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Christopher Booker – Another Failed Prophet?

Wind farms: the monuments to lunacy that will be left to blot the landscape

Christopher Booker, Telegraph, 10 Sept 2011

And now – some previous wonderful predictions about technology:

‘I also lay aside all ideas of any new works or engines of war, the invention of which long-ago reached its limit, and in which I see no hope for further improvement…’
– Sextus Julius Frontinus, governor of Britania, 84 C.E.

 

‘Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean.’
– Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London.

 

‘There is a young madman proposing to light the streets of London—with what do you suppose—with smoke!’
– Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) [On a proposal to light cities with gaslight.]

 

‘What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?’
– The Quarterly Review, England (March 1825)

 

‘Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.’
– Editorial in the Boston Post (1865)

 

‘This “telephone” has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us’
– Western Union memo, 1876

 

‘Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.’
– Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), ca. 1895, British mathematician and physicist

 

‘The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty.’
– The president of Michigan Savings bank, advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company in 1903

 

‘That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.’
– Scientific American, Jan. 2, 1909.

 

‘Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.’
– Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French military strategist, 1911. He was later a World War I commander.

 

‘Radio has no future.’
– Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), British mathematician and physicist, ca. 1897.

 

‘Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?’
– HM Warner, Warner Bros, 1927, on the talking motion picture

 

While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.
– Lee DeForest, 1926 (American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube.)

 

‘There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom wojld ahve to be shattered at will’.
– Albert Einstein, 1932

 

‘The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.’
– Admiral William Leahy, on the US atomic bomb project.

 

‘There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home’
– Ken Olssen, Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

And finally:

‘If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done.’
– Peter Ustinov

 

17 Responses to “Christopher Booker – Another Failed Prophet?”

  • itsyourself:

    Amused by the idea that turbines would be left to rot. A structure like that full of high value metals, copper , steel and neodymium etc would be recycled in minutes and worth a small fortune.

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Christopher Booker is correct. Wind Turbines no matter how complex, technically smart or of whatever size are limited in what they can produce in terms of power because the source of that power is infinitely variable and totally impossible to control. It’s simple physics and this aspect will never ever change!! None of the other situations you quote faced such an impossible situation where the main factor in their operation could not be adapted or manipulated. It would be like saying that we could get water to flow uphill without an added power source!

  • itsyourself:

    Iain, I suggest you acquaint yourself with the meaning of the word infinite. The rest is deliberate stupidity of the first water.

  • Iain G Richmond:

    The word infinitely has the following meaning;

    having no limits or boundaries in time, space, extent, or magnitude
    ((as noun;  preceded by ( preceded by the)  ⇒ the infinite 

    Which I feel describes the potential variability of wind very well. You say the rest is deliberate stupidity. Could you please elaborate on these remarks? You may have something to say
    that may be of interest to me in an educational sense. I am willing to listen.

    I would appreciate you being informative rather than rude.

  • itsyourself:

    Iain I think you will find that wind speeds are somewhat less than that of light. But even than is as nothing compared to wind of infinite magnitude.

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Point taken but I think readers will get the idea of the point I was trying to make. How about extremely variable? and what do you mean by my ” deliberate stupidity”?
    Thanks for your more restrained and polite reply. Please note……..

    When the debate is over, slander becomes the tool of the loser.
    – Socrates

  • itsyourself:

    Variable within a defined range but not extreme. Wind turbines are the same as any other power source, not in any way unique. They produce predictable power in the same way all stations do. All power sources suffer from interruptions and unplanned shutdowns, nuclear station too. The last major nuke outage I recall was called by a gale. No stupid about water uphill no stupid about laws of physics no stupid about impossible to control there or is there?

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Hi Admin,

    Interesting info that Torness was shut down as a precaution because of jelly fish for a couple of days. It may have escaped your attention that 103 Wind Turbines in Powys were shut down for over a MONTH because of a catastrophic failure of the blades of one machine. According to the John Muir Trust on 124 separate occasions each lasting on average 4.5hrs between November 2008 and December 2010 the entire British Windfarm industry produced less than 20MW out of an installed capacity of 1600MW which is practically ZERO POWER.

    I suppose you could argue that the really insignificant amount of sporadic power that Wind Turbines produce compared to a Nuclear Station means that it is no big deal!!

    Hi Itsyourself,

    I am a wee bit confused by your reply. In it you state Wind Turbines ” produce predictable power in the same way all stations do”

    You are of course correct if you mean that they convert energy according to the laws of thermodynamics into power using the mechanics of rotation in the process. You can indeed predict the power production if you know wind velocity at any given time, the size and installed capacity of your machine.That’s obvious.

