opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development
REVOLT Newsletter 188
Revolt news 20/05/2005
1. This week (beginning 16 May) saw a BBC2 Newsnight programme on energy hosted by the Royal Society, the start of a year-long energy inquiry by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and "Alternative Energy" on the agenda in the Queen's speech. Global warming and a decision on the future of nuclear power are at the heart of it. The government appointed Sustainable Development Commission led by Jonathan Porritt is mounting yet another PR campaign in favour of wind farms. Meanwhile an interesting article at APPENDIX 1 describes a radical approach to solar power, suited to hot desert areas rather than UK. The source
has many interesting features.
2. An interesting reflection of our Good Quality Wind Power proposals (news184.1 and 185.2) appears across the pond, in the form of the Alexander & Warner Federal Bill (APPENDIX 2), which has caused a stir already in Tennessee (APPENDIX 3).
3. My response to Hambleton DC to their consultation on the Local Development Framework is at APPENDIX 4. The three attachments are not reproduced here as they have been seen in earlier Revolt news issues. Hambleton have acknowledged receipt and say: "All responses will be considered by the Council on 12th July and a summary of comments received will appear on our website: -
You will find it in the 'environment' section under 'planning policy'. It is intended to publish a preferred Core Strategy and Strategic Policies Document in July for consultation over a 6 week period and you will be notified when this takes place."
APPENDIX 1 Solar Tower of Power
TCS Solar Tower of Power
By Roy Spencer
In a recent speech, President Bush addressed the need to start building more oil refineries, nuclear power plants, and natural gas terminals to meet the growing demand for energy in the U.S. While improved fuel efficiency for cars was also mentioned, the speech was met with disdain from environmentalists for its reliance on the further expansion of the fossil fuel industry infrastructure.
In today's world, and in the foreseeable future, it's impossible to not have foreign oil as part of the energy mix, but there are advances in new technologies that may make renewables a more viable option for future generations. For instance, in the next year or so, construction will begin in Australia's Outback on the most expansive, and tallest, manmade structure on Earth. The "Solar Tower" will be a 200 megawatt electrical generating plant that gets its energy from harnessing the daily solar heating of the desert surface. This heat creates a self-contained wind field that drives a network of 32 turbines. The concept is marvelously simple, but is still an engineering challenge. The 3,000 foot tall "chimney" at the center will dwarf other buildings around the world, standing nearly twice as tall as "Taipei 101" in Taiwan. The glass-covered canopy surrounding the tower will be about four miles in diameter. A much smaller version of the Australian facility was built in Spain, and operated continuously between 1982 and 1989. Once built, the facility will continue to produce electricity indefinitely.
Most solar energy technologies have historically been rather expensive. This is partly because the solar collector surface has always been man-made. Since the amount of energy falling on each square foot of a collector is relatively small (100 watts at the most when the sun is directly overhead), even a perfectly efficient system does not get much energy bang for the buck. The solar tower design instead uses the Earths surface, probably a desert location, as the solar collector. It simply requires a clear canopy for the sunlight to enter, but to contain the solar-heated air, preventing it from rising until it is naturally sucked up the chimney.
Since the current Solar Tower design is expected to be somewhat more expensive than a coal-fired power plant with comparable output, it has been partially subsidized by the Australian government. Yet, I can see hope for improving the power output efficiency of the basic design, which currently runs around 1 to 3 percent. After reading technical papers on the subject, the first advance I could see is covering the ground under the canopy with a thin layer of black material, maybe crushed lava rock, to maximize the absorption of solar radiation. Similarly, engineering advances that could bring down the cost of the two main structural components, the central tower and the huge glass-covered canopy, would also improve its cost competitiveness.
The Solar Tower is about as green as you can get. It generates no waste or pollution. It is safe. People can work under the canopy since the wind speeds it generates are less than about 30 mph. And of course, it uses no fossil fuels. It also continues to generate electricity at night, at reduced output, because the soil that is heated during the daytime continues to release its heat to the air at night.
From what I have been able to determine, the U.S. government is not currently funding research into solar towers. (Or, if it is, it has been a well kept secret). If the current administration would like to enhance its green credentials, maybe it is time to spearhead a major solar tower research initiative here in the United States. The first one built would be a source of national pride, and a tourist attraction, to boot. This is the first solar power technology I have personally been excited about, and I have a feeling that it will eventually be a major component of our energy generation future. In combination with a future hydrogen fuel technology, solar towers could eventually provide the electricity needed to make hydrogen to fuel cars. Or, battery powered cars could be charged directly.
