REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 198

Revolt news 19/10/2005

STOP PRESS: Friday's AGM will be at 7.30 p.m. at Asgard, Sessay. There is no special business, just the AGM formalities and the usual open forum. It is expected to be a small and short meeting. The chairman's annual report is available by email on request.

1. BBC on-line news 25.9.05 reports small networks of power generators in "microgrids" could transform the electricity network in the way that the net changed distributed communication. That is one of the conclusions of a Southampton University project scoping out the feasibility of microgrids for power generation and distribution. Microgrids are small community networks that supply electricity and heat.

2. An insightful and technically well informed paper has been submitted by Derek G Birkett, a retired Grid Control Engineer, to the Royal Society of Edinburgh inquiry on renewable energy (news188.1). The paper can be found at

Appendix C of the Submission, Derek Birkett's letter to 'IEE Review', ends with the paragraph :- "As a retired grid control engineer my instincts react against all thought of unpredictable renewable power on the scale proposed, sloshing around the system. Predictability is the key to secure grid operation. The Electricity Grid is a dynamic beast and unforgiving, it is inherently unstable. Wind resource does not provide any governor response to assist the automatic correction of system frequency deviations. Its exploitation on any scale would deter the introduction of new replacement capacity by soaking up available demand, the basis of payment within a market driven structure. At minimum levels of system demand with fixed base load operation of nuclear plant, in turbulent conditions, the control of system frequency would become a nightmare."

3. News from China of its developing nuclear power programme suggests large gains in efficiency (APPENDIX 1).

4. The Highland Council web site  has many papers on the new planning system and renewable energy. There is a large consultants' report on undergrounding high voltage transmission lines, with application to Scotland, commissioned in relation to the Beauly - Denny proposal. There are papers of a Renewable Energy Group and an emerging Highland Renewable Energy Strategy on which the Council is aiming to start an 11-week consultation on 28 October, which will include six public meetings across the Highlands.

5. Delegates at the Ninth Grove Fuel Cell Symposium in London were told that consumer electronics offered an obvious route forward. "Consumer electronics will represent the first major mass market for fuel cells," said George A panel from SRI Consulting, a chemical industry consultancy. "It is the beginning of the personal power revolution where people will be able to divorce themselves from the tyranny of the grid."

6. A letter (APENDIX 2) from Hambleton branch of CPRE tells how flawed government windfarm policy is being promoted uncritically through the planning system. The letter responds to a meeting 7.10.05 called to present the North Yorkshire Renewable Energy Study findings.

7. Snips from news@all-energy Issue 56 of October 2005 are at APPENDIX 3.

8. Former energy minister Brian Wilson has been appointed as chairman of Airtricity, the Irish wind power company with ambitious plans for wind farms in Scotland (APPENDIX 4). Already Wilson and his chief executive are complaining of a planning bottleneck and delays in getting approval in Scotland. This company has previously proposed a 10 GW wind farm in the North Sea off the Aberdeen coast. According to the Sunday Herald 16 October Airtricity plans a 16 billion pound North Sea wind facility to supply Germany and Britain.

9. The situation at Sale, where Dermot Finnigan has a long-running dispute with National Grid, raises an important issue which may affect many home owners. A 400 kV power line is on neighbouring land but the "swing" of the line (a significant movement in windy conditions) brings it over Dermot's property where there is no wayleave. There is a dispute over whether the "still" position of the line trespasses over the boundary but it seems to be accepted that the "swing" does cross the boundary. The important point is that there are safety requirements imposed upon the landowner but no wayleave or apparent power to impose these requirements. Dermot's letter to the NG Chairman is at APPENDIX 5. A legal precedent, Laiqat v Majid [2005] 26EG130 (CS), concerning an extractor fan exhaust from a take-away shop, establishes that even a slight and temporary intrusion at a height of several metres into space above a property constitutes a trespass. The judge gave as an example that a developer was not entitled to swing a crane over an adjoining property. I would be pleased to hear from any landowners or homeowners with a line on neighbouring property within a couple of metres of their boundary.

10. Simon Jenkins in the Guardian 14 October summarises the new planning system arising from the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 as government imposing its will through regional planning bodies with an attitude to local concerns as "you can all get stuffed". The article "The verbal smokescreen that hides dangerous government" is mainly about the government's plans for a million new homes in the south east, but equally well applies to wind farms and power lines. He says the 2004 Act "forced every community in England to an unprecedented surrender of control over its physical development to a plan centrally ordained in Whitehall".

