Blown promises

First the promise, perhaps a bit overrated:

Click for the news article

The article goes on to say:

The borough already has one publicly-owned turbine — a 33ft Air Dolphin turbine at a location off Taylors Lane, Oldbury, near the civic amenities site in Shidas Lane.

Through monitoring the performance of the turbine it was hoped the council would be able to find out how practical it would be to harness wind power on a large scale in the borough

Here is what it looks like:

Zephyr Airdolphin Wind Turbine Generator

Interestingly, right below the picture on this sale page for the wind turbine, they say this:

With the average price for 1kWh of electricity in the UK at around 11 pence, this wind turbine is predicted to save its owner just £55 to £154 per year giving a pay back period of 45 to 125 years!

I kid you not, that’s actually what they say. In tips and notes, UK blogger Derek Sorensen calls our attention to this FOI request regarding the production of the very same wind turbine on Taylors Lane, Oldbury.

Source: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wind_turbine#incoming-163689

Roy Mccauley
Sandwell Borough Council

31 March 2011

Thank you for your enquiry about the Taylor’s Lane wind turbine in
Oldbury. The answers to your questions are as follows:

1) Could you please tell me the total cost spent on purchase and
installation of the 33ft Air Dolphin turbine at a location off Taylor’s
Lane, Oldbury?

£5,000 (plus VAT) was the total cost of the Taylor’s Lane micro wind
turbine in Oldbury, including foundations, tower and connections.

2) Could you also tell me how much has been spent on the turbine since?

Nothing has needed to be spent since it was installed.

3) How much electricity has been generated by the turbine and how much has
been spent monitoring the performance of the turbine – e.g. cost of
setting up a computer/software etc.

No money has been spent monitoring the performance of the micro wind
turbine at Taylor’s Lane.

However, the council paid £750 for 3 years of monitoring an identical
micro wind turbine at Bleakhouse Primary School in Oldbury. We chose to
monitor just one of the turbines to minimise costs. We wanted to track
performance, establish whether predicted wind speeds in Sandwell were
accurate and use the technology and readings for educational purposes in
schools.

For the 12 months between May 2009 and April 2010, the Bleakhouse Primary
School micro wind turbine generated 209 kWh of electricity.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
request, and should be addressed to:

Freedom of Information Unit
Oldbury Council House
Freeth Street
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE

Email – [1][Sandwell Borough Council request email]

If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF

Please remember to quote your reference number above in any future
communications.

Roy McCauley
Sustainable & Economic Regeneration Unit

======================================================

Dereke writes:

Sandwell Borough Council paid £5,000 a pop to install several wind turbines in their area, and then paid another £750 to have the output of just one of them monitored.

The monitored turbine, which was installed on a primary school, generated 209kWh of electricity in the twelve months it was being monitored. That’s about 20 quid’s worth. So each turbine will have to run for 250 years without breaking down or requiring maintainance, just to break even.

Such a deal. Since the FOI request was granted on March 31st, and the Express and Star News story was February 24th, do you think the Sandwell council may have had time to consider these massive energy production figures for their toy £5000 toy turbine?

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163 thoughts on “Blown promises

  1. 209 kWh per year from a 1kW turbine gives a load factor of 2.3%. That sounds about right; you would expect local government idiots to fork out £5k for something useless; but never mind, they mean well and are saving the planet. The school kids will no doubt be indoctrinated into what a good idea this wind turbine thingy is.

    Just wait till they have to start paying maintenance costs. 209 kWh at £0.11/kWh is £23/year, which won’t cover the call-out costs for a maintenance technician.

  2. Don’t these people do wind studies of the sites then intend to put turbines on to get some idea of the production they’ll see?

  3. Yes, but when the European Union rules shut down our coal-fired power stations and the price of electricity rockets to 50 pence per unit the windmill will break even in only, oh, about fifty years. Brilliant! And it won’t matter if it’s not windy because we won’t be able to afford electricity anyway.

  4. Its mechanical, and probably made in China.. I give it 5 years before its kaput !!!

    And that’s being generous :-)

  5. “on a blustery day”?

    How much more efficient, if they were to mount it inside the counsel’s meeting room[!]

    Maybe they should mount it in a chimney, exiting the ceiling above them… surely they would achieve virtual perpetual motion[!!]

    Oh oh oh! Mount one to each of their cars and they can each drive around, collecting all the FREE wind energy they want[!]

  6. Steeptown:
    Just wait till they have to start paying maintenance costs. 209 kWh at £0.11/kWh is £23/year, which won’t cover the call-out costs for a maintenance technician.

    That amount of money won’t even pay to keep it painted…

  7. 45-125 year payback for a device that most likely won’t survive 10 years. Government folly at its peak.

  8. More Mickey Mouse economics from a Council. You can tell it’s not their money they’re spending!
    Looking at the Airdolphin specs, a measely 1Kw in a 26mph wind, enough to boil a kettle.
    The support tower also needs replacing every 25 years, so that’ll further increase the payback period.

  9. Do these Sustainable & Economic Regenration people ever actually look at the results and projections in support of these monstrosities..?
    A payback time of 250 years for instance..?
    A 200 foot eyesore which, ‘in blustery conditions, COULD power 20000 homes’..?
    And the other 90% of the time..?
    When will this madness stop..?

  10. I cannot understand why it would be profitable for this turbine at 11p/kwh. Even at the price I pay today, 28p/kwh, it woulds not cover all costs. Typical socialist council wasters.

  11. If the data comes from guvment, national or local, don’t trust it, especially when it promises big, much savings, lower costs, better efficiency, etc!

  12. A slight amendment. The cost of each turbine was £5000 plus VAT, (for non-UK folk, this is Value Added Tax which is collected by the British Government and which at that time would be seventeen and a half percent.)
    That puts the payback time to around 300 years.
    That’s what you get when you establish a Sustainable and Economic Regeneration Unit.
    Perhaps Dereke would now like to find out the annual cost of the Unit to the ratepayers of Sandwell Borough Council.

  13. I think the information should be checked before jumping to any conclusions. 209kWh is not enough to keep a standard 3kW electric fire going for 3 days. The figures must have been misquoted.

  14. It is gesture politics with the tax-payer footing the bill. They are demonstrating their green credentials at our expense. Never mind the quality feel the width!

  15. Wind and hot air.
    Councils are good at that.
    How many Kw do you think one installed over the council chamber would generate?
    Our countryside is dotted with these white elephants which will never last long enough to cover their installation and payback costs.
    My only hope is that they will leave them up as a monument to PC thinking and South-Sea Bubble mentality for our grandchildren to reflect upon.

  16. Our local energy company has been forced by an idiotic government to hit a “renewables” target in the near future. Fortunately, it is a publicly traded company, so they are also required to disclose lots of financial information. The depreciation rate for wind turbines is 5% straight line, which means they have a 20 year useful life, and have an estimated maintenace cost of 3% of capital cost, per year. It is good these things are white, it makes them easier to imagine as elephants.

  17. The “pay back period of 45 to 125 years!” has been estimated given the present electricity price of 11 pence/kWh.

    After the nuclear plantss will be dismantled, the electricity price will be around 1 pound per kWh. This reduces the pay back time by some factor 10, i.e. to 5 to 12 years.

    This will be a reasonable investment then!

  18. Posted also at Derek’s site:

    Unless my arithmetic is badly wrong, that is an average output of 24 Watts. Which is not even pathetic.

    My little pump for my garden waterfall takes about 45W. The nightlight in my Mum’s hallway takes 7w. My laptop when plugged in chews a huge 65W.

    The entire electricity needed to power my little 3 bed semi is about 150KWh per month. So I would need about 9 such installations to power just my house…assuming that I could make the wond blow art the right time…when I wanted to cook Sunday lunch or run the washing machine.

    Windmills are a complete waste of time and money. The ydo not do what it says on the tin. This experiment shows it.

    And if I were a council tax payer in Sandwell, I would be asking my local representative searching questions about why they feel the need to conduct such experiments at all. And why they employ people – presumably at salaries far in excess of £5,000 to conduct them.

  19. How the hell can it possibly cost 750 UK pounds to ‘monitor’ the output of the turbine?

    That seems really high.

  20. That turbine has a 1.8m rotor diameter according to the website. Much smaller than the “33ft” quoted, which I suppose is the height at which it is mounted. A similar model over here in the states might run you about $1000. And they paid 5000 british pounds each? Somethun’ aint right…

  21. If the capital cost is factored in at say 5% interest rate I think that payback time might extend well past the lifespan of the solar system.

    In Hobart, Tasmania at the moment we still have a couple of dead wind turbines on the roof of one of our gummint buildings. They operated feebly for about a month and then flaked out. They have spent the last year in a static state of semi-collapse.

  22. Seeing as they are so concerned about c02 it would be interesting to know how much c02 it produced and how long before it ‘recovered’ that same c02?

    Here are two recent reminders about the failures of wind – here and here.

    It seems to me they will only abandon windpower when disaster strikes in mid-winter. From the top two references it shouldn’t be long – they just have to push full speed ahead for the next decade.

  23. So each turbine will have to run for 250 years without breaking down or requiring maintainance, just to break even.

    I now have to wipe off my monitor because I was having a sip of tea when I read that.

  24. I would go a carbon tax if they would just promise to get rid of these irrational alternative energy monstrosities.

  25. Don R says:
    April 27, 2011 at 2:00 am

    A slight amendment. The cost of each turbine was £5000 plus VAT….

    You beat me to it! Apparently VAT on wind turbines is 5% which puts the cost at £5,250. Sooner or later there has to be maintenance costs which puts the payback time even further.

  26. A maximum power of 2.3kW and a standard of 1kW. 209kWh would mean that it ran for less than 9 days total with an average wind speed. It is just not possible that this technology is so poor!

    Something more embarrassing must be behind these numbers – there is no way that in the UK there was a total of only 9 average windy days in 12 months, and there is no point criticising the laws of physics. If it was windy and the turbine was set-up and monitored properly, it would definitely produce much more the quoted value.

    More digging needed – what else can be expected from British bureaucracy? Does FOI guarantee that the information is correct – not likely.

  27. @Jimbo..

    Not to mention the total environmentakl devastation in a China where they mine and process the rare earth for the magnets. An ever expanding toxic acid lake killing the countryside for miles around, plus massive air pollution. Coal mines can, and are, often ‘remediated’,…. but this toxic lake and the surrounding area will NEVER be.

    So much for “green’ technology !

  28. Electric energy isn’t storable at scale, so the grid operator has to match demand to supply, to the second. Give him a power plant (fossil fuel or nuke) that can be throttled up or down to follow customer demand and everyone is happy.