    However, If you mean that they produce power predictably then you are very wide of the mark. The intermittency, variable velocity and the sporadic nature of wind makes the predictability of power production guess work rather than a science. Not a smart way to provide power to consumers without a spinning back up!

    It’s a no brainier.

    • admin:

      It may have escaped your attention that 103 Wind Turbines in Powys were shut down for over a MONTH because of a catastrophic failure of the blades of one machine.

      I believe this was a 20 year old windfarm. The shutdown happened in April 2000 and the machines in question were 300Kw each.

      So yes, it was trivial and involved utterly outdated technology.

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Hi Admin,

    I got my information from the Rhyl journal in Wales and the story was published on the 12th January 2012

    Go to……

    http://www.rhyljournal.co.uk/news/109454/broken-turbine-shuts-windfarm.aspx

    I don’t know where you got your information from but I’ve no doubt it is accurate which means that this is at least the second major failure the first being when the turbines were only 10yrs old! Ridiculous!
    No wonder the operators want to keep quiet about it as reported in the paper. They will still be raking in the ground rent subsidies paid for by the unwitting consumers many of whom are in fuel poverty or low income situations. For a cluster of this magnitude you’re talking about £1 million in rent subsidies alone. Nice work if you can get it!!

    Certainly looking at the photographs the machines look knackered. I believe that each machine needs two weekly service visits and an extensive overhaul every six months. This probably accounts for the fact that offshore turbines which are so much more difficult to access need double the subsidies granted to onshore turbines.

    These subsidies (index linked! I believe) are in place for 25years and must be highly attractive to the Multi-National big boys, the men in tight suits and the Land owning Lairds who are the main beneficiaries of the current Zeitgeist on Climate Change.

    I don’t think these people give a flying **** about the environment and are quite happy to exploite men of good intentions but who lack any scientific or engineering education. Disgraceful!!

    It makes you want to question whether these machines would be built if there was no subsidies particularly when you see what a useless facility Powys is yet it looks like it’s a licence to print money for at least another five years even in its decrepit state.

    I note that the Germans, Spanish and Dutch are slashing their subsidies and the Uk is reducing ours by 10%. It will be interesting to see if this affects Turbine production.
    However it seems that the Chinese are now selling cut price turbines to the Uk market so this may offset the reduced subsidy though it will badly affect manufacturing jobs in Scotland. The Scottish Government doesn’t seem to be of much help either when you read that they’ve practically allowed the new Forth Bridge to be constructed abroad( China and Poland mainly) and the Spanish openly proclaim that it is better to sell turbines to the Brits so the they can subsidise the Spanish industry rather than the Spanish tax payer!!

    The cut in subsidies particularly in Germany will help them pay for several new coal fired power stations they are having to build to back up their massive wind turbine sector. According to the German newspaper Spiegle not a gram of Co2 emissions have been saved by the massive investment in wind generation because of this.

    Maybe you have a different slant on this. I would value your opinion.

    I feel we have got a dysfunctional approach to our power generation and wind generation is not all it is cracked up to be except for the big business boys.

  • admin:

    OK, I checked it out and Llandinam wind farm has been operational since January 1993 and consists of 103 Mitsubishi turbines, each rated at 300kW, giving a total capacity of 30.9 MW. They are the only Mitsubishi turbines in the UK apparently.

    These are very small turbines compared with modern machines, although the number of them does mean the loss of capacity is not insignificant – to put it in perspective, when generating their nameplate capacity his farm produces maybe a quarter of the electricity of a single fossil fuel powered station.

    Two turbine failures in 20 years is not bad IMO, but the fact that the whole farm is shut down indicates that there may be some serious problem (metal fatigue?) and perhaps the farm will never start up again. If so then it has only operated for 80% of its planned life, but this is not too bad considering it is now very old technology – turbine enineering and materials have come on a lot in the last 20 years.

    Subsidies are to kick-start the technology. As with solar, wind is rapidly reaching the point where it will be able to become self-sustaining. Power generated by onshore wind farms is expected to be on a par with fossil fuel-based generation by 2016 as equipment costs fall and efficiency increases, so I would expect to see subsidies being phased out over the next few years. Offshore wind will take longer to becomne competitive, but when it does I believe it will prove to be a very useful and robust technology.

    Opponents of wind regularly cite a claimed need for 100% backup and come out with claims that turbines save no CO2. This is patently nonsense, as when the wind is blowing an equivalent amount of fossil fufel generation an be turned off or put on standby. Neither is it necessary for every MW of wind capacity to be matched by a MW of ‘back-up’ – grids do not work like that.

