opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development
REVOLT Newsletter 209
Revolt news 20/05/2006
1. Yet another Secretary of State for Trade & Industry emerged following the May cabinet reshuffle. A note of Alistair Darling's first official engagement, opening a Scottish windfarm, is at APPENDIX A.
2. The new Secretary of State for Defra, David Milliband, calls for a new environmental contract (APPENDIX B).
3. Snips from news@all-energy issue 64 May 2006 are at APPENDIX C.
4. Bold ideas for a North Sea Supergrid and large scale wind farm connecting three EU countries are put forward by Irish windfarm firm Airtricity (APPENDIX D). Mind, some figures look "speculative", aiming to achieve 70% capacity utilisation and claiming it is already 40% for individual windfarms, when the UK average is only 25%.
5. More on the Supergrid, and a possible early start with a first phase 500 megawatt Greater Gabbard windfarm some 25km off the coast at Aldeburgh in Suffolk, is at APPENDIX E.
6. The highly regarded web site for public concern on wind farms www.wind-farm.org has been attacked and destroyed. It offered download reports of public accounts of the dealings and procedures on the giant Cefn Croes wind farm in Wales and Elizabeth Mann's Force 10 books on the Barningham and County Durham story. A new site www.wind-farm.co.uk has been hurriedly put up to retain free downloads for Elizabeth Mann's books and other notes in the public interest. The site relates the "dirty tricks" employed to promote wind farms in County Durham, and notes that average load factor performance for 2002 - 2004 has been only 21% as against the 30% claimed. It is suggested that 2005 figures show even worse performance, with Barnard Castle down to 10% and most of the other County Durham wind farms only in the teens.
7. Underground cables as an alternative to overhead powerlines are commonly dismissed on cost. However cost ratios are not so high abroad compared with the UK. The European Commission Background Note of 2003 on undergrounding, and recent installations in Ireland (Ballywater - Crane) show much lower cost ratios as well as other benefits. (APPENDIX F)
APPENDIX A New Sec of State for Trade & Industry
Building News: New Secretary of State for Trade and Industry opens Paul's Hill windfarm in Moray
Scotland's latest renewable energy project will be opened today by Alistair Darling on his first official engagement as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Developed by Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd, through its agent Natural Power Consultants, the Paul's Hill wind farm cost £57 million and comprises 28 turbines, situated on open hills, 23km south west of Elgin and 15km west of Aberlour.
Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said: "I am very much looking forward to working at the DTI and I'm pleased that I am able to return to the Highlands for my first official engagement as the new Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
"The wind farm at Paul's Hill that I am opening will provide enough clean, green energy to power 47,000 homes, which is almost 40% of the total electricity requirements of Morayshire.
"The Government wants 10% of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2010 and this project will be making a considerable contribution to that target."
APPENDIX B Defra Press release 12 May 2006
MILIBAND CALLS FOR CONTRACT FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
If the challenge of climate change is to be met then no part of British society will be unchanged, David Miliband Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said today.
Mr Miliband said:
"Just as social justice needed a new social contract in the 19th and 20th centuries so environmental security in the 21st century needs a new environmental contract.
"An environmental contract would have new and clear rights and responsibilities for Government, for business and for individuals, to balance what we take from nature and what we give back. The old system of 'too much take and too little give' is bad for the planet, bad for business and bad for the most disadvantaged.
"The challenge we face is to marry economic growth, social justice, and environmental sustainability. They can and must go hand in hand. There will be difficult decisions along the way. But also huge synergies. A low carbon economy can be good for business, good for the environment, and good for all citizens.
"CO2 levels are now higher than for 740,000 years. Arresting climate change will need investment but failure to take action will result in even greater costs.
"This is not just a matter for Defra. All Government departments are departments of the environment. I will be working closely with my Cabinet colleagues to tackle the demand and supply sides of emissions, from energy to transport to housing.
"We need to make sure that national progress and international agreements go together. We will meet this global challenge not by words over days but by deeds over years."