    What the public fails to understand is how important the “when” question is to the equation.

    Demand for electricity varies hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and is rather predictable. Wind is fickle and may not blow when you need it. On top of that, most wind blows at night…when demand for electricity is at its LOWEST.

    The makes the economics even uglier.

  29. Interestingly, you have to poke about on Sandwell MBC’s website to find this:-

    http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/info/200105/sustainability/460/climate_change

    Nothing about Council run windmills, though.

    But this “Sustainable & Economic Regeneration Unit” seems to have a lot of staff.

    Perhaps you’d better add their cost to the £5,000 per windmill quoted.

    Payback period???

    CO2 saved???

    Net effect on Global Average Temperatures???

    I’d be inclined to write a nice letter to the Council’s “Interim Chief Executive”, Mr. Tim Britton:-

    “His salary will be £139,000 a year

    “Mr Britton, who is executive director of urban regeneration, takes over the role with immediate effect.

    “Cllr Cooper said: “I have full confidence in Mr Britton to carry out the role which is extremely demanding.

    “”We have very good officers in Sandwell and we will carry on with a new slimmed down management structure that is planned for the future.

    “”I want to maintain stability in Sandwell and ensure we have strong leadership throughout this challenging time.

    “”This is going to be a period of major change across the board in local government.”

    “Cllr Cooper said the move was part of a major management restructure which will see the chief exec’s salary cut from £152,174 to £139,000 and a two-year pay freeze for other top managers.”

    Ask Britton (and send a copy to Cllr Cooper) asking under what powers Sandwell has decided to enter the Electricity Generation business because you are concerned that this may be Ultra Vires (as well as blatantly ineffective and poor value for money).

    Point out the costs and “benefits” as set out in this posting and in comments. Say you want a list of those Councillors who approved this expenditure because you are minded to have them individually surcharged with the wasted and possibly Ultra Vires expenditure.

    Make yourself a pot of tea and await a response.

  30. WIND POWER ! Provides 10% of capacity for only 50% of the time AND only takes 300 years to recoup your investment outlay.
    ‘Wowee! Gotta get me some of that green energy”

  31. Sandwell Council isn’t known for its critical thinkers or common sense. This is the council that tried to fine an elderly a four figure sum for dropping cigarette ash while waiting for a bus. Only a loud public outcry made them back down. They also don’t like advertising the sale of your car by placing a small notice in same car for passers-by to read and take note of and threaten you with a fine for doing so. They are a bunch of ridiculous, dictatorial freaks so it’s no wonder the dimwits think that wind turbines are a good idea so they are buying another one whether long suffering council tax payers want it or not.

  32. @barghumer

    More digging needed – what else can be expected from British bureaucracy? Does FOI guarantee that the information is correct – not likely.

    I think we can be reasonably certain that Mr McAuley who works for the Sustainable bakhdebaldeblah unit, will have been strongly motivated to put the best possible spin on this pathetic piece of kit’s output, not the worst. So if there is an error, it will have been in overestimating the ‘success’.

    Nobody, but nobody, who works in a Sustainable unit would ever work again if they failed to show due obesiance to the great god Aeolus……But even the best he can manage is an average over the year of 0.024 KW.

    Hilarious.

  33. Unfortunately it is a little more complicated (and more beneficial) than the figures suggest.

    The 209kWh generated by the 33kW turbine will save the owner the 11p/kWh suggested but they will also get an income under the Feed-in-Tariff system of 9p/kWh (for an existing microgenerator transferred from RoCs). This income is guaranteed until 2027

    The planned turbine is rather lucrative actually. Depending on size these are the rates paid to producers under the new Feed-in-Tarif system. The figures below consitute the “Generation Tariff”:
    Turbine Size – rate
    1.5-15kW – 26.7p/kWh
    >15-100kW – 24.1p/kWh
    >100-500kW – 18.8p/kWh
    >500-1.5MW – 9.4p/kWh
    >1.5MW-5MW – 4.5p/kWh
    These rates are guaranteed for 20 years. On top of that there is an “Export Tariff” of 3p/kWh for any electricity not used by the producer that is exported to the grid. And of course add these to the “Avoided Cost” of 11p/kWh. (Source: http://www.lochaber-environmental-group.org.uk/userfiles/file/renewables/FITs%20FAQs.pdf )

    For the planned one, 200ft height suggests a 500kW turbine. Say 25%* load so 125kW produced. That would generate an income of £238,710 per year assuming all of the electicity is exported to the grid. Payback 6-7 years, in profit for the remaining 13-14 years of the FiT. (*but of course it may not even acheive that)

    And that :-( is the state of the incentive system and where the money is going in the UK.

  34. @Latimer Alder

    It doesn’t make sense that Roy Mccauley and Sandwell Borough Council would bother to provide misleading information which is so bad. If they were going to lie, they would do it properly. Imagine if the true output had been zero kWh (could it be any worse?) then why exaggerate it to a mere 209kWh.

    My guess is that they don’t know what they are doing, and they quoted the wrong data from the wrong records. This is better for them than admitting that they charged someone for monitoring and then don’t know where the monitoring data is. Perhaps a symptom of CRU proportions.

  35. On the plus side, the FOI response was done well and actually provided the information requested. And when there was no monitoring on the wind turbine mentioned in the original request, the government response included data from an identical turbine that was monitored instead. They not only met the letter of the FOI law with their response, but they also followed the spirit of FOIA by doing their best to provide all the information requested. This FOI response was actually helpful to the requester, rather than an exercise in government non-response doublespeak that is all too often provided after a FOIA request.

    That FOI response should be an example for the Climategate scientists, provide relevant data in a FOI response even if it risks making you look foolish.

  36. To: Verity Jones

    Thanks for throwing in more data. Your data on the “Feed-In-Tariff” makes it plain that wind power CANNOT compete without mammoth government intervention.

    And just who pays for the government subsidies? Why, the good citizens of the UK.

  37. Some ambitious person will come up with a retrofit kit which will, using bevel helical worm gear things, allow the windmill to be turned by folks walking in circles around a drive shaft on the ground. This would give the council members something to do with their time, help keep them warm in winter and provide tons of photo ops for the eco-tourists who will most certainly flock to the site. Oh, and the first upgrade to the basic kit would be a donkey with a hat and a carrot on the end of a stick. The council could import them from the third world along with the feed to keep their green generator plodding along. Would at least power the hazard light(s) at the top.

  38. Local guberments here in blighty are much more incompetent than the UK guberment, its where people that can’t make it in the private sector go to work, trust me I’ve worked contracts for local guberments, the NHS and the arm services, the worst by far was the NHS 2pm everyone disappeared for meetings, they even had signs up around all the offices saying “Bored at work have a meeting”. At local guberment levels there simply was no money as they spent it on chief exec wages and pensions.

    I think if you really want to read into this story some non jobs where created and then to make themselves feel like they are important they’ve started to throw the little money they have around to make it look like they know what they are doing, it appears they don’t.

  39. Here is SemplíceEnergy’s offer for the Bleakhouse School Micro-Wind Turbine project.

    As you can see it was £5,500.00, which comes out as £5,000.00 indeed with a £500.00 discount. However, you have to add VAT (5% for wind turbines), so it is £5,250.00 so far.

    Annual cost of the optional monitoring system is £250.00 (plus VAT I guess), but what Roy Mccauley of Sandwell Borough Council failed to mention in his reply to the FOI request is the fact there’s also an initial installation cost of £2,000.00 (+VAT). Therefore this toy turbine cost £8,137.50 in the first three years (assuming VAT rate for the wind turbine monitoring system is the same as for wind turbines themselves).

    With a 40 year life time (which is way too high) and with no maintenance cost whatsoever, cost of electricity comes out as £2.14/kWh (including VAT).

    In the document SemplíceEnergy says the Micro-Wind Turbine would potentially reduce CO₂ by 500 kg/annum. If in fact 209 kWh of electricity was generated in a year, it would work by substituting a power source that used 2.4 kg carbon to generate 1 kWh of electricity. As heat of combustion for carbon is 9.5 kWh/kg, 2.4 kg carbon would generate 22.8 kWh thermal energy if burned.

    I didn’t know average thermal efficiency of coal fired power plants in Britain is 4.3%. Amazing.

    /sarc off

  40. Doesn’t Iowa get 20% of its electricity from Wind?

    Maybe the good folks at Sandwell should contact Ames.

  41. Sorry, I have miscalculated. The 500 kg/annum is for CO₂ reduction, not carbon reduction. As molar weight of CO₂ is 3.67 times more than that of carbon, they assume a 16% thermal efficiency at the coal fired power plants to be substituted by this windmill, not 4.3%. However, it is still only about half the actual number (33%).

    Which means the Bleakhouse School Micro-Wind Turbine would only reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 250 kg, which is less then CO₂ emission of a single human (by breathing).

  42. Things which seem absurd are often seen that way because our underlying assumptions are wrong. In this case we laugh because we assume that the Council was investing in a machine to produce electricity. They were not. They were investing in a machine to produce votes — and paying for the votes with taxpayer money!

    Once you get past the idea that political decisions are taken for ethical or pragmatic reasons, governmental actions make very good sense. Rethink your assumptions.

  43. Sandwell Council – rated one of the worst in Britain.

    This is the same council that’s attempting to fine a grandmother thousands of pounds for letting her cigarette ash fall on the pavement while she waited for a bus. Sheila Martin, 70, was smoking at a bus stop when a warden pounced and handed her the £75 fixed penalty for littering. The cash-strapped gran refused to pay – and has now been warned it could rise to £2,500.

    Oh! The joys of living in Sandwell!

  44. I see a new job for Al. He needs to schedule a continuous round of public announcements located upwind of each and every wind power plant/tower. With this public service, he could keep these wind turbines turning till he keels over. And if any more towers are built, I think Al should subsidize them.

    By the way, did that FOI include subsidies? It may have helped their bottom line but it still came from the pockets of tax payers. The real issue is then not what it costs THEM, but what it cost YOU.

  45. The knee-jerk scorn persistently displayed by many commenters here over anything even vaguely greenish is disturbing, disgraceful and plain foolish; why sink to the level of the AGW types?