    I don’t know if this:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,606763,00.html

    was the Das Spigel article you were referring to, but if you read it carefully you will see that the emissions reduction paradox stems from the way the carbon market is set up, not with the technology itself.

    I don’t believe we can leave market forces to deal with our environment. However, carbon trading is a cynical attempt to pretend we are doing somethign abut the problem, and is a different issue. Wind energy is not perfect, but it is getting better and more affordable. I think it is going to remain part of our energy mix for a long time to come.

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Hi Admin,

    I really appreciate you taking time to write your well researched and intelligent reply to my letters. I am Skeptic on Climate Change and just about everything else except Death and Taxation!! So my mind is open to ideas which are well argued and I respect your enthusiastic and committed approach although I disagree with much of what you espouse.

    I note that you say the rated capacity of yhe Powys array is, in total, 30.9MW. To be realistic this is not what is available. UK Renewables web site gives some handy tables for the Capacity factor. 0.3 is a constant, the capacity factor, which takes into account the intermittent nature of the wind, the availability of the wind turbines and array losses. I still think this is a very generous fraction however it’s near enough.

    Taking this into account and to get it into perspective as you say that the capacity is not insignificant….well I would have to disagree.
    Using the capacity factor constant the actual capacity is an extremely paltry 10MW when compared to a small gas fired station at 300MW, the new Uksmouth gas fired generator 850MW or Torness Nuclear at 1200MW.

    The wind farm has reached the end of its useful life at twenty years and there is no indication that modern turbines will last any longer. By contrast Hinckly produced for 50years, Calder Hall for 46yrs. Torness is expected last 35yrs and Hunterston 40yrs producing between them carbon free power for 3 million homes and modern reactors are designed to have a production life of 60yrs.
    God only knows how we are going to replace their massive capacity if our Great Leader and his ‘Ecksperts’ insist in removing nuclear in the forlorn hope that wind and wave can replace it. Unfortunately I believe that the Guid Folk O’ Scotland have been suckered by the dreamy sound bites of delusion rather than face the pragmatism of the real world.

    What is you opinion of the Nuclear option?

    Yes, I completely agree with you that wind turbine technology has improved and will continue to improve. But… and it is a very big but, the main and uncontrolable problem which these turbines have is the fuel they use………WIND!!

    Imagine being offered a vehicle whose engine relies on a fuel which gives the engine power intermittently, variably, Sporadically and completely unpredictably. Would you be minded to accept it? I wouldn’t ( not unless there were muckle subsidies on offer..Ha Ha!)

    You say that by 2016 that Wind Farm generation will be self sustaining. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the Government said to the speculators/Klondikers, ********in tight suits, saviours of the planet, call them what you will…..Look here boys you’ll get start up subsidies for the first five years then your on your own. I wager that the situation would mirror what is happening in the PV market right now and they would all run off and invest in casinos, brothels etc. (I’m trying to think what Mr Huhne will be up to now!)

    I read again the Speigel article. Makes depressing reading does it not? And corroborates all that I have said for years yet astonishingly no one seems to have the balls to do anything about it. What a cynical and disgusting racket (The snake oil salesman Al Gore made a fortune out of it)

    In my opinion the real problem facing the planet is not runaway Global Warming but runaway Population growth. The Trillions of Dollars thrown at the greatest self organised scientific and political conspiracy that the world has ever seen would have been better spent providing the 2 Billion underprivileged people of the world with clean drinking water, basic education, basic health care, access to birth control and equal rights for women. For lifting the poor out of their poverty is the only way to protect Earth’s future environment.

    Thank you for allowing me to express my opinions freely on your site and if I haved caused you or any of your readers offence I can assure you it was unintentional.

  • admin:

    You can’t have it both ways Iain . . . either a month’s downtime of Llandinam wind farm is significant or it isn’t. What amuses me is the way anti-wind fanatics constantly trumpet capacity factors as though they have just discovred it and the rest of of the world is unaware.

    I have no problem with the intermittency of wind. Obviously we are never going to have 100% wind, but as part of the generation mix it is a perfectly viable option. Beyond aoround 10% penetration some backup is needed, but this will largely be in in the shape of ‘fast-start’ OCGT (gas turbine) stations which can start-up in ten minutes to provide non-spinning reserve.

    I also believe that intermittent renewables are pusing research into storage technologies and fast grid solutions that will bear fruit in the next decade.

    RE. nuclear – I have to confess I am a waverer. I don’t lke the nuclear industry, nor do I like the large subsidies it enjoys while pretending to produce ‘cheap’ electricity. However, it is very low carbon electricity. New smaller thorium-fuelled plants look promising, but they always seem to be a decade away.

