Mar 08

The face of the enemy

Wind farms: even worse than we thought… (Telegraph, Mar 8, 2012):

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has produced yet another devastating report: this time on the economics of wind farms. Turns out they’re even worse than we thought.

Not only do the Bat Chomping Eco-Crucifixes (TM) ruin views, kill birds, cause bats to implode, destroy the British film industry, frighten horses, enrich rent-seeking toffs like David Cameron’s father-in-law Sir Reginald Sheffield Bt, drive up electricity bills, kill jobs, create fuel poverty, cause old people to die of hypothermia, wipe out property values, drive people mad with strobing and noise pollution and enable smug liberal idiots to spout rubbish like “Oh, I don’t mind them. Actually I think they’re rather beautiful”, but also  by 2020 they’re set to drive up consumer bills in the UK alone by £120 billion.

This is about ten times more than it would cost if we stuck to gas. (Which we have in abundance, just waiting to be exploited, in places like the Bowland Shale).

In the latest Spectator, Matt Ridley delivers the coup-de-grace. Here’s a taste: Continue reading »

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Aug 22

German Village Achieves Energy Independence … And Then Some (BioCycle, August 2011, Vol. 52, No. 8, p. 37):

Wildpoldsried produces 321 percent more energy than it needs and is generating $5.7 million in annual revenue — a remarkable accomplishment for a modest farming community that has been able to invest in new municipal infrastructure without going into debt.

IN 1997, when the newly elected Mayor and Village Council of Wildpoldsried, Germany took their posts, everyone agreed that its goals should be to build new industry, keep initiatives local, bring in new revenues and create no debt. Those goals included construction of a new sports hall, theater stage, pub, and retirement house. Without going into debt, the mayor and council assumed it would take several decades to achieve. But clever thinking, a national policy that “paid back” on investments in renewable energy and a community-supported vision of environmental and economic stewardship, have led to fulfilling those goals in significantly less time. This article tells the story of Wildpoldsried, a small agricultural village in the state of Bavaria, which serves as a model of how to achieve community sustainability in the 21st century — and remain debt-free.

In May 2011, 14 years later, Mayor Arno Zengerle announced at a town hall meeting that it’s “half time” of his third term. He walked the community through a massive list of accomplishments that include nine new community buildings (including the school, gym and community hall) complete with solar panels, four biogas digesters with a fifth in construction, seven windmills with two more on the way, 190 private households equipped with solar, a district heating network with 42 connections, three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control and a natural wastewater system. Wildpoldsried (pop. <2,600) now produces 321 percent more energy than it needs and is generating 4.0 million Euro (US $5.7 million) in annual revenue. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a modest farming community that turned a village with no industry into an industry of renewable energy with the help of local entrepreneurs and pioneers. Small businesses have sprung up to sell and install technologies and provide services to the renewable energy installations — from solar panels to district heating to the anaerobic digesters and energy efficiency retrofits. Continue reading »

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Jan 09

Britain’s wind farms almost ground to a halt during the coldest spells in December, it has emerged.

As temperatures plunged below zero and demand for electricity soared, figures reveal that most of the country’s 3,000 wind turbines were virtually still, energy experts say.

During some of the chilliest weather, they were working at less than one-hundredth of capacity, producing electricity for fewer than 30,000 homes.

The National Grid was forced to compensate for the still, cold conditions by cranking up conventional coal and gas-fired power stations.

December was the coldest month in more than a century – and yesterday, as some in northern England, the Midlands and Wales were hit with more snow, residents will have been switching on the heating again. But critics have warned that the UK is becoming too dependent on wind for power.

Continue reading »

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Sep 07

An ill wind is blowing over Italy’s green revolution, as the Mafia seek to capitalise on generous grants for renewable energy.


They rise up high above the sun-scorched countryside, looking out over hilltop villages, palm trees, neatly-tended vineyards and olive groves.

But for all their promises of a clean, green future, Italy’s windfarms have now acquired a somewhat dirtier whiff – as the latest industry to be infiltrated by the country’s mobsters.

Attracted by the prospect of generous grants designed to boost the use of alternative energies, the so-called “eco Mafia” has begun fraudulently creaming off millions of euros from both the Italian government and the European Union.

