece of shit isn’t turning there’s bound to be another piece of shit turning somewhere else to take up the slack. The idea that this can happen is defeated by the climatic principle of teleconnection and a study by Miskelly and Quirk shows conclusively that if it ain’t blowing in one place it ain’t blowing elsewhere either.

  13. boy on a bike

    A recently published study on offshore windfarms noted that, due to salt water:

    - their output declines much more rapidly than forecast
    - maintenance costs go up much faster than forecast

    And there are still people running around trying to build new ones?

  14. Mike of Marion

    It’s about time we had nuclear power stations – period. Sick and tired of all the bull associated with NP when most of the incidents occured in very early model units.

  15. james

    It’s about time we had nuclear power stations – period. Sick and tired of all the bull associated with NP when most of the incidents occured in very early model units.

    Never happen. Anyone educated after 1990 has been taught that Nuke power is irredeemably evil.

    The knee jerk response is something to behold.

    We all got a taste of it after a Tsunami killed 10,000 in Japan, a Nuclear incident caused by the tsunami killed somewhat less and the resulting news coverage was three weeks about the coming nuclear apocalypse.

  16. Uber

    “It’s about time we had nuclear power stations”. It would probably cost more than wind farms to develop and operate. Totally pointless when you have endless reserves of cheap carbon based energy.

  17. wazsah

    Correct me please if I have this wrong but The London Array is rated at 630MW – compared to Hinkley Point C nuclear power station at 3,200 MW –
    Then you have to allow for the actual “capacity factor” of say 28% for wind

    Hinkley Point C can work 24/7 = 28 GWhrs
    London Array = 630 MW and at 28% cap factor generates 1.5 GWhrs

    Hinkley Point C est cost is $16Bn
    London Array cost = $3.024Billion
    So Hinkley Point C generates about 18 times the useful electricity for about 5.3 times the cost of the London Array.

  18. Uber

    incoherent rambler, most of your points are somewhat irrelevant and simply the cost of doing business anywhere in the world (eg, taxes, charges). But if importers are getting gouged on shipping, then what gives? The whole idea of importing, I would have thought, was to gain a volume discount on shipping costs, otherwise what’s the point? I remain unconvinced.

    As for Australia Post, they are still delivering the parcel to my door whether it comes from Sydney or Hong Kong. Why $3 from HK-via-Sydney and $9 from Sydney direct? It defies logic.

  19. Driftforge

    a Nuclear incident caused by the tsunami killed somewhat less

    The nuclear incident killed no one, and will kill no one. One worker had the equivalent of sunburn.

    That’s it.

    The tidal wave killed 30,000.

    The hydro collapse killed 11,000.

    The oil refinery fire killed 25.

    Nuclear power. Worlds safest form of energy.

  20. egg_

    We are a banana coal, iron ore & wheat republic.

    Keating was right.

  21. andysaurus

    Walter, with regards to your #1112480 and bureaucracy:

    If you get a chance, you should read ‘Slide Rule’ Nevil Shute’s biography. He was an engineer involved in the building of an airship early in the 20th century. For political reasons, private industry was pitted against government builders. The R100 was a success (private industry), but the government run R101 literally crashed and burned with great loss of life. A graphic example of what you say.
    BTW all his other books are worth reading too. He was a fabulous story teller. ‘Trustee from the Toolroom” is a favourite.

  22. James of the Glen

    Cohenite is correct,
    “People who advocate wind and solar are either making money from them through government subsidies, are liars or fuckwits”.

    They also include parasites of local communities, driving out residents from their homes with debilitating noise, grossly devaluing adjacent land and vandalising the environment.

    A recent study tour in Denmark, UK and Canada/US confirmed the anger and hate most have for these wreckers. Tourism is suffering as visitors are reluctant to go to affected areas any more.

    In Denmark, the Dept of Energy has set up five Compensation Commissions to try to recompense residents for land devaluations. Yet here, governments are still dishonest enough to ask, “what devaluations?”.