    Read the article. Why was the small turbine installed? “Through monitoring the performance of the turbine it was hoped the council would be able to find out how practical it would be to harness wind power on a large scale in the borough”. This was a very sensible course of action; for the trivial cost of £5000 (+£750 for monitoring, and noting that local authorities do not pay VAT, which is refunded) they obtain valuable data enabling them to make a more informed decision on a far larger multi-million pound project. They would have expected to have to pay much more for a feasibility study, which they would otherwise have been obliged to carry out as part of the tender and decision-making process. I doubt that anyone was relying on the micro-turbine to make a net profit for the council (though with the full feed-in tariff of 34.5p/kWh and a 25% capacity factor it could have produced revenue in excess of £1000/yr, or 20% per annum return on investment). A full-size wind turbine would be expected to have a much lower cost per unit output (though a lower feed-in-tariff price), but a similar pattern of variability. If the 209kWh is correct (and not a typo for 2090kWh), then the average capacity factor is an order of magnitude lower than one would have hoped, which would suggest that a full-scale installation would not be profitable. However, if, as I suspect, the true figure is closer to 2090kWh, then the full-scale installation would then probably be highly profitable. Bear in mind that the council is under a statutory obligation to obtain value for money for its electorate, under the commercial conditions that actually obtain (it has no control over whether or not renewables are subsidised through the feed-in-tariff, or otherwise, so whether you or they approve of these subsidies is beside the point – they cannot take that into consideration).

  46. I am fine with putting small systems on schools for education reasons. It is stupid to expect ANY payback in real money for these systems. If they wanted to verify winds, they should have installed an anemometer for a couple hundred BEFORE committing to an install.

  47. A schoolook example of ignorance, incompetence and petty-bureaucracy blustering and bungling. Where is that turbine located? The Bleakhouse Primary School… If someone were to write a novel about such tomfooleries, “Bleakhouse” would make a nice title, wouldn’t it?

  48. Here’s the one that dumbfounds me:

    Say you have one of these windmills that cost about USD$9,000 – How much of that price went toward paying the energy bills at the steel mill, the aluminum recycling plant, the factory where they weave and pot the carbon fiber cloth, etc.? I’d have to guess at least 15% of the final cost of the finished product is directly traceable to the energy required to produce it. That means that (at a SWAG cost of ten cents per kWh) it took at least 13,500 kWh to build that windmill that might be expected to produce 5,000 kWh of electrical energy in its lifetime.

    Here’s my idea – take the portion of my income tax that goes to funding the EPA, Department of Energy, and any other government entities that are wearing green blinders; deduct that portion from my federal income tax, and I’ll promise to flush one third of it down the toilet. The net effect will be the same, I’ll get to keep a little money, and the world will be better off.

  49. I currently live in suburban outer London. It’s very pleasant here, lots of parks and other open green spaces where kids can fly kites, but they rarely do as London doesn’t ‘do’ wind. There was a huge row in a London Olympic Games committee a couple of weeks ago when a Green member of the committee became upset when the chairman flatly refused to allocate funds for the proposed wind turbine at the main venue. The Green member was terribly upset about ‘giving the world a terrible message’ etc but the chairman was adamant; studies had said the site was not windy enough for it ever to have the blades turning. Aforementioned Green member did not see that as a reason not to have one erected and she insisted it is most important that the visitors to the London Olympics in 2012 ‘see how Green the city is’.
    I think it’s a pity the wind turbine won’t be erected in the Olympic Park; having one there, permanently immobile, would remove any lingering doubt any visitor might have about how insanely impractical these things are.

  50. Which nine days of the month was the 209 KWH generated? The first nine? The last nine? Every third day? Every third hour? Between half-past and 50-past each hour? Maybe three generators would provide full-time power?

    How about: screw the power consumer, he’ll just have to exploit the power when it’s available and sit in anticipation when it isn’t.

  51. Paul:
    We did read the article, and afterwards were not impressed.

    The 209 kWh is not a typo, and for a 33ft system well within what we’d expect given the performance of similar systems observed elsewhere.

    We note you say “….as I suspect….the full-scale installation would be highly profitable.” If that were true, then there’d be windmills of that scale already in production, and not due to government subsidies, but private investment. A 20% ROI??? I’d be all over that!

    I doubt anyone here is against wind power, all we’re asking is that it be sold with full disclosure, for what it is, and without the veil of snake oil.

  52. Paul Birch

    You make some good points but we need to put this into the wider context of the legal requirement for the UK to cut carbon emissions by 30%.

    As the author of a peer reviewed article on wave power, it is alarming that in effect wind power is the only game in town as wave/tidal energy is around 20 years behind wind technology.

    It doesn’t get away from the fact however that wind is woefully inefficient and can only compete when an artificially high carbon floor is put in place penalising other forms of energy generation.

    In the UK intense cold periods in winter tend to coincide with high pressure with very little wind, so wind turbines are at the least effective at just the time they are most needed.

    The UK urgently needs addional forms of base load power-windmills are a side issue.

    tonyb

  53. Our town council, in it’s green zeal, installed solar trash compacters along side new trash containers (the amount of sun is limited).
    They cost 7000 dollars each.

  54. @nonegatives

    I am fine with putting small systems on schools for education reasons.

    I’m struggling to imagine what such ‘education reasons’ might be. And why such reasons (if they exist at all) couldn’t be satisfied for a darned sight less than £5K by other means.

    ‘Look children.. the wind is (or as it maybe – isn’t) blowing’

    Ten seconds of learning per kiddiewink. Expensive stuff.

  55. Just watching a Dane talking about a “Floating Wind Turbine.” Ok what about sever weather. does happen. I keep wondering about the the midwest US what about the wind
    power projects there?

  56. @paul birch

    If the purpose of the installation was to assess the feasibility of wind power in Sandwell, it has spectacularly failed.

    Which might explain why the council was obliged to fund it themselves, rather than negotiating a free trial scheme with a potential supplier for the full sized scheme. (Try and buy). The suppliers know where wind will be even remotely sensible, saw the council coming and wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.

    With luck this disastrous experiment should be a dire warning to other councils tempted to demonstrate their green credentials by erecting idols of mother gaia to worship.

    Wind power doesn’t do what it says on the tin and no matter how much wishful thinking goes on by the feeble minded Greens, it never will.

  57. Sal Minella says on April 27, 2011 at 7:08 am

    How about: screw the power consumer, he’ll just have to exploit the power when it’s available and sit in anticipation when it isn’t.

    I think you meant shiver in anticipation when it isn’t.

  58. “So each turbine will have to run for 250 years without breaking down or requiring maintainance, just to break even.”

    Priceless! You couldn’t write great comedy like this.

    Pointman

  59. John Bosworth says:
    April 27, 2011 at 2:23 am

    A similar model over here in the states might run you about $1000. And they paid 5000 british pounds each? Somethun’ aint right…

    Installation costs can be substantial on these ‘micro generation’ projects. A DIYer might be able to make the economics work out. As soon as you have to hire union scale masons to pour a concrete pad and union scale electricians to hook it all up the price becomes insane. The same goes for roof top solar panels. $1/watt for the panel, $6/watt for installation.

  60. The trial experiment by the local government to find out whether the construction of a large windmill is practical seems like a good idea. But shouldn’t the people who market the wind turbines have that data? Yes, but the information is proprietary so can’t be shared. The economy scale is missing in their plan. The dilemma faced by local governments is real. There are no unbiased consultants on wind energy in most local settings and there is no watch dog agency to protect the local government from being deceived. In my county, to install a wind farm only requires a zoning change. Any other major project, a plant, would require an environmental impact report before committing to a zone change. Could a proposed farm survive an environmental impact evaluation assuming someone cared to read the report? Worse than this is the possibility,(likelihood) that when the wind turbine farm is abandoned by the developer because it is uneconomical, the county and the landowner will be stuck with the remains of dead windmills standing like monuments to a misguided government. If you don’t believe me, just drive through Palm Springs California and observe the graveyard.

  61. From:
    “Kum Dollison
    Doesn’t Iowa get 20% of its electricity from Wind?

    Maybe the good folks at Sandwell should contact Ames.”

    No, Iowa doesn’t get 20% of its power from windmills. The name plate capacity is may approach 20% but not delivered. The local energy companies are trying to build coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants to keep ahead of demand. Just like everywhere else the wind isn’t reliable enough to keep the grid operational.

  62. Typical mathematics of the labour party. Sandwell has been a labour run council since 1983.

    Labour love spending other people’s money and cannot add-up numbers to save their own lives, hence why labour were running a deficit every year during the boom years in the mid 2000s. They were warned that if they did not cut their profligate spending back then during the boom, that when the bust came, (which was inevitable when borrowing was increasing every year, much faster than the rise in earnings), that their financial (mis)management would cause a massive fiscal implosion.

    Now we (the people) are having repay a deficit the same size as a “black Wednesday” happening every week! [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Wednesday ]

    The tory government was slated in the media, the City of London’s financial markets and nationally in the homes of voters up and down the land, for the cost incurred by the tax-payer of Black Wednesday. This economic shock was enough to destroy the conservative government’s economic reputation for the next 17 years.

    The last Labour maladministration created an annual deficit the size of a Black Wednesday happening every single week!

    This windmill experiment seems to be more of the same labour mathematics at play.

  63. Jimbo says:
    April 27, 2011 at 2:35 am
    “Seeing as they are so concerned about c02 it would be interesting to know how much c02 it produced and how long before it ‘recovered’ that same c02?Here are two recent reminders about the failures of wind – here and here. It seems to me they will only abandon windpower when disaster strikes in mid-winter. From the top two references it shouldn’t be long – they just have to push full speed ahead for the next decade.”

    Interesting question on the C02 accounting. To make the accounting go better I’d recommend that the alternative electrical energy generation is from coal- not nuclear otherwise you are likely to find that the wind mill has added to the problem. Actually, given the low output of the unit it is likely the generation of the thing will never breakeven on C02. Just for fun lets see what we might want to include in the tally for C02 generated to make, transport, install (permitting counts too) and maintain the C02 free electrical generation 33ft Air Dolphin turbine at a location off Taylors Lane, Oldbury:

    1) CO2 generated (allocated) for the manufacturing of the components of the wind mill.

    1.1) CO2 generated (allocated) for the transportation of the components of the wind mill to the assembly location(s).

    1.2) CO2 generated (allocated) for transport of the wind mill from the assembly location(s) to the Taylors Lane location.

    2) C02 generated (allocated) in site preparation (concrete pad I assume, some electrical infrastructure put in place- no costs for the monitoring as it doesn’t have any)

    3) No allocated CO2 for the say 2 to 4 council meetings to decide the wind mill was a good investment as they would of had the meetings anyway. I assume the UK is like CA in that you need a permit from you local government offices to install such a device on the grid. Hence we should allocate some CO2 for transport off all the important documents relating to the project down to the permit office(s). Hopefully the Taylors Lane location is close to the government offices as we should count the CO2 for the inspector to come out to the site (once, twice, ?) to ensure the device was installed to code.

