Wind power

It stated: "Despite the inherent intermittency of wind power supply, wind generation could make a significant contribution to total global electricity generation and be a major source of electricity in the UK (eg 30 per cent by 2020 and more beyond)."

The CCC, chaired by Lord Turner, the former director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said that new techniques of energy storage would overcome the problem of maintaining a regular supply when the wind is not blowing.

As has been pointed out so boringly and repetitively by just about everyone rational left in this debate, yes, for wind power to work as advertised we do need new techniques of energy stroage.

The only slightly uncomfortable fact is that we\’ve currently no idea at all what these might be.

We\’ve not got the hydro resources to use pumped water, there just aren\’t enough valleys etc that we could use. Battery technology isn\’t ready yet, if it ever will be. Cracking water to make hydrogen also doesn\’t work (in either economic or engineering terms) as yet.

Yes, there are a few ideas out there but we\’re decades away from being able to make any of them work on the required scale, if we ever do.

At the current level of technology it just ain\’t gonna work. So why are we doing it?

15 comments on “Wind power

  1. Perhaps my noble Lord Turner envisages something involving millions of little wheels each with an electrically stimulated hamster inside it.

    Ridiculous I know, but barring all other possibilities what else are we left with?

  2. I draw comfort from the fact that every time wishful thinking runs up against reality, reality wins. Admittedly, the process can be unpleasant (q.v. Soviet Communism, Great Leap Forward, Khmer Rouge etc.) but at least after the great egg-breaking results in no omelette whatsoever we have a brief hiatus in which to stack the skulls in the ossuary, and that’s got to count for something, hasn’t it?

  3. A number of ways:

    Electrolysis – splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen for later use in vehicles or just burnt in a power station.
    Synthetic Hydrocarbons: you can form these from CO2 and Water (duh) and they will be very clean.

    People knee-jerk and dismiss the above as it is not currently seen as “economic”. However, these opinions were formed when we used to use fossil fuels to provide the energy. That is not the case here. We have an energy storage problem.

    Cracking water was my suggestion to avoid the ridiculous pylons across the Highlands when the Orkney project was proposed. The answer? Defeatist bleats about not seeing others doing it yet….m’baaaa! Grief, we are truly stuffed if we have cowardly, narrow minded morons like that wedged into all our infrastructure projects.

  4. You could use all the coming unemployed to work treadmills – that must generate something. and deal with obesity at the same time.

  5. ‘”People knee-jerk and dismiss the above as it is not currently seen as “economic”.’

    Your circumlocution gives the game away. You cannot bear even to tell the truth to yourself. The stuff being prattled about is not ‘seen’ as uneconomic, it is uneconomic. Is. Is. Repeat after me: “Is uneconomic”.

    An argument where a fundamental fact is so carefully avoided is nonsense.

    Had you argued that the windy stuff ought be done even though uneconomic, for moral reasons, or because it might be economic in future and we need preparation, I would at least give you a polite hearing.

    I particularly loathe ‘windpower’ because it has destroyed the beauty of a piece of the Canadian Rockies through which I travel and hike and sight-see many times a year. Cowley, Pincher Creek and Lundbreck Alberta have been sullied with appalling, ugly, stupid, uneconomic windmills because of arguments like yours. The windmills are particularly offensive because the same areas are loaded, just bloody loaded, with hydrocarbons and the oil industry has been forbidden to drill because of ‘knee jerk’ enviro-fools.

  6. Super-flywheels. There was a load of research on this during the 70s and 80s, when new composites allowed bizarre flywheels to be created which consisted of a series of carbon fibre spokes forming a flywheel, rotating on magnetic bearings in vacuo, with a motor/generator being used to charge and discharge the unit. They were being considered for local energy storage (being far cheaper and simpler than HEP lakes and generators) or even for power storage on buses. The point of superflywheels is that what you lose in energy storage by reducing weight you gain because novel materials allow ridiculously high rotational speeds to be used – creating a lightweight system capable of storing large amounts of energy. There was speculation, however, that the system might not have worked particularly well in vehicles, where it would act as a super-gyroscope, and prevented maneuvering!

    Scientific American had a major feature on them at the time – but my filing system has failed me, and I no longer have it.

  7. ” or even for power storage on buses. The point of superflywheels is that what you lose in energy storage by reducing weight you gain because novel materials allow ridiculously high rotational speeds to be used ”

    You see, there are some combinations of phrases that one really ought to avoid. One example is “ridiculously high rotational speeds”, along with “buses”.

    Sort of like “cockroach” and “pie”.

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