And nowhere has the industry’s reputation become more tarnished than Sicily, where windmills now dot the horizon in Mafia strongholds like Corleone, the town better known as the setting for the Godfather films.

“Nothing earns more than a wind farm,” said Edoardo Zanchini, an environmental campaigner who has investigated Mafia infiltration of the industry. “Anything that creates wealth interests the Mafia.”

It is not just Italian criminals, however, who have spotted the potential for corruption. Recent research by Kroll, the international corporate security firm, has discovered examples all over Europe of so-called “clean energy” schemes being used to to line criminals’ pockets rather than save the planet. Some involve windmills that stand derelict or are simply never built, while others are used to launder profits from other crime enterprises.

“Renewable energy seems like a good thing, run by saintly people saving the world,” said Jason Wright, a senior director with Kroll, which performs background checks on renewable energy schemes on behalf of legitimate investors, and which has documented a sharp rise in the number of wind farms with suspect ownership.

“But a lot of people want to jump on board a sure-fire revenue spinner. I wouldn’t say the entire sector is corrupt, but there is a small percentage of corrupt projects.”

The level of fraud has prompted calls for tighter restrictions on the use of public money in funding renewable energy, for which EU bureaucrats have grand ambitions. Brussels has ordered all 27 EU nations to ensure that one-fifth of their energy is renewable by 2020, and in recent years has given out an average of €5 billion (£4.1 billion) annually in loans and grants. The levels of subsidy allow some wind farm owners to claim generous premiums for every watt of electricity they generate.

In Italy, for example, power from wind farms is sold at a guaranteed rate of €180 per kwh – the highest rate in the world. In a country where the Mafia has years of expertise at buying corrupt politicians and intimidating rivals, the result is perhaps inevitable, creating a new breed of entrepreneur known as the “lords of the wind”.

Continue reading »

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Jun 21

Britain’s biggest wind farm companies are to be paid not to produce electricity when the wind is blowing.

Energy firms will receive thousands of pounds a day per wind farm to turn off their turbines because the National Grid cannot use the power they are producing

Energy firms will receive thousands of pounds a day per wind farm to turn off their turbines because the National Grid cannot use the power they are producing.

Critics of wind farms have seized on the revelation as evidence of the unsuitability of turbines to meet the UK’s energy needs in the future. They claim that the ‘intermittent’ nature of wind makes such farms unreliable providers of electricity.

The National Grid fears that on breezy summer nights, wind farms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.

The electricity cannot be stored, so one solution – known as the ‘balancing mechanism’ – is to switch off or reduce the power supplied.

The system is already used to reduce supply from coal and gas-fired power stations when there is low demand. But shutting down wind farms is likely to cost the National grid – and ultimately consumers – far more. When wind turbines are turned off, owners are being deprived not only of money for the electricity they would have generated but also lucrative ‘green’ subsidies for that electricity.

The first successful test shut down of wind farms took place three weeks ago. Scottish Power received £13,000 for closing down two farms for a little over an hour on 30 May at about five in the morning.

Whereas coal and gas power stations often pay the National Grid £15 to £20 per megawatt hour they do not supply, Scottish Power was paid £180 per megawatt hour during the test to switch off its turbines.

It raises the prospect of hugely profitable electricity suppliers receiving large sums of money from the National Grid just for switching off wind turbines.

Dr Lee Moroney, planning director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think tank opposed to the widespread introduction of wind farms, said: “As more and more wind farms come on stream this will become more and more of an issue. Wind power is not controllable and does not provide a solid supply to keep the national grid manageable. Paying multinational companies large sums of money not to supply electricity seems wrong.”

Earlier this year, The Sunday Telegraph revealed that electricity customers are paying more than £1 billion a year to subsidise wind farms and other forms of renewable energy. Continue reading »

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Dec 03

There has never been a more important time to invest in green technologies, yet many of us believe these efforts are doomed to failure. What nonsense, writes Chris Goodall

Myth 1: solar power is too expensive to be of much use

In reality, today’s bulky and expensive solar panels capture only 10% or so of the sun’s energy, but rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun’s light and cost a fraction of what they do today. They may not even be made of silicon. First Solar, the largest manufacturer of thin panels, claims that its products will generate electricity in sunny countries as cheaply as large power stations by 2012.

Continue reading »

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