    4) CO2 generated in the yearly (?) maintenance visits to ensure the unit is operating properly.

    5) I assume the ribbon cutting event celebrating the council’s investment in green energy was a small affair and it wasn’t televised by some local TV station. Hence we can just give a CO2 pass for this event. Heaven forbid if we had to account for the CO2 load of a ribbon cutting event………..

  64. @john shively

    I find your post full of special pleading about just how flaming gormless and useless local governement officers are. In particular you say:

    There are no unbiased consultants on wind energy in most local settings and there is no watch dog agency to protect the local government from being deceived’.

    WTF I ask politely, is the purpose of Sandwell’s sustainability unit. Might we reasnably expect them to be knowledgeable about sustainability? To understand the pitfalls? And the bennies? To advise the council members about their options?

    Or is it all too much for their little brainsand they need a Wathdog to keep them safe from the Big Bad World Anyway in Sandwell they are probably too busy passing out fines for littering to be able to spend even ten minutes educating themselves about wind power. They are only council officers after all.

    In case they are reading now (it is 16:15 in UK so they’ve probably all gone home, but I’ll give it a go), here is Uncle Lat’s Guide to Wind Power for Council Officers:

    1. It Doesn’t Work.
    2. Don’t Do It
    3. In case of doubt return to 1.

    So simple even a sustainability officer can understand. Capice?

  65. The really sad thing is that these sort of calculations are not difficult but the MSM just doesn’t do it. The financial times in particular blathers on and on about how wonderful green energy and electric cars are – without ever doing the basic maths to justify them. They never seem to query the low EU or UN prices of carbon used to justify their legislation

    A cynic might assume that the number of advertisers from government – or companies seeking government grants with environmental adverts – made the press unwilling to take the issue on. That is the issue here – the spraying of taxpayer cash at anybody who is supposed to be questioning government policy.

  66. DJ says:
    April 27, 2011 at 7:11 am
    “The 209 kWh is not a typo, and for a 33ft system well within what we’d expect given the performance of similar systems observed elsewhere.”

    How do you know it’s not a typo? Have you asked the original writer of the FOI response, or seen the raw data from the monitoring? 209kWh/yr is far below the output that would be expected for a 1.8m dia (1kW) wind turbine on a 10m tower. If it is really that low, then that is a surprising result well worth the small amount of money it has cost the council to obtain it.

    “We note you say “….as I suspect….the full-scale installation would be highly profitable.” If that were true, then there’d be windmills of that scale already in production, and not due to government subsidies, but private investment. A 20% ROI??? I’d be all over that!”

    There are many wind turbines of all scales in operation in the UK. I have no reason to believe that they are not profitable, and, from the rate at which new ones are being built, despite the difficulty and costs of getting planning permission, have every reason to believe that they are. Not necessarily with a 20% return (that figure was for a small domestic scale device, where the feed-in-tariff is highest). Whether built and operated by a private company, or by a local authority, their profitability has to be calculated in the world as it actually is, not as you might wish it to be; good or bad, the regulatory structure is part of that real world. Moreover, taxes, subsidies and regulatory intervention are so ubiqitous throughout our economy that it is literally impossible to disentangle them and determine what the respective free market prices would be in their absence.

  67. Latimer Alder says:
    April 27, 2011 at 7:23 am
    “I’m struggling to imagine what such ‘education reasons’ might be. And why such reasons (if they exist at all) couldn’t be satisfied for a darned sight less than £5K by other means.”

    Perhaps if you’d had a wind turbine at your school you might have learned about all those other education reasons! Seriously, a wind turbine would be very useful for teaching lots of stuff about engineering, science, geography, meteorology, economics, politics, civics, etc. — cheap at £5000, when upgrading a school to modern requirements costs ~£5million a shot! Especially since the school/local authority would probably get most of the funding in the form of external grants.

  68. “Could provide power to 20,000 homes” Really? If V.J. is correct and the proposed big turbine produces 500 KW, that works out to 25 watts per home. Two or three dinky squiggly light bulbs? I figured it at 2MW, or 100 W/home. And that only 25% of the time, or less. Maybe run a radio in addition to some mercury filled lamps.

    Have to wonder what courses the writer majored in …

  69. Latimer Alder says:
    April 27, 2011 at 7:32 am
    “If the purpose of the installation was to assess the feasibility of wind power in Sandwell, it has spectacularly failed.”

    Why do you say that? If it has demonstrated that it is infeasible, it has succeeded. It has also succeeded if has demonstrated that a full scale installation would be profitable. Either way, it has done what it was intended to do – generate information.

    “Which might explain why the council was obliged to fund it themselves, rather than negotiating a free trial scheme with a potential supplier for the full sized scheme. (Try and buy). The suppliers know where wind will be even remotely sensible, saw the council coming and wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.”

    First off, even if manufacturers had such a “free” scheme (which so far as I’m aware they don’t, because the domestic and industrial scale turbines are manufactured by different firms), it would have cost the council considerably more than the titchy £5000 they did spend to arrange it. Nor would this have been a legally permissible approach, unless, after the trial, the council were free to put out the proposed installation to full competitive tender without unlawfully favouring the trial firm.

  70. Pamela Gray says:
    April 27, 2011 at 6:30 am
    I see a new job for Al. He needs to schedule a continuous round of public announcements located upwind of each and every wind power plant/tower. With this public service, he could keep these wind turbines turning till he keels over. And if any more towers are built, I think Al should subsidize them.

    You’re right Pamela, but your “upwind” caveat is unnecessary. All points are downwind of big Al.

  71. jon shively says:
    “The trial experiment by the local government to find out whether the construction of a large windmill is practical seems like a good idea. But shouldn’t the people who market the wind turbines have that data?”

    No, not really. Unless they’ve previously installed turbines in that location (and maybe not even then) they won’t know what the local wind climate is like. And, as you point out, such information is proprietary and biased anyway. The onus is on the customer to do his own survey and cost-benefit analysis.

  72. harrywr2 says
    “Installation costs can be substantial on these ‘micro generation’ projects. A DIYer might be able to make the economics work out. As soon as you have to hire union scale masons to pour a concrete pad and union scale electricians to hook it all up the price becomes insane. The same goes for roof top solar panels. $1/watt for the panel, $6/watt for installation.”

    The non-union labor costs to have my 6.12kW system installed worked out to just a dab of $1.10 STS rated watt output. By the way we actually have sun over here in CA a lot of the year hence my 6.12kW system has generated a bit over 9300 kwh per year for 5 years running. I produced 38 kwh of electricity yesterday. In a couple of weeks once we hit summer rates out here in CA my electrical service provider will be paying (crediting actually) me $.315 for each kwh I send to the grid during peak hours.

  73. @paul birch

    Seriously, a wind turbine would be very useful for teaching lots of stuff about engineering, science, geography, meteorology, economics, politics, civics, etc. — cheap at £5000, when upgrading a school to modern requirements costs ~£5million a shot!

    Examples please of exactly how the physical presence of such a turbine (don’t forget it is a simple machine designed for domestic use only) on a school site helps in each of these.

    5 grand may be only a drop in the ocean to a ‘public servant’ but its a very very wasteful way to spend my taxes and generating twetny quid’s worth of electricity.

  74. @paul birch

    First off, even if manufacturers had such a “free” scheme (which so far as I’m aware they don’t, because the domestic and industrial scale turbines are manufactured by different firms), it would have cost the council considerably more than the titchy £5000 they did spend to arrange it.

    So not only are council ‘sustainability officers’ not expected to be able to understand anythign about the technologies of sustainability, their counterparts in negotiations aren’t capable of cutting a good deal with suppliers either. But then they are only local government officers anyway.

    Three hints..

    1 If there is more than one supplier.. you get them BOTH to give you try and buy. If not, you can’t do an open tender anyway.
    2. If a supplier won’t offer try and buy don’t do business with him. He’s putting nothing into the game to make a success of it.
    3. There is no such thing as a free lunch. The supplier takes the upfront risk and gets it back through the life of the contract.

    In next week’s instalment of Uncle Lat’s helpful hints….

    Elementary commerce for ‘public servants’

    To cover: accounts, audits, negotiating, cash, revenue, cashflow, doing deals …and all those scary nasty things you hear about on the telly. No matter how long you’ve worked for the government you know that one day you’ll have to understand them a bit. They won’t go away.

  75. Paul Birch,

    If windmills are so efficient, we should eliminate the subsidies. But that would, of course, eliminate the windmill industry.

    We could also put people to work pedaling bicycles connected to generators. With a sufficient subsidy, proponents could claim success. Just like with windmills.

  76. Quis:

    You provide for an interesting scenario. With an amazingly high return of 31.5¢ per kwh at the direct expense of your neighbors, let’s see what happens when solar becomes more efficient, and enough people install solar power to take advantage of that lucrative payback scheme.

    Soon most folks will have a solar system providing excess power to the grid. Then the minority that is buying power from either SoCal Edison or PG&E will have to pay ever higher electric rates to cover the artificial subsidy, thus forcing them to install solar power, and making the grid obsolete in the process. We can’t all be selling each other electricity that is priced far above its production cost.

    Final result: you will no longer receive your subsidy.

  77. What We Brits would Like to Say about This Kind of Story:
    – (splutter) “What?? That’s unbelievable!”

    What We Brits are Getting Used to Saying about This Kind of Story:
    – (yawn) “Absolutely damn’ typical. Any tea left in the pot?”

  78. The ‘physical presence’ was to brainwash the children – what are 5, 6 and 7 year olds going to learn about physics, meteorology etc etc.
    The question that should have been be asked is how the council could so blatantly steamroller their own planning permission rules. Mr Joe Public would not have a proverbial snowball’s chance of erecting something like that in his own private back yard/garden.
    There would be endless complaints about ‘noise’, ‘flicker’, ‘loss of amenity’ (the view), possible/imagined distraction to motorists. The list is endless.
    The two most important things that The Council would have certainly used to stall Joe Public would have been…..
    1. The distraction part of it, its bad enough doing ‘the school run’ without a flickering noisy monster going on up in the sky..
    2. The risks. Its not worth thinking about a piece of machinery, rotating at high speed descending into a school-yard full of 5 year olds.

    That’s what they should have been asked – how did they justify that?

  79. I don’t think the early commenters are taking into account the time value of money. I see the payback period as being infinite. Beyond infinite, really.

