REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 333

Revolt news 11/07/2011 Print (pdf) Version

1. Siemens is not only advocating GIL technology for UK transmission underground cables, but is also offering to set up their manufacture in the UK, according to a letter of 25 May from Siemens to Liam Fox MP, shown at the SVU website.

2. Wind farm developments across and around Britain, but especially remote from centres of use, are the driver for the unprecedented powerline development ‘surge’ over the next decade. Yet there are serious evidence-based doubts about the physical and the economic benefits, given the misleadingly understated extent of fossil-fuelled back up needed. Ian Murdoch collects data on actual production fed in to the National Grid, as distinct from notional industry-claimed amounts on which government seems to rely.

3. Ian Murdoch’s weekly report of 4-7-11 was introduced with the following words. “The lowest weekly average since I started recording in November last year, and clear proof that there must be 100% equivalent to the wind capacity installed and ready as back up. You may have seen publicity last week about the 17 Gas power stations being proposed to back up wind turbines, running as "spinning reserve". All, of course, running at low efficiencies and chucking out more extra carbon dioxide than the windmills will ever save. You couldn't make up this sick joke which we are all paying for!   Even the climate change zealots ought to be able to see through this?”

4. Carbon emissions of wind power (construction, infrastructure, transmission etc are contentious). The trade-off with back-up can be complex too. For example, demand-side measures may cater for back-up to a limited extent. One of the most authoritative sources on energy figures is Cambridge Professor Dave MacKay’s free-access book at He examines (page 186 etc) what it would take to use renewable back-up (that is carbon-free fuel but not carbon-free manufacture and support).

5. MacKay identifies two aspects of wind variability: the slew rate (how fast wind power output changes) and lulls (five days without wind power). The slew rate for Britain, assuming 33GW of installed wind capacity, would be about 4GW per hour (equivalent to about 4 medium fossil power stations coming on stream every hour). The stored energy needed for a lull is estimated at about 1200GWh, the equivalent of 130 Dinorwig reservoir systems (the large system in Snowdonia with a 500m head). Prof MacKay does make the mistake of using the industry claim of 30% power-factor where the data now suggest it’s more like 20%, but that doesn’t radically alter the overall picture for back-up. Mackay mentions the slew range (in power capacity) for the slew problem and suggests it needs to be (around) the full 33GW capacity. Renewable back-up like incinerators and hydro would not be nearly enough.

6. MacKay’s solution would be a combination of pumped storage using many large reservoirs mainly in Scotland and demand-management through 30 million electric cars using co-ordinated “smart chargers”, both still very futuristic and expensive. Building such new facilities would also have large carbon costs. For now both options are out of reach; instead, the reality is more like the 17 gas-fired power stations Ian Murdoch mentions. From Wikipedia 8-7-11: “In June 2011 several energy companies including Centrica told the government that 17 gas-fired plants costing £10 billion would be needed by 2020 to act as back-up generation for wind. However as they would be standing idle for much of the time they would require "capacity payments" to make the investment economic, on top of the subsidies already paid for wind.”

7. “The battle over Interphone continues. This time it's in full public view … the diametrically opposing views have led to conflicting stories in the media as each new study is released”, Microwave News reports. It’s a sad reality that science laced with financial interests leads to such adversarial stances. Stalwarts from ICNIRP (a self-perpetuating group that declines to disclose its finances – MWN) are vigorously promoting a reactionary denial of the possible-carcinogen conclusion of IARC on mobile phone EMF, despite IARC’s “near unanimous” decision. Until recently, IARC and ICNIRP were hand in glove. Gradually concerns from diverse involved scientists from Australia, Israel, Spain, Austria, Sweden and elsewhere have gained ground and ousted the old ICNIRP domination of IARC. Although this is about RF EMF for mobile phones, the same people and positioning tend to appear in power-frequency EMF. While constructive disagreement is good for science, adversarial zeal brings disrepute.

8. Andrew Hope of mid-Wales group STOP draws attention to the NG strategic presentation Future Electricity Networks which puts a striking perspective on future grid to 2020 and then 2050, departing from ENSG 2020 Strategy and EWIS. In passing, with regard to the 17 gas power stations above, almost 40GW of renewable generation is already transmission-contracted at Jan 2011 (though mostly not yet approved or built). The present 8,200 km of transmission lines (the big ones) will need to grow to 12,100 km by 2020, plus 6,600 km of HVDC cable offshore. The indicative map on page 17 shows much new transmission development in Lincolnshire, including landing the Norway interconnector there instead of further north at Hartlepool, and an HVDC cable from Wylfa Anglesey via sea and land through west Wales to the Mid-Wales Hub, in addition to overland AC lines.

9. The NG consultation on undergrounding has closed. “The final Approach is expected to be published later in the Summer.” It is a pity that the strategic thinking of NG as in item 8 above was not shared to inform the consultation, as the interplay between HVDC and AC has a key position.

10. And finally, on this auspicious weekend for the media, the problems are not just with the News of the World. They’re with all of us, you and me, for the culture we sustain. To what extent do the media reflect or lead the public? I’ve come to think of the media, of celebrity, and increasingly of society in terms of a CLAS system – Cheating, Lying And Stealing. It seems to be cool. You see it from Gary Lineker adverts to TV phone-in scams, from MPs to Blue Peter. You’ve seen it with insurance and financial mis-selling, in banking irresponsibility, and in the entrenched machinery for party political spin. Remember the scandal of electricity giant Enron (a key force behind the Yorkshire 400kV line) involving former energy secretary Lord Wakeham, and remember dear old National Grid, where even Prime Minister John Major described NG Chairman David Jefferies’ pay deals as “distasteful”. At the individual level, it seems to be cool to take a sickie or break the speed limit. Shutting News of the World and replacing the PCC isn’t going to change the underlying problem. People will always Cheat, Lie And Steal – it’s only human, and in exceptional cases may even be necessary, but it shouldn’t be cool. What is needed is that we (you and I, all of us) help society to make CLAS uncool.

Statements made by the editor or by other parties and quoted for information do not necessarily represent the views of Revolt. Criticism of government and industry, and grievances from members of the public, are in the nature of Revolt's work, though we try to give credit where it is due. Revolt is strictly non-party-political and regrets any offence which may be inadvertently caused.




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