Press enquiries 020 7238 5337 / 6054 ;Public enquiries 08459 335577; Press notices are available on our website www.defra.gov.uk
APPENDIX C Snips from news@all-energy issue 64 May 2006
3.2.Opposition to pylons from Stirling
Stirling councillors have voiced their unanimous opposition to plans to upgrade hundreds of electricity pylons from the Highlands to central Scotland http://tinyurl.com/rmp4w
3.3.New study underway
A new inquiry into the possible link between overhead power lines and childhood leukaemia is underway http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/men/news/health/
4.4.Buffer zone support
In Scotland Ministers would support 1.5km "buffer zones" around local communities to prevent wind farms being built too close http://news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=673962006
4.9.Councillors scale back windfarms
The number of potential sites for major wind farms in the Highlands have been cut from 11 to three in a blueprint for renewable energy schemes http://tinyurl.com/ouj5x
6.4.In praise of tidal lagoons
The cost of tidal lagoons is such that for the same price as the proposed Severn barrage at least 150 lagoons could be constructed www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1764881,00.html Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central expressed support for tidal lagoons across the Severn Estuary http://tinyurl.com/ky67c
8.1.First chips to wood-burning plant
The first deliveries of wood chips have been made to an RE power station on Teesside. The Wilton 10 biomass power station being built and operated by SembCorp Utilities UK is expected to come on line in summer 2007 http://tinyurl.com/gnpex
10.3.World's first hydrogen city
The Danish H2PIA concept incorporates hydrogen produced from renewable sources to power homes and vehicles http://tinyurl.com/sxn7k
13.2.Coal set to become largest energy contributor
Mitsui Babcock tells the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology coal is set to become the largest contributor in the energy portfolio www.mitsuibabcock.com/live/dynamic/
13.3.A spa is born
Hot springs bubbling deep under Co Durham will result in a major tourist attraction and plans for a new village using five forms of RE generated on site http://tinyurl.com/l5zu4
APPENDIX D North Sea Supergrid.
Firm to generate support for giant â‚¬20bn wind farm By Carl Mortished Airtricity wants to erect 2,000 turbines in the North Sea and link three countries to the Supergrid
A EUROPEAN offshore electricity Supergrid linking wind farms from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean will be proposed this week by Airtricity, the renewable energy company.
The Irish company and ABB, the Swedish engineering group, will present the â‚¬20 billion (£13.7 billion) initial phase of its project this week to MPs in an effort to get political backing for a scheme that would create Europe's first extensive cross-border power network.
The first phase of the Supergrid would comprise 2,000 wind turbines located in the southern part of the North Sea, between Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. Generating 10 gigawatts of power, the giant wind farm could supply electricity to eight million homes.
More importantly, the company says, a power grid would be established, connecting the electricity supply networks of three countries, removing the biggest hurdle to cross-border competition in electricity.
Eddie O'Connor, Airtricity's chief executive, reckons that the Supergrid would not only supply large quantities of sustainable power but also would overcome a major obstacle to a joined-up European energy policy. "Europe has been trying to create a single market in energy for 20 years and failed dismally. Most of Europe's electricity is supplied by very big, vertically integrated monopolies. They are not very efficient, not very entrepreneurial and they rely on fossil fuels," Mr O'Connor says.
The Supergrid would provide access to an endless source of power and facilitate energy trading between countries, exploiting differences in consumption, he says. "Countries need electricity at different times. The peak in Germany's electricity demand is an hour before the UK."
Airtricity, which is developing a 500-megawatt wind farm in the Thames Estuary, has discussed the Supergrid proposal with the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as Andris Pibalgs, the European Energy Commissioner.
The scale of the project is the key to its potential value, Mr O'Connor says, because it resolves the principal weakness of wind-turbine generated electricity: it's intermittency. "Any one wind farm suffers from variability - it is on and off. With the Supergrid you don't get peaks and troughs," he says.
A cable linking a series of grids over 1,000km (620 miles) would stretch the length of an average weather front, collecting wind power as it passes each farm to create a constant stream of power for countries linked to the grid. According to Airtricity, the Supergrid would have a capacity utilitisation rate of 70 per cent, compared with about 40 per cent for individual wind farms.
Key to the success of the scheme is regulatory support and backing from a financial institution, such as the European Investment Bank (EIB), as well as industrial partners.However, Airtricity admits that the scale and regulatory complexity of the Supergrid make it high-risk and it does not expect commercial banks to support the project without the backing of European Union institutions, and a regulatory framework for the sale of wind power directly across borders.
APPENDIX E Suffolk role in supergrid plans
12 May 2006 10:39
A 140-turbine windfarm off the coast of north Suffolk is set to be the first phase of a £15bn European "supergrid".
Although it is still awaiting final permission, the windfarm at Greater Gabbard, about 25km off the seaside town of Aldeburgh, would play a prime part in the proposed project by an Irish company which wants to build 2,000 turbines between the coast of East Anglia and Holland.