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APPENDIX 1 Super-efficient nuke reactor set for trial

Oct 5, 2005 - China Daily Author(s): Fu Jing

Chinese scientists are planning super-efficient nuclear reactors that can maximize uranium burn-up and minimize waste in the generation of electricity. If the first experimental reactor, set to be in operation by 2010, is successfl, the technology could help relieve China's uranium supply problems as the country accelerates nuclear power plant construction. China Academy of Atomic Science President Zhao Zhixiang said a team of scientists has already mapped a detailed plan to speed up research and utilization of the so-called next-generation fast reactors. The new reactors are expected to burn 60-70 per cent of their uranium fuel - a conventional reactor consumes only 0.7 per cent of the uranium it is fed. "This kind of reactor can greatly improve the efficiency of fuel burn- up, and we are trying our best to put the experimental reactor into use over the next five years," Zhao said. Current reactors are only able to harness the power of 0.7 per cent of the radioactive isotopes found in natural uranium. In the fast reactor, the process is optimized so that more of the previously untapped isotopes can be used to generate electricity, burning-up fuel at least 60 times more efficiently than in a normal reactor. "We will have no concerns over fuel supply if such reactors are used to generate electricity commercially," Zhao said. China started research into fast nuclear reactor technology in 1995 and invested 1.38 billion yuan (US$170.2 million) into the construction of the experimental reactor. "I hope an experimental reactor with a capacity of 200,000 kilowatts can be put into use by 2010," Zhao said. He added that construction of the reactor is close to completion but did not identify the site of the project under the High and New T echnology Research and Development Programme of the Chinese Government. He also said plans for a fast-reactor prototype are expected to be included in the country's medium- and long-term science and technology development blueprints. The prototype reactor, with a capacity of 600,000 kilowatts, will be constructed and put into operation by 2020, Zhao said, adding: "After that, we will consider commercial operation of the reactor." As China's economy keeps developing rapidly, demand for power also keeps increasing. To meet its growing energy demands, China has mapped out a national plan to increase nuclear generating capacity to 36,000 megawatts by 2020, up from 8,700 megawatts today. The proportion of national power output supplied by nuclear energy is expected to rise from 2.3 per cent now to 4 per cent. A senior official from the National Development and Reform Commission told China Daily that the country will have an even more ambitious plan to generate nuclear power after 2020. "All the plans urged our researchers to develop our own core technologies for the reactors," said the official, who declined to be named. "And I personally believe the fast reactor will play a leading role during the 2040-50 period in China's nuclear plant construction." Apart from fast reactor research, China has also made a breakthrough in gas-cooled nuclear reactors, which can generate considerably higher temperatures than conventional nuclear reactors, leading to a high power generating capacity. Using helium as a coolant, the reactor, mainly developed by researchers from Tsinghua University, is also able to shut down and cool automatically in an emergency. Senior State Council officials have called for early commercial application of China's first gas- cooled nuclear reactor to help restructure China's energy supply strategy. Most of the nuclear reactors currently in operation in China rely on technology imported from France and Russia.

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APPENDIX 2 Extracts from a letter written by Hambleton CPRE following a NYCC conference on Renewable energy, Friday 7th October.

We were grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference which was well organised and had an interesting group of speakers, but left it with a feeling of deep dread.

The Government has delegated the policy of energy production largely to Local Authorities who, in the words of the AERE, are largely ill equipped to deal with it having no experience and no technical expertise record in the area. Most Authorities are therefore tackling the problem with the aid of consultants. So far, so good, but Authorities may not have the expertise to defeat the consultants when the latter's reports are inadequate.

This was vividly demonstrated on Friday. The main report failed to state that the over-riding objective was the supply of reliable, economic energy. When questioned the platform said that this was the Government responsibility, the report merely actioned policy. The report had main objectives "To ensure that no Household paid more than 10% of its income for energy" and also that North Yorkshire should ensure that 10% of an arbitrary target should come from renewables.

Such objectives demand that reports should attempt to demonstrate that the approach proposed would meet them, yet those presented failed to do so. There were two main failures:-

There was no economic analysis whatever so no attempt to demonstrate the target of requiring household expenditure to be less than 10% for energy would be met. The target proposed was expressed in terms of installed generating capacity. Since most renewable generation is intermittent what happens when it is not operational? There was not even any attempt to show what the effective output of the capacity installed would be.

As you know our members include those who have been employed for many years alongside and inside the energy industry and latterly by Banks and Investment houses to validate consultant reports. We would have no hesitation in rejecting the some of the reports as inadequate on the above grounds alone.

We were also disturbed by some other aspects of the talks.. A wide range of renewable resource possibilities was mentioned, again without economic or effective capacity analysis thereby, in our judgement, giving a very distorted picture of the possible gains. One example will suffice:-

Mention was made of fastening wind generators to the roofs of houses. This is possible, but the generators are very small - so small that the manufacturers claim they are suitable for battery charging and in many cases they are not even capable of generating mains voltages. Manufacturers state that to provide the electricity for a three bedroom house a turbine with a blade diameter of 5.5m mounted on a pole giving a total height of 49ft and a cost of about 20k would be required. Despite a subsidy of about 50% such a piece of kit would be uneconomic - and very difficult to put in most gardens! Clearly smaller units could produce power but they are even less economic and do little to help meet the Government targets.

We believe it is absolutely essential that speakers in conferences should be required to show, with their proposals and examples, the economic and effective capacity outcomes.

The platform response to our criticism was, we felt, disingenuous. It is never sufficient to say we were doing what the Government asked if, in their opinion, the policy is wrong. The report should say something to the effect. "This is what the Government has asked us to do and the results will be such that it does not result in the targets being met".