We don't know if the Solar Tower is the answer, if hydrogen will become workable or if there is some other, new, yet undiscovered energy source that will provide future generations' energy. What we do know is that we won't find the answer unless we continue to fund research and technology. Technology will eventually make all of our energy cleaner -- fossil-fuel based and renewable. ---------------------------------------------------------- Principal Research Scientist, University of Alabama
APPENDIX 2 US Environmentally Responsible Windpower Act Proposed
Last Friday, Senators Lamar Alexander and John Warner proposed federal legislation that "would disqualify wind farms located off coasts, near military bases, in national parks, and in other potentially sensitive locations from receiving a crucial federal tax subsidy."
"Clearly, there are likely to be more sensible ways to provide clean energy than spending $3.7 billion of taxpayer money over the next five years to destroy the American landscape,'" according to Senator Alexander.
For the full story, see: "Bill takes aim at subsidies for wind"
Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound 396 Main Street Hyannis, MA 02601 email: firstname.lastname@example.org 508-775-9767 www.saveoursound.org
APPENDIX 3 Alexander windmill bill stirs storm
Plan would set limits on their location, restrict tax credits
By SCOTT BARKER, email@example.com May 20, 2005
Environmental groups and representatives of Tennessee's fledgling wind power industry on Thursday savaged U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander for introducing legislation that would restrict tax credits for new windmills.
Alexander's bill would give local governments veto power over wind farm projects and require environmental impact statements for windmill construction in offshore areas and within 20 miles of certain scenic areas and military bases.
But it's the provision that would eliminate tax credits for projects in those restricted areas that has drawn the ire of environmentalists and windmill manufacturers.
Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy called Alexander's legislation "the most direct assault on wind power we've ever seen by a United States senator."
Smith said wind power should be a part of an energy mix that includes other clean, renewable power sources. He said his organization would like to see the tax credits extended for another five years to give the industry a boost.
Jaime Steve, a lobbyist for the American Wind Energy Association, said wind energy could bring $4.2 billion in investment and up to 4,500 new jobs in Tennessee during the next five or six years.
Steve said tax credits would help generate 2,500 megawatts of wind- powered electricity by the end of the year. Without the credits, he said, the industry would only add about 400 megawatts.
"That's a huge difference," said Richard Ector, president and CEO of Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group. In addition to working on TVA's Buffalo Mountain wind farm in Anderson County, Ector's company has built windmills throughout the Midwest and Great Plains.
Marlin Laidlaw, president of Aerisyn LLC, a Chattanooga-based windmill manufacturer, said tax credits would allow him to double the business he founded only a year ago.
Aerisyn has more than $7 million invested in equipment and would like to add another $3 million to $4 million worth soon. The company employs 50 people and could expand to 400 with increased business, Laidlaw said. Without tax credits, Laidlaw said, he likely would cap employment at 75.
"I was baffled," Laidlaw said about Alexander's proposal.
In a statement, Alexander said the bill would protect scenic areas and give local citizens more control.
"It keeps these 100-yard-tall, monstrous structures away from Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Roan Mountain, the Tennessee River Gorge, the foothills of the Smokies and other highly scenic areas," Alexander said.
"As for jobs," he continued, "every Tennessee job is important, but I fear that hundreds of these giant windmills across Tennessee's ridges could destroy our tourism industry, which could cost us tens of thousands of jobs."
In remarks on the Senate floor on Friday, Alexander said that windmills are large, unsightly, noisy contraptions that bother nearby residents. He also criticized a proposal to require power companies to increase their use of renewable energy so urces to 10 percent by 2025, saying it's essentially a mandate to build more windmills.
Alexander said the $3.7 billion earmarked for windmill tax credits would be better spent on hybrid vehicle subsidies or loan guarantees for coal gasification and nuclear plants.
"I hope we decide that we need a real national energy policy," Alexander said, "instead of a national windmill policy."
Alexander's bill would restrict windmill farms near 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Smith said Alexander's concerns about wind farms springing up outside the Smokies are unfounded. The wind power industry has blocked out the Smokies and adjacent areas in searching for acceptable wind farm locations, he said.
While there are places in East Tennessee that get enough sustained wind for windmills to generate electricity, advocates say the area will never see as much wind farm development as the Great Plains, the Midwest and California.