  80. We really need to look at the whole picture. If we do, we can see that this turbine provides many other valuable services that increase the ROI:
    (1) It serves as a reminder of the actual benefits of Green energy.
    (2) It gives an aesthetic touch to the horizon that would otherwise be missing.
    (3) It provides green jobs: painter, electrician, millwright, inspector, safety tech, and demolition crew.
    (4) It kills and/or frightens away dangerous pterodactyls that might otherwise roam the silent countryside in search of prey. No one with eyes can doubt its effectiveness in this regard!
    The benefits simply go on and on.

  81. Paul Birch says (April 27, 2011 at 6:36 am): ‘Read the article. Why was the small turbine installed? “Through monitoring the performance of the turbine it was hoped the council would be able to find out how practical it would be to harness wind power on a large scale in the borough”.’

    Um, Paul, on the WUWT site is an ad for assorted weather equipment, including this wind logger

    http://www.weathershop.com/rainwisewl.htm

    “designed to meet the needs of people considering the purchase of a wind turbine”, advertised for $315. No doubt the council has access to similar equipment locally. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t such a unit have given pretty much the same answer as the much more expensive “wind logger” actually installed?

    BTW, weather monitoring equipment is also “educational”, though perhaps not as sexy as a part-time wind turbine/part-time sculpture.

  82. Sandwell, the “loony left” comes to mind. I don’t know what colour they are now but politicians of all colours are expert at wasting other peoples money.

    http://www.expressandstar.com/latest/2009/04/27/250-blackberries-for-72-councillors/

    “Councillors in a Black Country borough are set to be offered Blackberry mobile phones free in a move which could cost taxpayers £18,000.

    An independent panel is recommending a £250 Blackberry for any of the 72 Dudley councillors who requests one. The council has alreadyshelled out £16,000 on 64 Blackberries for housing managers.

    The recommendation is published in a report on councillors’ allowances to be considered on Thursday”

    A story from 2009

  83. Good grief 209 KWH in 12 months (more or less). My grid tie 10 KW (plate rating) solar system produces 20 KWH on a clear day. If you take away the batteries (since I wanted battery backup for ice storms in the NE winters) and used today’s prices for panels of about 2 bucks a watt, my system would cost 30->40 grand all in. A raw high voltage (400 V no batteries) grid tie system would be even less, perhaps 20 grand. I run under 100V dc since it is around a residence. If I did it again, I might put 4 panels to the string instead of 3 which would boost me up to about 125V on a cold clear winter day. The “bang for their buck” stinks. Yeah, I know they are further north, so there would be less sunshine, but still. Even if they wanted to do renewable energy, they were sold a pile of horse hockey. As a comment, when people ask me when I figure I will break even, my answer is never. And that is with electricity at 25 cents per KWH delivered in MA. The MA tariff on electricity is rather complicated. They charge for generation, distribution, sales tax, stranded asset recovery, and a lot of other things. For me, it’s a hobby (ok I will fess up to being a MIT nerd) and some insurance against the times the grid fails. With 100 KWH 20 hour rate it will keep the heat on, the net up, some light, and the refrigerators running in my 2 family. A couple of days without heat in NE in winter can lead to a major problem if you do not drain your pipes with a circulating hot water system and the water supply system.

  84. @gary hladik

    You said it all! A weather station for the children (now that really would provide some sensible education about all sorts of things and is much to be recommended!) and a windmill predictor all for less than £200. Even I would view that as good value for the taxpayer. And a primary school science teacher could set it all up as a class project. Bingo!

    Instead we have employed at least one Sustainability Officer (£50K pa??) and paid 20 times over the odds for something that does far less.

    Sorry -forgot – we got 20 quid’s worth of free electric.

    Another triumph for our ‘public servants’ and the green movement. Only £5000+VAT+ £50000-£20 = £55,980 completely wasted.

    When will they ever learn…….

  85. Kum Dollison says:
    April 27, 2011 at 11:11 am
    “The woman from AWEA says they are, now, up to 20%. It seems likely, to me, that that’s probably about right. (They’re aiming for 50%, btw.)

    The trick to wind, obviously, is a robust grid.”

    Wind power varies with the third power of the wind speed; that’s why the capacity factor for onshore wind hovers around 20%. So as soon as you try to get 50% of your entire power needs from wind you have to install enough of them that their peak performance becomes 2.5 times your load. So during optimal wind conditions you will switch off most of them or export the power surge to unsuspecting neighbouring countries or your grid will melt down. Usually, your neighbours will not pay anything for this surge but you will pay them as they save your grid from collapse. The prize for electricity will very likely be negative under such conditions as a glut of wind power is produzed but the load doesn’t go up with it – too much supply, too little demand.

    The trick to wind is, obviously, a robust grid and very, very deep pockets.

  86. Smokey says:
    April 27, 2011 at 9:41 am
    “We can’t all be selling each other electricity that is priced far above its production cost.
    Final result: you will no longer receive your subsidy.”

    He will, but the value of the money he gets will be much lower.

  87. Go back and read the wikipedia article on Wind Power in Iowa again, and take a critical eye to it this time:

    “In 2010, power generated by wind was 15.4% of all electricity generated in Iowa.”

    Anyone want to make any bets as to how much of Iowa’s electrical power is ‘imported’?

  88. Kum Dollison says:
    April 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Your Wiki reference has an interesting definition of ‘capacity factor’ – try nameplate capacity – not actual generated capacity. Please note that Iowa did not install any additional capacity in 2010 – sounds like they hit the proverbial real world ‘capacity limiter’

  89. Wow, only 125 years, well, well, if it includes maintenance, new generators, blades, and everything for those 125 years, I’m all game.

    I was offered one of those puny propellers with a break even at 30 years, but of course the operative life time was an astounding 8 years, at which time everything of importance had to be replaced with new, such as generator, propeller heads, blades, et al (which of course wasn’t included in their break-even calculations, let alone 3-4 such replacements.)

  90. dave ward – and obviously, as one can tell from the flag, the turbine is stationary and producing sweet FA…

  91. I think they should install a windmill in London’s Olympic Park that is rated for, and the sole source of energy for, the main scoreboard/video screen. The fact that the scoreboard and video screen is solely powered by the windmill should be noted on all TV broadcasts continuously throughout the games. Further, TV should only broadcast results as and when displayed by this official scoreboard. I believe this could be a real teaching moment.

  92. Kum Dollison says:
    April 27, 2011 at 11:11 am
    According to Wiki

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Iowa

    Iowa got 15% of its electricity from wind power in 2010.

    The woman from AWEA says they are, now, up to 20%. It seems likely, to me, that that’s probably about right. (They’re aiming for 50%, btw.)

    The trick to wind, obviously, is a robust grid.

    From the Iowa Utilities Board

    “As of January 2010, IUB staff estimates that 17-20% of all electricity generated in Iowa now comes from wind. This output is generated in Iowa but may be consumed outside of the state. This reflects the expected annual performance of all wind generation installed in Iowa to date, not historic performance. The estimate is based on the following assumptions: Currently installed wind capacity of 3,670 MW in Iowa, per AWEA’s web site through 2009; Iowa average wind capacity factor of 33.3%, per industry consultant Tom Wind; and U.S. DOE-EIA figures for electricity generated in Iowa (from all/other sources) in 2008.”

    “…not historical performance.” “…wind capacity factor of 33.3%” Yeah right.

  93. Actually, hstad, there’s quite a bit more capacity going up in Iowa, and the surrounding states. Their only hang-up, right now, is getting permission for the generation lines. They seem to be getting about 33.3% of “nameplate.”

    Their plan seems to be to “Export” about half of their 50% that’s derived from Wind.

    BTW, as they add “Cellulosic” production, and the attendant electricity generation, to their corn ethanol plants I wouldn’t be surprised to see another 500 or 600 baseload Megawatts from that.

  94. On P4 of Semplice’s offer [found & linked by Berényi Péter 05:53am], they guess / hope / predict (with not financial penalty if they’re over-optimistic), that the turbine has a “Total potential annual energy production of around 1400 kWh per annum.” [Two, cumulative, fudge factors!]

    If the turbine has actually only produced 209 kWh, then there should be a case for mis-selling & a full refund.

  95. Latimer Alder says:
    April 27, 2011 at 7:23 am

    @nonegatives

    I am fine with putting small systems on schools for education reasons.

    I’m struggling to imagine what such ‘education reasons’ might be. And why such reasons (if they exist at all) couldn’t be satisfied for a darned sight less than £5K by other means.

    ‘Look children.. the wind is (or as it maybe – isn’t) blowing’

    Ten seconds of learning per kiddiewink. Expensive stuff.

    “Today kiddiewinks, we’re putting on our hats, getting our whips, and going down to the Green Temple of Doom. There, we shall find out what’s inside a seagull.”

    That’ll take more than 10 seconds.

  96. “Headteacher Stuart McLeod was even forced to come into school early to clear up the bodies before his young pupils spotted them.”

    O, the horror, if his young pupils should learn that Green energy isn’t the clean, planet-saving, wildlife friendly boon it’s been hyped as. Clean up the bodies, Stuart! Hide the truth!

    And if the 10-10 people show up, have a mop handy.

  97. Latimer Alder says:
    “Examples please of exactly how the physical presence of such a turbine (don’t forget it is a simple machine designed for domestic use only) on a school site helps in each of these.”

    Modern teaching employs a lot of physical teaching aids and out-of-classroom work in preference to “mere” book-learning.

    “5 grand may be only a drop in the ocean to a ‘public servant’ but its a very very wasteful way to spend my taxes and generating twetny quid’s worth of electricity.”

    The council spent that £5000 not primarily to generate electricity, but primarily to generate data. It was a very cheap way of doing it. Alternative methods – such as contracting out an independent feasibility study – would typically have cost in the order of £50,000 and up. And I repeat, unless the turbine was out of order for most of the year (which is admittedly possible, but if so they’d be sueing the manufacturer for a £5000 refund), that figure of 209kWh (still worth nearly £100 to the council) cannot be correct; a more credible figure is 2090kWh.

  98. Latimer Alder says:
    “… ”

    … a lot of irrelevancies that show you don’t understand the tender process that councils are legally obliged to follow, nor how expensive that process is for large projects; and furthermore that you either ignored or failed to grasp what I said in the previous comment.

  99. Kum Dollison says:
    April 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    See my previous comment. Those figures are projections using a 33.3% capacity factor. EIA has the numbers for 2009 at about 52MMWhrs total and 7.4MMWhrs wind or about 24% capacity factor and 14% of total, which is actually better than I thought it would be.