    Re. population – at the moment it looks as though it might stabilise at around ten billion some time in the second half of this century. That is supportable if we are moving towards a fair and equitable world society – but I have my doubts. Population will take care of itself – war, famine, climate change will see to that. The idea of actually doing anything politicaly about populatio is even less likely than serious concerted effort on climate change. You could make a goood start by dismantling the Catholic church though.

    RE. clean drinking water for Africa – Bill Gates is spending a large poriton of his personal fortune to do just that.

    Saying there is no point in addressing emissions because of population is a pretty defeatist attitude IMO.

  • Iain g Richmond:

    Hi Admin,

    You’re correct! Anti Wind farm fanatics do constantly trumpet capacity factors because Pro Wind Farm Fanatics like Fergus Ewing, Chris Huhne etc and yourself never admit to the basic inefficiency of these machines and if you do it seems to be only a minor problem!

    Take for example your recent reply, which by the way and with respect does not address all the points I raise, ( yes I know time is a factor but I seem to be the only respondent currently) you state;

    “These are very small turbines compared with modern machines, although the number of them does mean the loss of capacity is not insignificant – to put it in perspective, when generating their nameplate capacity his farm produces maybe a quarter of the electricity of a single fossil fuel powered station.”

    It may have escaped your attention but you use the description ‘NAMEPLATE CAPACITY’ which I know and you know is very wide of the mark when describing their actual PERFORMANCE.

    The storage technologies which you mention are also like Thorium reactors seemingly coming online ‘within the next decade’.

    I assume you are referring to liquification of air and hydrogen production for fuel by electrolysis. I haven’t done any meaningful research into the air liquification technology yet but it seems to me that it will require a massive amount of power to accomplish production and the necessity of storage at -162C will certainly be problematical on a large scale. We shall see. As far as electrolysis of hydrogen is concerned this is not new technology and has been on the go for decades. Unfortunately it is one of these technologies that uses more power input to produce than the fuel gives as energy to utilise. Not Smart!!

    I hope with your wonderfully un-PC reply in your last post you haven’t upset too many Catholics (I’m a Presbyterian Agnostic/Skeptic by the way) but interestingly the country in Europe with the lowest birth rates is ITALY !!

    Thanks for the info on Turbinetastic. I have visited his/her website and have posted a reply to one of his blogs. It is in the process of being moderated (Censored?)

    I will post a copy of it in my next reply to you for comment.

    ALL THE BEST
    IGR.

  • Iain g Richmond:

    Hi Amin,

    Here is my post to turbinetastic;

    As I write the 3500 UK Wind Turbines are producing 800MW of electricity (according to the UK Grid Carbon Intendity APP) which is approximately 1.8% of the total production in the UK. I have been following wind production over the past month (unscientifically admittedly) and production averages out at about 3-4%.

    This output is the same as a single gas fired generator such as Uksmouth in Wales which sits on 50 acres of land and cost £600 million to build. It runs without subsidy.

    Currently the Uk Wind Farm Operators and Land Owners receive £522 million annually in subsidies Guaranteed for 25yrs (Ofgen) and much of this goes to energy companies and investment funds based abroad. Most of the turbines we erect are built abroad in Spain, Germany or Danemark.

    The Government intends to increase the number of Wind Turbines to 32000 thus, I assume, also increasing the subsidy by an equivalent factor. This would mean annual subsidies of £5 billion !! And As you correctly point out to accommodate this the National Grid will have to be updated at, I guess, a cost in billions rather than hundreds of millions because of the intermittent nature of the beast.

    This stupendous annual expenditure on subsidies for 35000 Turbines would on days like today, very cold and windless,result in ( hypothetically) only 8000MW being produced or the equivalent of only 10 Uksmouth size generators.

    This doesn’t seem very smart.

    Do you really believe that this is a good investment when we already have safe, well tested technology that produces rock solid, zero carbon power from Nuclear fission?

    New state of the art Nuclear power stations will, I believe, produce (regardless of atmospheric conditions) 1500MW and are designed to be producing this amount for 60yrs with a capacity factor of 90% for 365 days a year.

    Four of these stations could easily provide all and more of the electrical power that Scotland would ever need.

    And For those of you who think that Wind Farms are Elegant, dignified and wonderfully aesthetic we could, with the savings on subsidies, create Wind farm Holiday theme Parks Where you could enjoy the flicker, noise and bird strikes to your hearts content!!

  • Caadfael:

    Iain G Richmond, “It would be like saying that we could get water to flow uphill without an added power source!”
    Have you never heard of a ram-pump?
    Brilliantly simple, the only moving part being water itself!

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