A fine idea: ban onshore wind farms and promote solar in Sunny Britain

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Britain is one of the windiest countries on the planet. Unfortunately it has a rather large number of nimbys. Hence the Conservative now seems to be considering pledging to ban onshore wind farms.

So, the renewables to promote will be offshore wind – rather expensive – and solar – rather ineffective given the dogged nature of Britain’s clouds and latitude.

This then is the biggest problem for decarbonisation. The technologies that are the most effective for quick cuts in carbon emissions are also the least politically correct. Few people like nuclear or onshore wind. But stick a rather ineffective solar panel on a suburban roof in England and no one will complain. The UK should abandon its climate targets now for we are reaching more and more for ineffective tools.

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8 thoughts on “A fine idea: ban onshore wind farms and promote solar in Sunny Britain

    Owen Martin said:
    April 4, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Being one of the windiest countries on the planet is no good. Wind turbines only operate between cut in and cut out speed.They also require fossil fuel back up and fossil fuel parasitic power. They also force inefficiencies on fossil fuel generation. Their cost is huge. They are of no use.

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      Robert Wilson said:
      April 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Indeed. And almost always the person making such claims do not care about fossil fuel use in the first place.

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        Owen Martin said:
        April 4, 2014 at 9:01 pm

        Well if somebody really cares about fossil fuel use , then they need to advocate for a cessation of trade with China now worth 1 billion euros per day in the EU. China is the largest consumer of coal in the world and 2nd for oil. It is the engine of the world pumping out cheap products everyday. Stop the trade, make the products that we need in the EU and there you go , you solve 2 problems straight away with one stroke.

        If onshore wind is worth its salt, then it should be able to provide the cheap power to compete with China.

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    leepforward said:
    April 5, 2014 at 7:29 am

    According to an article in the respected ENDS Report journal:

    A surge in solar PV installations has put the UK on-track to meet its target for small-scale renewables early but actual electricity generation is set to disappoint.

    By the end of the scheme’s fourth year on 31 March, 452,246 domestic installations had been installed. There were also 16,257 commercial, industrial or community installations.

    DECC had expected to reach 744,000 domestic and 28,000 other installations by 2020. But the latest figures show domestic installations are already 60% of the way there and based on current rates will meet the target three years early in summer 2017.

    Similarly commercial, industrial and community installations now stand at 58% of the 2020 target. This would also be met by summer 2017 at current rates.

    However, the scheme appears to be generating much less electricity than expected. DECC projections were for FITs installations to generate six terawatt hours of electricity a year by 2020, 1.6% of total UK demand.

    Some 1.7TWh were generated by microrenewables under FITs during year three of the scheme, according to Ofgem. ENDS estimates that 2.3TWh were generated during year four. This is just 38% of the 2020 target despite there being 60% of projected installations.

    The discrepancy is a result of FITs being dominated by solar PV installations that tend to be smaller and have lower capacity factors than wind or hydro schemes.

    Yet even after cuts to the solar PV tariff the technology continues to dominate the scheme. It accounts for 99% of installations and 86% of installed capacity. In the most recent year, 99% of installations and 79% of installed generating capacity was solar PV. This means the scheme is likely to be both more costly and less effective at generating electricity and cutting carbon than DECC had hoped.

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    So, basically, we’re busy spending subsidies on what amounts to ‘feel good’ technology that gives the rather false impression that we’re making real progress towards decarbonising electricity supply when we’re not.

    And, in any case, decarbonising electricity is only one part of the energy equation because there’s also the fact that >80% of UK homes use gas for space heating and food preparation – and all the wind and solar energy in the world won’t help that unless all those homes switch to electric / air source / ground source heating (at substantial cost and disruption) and cooking.

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      Owen Martin said:
      April 5, 2014 at 9:46 am

      The amount of energy you can create from something is irrelevant. Walking, running, cycling, solar, and it seems to a great extent wind, all create surplus energy that is of no use in electricity generation.

      The issue at stake is what conventional generation can be shutdown as a result of this energy.

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        leepforward said:
        April 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm

        It would seem very little conventional (coal, gas, nuclear) can be shut down as a result of renewables precisely because they generate comparatively little output vs installed capacity…

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    Owen Martin said:
    April 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Yes so decarbonisation arguments by politicians are without foundation.

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    Donough Shanahan said:
    April 7, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Solar is not a good idea and Germany proves this. According to the Agee Stat, solar employs similar amounts of people as the biomass (or wind) sector, but requires about 10 times the investment, produces 1/6th the revenue, takes more subsidy than any other renewable energy source and accounts for a measly 8% of renewable energy. Biomass in Germany is at 63%.

    Look for ‘ development of renewable energy sources in Germany’ on Google. You will find data for 2010, 11 and 12. Those advocating solar in this region are advocating more expensive electricity. In light of many surveys on the perceptions and wants of the British public, this is not popular.

    As highlighted above, housetop systems are not the way to go either. In the link below we can see that even with the higher rate of subsidy (albeit on a more expensive set of panels though at multiple locations), the payback was heading towards over nine years. Looking at various websites do not offer better scenarios despite cheaper panels and lower FiT. Seven years was about the best I could find for my situation.

    http://www.uksolarcasestudy.co.uk/
    http://www.solarcentury.com/uk/solar-estimator/

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