  100. Smokey says:
    “If windmills are so efficient, we should eliminate the subsidies. But that would, of course, eliminate the windmill industry.”

    I never claimed that they were efficient (although in point of fact the efficiency of a wind turbine can be close to 100% – which has almost no bearing on their suitability as power generators), only that they can be profitable for their operators (whether private individuals, private companies, or public bodies). This is a fact, whether you like it or not, or whether or not you think it would be the case in some hypothetical alternative universe in which their were no taxes, subsidies or regulatory burdens. And if they are profitable, it is not irrational for councils to consider installing them. The questions of subsidies are decided on national or supranational levels; local authorities have no power to change them, and blaming them for taking advantage of them is foolish. They have to budget the way things currently are, not how they might be under some different political regime; if they fail to do so, wantonly or negligently, individual councillors can be prosecuted and fined.

  101. @paul birch

    ‘Modern teaching employs a lot of physical teaching aids and out-of-classroom work in preference to “mere” book-learning’

    I’m very pleased to hear it. My old primary school in the early 60s and grammar school in the late 60s/early 70s did also. As did trhe school where my granfather was headmaster in the 40s/50s in one of the most deprived parts of South Wales.

    Now, are you going to actually give some eeal examples as requested of how having a windmill on site would help?

    You must be a local governemt officer since you think that £5K (plus VAT) plus the salary of sustainability officer was a good deal. Did you not see that a device specifically designed to do exactly the job that Sandwell council wanted done is available commercially for 200 quid? With monitoring software…just plug it into a PC.

  102. We have 5 large turbines within 7 miles of where I live, they are situated at Rainworth near mansfield Nottinghamshire UK, it is rare to see all 5 spinning at the same time, can someone explain.

  103. Gary Hladik says:
    “Um, Paul, on the WUWT site is an ad for assorted weather equipment, including this wind logger … “designed to meet the needs of people considering the purchase of a wind turbine”, advertised for $315. No doubt the council has access to similar equipment locally. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t such a unit have given pretty much the same answer as the much more expensive “wind logger” actually installed?”

    I doubt if it would make much difference to the overall cost, which at such a small scale is dominated by the installation and monitoring costs, not the simple hardware price. Also, a wind logger (which was probably included in their monitoring setup at the school) doesn’t by itself tell you how a real turbine will react to that wind. No doubt if the council had spent a bit longer hunting for the best buy and cycling them through committee they could have shaved a few thousand off the headline price – at the cost of another few thousand in councillors’ and officers’ time!

  104. Kum Dollinson:

    Wind turbines operate when the wind is sufficiently strong but not too strong. Hence, there are significant periods when they do not operate because the wind is not in the appropriate range of wind speeds.

    To date no country has managed to operate its wind turbines for more than 30% of a year, but at April 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm you assert;

    “Okay, when all else fails, do the research. It seems like Iowa generates about 52 Million Megawatt Hrs (According to EIA.)
    It looks like they’re producing 10.7 Million Megawatt Hrs of Wind, which would be about 20.6%.”

    OK. That suggests
    (a) the turbines are providing all – or almost all – of Iowa’s electricity at times
    or
    (b) the turbines are operating for significantly more than 30% of the time.
    Either of these performances by Iowa’s wind turbines is an amazing achievement: all countries with large numbers of wind turbines would be interested to know how it was achieved.

    Importantly, the wind power was an extravagant, expensive waste whatever the proportion of Iowa’s electricity was supplied by the wind turbines.

    The wind power displaced thermal power stations from the grid, but the power stations continued to operate – and, therefore, to burn their fuel and to make their emissions – while waiting for the wind turbines to stop providing electricity when the wind changed. That fuel would have provided electricity if the wind turbines were absent.

    Thermal power stations take days to start from cold so cannot be shut down while waiting for the wind to change. Therefore, they have to operate at reduced output or on standby while waiting for the wind to change.

    Thermal power stations usually operate at optimum efficiency. If a power station is required to provide less electricity then its efficiency reduces so it provides less electricity but consumes MORE fuel (this is like trying to drive a car at 10 mph in fifth gear: it can be done but it uses a lot of fuel). And a power station operates at optimum efficiency when on standby, so it then uses similar fuel to that needed for it to efficiently provide electricity (although it provides no electricity when on standby).

    In other words, the only effects of the wind turbines are to increase the fuel consumption and the emissions of the power stations which provide the electricity when the wind turbines don’t. And those power stations would have provided the electricity if the wind turbines had not. Also, it should be noted that the increased emissions from power generation are caused by the wind turbines although those increased emissions are from the power stations.

    So, the wind turbines provided no useful power but provided significant additional cost to the power generation and additional emissions from the power generation. This is true wherever wind turbines are used to provide electricity to a grid supply.

    Richard

  105. Latimer Alder says:
    ” ‘Modern teaching employs a lot of physical teaching aids and out-of-classroom work in preference to “mere” book-learning’
    I’m very pleased to hear it. My old primary school in the early 60s and grammar school in the late 60s/early 70s did also.”

    Not the way they do now. Their budgets for this sort of thing are enormously larger than they used to be (even after the latest “cuts”) — and there are numerous grants on offer from all sorts of organisation too. That £5m figure wasn’t just plucked out of the air.

    “Now, are you going to actually give some eeal examples as requested of how having a windmill on site would help?”

    I already have done.

    “You must be a local governemt officer since you think that £5K (plus VAT) plus the salary of sustainability officer was a good deal. Did you not see that a device specifically designed to do exactly the job that Sandwell council wanted done is available commercially for 200 quid? With monitoring software…just plug it into a PC.”

    No, but I am a local town councillor, so I know how much it costs to get these things done in reality. £5K +£750 for monitoring is a very good deal. And I repeat, local authorities do not pay VAT.

  106. Paul Birch says (April 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm): “I doubt if it would make much difference to the overall cost, which at such a small scale is dominated by the installation and monitoring costs, not the simple hardware price.”

    Um, Paul, you don’t think it would be a lot cheaper to install an off-the-shelf logger than a wind turbine? Even assuming it costs the same to monitor? BTW, note from the FOI response that the council was willing to give up data to save the relatively small cost of monitoring a second turbine, when according to your argument, it wouldn’t be worthwhile. WUWT?

    “Also, a wind logger (which was probably included in their monitoring setup at the school) doesn’t by itself tell you how a real turbine will react to that wind.”

    Not directly, but it will predict the turbine’s expected performance, given its advertised specifications. Judging by the turbine’s dismal output, a wind logger alone would have settled the issue (unless of course the council bought defective turbines, in which case it should get a refund). Note that the council could have passed a two-step plan (phase 1: check wind; phase 2: install test turbines only if phase 1 successful) with the same (apparently arduous) bureaucratic effort, and saved a bundle.

  107. Paul Birch says (April 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm): “No, but I am a local town councillor, so I know how much it costs to get these things done in reality. £5K +£750 for monitoring is a very good deal. And I repeat, local authorities do not pay VAT.”

    I just looked back at the FoI response. According to Roy Mccauley of the Sandwell Borough Council, the cost of one wind turbine (Taylor’s Lane) was £5,ooo “plus VAT”.

    WUWT?

  108. Forget the savings! The wind turbine released co2 in its manufacture!!! How long before it is re-couped? Then let’s add the cost, maintenance, VAT etc. What a SCAM.

  109. I haven’t seen any articles, complaints on blogs, etc about Iowa Utility Rates increasing as the proportion of Wind goes up.

    I did see, the other day, where Australian Thermal Coal is exploding in price. IIRC it’s up about 30% in the last couple of months to a price of around $130/Ton at the port of Brisbane.

  110. Interest at 10% on £5,500 (incl VAT) plus £250 P.A.for monitoring equals £3.80 kWh, thats only 3455% more expensive, a cheap price for saving the planet.

  111. Kum Dollison, Using the very source you quoted, 3.7 GW of installed capacity at 19 per cent capacity factor is less than 6 TWH, not the 10.7 you claimed (3.7 GW x 0.19 x 8760 hours/year).

    Of course Iowa rates haven’t gone up significantly. Wind is still a trivial part of its electric energy supply, something very different from installed capacity.

    Your note on Australian thermal coal prices is irrelevant. It’s being driven up by demand from China and India. Such demand is NOT applicable in either Western Europe or the USA. Coal is not a unified global commodity price the way oil is, particularly not thermal coal.

    And they should have lots of opposition to transmission line construction. Wind on the system means chronically underloaded lines, as you have to build them to take the full capacity but on average will deliver only a small fraction of that. And what you wind advocates never factor in is the additional T&D cost of wind compared to high capacity factor sources.

    Paul Birch, pretty it up however you like. The fact remains you spent taxpayer money on a useless scheme that has no useful output. It serves only to collect government subsidies and, as noted by others earlier, add to the fuel cost and burn of the fossil fleet. Do try to learn what “hot standby” means. Read Richard Courtney’s post again. You clearly didn’t understand it. Your savings have simply been someone else’s much great expenses.

    And what do you mean by “close to 100% efficiency”? Utter nonsense. First there are the thermal losses from the blades. Then the real killer. All the energy has to be transmitted through a mechanical gearbox. Huge losses, on the order of 30-50%. And you have to convert the mechanical rotation into electric current. More heat losses.

    In terms of basic physics, your statement is meaningless. You should also be aware of the detailed specifications provided by manufacturers such as Vesta. They specify that the designed 20 year life span is only achieved by a capacity factor of 70% or less. It’s in their technical spec’s. Engineers know this stuff; you obviously don’t.

    And remember, you spent all this money on a 1 kW machine. Big deal. You powered about two to three rooms. Do you plan to power an entire school by spending 20 to 30 times that amount? The typical person in an industrial civilization consumes between 5-7 MWh per year, and this little toy makes about 1.5-2 MWh per year and I’m being unreasonably optimistic here. Given the poor performance of the micros compared with the 1-2.5 MW machines, it’s probably much less.

    Jimbo, on a per installed kW basis, a large wind turbine uses approximately four times the concrete and six times the steel of a nuclear plant. Because of the scaling factors, the ratios for micro-turbines are worse. For a coal-fired plant the disadvantage for wind in construction material inputs is roughly the same except for less concrete and more steel than a nuclear plant. The difference between the coal and nuclear is largely the coal plant’s fuel handling system and the nuclear plant’s concrete containment structure. Given a maximum 20 year operating life, at an optimistic capacity factor of 20%, the carbon dioxide inputs for wind are probably never recovered. Given the very high degradation rates for offshore wind, they never will be. In the case of a nuclear plant, its carbon cost of construction, like its energy input, is recovered in about two years of nominal operation.