    With the examples of Spain (unemployment 27%) and California (broke) staring them in the face, SA Labor continues to allow more “farms” to be established, knowing full well the effect on the economy, manufacturing and communities.

    Tony Abbott must kill off the Renewable Energy Certificates subsidies rort post haste. The wind companies only interest is to gain these certificates and funnel the money overseas or into union super funds. Selling wind shelf-companies to other wind companies is totally dependent on possession of such certificates.

    In the meantime, rent seekers ( turbine ‘hosts’) may look forward to the coming avalanche of litigation. And wind companies will cynically not protect them, according to the standard (and not so secretive!) contracts.

  23. Uber

    “Tony Abbott must kill off the Renewable Energy Certificates subsidies rort post haste.”

    I doubt that the Abbott government is going to achieve any meaningful change. They just don’t seem interested in reform, whether it be regarding the great Green ripoff, the NBN, industrial relations, or any of the other myriad nation destroyers we are currently subject to.

  24. Macbeth

    Neville Shute (Full name Neville Shute Norway) did write some good stories, but had a somewhat strange personality, reflected in some of the stories. I have a picture of him standing on a stairway in the airship R100.

  25. Louis Hissink

    Everyone will continue tilting at windmills until the belief in biogenic oil is nullified. I stumbled on peer reviewed paper summarising the knowledge of Abiotic oil theory, with a plethora of peer reviewed papers describing occurrences of petroleum and natural gas in regions the biotic model is simply incapable of explaining, ever.

    So you have to wonder what it might take to make the biotic oilers to change their minds when the facts contradict their reality. As much effort to change the minds of the climateers I suspect, because both camps are populated by the same mindsets and individuals.

  26. mundi

    So they are discovering that a 800 year old technology is no longer viable… what a surprise.

    I don’t think any modern wind farm has ever been viable – they have all been subsidised one way or another.

  27. incoherent rambler

    Windmills are ok for pumping non-demand volumes of water to holding storage (cattle troughs) and small scale, high speed turbines seem to work well in the windiest places on earth. For everything else they are a technological dud.

  28. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    Off topic, but Neville Shute did write the Australian classic “A Town Like Alice” – and the story of the Australian nailed to a tree and beaten half to death by the Japanese, and who survived, was true.

  29. Pat Warnock

    What Australian state has the majority of newly installed ‘bird shredders’?

  30. Gab

    What Australian state has the majority of newly installed ‘bird shredders’?

    South Australia. They also have the highest electricity prices in Australia.

  31. wreckage

    On postage costs, compared to anywhere in the EU we have wonderfully low costs for small imports, including no tariffs, no GST below about $500, and no additional charge for withholding the package until tariffs and duties have been calculated. A package that costs no extra to bring into Australia, with a sticker price of $150, can cost up to $250 in various parts of Europe.

    Many Post Offices internationally are heavily subsidized. The US is the opposite; with pension obligations out to 75 years into the future, and capped domestic prices, they have to charge like a wounded bull on postal packages going international. The UK subsidizes all postage including international; if Hong Kong does the same, there’s your price difference.

    Australian postal packages are quite cheap, and government interference in the form of tariffs, duties, withholding periods, service fees, and GST are some of the lowest in the world. We might not be doing it as right as possible, but 9/10 other nations have a total pooch-screw on their hands and make us look really good.

  32. NATO

    I like this post. It made me smile to remember Mark Steyn ‘s reference to Dutch windmills as a macguffin to call wind power 12th century technology. I always chuckle on the inside when an economic point references the Labour los in England or Labor win in oz when our handbag PM’s millionaire wife pulled up stumps to make money money with conservative governments. Winning! Then the thread got hijacked and I almost wrenched my shoulder out of it’s socket to pat myself on the back for getting a couple of high risk work licences and making the cement change to Melbourne’s warehouses. Offices got NOTHING on this.

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