"The entire Southeast region of the U.S. is not a very good region for wind energy development," Steve said.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has no plans right now to build more wind farms or add turbines to its Buffalo Mountain site, TVA spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. About 1 percent of TVA's power comes from windmills.
Scott Barker may be reached at 865-342-6309.
Alexander's bill calls for: Local veto power over wind farms Mandatory environmental review of wind farms off coasts or near scenic areas and military bases Restrictions on federal tax credits Objections raised: Would harm Tennessee's windmill industry Would restrict potential renewable energy source
APPENDIX 4 LDF submission to Hambleton DC.
Hambleton DC Local development Framework Topic Paper 8 (Environment)
1. Respondents. This response is from M J O'Carroll, both as a Hambleton resident and as Chairman on behalf of Revolt, an environmental public interest group concerned to promote rational UK energy policy (position statement is at Attachment 1; extract from recent news is at Attachment 2). Membership of Revolt is about 1,000 households, largely from the Hambleton area.
2. Scope. This response is limited to the issue of energy policy, with emphasis on wind power targets for Hambleton. The relevant consultation paper is LDF Topic Paper 8 (Environment) and the relevant questions are numbers 6 (a) and 6 (b). In raising concerns, some issues of regional and national policy are included; while recognising that such issues are for the relevant regional and national bodies to determine, the matters are raised here to inform both the local application of external policy and the local contribution to it.
3. Questionnaire answers.
Qu. 6 (a): The RSS renewable energy studies (REAS) address the question in depth and breadth, but lack sufficient sensitivity to local conditions in Hambleton. To make wind farms more acceptable, the very greatest caution and protection of landscape and residents' interests will be needed. Sub-regional targets should be amended to consider use of former coal mining land (e.g. in South Yorkshire), obsolescent coal- fired power stations, former and redundant airfields, and industrial estates. It would be advisable to develop slowly at first, perhaps falling short of 2010 targets in order to do better at 2020, bearing in mind also the prospect of policy changes as new scientific information and new options emerge. More should be made of the prospects of tidal power in the Humber, and in order to make a more significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the question of nuclear power in the region should be carefully reviewed in the light of emerging national policy. Support for small scale CHP, including micro-CHP at the domestic level, should be promoted by negotiated deals with suppliers for large-scale implementation. A deal on rooftop domestic wind turbines at £1,000 per unit is reported in Scotland; this could have value in built up areas but impacts upon important townscape and village environments should be avoided. Please consider all the contents of this response and all its attachments. Qu. 6(b) Please tick the "High" box for priority given to protecting the landscape in Hambleton.
4. Related concerns.
4.1. (Flawed consultation exercise.) The consultation exercise seems slanted and misleading in that it fails to declare information on the impact of and targets for wind farms, while asking only for ways of encouraging them. There is no express opportunity to respond to the targets nor to concerns about wind farms. The Hambleton LDF documents make no mention of the specific targets for wind power which are in the background regional technical papers, some of which are hard to access. The regional Topic Paper 7 (Energy) does have a page of targets for 2010, but does not reveal the worse figures for 2020. Although the targeted wind farm concentration on Hambleton is likely to have, by far, the biggest impact on the rural landscape and village environment for decades to come, it is not even revealed in the LDF consultation.
4.2 (Use of the consultation exercise.) In addition to the procedural concern at 4.1, there is concern that the result of consultation should not in any way be used to suggest or presume that a lack of response on the undeclared concentration of wind farms on Hambleton means that such concentration is acceptable.
4.3 (Excessive concentration on Hambleton.) Having searched the large technical REAS reports of 2002 and 2004 and the long RSS document, I find no reasonable grounds and no clear explanation for the concentration of wind farm targets on North Yorkshire and then more so on Hambleton in particular. The table in Regional Topic Paper 7 shows only targets for 2010; they get much worse for 2020. Those targets for 2010 set 129 MW for North Yorkshire against 45 for South Yorkshire and 59 for West Yorkshire. Allowance needs to be made for protection of the national park and AONB areas which account for much of North Yorkshire, and some of the other counties, so these targets seem particularly disproportionate. Then within North Yorkshire, Hambleton has a target of 40, more than twice that of any other District; the next highest is 17 and Scarborough only 5.
