Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nature 1 : 0 Man

Just in case you were thinking of planting one of these in your back garden, this happened in Denmark:





And just in case I'm accused of unnecessary scare-mongering, I did some research. Although these are extremely rare occurences it appears there have been two recent failures of the market leader's Vestas turbines in this country, which doesn't exactly thrill me as they become increasingly popular in built up areas. Crewe's Tesco store has a large wind turbine in its carpark and I've seen it spin at an alarming speed on occasion. Doesn't mean that it's going to shred itself of course and I'm all for renewable energy but I just don't like land based turbines. In fact the whole concept of wind turbines is a bit of a pup. Let's face it, they're incredibly ugly in groups on top of a hill and suffer greatly from the fact that at times of maximum generation potential - which would more often than not coincide, especially during the colder months, with maximum demand - they have to be switched off. On a hot day when everyone's using coolers and fans, there's never any bloody wind to drive them, so how efficient can these monsters ever be? The usable energy they generate will probably only cover that used for annual maintenance once that used during manufacture has been covered. And what happens when more efficient replacement generators are available or your turbine breaks down and your windfarm is ten miles out at sea? These things rely on moving parts made by humans and then work under immense loading so they'll inevitably break. When you really think about it, they're really not up to the job, they just look as though they ought to be.

The only reason I can see for having something like this in a built up area is that it's a visible sign that the company's doing something virtuous, nothing more than a sop to the environmental lobby. A bit like when airlines point to someone in a wheelchair and say they do something for the disabled but then won't let you on if you can walk yet have more than 10kg of vital medical supplies, the self-serving bastards. Most of the times I've seen the Tesco one it's been chocked because of strong winds or they didn't need the power and turned off as there's no storage capability. So, largely useless then. I would rather they covered their flat roof in photovoltaic cells instead. It's a technology that's becoming increasingly more efficient with a far wider spectral range being covered than before. It's also maintenance free apart from the odd clean now and again. Granted they're pretty crap in the evenings and at night but they're never going to fail catastrophically or use vast amounts of energy in their manufacture just to be out of commission most of the time. In Spain every new build house or refurb has to to have PV panels by law and of course, it's not about heat, it's daylight and we have a lot of that here in the summer. Yet this talentless load of wastrels we laughingly call a government will probably have a 3 year consultation period and then make it law in time for 2015 claiming that the technology will be better by then.

Oh I don't know. Maybe something of nothing but it scares the crap out me and you won't catch me sideways on to a spinning one ever again. These are better. All serviceable bits on the ground and easy to install by the looks of it, just not as pretty.

4 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Dave said...

The visual pollution of turbines - particularly in lovely remote countryside - appalls me. It actually makes me really angry.

7:56 am  
Blogger Malc said...

We have several turbines on Orkney. All on Westray are reasonably small-scale and never seem to be switched off, even when we get the (fairly regular) gales. I've seen a couple that have storage capacity and can feed electric into the grid.

You're dead right about Tesco's turbine being a PR stunt.

The PV cells thing would be great if the Government could get off its collective arse and subsidise it properly.

And the turbine in the clip looks great to me. I want one.

9:59 am  
Blogger Sharon J said...

A lot of wind turbines do have storage capabilities, that's primarily how 'green energy' suppliers produce their electricity. I've no idea why Tesco's turbine doesn't have storage, although maybe it does? I haven't a clue to be honest.

10:14 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Somebody told me from Tesco that the turbine is used on virtually on demand to power certain non-essential services in the store. Why it can't feed into the grid, I don't know but it will be paying for itself for a long while before it's of any "green" benefit. It is as Malc says, purely a publicity stunt. Those vertical axis ones are cheaper to fabricate and easier to upgrade. They also work on a breeze, just like those revolving shop signs do.

The easiest way of storing wind power so it can be used on demand is to raise water in the same way that the Dinorwig pumped storage scheme does by using off-peak electricity. At least the water can then be raised at all times of the day instead of just overnight.

10:37 am  

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