Today's Photo

Oil seed rape, grown for bio-diesel, surrounds the wind turbines at Baumber Farm near Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, UK.
Click to enlarge.
Ignoring the rape, there are 16 turbines on site 10x600kW, 6x800kW with a total capacity of 10.8MW, the hub height is 65m and the rotor diameter 44m for the 600kW and 48m for the 800kW. The site owners, Ecotricity, claim this site will power the equivalent of 9,285 local homes with the following annual statistics:

Generation kWh30.3 million
Carbon dioxide (CO2) savings28,916 tonnes
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) savings396 tonnes
Nitrogen oxide (NOX) savings204 tonnes

Further information on the three phases of this installation including construction photos are available here:

Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3

Thanks to my father for the photo, his is one of the 9,285 local homes.

It is good to see Ecotricity having some success with onshore wind farms in England. They have only achieved this by heroic persistence. So far this year 8 onshore English schemes totalling 66MW have been rejected and only 5 schemes totalling 68MW have been approved.

Scotland is doing better with 240MW onshore approved and 58MW rejected Wales, who have got good sites, has only achieved 25% of its target of 800MW by 2010 and has had only 30MW approved so far this year.

Onshore wind is important. Those that rail against onshore wind such as the so-called Renewable Energy Foundation, an anti-onshore wind pressure group set up by Noel Edmonds, play heavily on the lower load factor of English onshore wind generation but this ignores the benefits of much lower installation and maintenance costs, lower transmission losses because of being nearer the load, reduced need to build extra transmission capacity because of distribution of the generation across the area of the load and some relief from the problems of intermittency by virtue of geographical dispersion. The total cost of meeting demand is a much more valid criterion than load factor.

There will be problems, as I have argued here before, when we reach much above 20% of total electrical demand without substantial very large scale energy storage but we are a long way from that and we need to install wind generation as fast as we can and find some way of getting the broader national interest to play a bigger part in obtaining consent relative to local interests. In the mean time we need to put more money into researching energy storage and we could start by re-examining the Severn Barrage optimised for energy storage.

Your picture with rape in front of the turbines does give the opponents of onshore wind the opportunity for some obvious digs although I have long had a private dream of developing another brightly coloured agricultural crop and calling it pillage.


Interested to know your view on the Severn barrage. In principle I am in favour, though I think that possibly a larger number of smaller schemes strung along the coasts of the estuary may provide a similar power output, at lower cost with fewer environmental issues to overcome.

I am thinking of schemes that would look similar to the Cardiff Bay barrage, but which would have sluices and turbines thus allowing water in and out. There are numerous bays and other sites along both shores where this could be done.

In addition, a number of smaller schemes would have the benefit of being relatively quicker to build (and therefore finance) and would ease the perennial British problem of failing to keep anywhere near budgets and timelines on large-scale projects.

A further benefit of building along the coasts rather than across the estuary would be too avoid the cost of building across the deep water channel in the middle of the estuary. Presumably hydrodynamic forces are greater at greater depth and therefore exponentially increase costs?

A negative side effect of this would probably be to increase velocity of water flow in the newly-width-restricted estuary but this would provide an opportunity for installation of marine current turbines. That said, the new impoundments should also be able to double as flood defence along the shores. I am not sure whether this would increase flood risk further up the estuary, though intuition suggests it might...

There's a conference on the Severn Barrage taking place shortly:

“The Severn Barrage?”; A Conference organised by The Institution of Civil Engineers in Wales, Thursday, 17th May, 2007, County Hall, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff Bay.

Many of the same speakers who attended a conference in Cardiff last November on Renewable and Nuclear Energy, basically split into those "for" (many engineers and the Welsh Assembly Govt.), those against who favour energy conservation (WWF) and those who think other technologies offer better returns with less environmental impact (e.g. tidal stream turbines). WWF say the barrage would be illegal under current conservation legislation. My own opinion is that even without the almost inevitable cost overruns (think 2012 Olympics, Channel Tunnel) the money could be better spent on energy efficiency grants and technologies that can actually address the enrgy gap UK faces between 2010 and 2020 (the barrage would take - again if no overruns) about 10-12 years to build.

Chris - I've been driving the Aberdeen to Perth (Scotland) road a lot recently and it seems the fertile Strathmore valley has been given over to rape and polly tunnels. The latter of course provide Marks and Spencer with environmentlally sound strawberies for 6 months of the year.

I'd be interested in figures showing changes in rape and other diesel acreage in the UK / EU.

I also recived two emails a couple of days ago pointing to wheat prices rising, this in part related to Australian drought.

With inflation rising in the UK, I believe rising food (energy) prices may stoke the flames. We are of course lucky - we may have to pay a bit more, but there are many who will go hungry.

I was down in Kent the other weekend, it was a sea of yellow.

With regards poly tunnels, I have often wonderd why we don't surround power stations with poly-covered fields, pump the CO2 into the tunnels and grow stuff all year round.

I heard anecdotally a few ywars ago of a small CHP power sttaion which pumped its CO2 into a big greenhouse (growing tomatoes) and thus became a net zero emission power station.

is it just the sheer scale of the required land that precludes such an idea, or am I missing other (obvious) problems? Certainly seems cheaper to me than sequestering in depleted offshore fields.....

With regards wheat, there has also been a problem with plantings in the US. Early mild weather encouraged growth and then a very cold snap couped with a lot of rain has killed off a large swathe of crop. Wheat futures up 13% so far this month...

You have to take the CO2 out of the exhaust stream.

The plants won't, unless the acreage is truly vast, absorb a meaningful proportion of the CO2.

There is some work being done with genetically engineered algae on this one, but all kinds of reasons to think why it wouldn't work that well (eg photosynthesis only takes place during the day; the concentration of algae would have to be truly huge, etc.).

On your tomatoes CHP there are certainly a number of CHP units associated with hothouse fruit and vegetable operations, however they work because those need a constant supply of *heat*. I've never heard of one just for the CO2.

By and large, plants find enough CO2 in the existing atmosphere. Increase the CO2 concentration, and their uptake is *less*.

The wind farm issue is British hypocrisy and disjointed thinking at it's worst.

At the national level, all 3 political parties are pro renewables.

At the local level, these things are bitterly fought. And the planning process 'kicks it upstairs'. Where it sits in deadlock.