REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 184

Revolt news 14/04/2005

1. The national conference on objections to windfarms held on 12.4.05 at Saddleworth has been well reported. A Saddleworth Action Group is to call for the immediate end to subsidies to Wind Farm Industry. While I did not attend, I would make this additional call for action to all politicians:


Reasons and background are in APPENDIX 1. That reflects the technical reality of wind power and its generally polluting back-up. The appendix also suggests defining and exempting limited cases as Good Quality Wind Power. This is a personal idea: responses from Revolt members and others would be welcome.

2. The Derrybrien landslide (the Bogalanche in County Galway (news167.6, 172.6, 179.9, 180.3, 181.4) is in the news again following the EU taking legal action against Ireland. APPENDICES 2 and 3 have details from the EU statement and a response from the objectors' group in Derrybrien.

3. From a report of 13.4.05: In the opinion of the German Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (VDE) 

without investments in new power plants and lines adding up to billions of euros the high reliability of Germany's power grid is in jeopardy. See APPENDIX 4.

4. Phillip Stott, the prominent global warming sceptic, has an interesting article in The Times this week (see APPENDIX 5), headlined "It's this simple: wind farms the size of London, or safe, clean nuclear plants". I will send a short letter in response, with my call for action as above.


APPENDIX 1 Call to re-classify wind power as non-renewable.

Reason: wind power needs a high level of back-up generation which is usually fossil-fuel based, because of wind power's intermittence and high variability (power output varies as the cube of wind speed). It's a tip-of-the-iceberg problem: UK data for 2004 show that only 24.1% of capacity was delivered by UK wind farms, because of intermittence and variability. Most (but not all) of the remaining 75.9% has to come from back-up generators. This 25-75 mix is implicit in UK wind power on any large scale, rendering it in effect as a non-renewable energy source.

In news178.4 I gave a summary equation for effective wind power, generously allowing that only 50% out of the 75% would be needed as back-up. Here it is, tidied up a bit:

1 unit wind + 2 units back-up + X = 3 units in-feed to grid + X waste = (3 - Y) usable units from grid + (X + Y) waste.

The X is needed for volatility, rapid start-up and related off-design inefficiencies, and can be highly polluting from fossil-fuel back-up systems. The Y represents additional waste in the system, for example in excessive long-distance transmission, which can be considerable (e.g. 20%).

The net effect of the mix can even be to cause increased greenhouse gas emissions, as indicated in experience in Denmark (news171.7 and 176.2). It depends on what the mix displaces and how it is used (news174.5 and Bass and Wilmot, UK Power, issue 2, 2004). In addition large-scale wind power needs excessive infra-structural development (roads, foundations, etc.; plus billions of pounds' worth of powerline developments) which all add further to greenhouse gas emissions.

While re-classification would be right and proper, it would be reasonable to define and except Good Quality Wind Power (GQWP). That would reflect the way Good Quality CHP (Combined Heat and Power) has been defined in association with government CHP targets. Examples are small-scale wind projects which are used locally, or projects including renewable back-up. Another example, in the Orkneys, uses wind power to produce hydrogen, itself a clean fuel, which is then used for back-up.

Qualification for GQWP should depend centrally on the provision for clean back-up, not the sort of virtual generation used in green trading but actual physical clean back-up available locally to respond to the variations of the particular wind farm's output. Wind generators small enough to be absorbed within a local demand point, or embedded wind power not exporting large variable output to the grid, should qualify. Examples might include wind turbines serving a school or factory. A general maximum size for such systems might be set, say at 1 MW. Any multi-megawatt wind farm should be excluded unless it has its own on- site clean back-up generators.

Additional (not alternative) criteria for GQWP might include the location not requiring long-distance transmission nor extensive infrastructure such as foundations and service roads. Further conditions of landscape and residential impact might be added.

But most wind farms, especially large scale wind power stations in remote areas, should not count as GQWP. They should not receive the (large) government subsidies and should not be tradable as carbon-free generation.