Our own position is that the fundamental flaws in Government policy are

The disposition of renewable targets should be based on an analysis of those areas where it is technically possible to meet them, not on some basis of former generating capacity or usage. The targets should be based on effective capacity not installed capacity The targets may accept that subsidy is required for initiation but not for substantial follow up or operation. If subsidy is required in perpetuity then the costs will be too great for the economy to bear and quite certainly the 10% maximum per household will collapse. In delegating the renewables element to Local/Regional Authorities the Government is presumably retaining the provision of base load capacity to itself. How can the two be melded? It is surely unwise to go ahead with the two aspects in isolation?

Whilst we all try and implement the Government policy without demonstrating and protesting about the inadequacies, the policy will remain unaltered and we will waste money and store up trouble for the future.

We have written to to set out our feelings about the conference. We would be grateful if you could direct us towards the best way of making our feelings known and to assist in a more rigorous approach.

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APPENDIX 3. Snips from news@all-energy Issue 56, Oct 2005.

1.14.Highlands forges ahead

"In the absence of clear guidance from the Scottish Executive, we have taken a lead in Scotland in dedicating the time, effort and resources towards framing a comprehensive renewable energy policy for the Highlands" - Highland Council's Planning chairman Sandy Park on publication of the draft Highland Renewable Energy Strategy and Planning Guidelines.  (long web address given)

The Highland Council's draft policy documents compiled by consultants, Aquatera is at 

1.15.Red tape blocking micro-generation

The government's plans to encourage millions of UK households to generate their own electricity must be backed up with effective policy...... research released by academics shows consumers face a number of cost-prohibitive obstacles 

3.2.Beauly to Denny pylon route

The impact of plans to build a 137-mile power transmission line of huge pylons from the Highlands is to be considered by Scottish Natural Heritage 

Scottish and Southern Energy has rejected calls to bury the cables underground

Plans to put part of the route through the Cairngorms National Park would make the protected area a national joke claim campaigners

6.1.Trident reveals results of tests

Trident Energy has successfully completed testing a scale wave energy converter at NaREC. Extrapolating the results to full scale indicates a generating capacity per point absorber of approximately 100KW in good sea conditions. From this, a wave farm occupying just 5 hectares will be capable of supplying 100MW 

6.3.Bobber may outperform offshore windfarms

Manchester, famous for bobbins in the cotton era, has now invented the "bobber" - an electricity generator which uses rising and falling floats to create power. Tests at Manchester University suggest the device could outperform windfarms by harnessing the motion of waves  and 

8.1.Unst hydrogen scheme hailed a success

The backers of Europe's first community-owned hydrogen production facility have claimed to be close to making the project viable. The scheme on Unst uses wind power to supply storage heaters, with the rest of the energy producing hydrogen from water 

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APPENDIX 4 Wilson: renewables target creates planning bottleneck Scotsman 15 October 2005


FORMER energy minister Brian Wilson yesterday questioned the Scottish Executive's ability to hit its ambitious renewables targets.

He blamed a failure to provide adequate planning resources to meet the demand, created by the Executive's 2003 target of 40 per cent renewable energy by 2020, which has resulted, he said, in the "creation of a bottleneck as well as a policy".

Speaking on his appointment as UK chairman of the Irish wind energy company Airtricity, the former Cunninghame North MP, said: "It has been pretty obvious for several years now that renewable energy would make substantial additional demands on the planning system in Scotland as a result of a policy promoted by the Executive.

"It would be interesting to know how many officials had been delegated to deal with this self-made issue.

"It is as true in Whitehall as it is in Scotland. It's an obvious example of where joined up government would help. They created a policy but they also created a bottleneck."

Wilson's remarks were echoed by Airtricity's chief executive, Eddie O'Connor, who said: "The Scottish planning regime is not very business-friendly.

"The targets and the ROC [renewable obligation certificates] scheme may be in place, but when the rubber meets the road, it took 25 months to get planning permission to develop our site at the Braes of Doune, for instance. In Ireland you know within nine months if you can go ahead."

Airtricity, which has spent 10 million developing windfarm plans in Scotland, including an established site at Ardrossan, said that it had employed Wilson to oversee ambitious future strategy and investment plans.

On Wilson's appointment, O'Connor added: "Our customer is the government, so he can help us not just at Westminster but in Scotland, where a huge amount of development is going to happen."

Airtricity, which has extensive windfarm developments in the US, as well as Ireland and Scotland, last year made a pre tax profit of 13m on a turnover of 86m.

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APPENDIX 5 Letter from Dermot Finnigan to NG Chairman Sir John Parker.

Dear Sir John,


Thank you for your letter dated 5th October 2005 via Mr Pearson.

You have sent me two pages of safety information and 11 reference documents relating to health and safety issues and overhead power lines appertaining to my land.

Would you please confirm that this information has been issued to all residential properties that fall with the same safety limit of 5. 3 meters that applies to your lines in swing in the UK, Europe and the USA.

It is extraordinary to see the full extent of the requirements, regulations, guidance notes, restrictions your line has imposed on my property without consent.

Would you please as a matter of urgency dispatch a director of your organisation to my home to mark out the extent of the safety limit.

Yours Sincerely

Mr D. Finnigan

***** *****

-- Mike O'Carroll




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