4.4 (Mis-characterisation of Hambleton and Sub-area.) For regional renewable energy purposes, in contrast to Hambleton's own policies, Hambleton seems to be largely characterised as a transport corridor and not as a place of increasing high-quality rural settlement. The RSS sub- area "Vales and Tees Links" relates roughly to Hambleton and Richmond without the national parks; the way in which maps are superimposed in the REAS to arrive at wind farm targets seems obscure and opaque. While RSS maps show the civil airports at Teesside and Leeds-Bradford, they do not show the military or private airfields at Leeming, Topcliffe, Dishforth and Lynton, which could seriously constrain wind power opportunities in Hambleton; nor do they show low-flying corridors which would also constrain opportunities. Therefore it is important that Hambleton and North Yorkshire should speak out more strongly to have the sub-regional and District targets reviewed as a matter of some urgency.
4.5 (Direction of the brief for NY study) A further concern compounding 4.3 and 4.4 is the brief for the current North Yorkshire renewable energy study. Like the LDF consultation, it looks only to encourage and facilitate wind farms. With such a brief the consultants will find the maximum opportunity for wind farms with the minimum consideration of their negative impacts or of a balance of local conditions and constraints.
4.6 (Information management and impacts.) The visual impact of wind farms should be self evident, but current government PR campaigns use unreliable, unfairly designed and selective "surveys" to suggest popularity of wind farms. The lessons of government-backed PR campaigns from, for example, the BSE-CJD and Iraq war issues seem not to be heeded. Points to keep in mind are: * wind turbines are about three time higher than the largest type of pylons; * the blade tips travel at about 200 m.p.h.; * persistent infra-sound and shadow flicker at around heart rate frequency are reported as serious health effects for some; * impacts on property value and tourism are increasingly reported but spun against in official PR; * wind farms need accompanying power lines.
4.7 (Limited effectiveness.) Wind farms have an installed capacity, quoted in MW, but deliver only about a quarter of it, while their variability requires a volume of back-up generation to be provided which is about twice as much as the wind power delivered. Further, because of its forced intermittence and variability, the back-up is particularly inefficient and generates high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The combination of wind plus back up is therefore not simply renewable, and can even lead to increased GH gas emissions depending on what it displaces (see Attachment 3). Reports from professional engineering bodies, such as the Royal Society of Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers, have emphasised costs and limitations of wind power, while leading commercial reports such as the E.ON Netz Wind Report 2004 confirm the data. A recent article notes (rightly) that more highly dispersed wind farms will reduce the effect of their individual local- scale variability, but given the E.ON Netz real data it is highly speculative to suggest that this reduction would be very significant in the UK in practice. Officers and planners will be aware of their lack of technical expertise and will be advised by consultants, but it is easy to get a false picture if consultants' briefs are driven by government aspirations. Attachment 3 makes a case for re-classifying wind power as non-renewable, except for Good Quality Wind Power.
4.8 (Planning considerations.) Protective planning policies, or moves towards them, have been shown in some local policies (for example Bradford was cited in the RSS), in the Conservative Party prior to the election, and in the USA, to cite some examples. Some possibilities for Hambleton might include: * a minimum distance (e.g. 1 km) from residences (except for homes of volunteer landowners receiving negotiated payment for turbines on their land); * a minimum distance from village boundaries (e.g. 1 km); * avoidance of any area of rural settlement being wholly transformed by windfarms and powerlines; * restriction of rural turbines to small compact groups (e.g. 4) with a minimum distance (e.g. 10 km) between such groups.
4.9 (Landowners' neighbours.) There is the potential for very lucrative contracts for landowners, particularly with large farms, volunteering to have wind farms on their land. As with telecoms masts, there is a danger of siting turbines close to neighbours' homes and property boundaries, and away from the benefiting landowner's home. A policy to resist this tendency, and to require that no neighbour's home should be closer to a turbine than the landowner's home, could be helpful.
4.10 (Compensation.) As with powerlines, the impact upon neighbours may be considerable, yet they may receive no compensation, in contrast to the benefiting landowner. A fair and reasonable policy would require that all those affected would be proportionately compensated, and the cost charged to the developer in accordance with the polluter-pays principle and the EU economic principle of internalising externalities.
M J O'Carroll, Chairman of Revolt Garden House, Welbury, Northallerton DL6 2SE
16 May 2005
Attachments. 1. Revolt Position Statement, January 2005. 2. Extract from Revolt News 186, 10 May 2005. 3. Good Quality Wind Power, amended 16 May 2005.
-- Mike O'Carroll
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