At this stage this call for action is just a personal idea. Feedback from Revolt members and others would be welcome. I hope to put the idea to the Revolt Committee next week.


APPENDIX 2 The Derrybrien landslide - relevant extracts from the EU statement:

IP/05/411 Brussels, 11 April 2005

Environmental protection: Commission pursues legal action against Ireland and Germany for violations of EU law

The European Commission has decided to take further legal action against Ireland over three cases where EU laws to protect the environment and human health are being breached. The cases involve aspects of the management of waste water, assessment of the environmental impact of projects and a repeated failure to provide information on measures to protect the ozone layer. The Commission is also pursuing legal action against Germany over its failure to assess the environmental impact of a power plant burning hazardous waste.

... and later ...

- The second case relates to Ireland's implementation of the EU directive on environmental impact assessment (EIA)[2]. This directive aims at assessing the environmental impact of certain projects before they are undertaken in order to avoid or minimise environmental harm and nuisances. EIA procedures provide for public consultation. The decision to go to Court relates to two issues.

Firstly, Irish legislation and enforcement practice regarding illegal developments mean that certain projects, such as quarrying and pig- rearing, can be carried out or intensified before an EIA is undertaken or considered. As a result, the public and the environment may suffer nuisance and harm.

Secondly, the Irish authorities have failed to give any commitment to carrying out a fresh EIA, including consultation of the public concerned, before work resumes on Ireland's largest wind-farm project at Derrybrien, County Galway. Initial work on this project led to an environmental disaster in October 2003, with a half million cubic metres of peat displaced in a landslide that damaged property and killed an estimated 50,000 fish. A prior EIA had failed to properly assess the risks that the project presented as a result of soil instability.


APPENDIX 3 The Derrybrien landslide - response from local objectors' group

Derrybrien Development Society Limited PRESS RELEASE 11th April 2005

Derrybrien Development Society warmly welcomes the European Commission's decision to prosecute Ireland.

Derrybrien Development Society Limited warmly welcomes the decision of the European Commission to institute proceedings against Ireland for breaches of the EU law associated with the Derrybrien bog slide of October 2003. Also the Development Society's case against Gort Windfarms Limited, Coillte Teoranta and Saorgus Energy Limited in which they are seeking an injunction to stop the deforestation of the windfarm site is set to take place on the 19th, 20th and 21st April next in the High Court in Dublin.

The local residents have been saying for a substantial period of time stretching back to the original grants of planning permission that the entire planning process in respect of the Derrybrien Wind Farm was flawed and unacceptable. Last year the experts employed by the Development Society and the local residents published a devastating analysis of the Environmental Impact Assessment submitted with the original planning applications and demonstrated conclusively that these documents had no credibility whatsoever and they failed to fulfil even the most basic requirements of European law. Despite this in the ongoing proceedings between the Development Society and the Developers, the Developers have relied extensively in their defence on the contents of this Environmental Impact Assessment.

It is noteworthy that the European Union Environment Directorate has since last year being pointing out to the Irish Government there were manifest deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Assessment and that they have noted the findings of the study prepared by the University of East London on behalf of the local residents. However there has been a complete failure at a political and administrative level to take responsibility for these failures and nobody is prepared to tell the Developers to halt their activities until such time as these deficiencies have been dealt with.

It is astonishing to note that the Enforcement Section of Galway County Council have still not responded to correspondence sent to them on behalf of the local residents on the 29th of July 2004 and many of the questions raised in that correspondence are central to the question of the Local Authorities credibility in dealing with these matters. This is all the more surprising when it is realised that this correspondence was commenced by the local resident Mr. Martin Collin writing to the local authority in July of 2003 before the land slide and it took a year for this correspondence to be responded to.