  112. Various audits have been made into Czech science. Of course, much of it sucks due to the socialist habits and a complete lack of competition and people try to pretend otherwise. But even among the sucking places, only one place got the very worst failing grade it could. :-)

    http://www.ceskapozice.cz/en/news/society/czech-science-won%E2%80%99t-succeed-grades-alone

    Guess which one! It was the Wind Energy Department of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics. :-)

  113. Iowa Residential Rates seem to be going up about $8.00/mo, on average. They give “adding additional renewable energy” as being 20% of that. That means Wind Power has added about $1.,60/Mo to the average residential bill.

    I guess they’re figuring 33.3% because of their experience, to date. EIA said 14% for 2009; I’m sticking with 20% for 2010.

    Don’t kid yourself about coal. We export about 4% of our production, and we import some Australian Thermal Coal. The more China is willing to pay, the more Philadelphia will, eventually, pay. Those train tracks out of Wy run East AND West.

  114. @paul birch

    Thanks for (perhaps unwittingly) confirming all my thoughts about the many inadequacies of UK local government. Woolly thinking, empire building and profligacy with our money obviously remain as entrenched as ever.

  115. Some of you guys are just making up numbers. This wind farm at Altamont Pass has the smallest, oldest, least efficient wind turbines just about anywhere on Earth, and they’re still putting out 20%, and they’ve been running for thirty years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altamont_Pass_Wind_Farm

    It seems very likely that those Iowans know what they’re doing when they state 33%. And, if those old 100 kw turbines at Altamont Pass can still be going strong after 30 Years, I have a hard time seeing how the New ones won’t.

  116. Over50 says:
    April 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I think they should install a windmill in London’s Olympic Park that is rated for, and the sole source of energy for, the main scoreboard/video screen. The fact that the scoreboard and video screen is solely powered by the windmill should be noted on all TV broadcasts continuously throughout the games. Further, TV should only broadcast results as and when displayed by this official scoreboard. I believe this could be a real teaching moment.
    ——————————-
    Awesome idea. Heck, why stop there? Swimming events could be measured by exclusively solar powered timeclocks, lights and power for indoor events could be reliant on solar, wind, bicycles etc. The possibilities are endless. Here is the great opportunity to demonstrate what a truly Green Games would be like!

  117. Smokey says: April 27, 2011 at 9:41 am…….”

    Smokey,

    Yep, I get a $.315 kwh benefit (via my E-7 net meter rate schedule from PG&E, in the winter my benefit drops to .12 kwh) for each kwh I can send to the grid during peak times in the summer. The benefit is a credit towards my yearly bill from PG&E. Unlike the folks who gave us the securitized debt mess I was/am at risk as well. If I can’t manage my electrical load during during peak hours, then I pay a minimum of $.315 a kwh (the max is something around $.59 kwh if I jump up to Tier 4 usage) for the energy I use from the grid. I had to make a choice back in 2005, continue to pay PG&E’s progressive tier 3, 4 and 5 energy prices while living in the country here in CA, or I could invest in some self generation. I live in the country and pump my water up from a depth of about 300 feet. The Tier 1, monthly baseline energy amounts from PG&E that do not take into account the power needs of those of us who run wells for their water supply.

    I figured it was a lost cause trying to get PG&E and the CPUC to consider that I wasn’t really wasting energy to run my well pump. I would of preferred to pay the LAPUD electrical rates ($.072 kwh for unlimited usage in this winter) but that wasn’t an option. I was aware that the state was committed to obtaining 20% of it’s electrical generation from RE by 2010. To pay the extra costs of the RE generation I assumed that PG&E and the PUC would be following the approach they did in 2005- allocate the higher generation costs for renewables or any other improvement to the higher Tier (3,4, and 5) residential users. In hind site that did turn out to be the case. So my choice was do I pay super premium prices for years for my electrical usage or do I try to limit my grid demand to baseline levels and cover the extra kwh usage with self generation. My location doesn’t have any steady wind to speak of so that left PV as an option for us.

    If I (or any PV self generation residential user) ever happens to send more energy to the grid then they use the benefit will be something like $.09 a kwh. Sorry for not being clear on what my benefits and risks are with my PV system and the rate schedule I am on. As to what my benefits will be in the future- it is my understanding that PG&E and the PUC can change rates as they deem necessary. What the can’t do is change my E-7 net metering schedule prices separately from the e-7 metering schedule- hence PG&E will be crediting me what they would of charged me at peak times for some time to come.

  118. Gary Hladik says:
    April 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm
    Paul Birch says (April 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm): “I doubt if it would make much difference to the overall cost, which at such a small scale is dominated by the installation and monitoring costs, not the simple hardware price.”

    “Um, Paul, you don’t think it would be a lot cheaper to install an off-the-shelf logger than a wind turbine?”

    No, I don’t. As I have already pointed out, most of the cost will be in the planning, organisation, construction, installation and operation. The cost of the hardware is trivial. The overall cost might well have come out higher, because instead of using the mast that comes with the turbine, it would have been necessary to source a similar mast separately.

    “BTW, note from the FOI response that the council was willing to give up data to save the relatively small cost of monitoring a second turbine, when according to your argument, it wouldn’t be worthwhile. WUWT?”

    The data was being collected; they didn’t need to collect it twice. My guess is that they originally planned to monitor the turbine they installed at the rubbish dump, then realised that there was another turbine already available at the school (funded separately through the school authorities) which would do just as well instead, and give some educational benefit to boot. There’s a good chance they got a special deal on the monitoring because it was at an educational establishment (£750 is astonishingly cheap for three years, and would barely pay for the set up costs). Had they realised this earlier, they could presumably have saved the cost of the second turbine, but different departments can’t know everything that every other department is doing; better liason unfortunately costs a lot to manage, so it’s actually cheaper to accept that there will inevitably be some duplication and mixed messages.

    “Also, a wind logger (which was probably included in their monitoring setup at the school) doesn’t by itself tell you how a real turbine will react to that wind.”

    “Not directly, but it will predict the turbine’s expected performance, given its advertised specifications. Judging by the turbine’s dismal output, a wind logger alone would have settled the issue (unless of course the council bought defective turbines, in which case it should get a refund). Note that the council could have passed a two-step plan (phase 1: check wind; phase 2: install test turbines only if phase 1 successful) with the same (apparently arduous) bureaucratic effort, and saved a bundle.”

    First, I don’t believe the ridiculously low 209kWh figure. Installations around the world produce around 20-30% of nameplate capacity; very few fall much outside this range; and certainly not as low as 2.3%. So why do people find it so hard to accept that it could be a simple typo?

    Second, the two-phase plan you suggest would not have “saved a bundle”. My experience argues that it would probably have cost nearly twice as much.

  119. Gary Hladik says:
    April 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm
    Paul Birch says (April 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm): “No, but I am a local town councillor, so I know how much it costs to get these things done in reality. £5K +£750 for monitoring is a very good deal. And I repeat, local authorities do not pay VAT.”

    “I just looked back at the FoI response. According to Roy Mccauley of the Sandwell Borough Council, the cost of one wind turbine (Taylor’s Lane) was £5,ooo “plus VAT”. WUWT?”

    When local authorities purchase goods and services from VAT-registered firms, the invoiced amount includes VAT. The local authority then claims back this VAT from HM Revenue and Customs. There is no cost to the local authority or council tax payers. As far as councils’ net budgeting is concerned, they do not pay VAT.

  120. @paul birch

    Sorry – your continued pleading about this whole shambles being a good deal is digging yourself even deeper into the more and reflects no credit on your judgment as a guardian of public finance.

    Let’s remind ourselves of what was trying to be acheived. A very simple task. Find out how much the wind blows over the course of a year in a particular location in Oldbury. There are commercial devices to do this in the price range of £200 including software. Buy one. Stick it in the top of a pole. connect it to a PC with a big notice ‘do not switch off”. Come back in a year and collect the data.

    Even the most gormless local government officer shouldn;t need more than a couple of days max to do this. It is not hard. It is not rocket science. It is not stretching technology to new limits. It does not need inter-departmental cooperation beyond Fred telling Charlie. I guarantee it will get planning permission without problems.

    And best of all the benighted ‘sustainability officer’ is being paid for anyway. His time is effectively free.

    If you bought the useless £5,000 device instead of the £200 useful device none of the above stages would change. It would just be £4,800 cheaper. The expenditure of taxpayers money would be £4,800 less. You would have saved money. Less would have gone out.

    If in your council, your own sustaianbility officers ahev managed to persuade you that there is anything more difficult here than set out above, then I fear that you have stopped representing your electorate and effectively become a staff member of the council. That would be a great shame.

  121. @paul birch

    I don’t believe the ridiculously low 209kWh figure. Installations around the world produce around 20-30% of nameplate capacity; very few fall much outside this range; and certainly not as low as 2.3%. So why do people find it so hard to accept that it could be a simple typo?

    Why do you find it so hard to accept that it is not correct? More than likely the sustainability officer put the device in a place where there isn’t a lot of wind. Maybe Oldbury just isn’t a windy place.

    Still – that was the whole purpose of the experiment. Perhaps they can now get back to what councils are good at…fining people for feeding the ducks or putting out the wrong recycling bin on a Tuesday or any of the other useful things that the bureaucrats like to turn their tiny minds to.

    And with wind power being proved to be a complete non-starter they can get rid of their ‘sustainability officer’ as well. Or get him to help working on the bins.

  122. Colin says:
    April 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm
    “Paul Birch, pretty it up however you like. The fact remains you spent taxpayer money on a useless scheme that has no useful output. It serves only to collect government subsidies and, as noted by others earlier, add to the fuel cost and burn of the fossil fleet. Do try to learn what “hot standby” means. Read Richard Courtney’s post again. You clearly didn’t understand it. Your savings have simply been someone else’s much great expenses.”

    I have nothing whatsoever to do with Sandwell council, so I haven’t spent anyone’s money on this or any similar scheme. You seem ideologically bent on refusing to appreciate the statutory constraints under which local authorities operate. They are forced to operate within the current regulatory environment; they can’t refuse fiscal responsibility for their own spending just because you or they disagree with national government or EU policy; their legal obligation is specifically to the people within their borough, not to the general UK public or economy. Arguments over the rights and wrongs of subsidies and the like are thus irrelevant; they can only lawfully decide on the basis of the project’s benefit to them.