Dublin-based Airtricity says building so many turbines in the North Sea would be enough to power eight million homes and a power grid connecting British, German and Dutch supplies, as revealed in the EDP on Tuesday.
And last night, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard revealed details about the Greater Gabbard project and described it as a "golden opportunity".
Mr Blizzard met with Airtricity chief executive Eddie O'Connor earlier this week to discuss the project, which could start as early as 2008.
Airtricity say that, once complete, the Greater Gabbard windfarm will "produce enough green energy to power 415,000 homes - more than the domestic demand of Suffolk".
Now Mr O'Connor will come to Lowestoft to see Mr Blizzard, who is chairman of the Lowestoft Wind Energy Group, to talk more about the project and see if the town could plan a major part in construction works.
Lowestoft engineering company SLP was instrumental in the Scroby Sands windfarm project, in the construction, assembly and installation of the turbines.
And Mr Blizzard says the town could offer a lot for the 500 megawatt Greater Gabbard windfarm.
"There have been no objections of any substance to the proposal and they are expecting formal consent very soon," Mr Blizzard said. "This site is very close to us, and we were talking about Lowestoft and Mr O'Connor was enormously impressed with the commitment here, and that the wind turbine Gulliver is a symbol of that.
"He was also impressed that we were able to assemble turbines here and ship them out to the Scroby Sands site.
"He is coming to make a presentation to the wind energy steering group, and we can show him what Lowestoft has to offer.
"This is a golden opportunity for us and for job prospects.
"We are the nearest port to the Aldeburgh site - it is right on our doorstep and we are talking about a lot of turbines."
Work is expected to start next year on the Â£5m Offshore Renewables Energy Centre at Ness Point, in Lowestoft, and Mr Blizzard said the town should not miss out on the Greater Gabbard project.
"We are in a great position to grab a big slice of something that is going to happen on our doorstep," he said. "We can make a huge contribution to the process, and at the same time get jobs - there will be masses of jobs created.
"Now we must work hard to put our offers forwards."
APPENDIX F Undergrounding cost ratios much lower abroad.
Reports from the companies installing cables in Ireland (e.g. Ballywater to Crane, some 22 km near Wexford in Ireland) suggest a relatively benign situation for 110 kV lines (roughly equivalent to the 132 kV lines on steel pylons in UK). Granted, the larger NG lines at 275 and 400 kV may be more adverse for undergrounding, but perhaps not as adverse as the grid companies claim.
Installers in Ireland report that the final cost for them to lay the cable themselves worked out about the same as the quote they were given to construct an overhead line.
Virtually the complete 22km was laid under country roads, some of which were very narrow. The cables are 1.4m below the road in three 150mm plastic ducts, with an additional one for communications. A 1m thick concrete slab is laid on top of the cables. The 26 jointing bays (1.5m x 10m) and the 70 push-pull pits are all completely covered - no inspection hatches. Joints are cast in resin and enclosed in cast iron junctions.
In December 2003 the EU Commission published a Background Note on undergrounding (reported in news174.4 and its Appendix 2). The note drew substantially from an ICF consultancy report, which I criticised in news174 for some inaccuracies, notably about sterilising land, which false assertion had been promoted by the grid companies. Nevertheless the Background Note is very helpful and shows much cheaper costs of undergrounding abroad. Further the note looks at cost-benefit appraisal and identifies several contingent benefits for underground cables.
In news174 I wrote: "Nevertheless the report provides a useful summary of costs, drawing from several European and other countries. The cost- ratio for undergrounding 400 kV powerlines, usually claimed by NG to be 20 to 25 times the cost of overhead lines for the UK, is shown to be excessive compared with other countries, where it is more like 10. Apart from the standard oil-impregnated paper insulation cables, the report discusses (briefly) Cross Linked Polyethylene (XLPE), Gas- Insulated Lines (GIL), High Voltage DC (HVDC), and High Temperature Superconducting (HTSC) technologies."
Among the benefits of underground cables are lower maintenance costs and lower losses of energy, the latter being significant financially. Page 31 of the Note says "Whilst the load carrying capacity of an equivalent sized conductor in a XLPE cable is less than that in an overhead line, this is countered by the significant lower losses within the cable, which can be 30% to 60% less than those of an overhead line". The savings in losses greatly reduce the adverse cost ratio of undergrounding.
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