As a result of their failure to respond to these letters Galway County Council has still not explained how it was that after the land slide they accepted and rubber stamped the putting in place of bonds which had not been agreed prior to the landslide even though they had not at that stage received the experts reports. Both the Developers and the Local Authority have a vested interest in confining any enquiry into the Derrybrien bog slide to an investigation only of the work practises on site. This is despite the abject failure of Galway County Council to seek a Slope Stability Report before approving any planning permission for this development.

Numerous Government Departments has a role at different stages in relation to this development and yet they have all failed to insist that this development is halted until the concerns expressed by the European Union and the scientific issues raised by the University of East London report are fully analysed and the fears of the residents are addressed in a complete and satisfactory way.

Because of these failures the local residents have been forced to institute legal proceedings on their own behalf and the Developers have continued notwithstanding the institution of these court proceedings to carry out the largest deforestation in the history of the state although their entitlement to conduct any deforestation has been challenged in the court proceedings.

It is extraordinary to note that this development has been carried out directly or through subsidiaries of two major semi state companies and yet they continue to ignore the concerns of the European Union and the justified and real fears of the local community. At the time the landslide occurred there was much publicity and statements were made about local consultation. The reality is that the only consultation offered to the local community has been mere window dressing to enforce decisions, which are going to be pushed through irrespective of the consequences.

The fact that this was taking place in the shadow of a major environmental disaster indicates that there is a total lack of concern throughout the state, local government and semi state sector or any genuine concern for the environment or any adherence to the European Environmental principles.

The Developers have already sought to stop the local resident's application to the High Court once by way of an application for security of costs, which was rejected by MR. Justice Clarke in the High Court on the 28th of February. They still continue to seek to obtain an order stopping the proceedings on this basis notwithstanding the original order. The proceedings instituted by the local residents are matters of considerable public relevance and concern and it is disappointing that they should be seeking to prevent these issues being aired in the High Court on the basis of a cost issue only having regard to the resources available to these semi state companies who have direct obligations in respect of environmental law under the European directives.

END Martin Collins Derrybrien Development Society Limited, Derrybrien, Loughrea, Co Galway. <>


APPENDIX 4 German grid in jeopardy. 

13.04.2005 13:48

VDE: Reliability of German national grid in jeopardy

In the opinion of the German Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (VDE  ) without investments in new power plants and lines adding up to billions of euros the high reliability of Germany's power grid is in jeopardy. The German national grid was already being used extensively and the situation was likely to get worse in the next few years, the VDE maintains. The reasons for this were the liberalization of the energy markets and the increasing use of wind power. These are the results of a study undertaken by the VDE and presented at the Hanover Fair today. Thus the strong use made of wind power would necessitate the construction of about 2,000 kilometers of new high-voltage and ultra high-voltage power lines throughout Germany by 2015; a conclusion reinforced when taking into account the planned wind parks to be built in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, the VDE declared. Even today northern Germany especially was experiencing wind power- engendered energy bottlenecks, the Association noted.

The mix of power sources and the structure of the grid would soon need to be "adapted to meet the challenges of the future," the VDE concluded. Otherwise the present high reliability of the German national grid could drop markedly in the next 20 years, the study finds. Current developments were monopolizing the grid's entire capacity reserves, the study inferred. The amount of investment required would depend on the relative percentages in which renewable energy sources, fossil fuels and nuclear power respectively were used, the study pointed out. (Robert W. Smith)


APPENDIX 5 Article from THE TIMES, April 12, 2005

It's this simple: wind farms the size of London, or safe, clean nuclear plants

My big issue by Philip Stott

ELECTION ROOM 2005 is filled with elephants hidden behind the flimsiest of political camouflage. For me, the bull elephant is the need for a practical energy policy for Britain.

On this issue, I am disenfranchised because all three main parties, despite differing degrees of enthusiasm and rhetoric, share the same outlook: an unconvincing belief that "renewable energy" "wave, wind and solar power" is a credible way to solve Britain's energy problems.

Political correctness is warping energy policy. Predicating policy, through the doomed Kyoto Protocol, on unpredictable environmental concerns is disastrous. It will slow economic growth, dull our competitive edge, deny much-needed energy expansion and expose us to political turmoil overseas. The result will be a Britain in which the lights go out by 2020, if not earlier, while billions of people in the developing world remain energy-starved.

Lord Broers, this year's Reith lecturer, has given warning that British energy policy makes over-optimistic assumptions about the potential of "renewables", such as wind. He argues that "all of these energy sources should carry the costs of their overheads with them. If you have wind power, you have to have back-up from gas generation."

Kenneth J. Fergusson, the president of the Combustion Engineering Association, develops the case, stating that: "Britain should stop subsidising wind-mills (only building them to the extent that they are commercially viable)" He reminds us that "Britain is heading for a crisis in power supplies to which no amount of preferential treatment for renewable energy sources can do more than make a peripheral contribution for decades to come".

Professor Ian Fells, a world authority, is equally trenchant: "It needs only a breakdown at one big power station and there is a real risk of the supply system becoming fragile because we don't have the spare generating capacity we used to."

To replace a 1,000 megawatt (MW) nuclear station supplying just 1/65th of peak demand requires 30 miles of wave machines; or it would need a wind farm that would cover an area equivalent to Inner London, or for solar power, it would require an area half as much again. If we were to try to replace the output of that 1,000MW nuclear power station with bio-oils or biomass fuels, we would have to cover the entire Scottish Highlands with oil-seed rape or turn Wales into a giant willow coppice.

Yet, as Professor Fells reminds us, by 2020, we will have only one nuclear plant operating. Moreover, we will be importing 90 per cent of our gas from countries such as Algeria, Iran, Iraq, and Russia, while we accept nuclear-generated power from France, which is set to reassert its successful nuclear policy (59 plants and expanding).

A sensible energy policy should aim to provide a reliable mix of energy generation to support economic growth, with the least possible dependence on imported fuels from unstable exporting countries.

That means we must recognise the wisdom of the green guru James Lovelock's brave declaration that, for the mid-term, there is no alternative to nuclear power. As the Royal Society concludes: "In the short to medium term, it is difficult to see how we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels without the help of nuclear power."

Nuclear power - which accounts for 17 per cent of the world?s electricity supply - has the safest record of any major form of energy production. The radiation from a nuclear power station is less than that from a large hospital (and there are fewer superbugs, too). China, Finland, France, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan and the US, among others, acknowledge the value of nuclear power for their future. China is planning to build no fewer than 40 nuclear power plants by 2020, while Sweden and France are designing politically enlightened policies for the storage of nuclear waste. Moreover, as Sir David King, the Chief Scientific Adviser, has argued, we must encourage long-term - that's a 40 to 50-year timeframe - research into nuclear fusion.

In addition, we have to continue to support the efficient use of fossil fuels. On conservative estimates, there are 350 to 500 years of coal reserves in the world, and, with modern technologies, such as gasification, coal is on an exciting road to clean energy.

We must be open about the limitations of "renewables", including both intermittency of supply and their environmental downsides. Large-scale hydroelectric power necessitates the re-settlement of people, interrupts fish migration and causes loss of habitat. Micro-scale hydroelectric systems become blocked and are able to make only a marginal contribution. Tidal barrages disrupt complex ecosystems. Wind farms kill bird and bat species and despoil rare wilderness.

We need also to be aware of the architectural damage to historic buildings caused by over-enthusiastic schemes for energy efficiency and solar panels, and to carry out more studies into the health problems of heavily insulated houses and offices, such as sick building syndrome. Finally, we need to support realistic work on alternative fuels, including compressed air, hydrogen fuel cells, sodium borohydride and biofuels.

Can we please shed the political paranoia about "saving the world", and, focus instead on practical energy? The failure of our political parties to be realistic about future energy demand could be catastrophic. I do not want to see the economic success of the UK falter because of "green" whimsy. Drop the cant and energise Britain.

Philip Stott is Emeritus Professor of Biogeography in the University of London


-- Mike O'Carroll




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