    “And what do you mean by “close to 100% efficiency”?”
    I mean that the work done over total energy removed from the wind flow can be high (say >90%). That is what efficiency means. It has nothing to do with capacity factors, or even to do with the captured fraction of energy passing through unit cross-sectional area at infinity. As I stated, the physical efficiency of a wind turbine says almost nothing about its utility; a highly efficient turbine will not in general be optimal for electricity generation.

    “And remember, you spent all this money on a 1 kW machine.”
    The council (not me) spent a very small amount of money “to find out how practical it would be to harness wind power on a large scale in the borough”. Any other method of testing the water (which they had a legal and moral obligation to do) would probably have cost them at least as much and probably a lot more. Are you totally incapable of grasping the distinction?

  123. Quis,

    Thanks for that explanation. It reminded me of an experience I had when I was in my 20’s. In the 1970’s I owned a house in a rural area [4 miles outside of Scotts Valley, near Santa Cruz] and we relied on a 330-foot deep water well.

    Back then I rented 3 rooms to friends to help pay the mortgage. The well water was pumped up to a holding tank above the house. It was an old wooden tank, and the rubber pipe that supplied the well water went in through the top, through some ventilation screens around the rim of the tank. The screens were in pretty bad shape, and were torn open around the place where the hose entered the tank.

    One summer a roommate commented on the smell from the water. Her comment prompted us to notice, and every once in a while someone would comment that the smell was especially strong that day. Not that it was overpowering, but when the water came out of the faucet or shower, there was a noticeable odor.

    The tank was on a hillside above the house, and no one ever went up there because it was a steep climb, and there were no steps. You just had to scramble up the hillside through the manzanita bushes to get there. But when the smell persisted, I decided to go have a look.

    What I found was that thirsty rats had used the rubber hose to climb up into the tank, and had fallen in and drowned. There were about twenty or more decomposing rat carcasses floating in the water. We realized that we had been washing, brushing our teeth, etc., with dead rat water. Ugh! No harm done, though. I’m 63 now, and inoculated against decomposing rats.

    There’s a reason that folks congregate in cities. My roommates eventually vacated [for various other reasons], and I sold the house and moved into town shortly after that. And I never worry about city tap water.

  124. Latimer Alder says:
    April 28, 2011 at 12:40 am
    “Thanks for (perhaps unwittingly) confirming all my thoughts about the many inadequacies of UK local government. Woolly thinking, empire building and profligacy with our money obviously remain as entrenched as ever.”

    Then perhaps I should thank you for confirming the inadequacies of the voting public, whose woolly thinking cannot distinguish between large sums and small, or between profligacy and prudence. Anyone with any common sense would appreciate that spending £5000 on generating scientific data to help determine whether to proceed with a project potentially costing a thousand times as much is the very opposite of profligacy.

  125. Kum Dollison: “And, if those old 100 kw turbines at Altamont Pass can still be going strong after 30 Years, I have a hard time seeing how the New ones won’t.”

    Now you really are making things up. You clearly have no idea as to how many of them have been abandoned because of mechanical breakdown. The link you posted supports nothing of what you claimed.

    “…and we import some Australian Thermal Coal.”

    Source please. The US is a net exporter of coal.

  126. Reading Paul Birch’s comments scares the help out of me if he’s a councillor spending my taxes.

    He can not and will not accept this was a complete and total waste of money and my guess would be if he was in charge he’d happily spend my money the same way again, proper scary, no learn capacity.

    Paul I don’t want to spead any dispersions but are you a left learning socialist by any chance? It’s just the flippant way you can spend my money.

  127. Two wind/solar powered warning signs at a dangerous crossroads near Newmarket in Suffolk (UK).
    Both broken after a matter of months.
    Taxpayers’ money…

  128. Pah..! Don’t talk to me about local government spending our money…
    Here in Cambridge (UK) our county council thought it would be a good idea (‘green’, don’t you know) to build a busway (concrete tracks) along an old railway track to the small town of St Ives, thus (in theory at least) getting buses off the overloaded highway known as the A14.
    SO FAR, against a budget of £116 million, it has cost £180 million. It is two-and-a-half years late – and hasn’t opened yet.
    Best bit – when I e-mailed them to enquire what would be the (negative) impact on bus services into the city via the old approach route, they DIDN’T KNOW, and wouldn’t until the bus companies submitted their traffic plans.
    Now, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that before they started, the council would know PRECISELY what routes and frequencies were going to use this new super-highway..?
    No heads have rolled, needless to say – press reports of meetings on the project seem to comprise councillors congratulating each other on the management of the scheme…
    Local ellections here on 5th May…..

  129. Colin says:
    April 28, 2011 at 7:12 am
    Paul Birch: “I mean that the work done over total energy removed from the wind flow can be high (say >90%). ”

    “You’ve obviously not heard of the Betz Limit, which is 59.3 per cent.”

    The Betz Limit is not a limit on efficiency; it is a limit on the fraction of energy flowing through an area that can be captured (under certain assumptions, which do not always apply). One of those assumptions is an efficiency of 100% (no dissipative losses).

  130. Latimer Alder says:
    April 28, 2011 at 6:42 am
    “Sorry – your continued pleading…”

    I’m not pleading. I’m attacking ignorance and unscientific bigotry.

    “Let’s remind ourselves of what was trying to be acheived. A very simple task. Find out how much the wind blows over the course of a year in a particular location in Oldbury.”

    No, it wasn’t. What was to be achieved was “to find out how practical it would be to harness wind power on a large scale in the borough”. They are very different things. Logging windspeed is only part of that – and even this is a lot more difficult and expensive than you imagine. Ten metre masts aren’t cheap, can’t simply be bought at the local ironmongers, and require specialist installation. Then you have to find a location for the mast, and a safe location for the PC, apply for planning permission, subcontract for the electricity supply, subcontract for the installation of the PC, the logger and the necessary software, and for regular inspection to reboot the PC if it crashes, etc., etc..

    “I guarantee it will get planning permission without problems.”

    You’d be surprised. If it’s painted the wrong colour you’ll get a storm of protests (we had that problem with a CCTV antenna mast, which was black instead of blue-grey).

    “And best of all the benighted ‘sustainability officer’ is being paid for anyway. His time is effectively free.”

    Hardly. He will have many other calls on his time, and a lot of the issues will be outside his area of expertise or authority, so he will have to liase with many other officers and departments, such as Highways and Legal, and of course the relevant council committee(s).

    “If you bought the useless £5,000 device instead of the £200 useful device none of the above stages would change. It would just be £4,800 cheaper. The expenditure of taxpayers money would be £4,800 less. You would have saved money. Less would have gone out.”

    No, the £5000 stated to be the total cost, including installation. Now the catalogue price for an equivalent mast, bought separately, is about £3000 (£2999.98!). The catalogue prices for turbines come in around £1000/kW (in range 400W-2.2kW). It’s hard to see the foundations costing less than £1000 to lay (and probably more). So buying it all as a bundle quite clearly saved money. Your approach would cost more and provide less useful information.

    “If in your council, your own sustaianbility officers”

    We don’t have any. We have only two employees; the Town Clerk and the Assistant Town Clerk. We manage our own projects (and put in a lot of unpaid work), so we know all too well how these things work and how much things cost.

  131. Shevva says:
    April 28, 2011 at 7:15 am
    “Reading Paul Birch’s comments scares the help out of me if he’s a councillor spending my taxes.
    He can not and will not accept this was a complete and total waste of money and my guess would be if he was in charge he’d happily spend my money the same way again, proper scary, no learn capacity.”

    I take it then that you’d prefer they spent £50,000 on a feasibility study instead? Or perhaps went right ahead with a multi-million pound turbine without trying it on a small scale first? Get real.

  132. Latimer Alder says:
    April 28, 2011 at 6:48 am
    @paul birch
    I don’t believe the ridiculously low 209kWh figure. Installations around the world produce around 20-30% of nameplate capacity; very few fall much outside this range; and certainly not as low as 2.3%. So why do people find it so hard to accept that it could be a simple typo?

    “Why do you find it so hard to accept that it is not correct?”

    Why do you find it so hard to read what I wrote? “Installations around the world produce around 20-30% of nameplate capacity; very few fall much outside this range; and certainly not as low as 2.3%.” There is no way that figure can be correct unless something was very wrong with the school’s turbine (when the experiment would need to be redone using the other turbine instead). It would be very hard to find anywhere with a wind shadow this deep.

  133. We’re a big-time “Net” oil Importer, but we “Export” oil back into Canada every day.

    A large coal-fired power plant is being built in Texas, as we type (I forget the name.) It is contracted to use Thermal Coal from Australia.

  134. Paul Birch, no, installations around the world do not routinely produce 20-30 per cent. to cite just one example, the Gaspe projects of Hydro Quebec have never produced better than 19 per cent despite having one of the most favourable wind regimes on the continent.

    Your efficiency claims are still rubbish. I explained to you above where the heat losses occur.

    Kum, yes, it’s a blend of coal. What you don’t say is how much relative to the total.

  135. “More than likely the sustainability officer put the device in a place where there isn’t a lot of wind. ”

    “It would be very hard to find anywhere with a wind shadow this deep.”

    The Hawk & Owl Trust in the UK has built a new visitor centre at their Sculthorpe Moor site. It has a 16kW wind turbine to help its “Eco Friendly” credentials. Unfortunately it’s mounted between two rows or trees, at treetop height. When I was visiting on a breezy day it wasn’t even turning, and clearly will never produce anything like its claimed output. As to the sense in installing such a device where they are trying to encourage and breed large birds, words fail me…

    http://www.hawkandowl.org/About_us/SupportUs/GoGreen/SwtitchEnergy.htm

  136. @Paul Birch

    I take it then that you’d prefer they spent £50,000 on a feasibility study instead? Or perhaps went right ahead with a multi-million pound turbine without trying it on a small scale first? Get real.

    Nope. What I ‘d prefer is that they stopped b….gg..g about with windmills and sustainability officers and all the flimsy paraphenalia of token greenism entirely and just got on with the jobs they are paid to do….empty the bins, sweep the roads, and cut the grass in the park.

    Councils are clearly not staffed or controlled by people bright enough to play with the grown ups…remember how many foolishly invested their taxpayers money in Icelandic banks just before they crashed? It is no business of a local council to be in the electricity generation market, nor to employ people to dabble in it. They can buy their lekkie off the mains like everybody else.

    So they can also save £50K a year on employing a guy who (according to you) is incapable even of transcribing numbers correctly in a FOI request. And give the money back to the poor benighted council taxpayers.

    Mr Pickles (the Local Government Secretary) has still a long way to go to deflate the vast egos and wasteful habits of local councils. More power to his rather large elbow!

  137. Paul Birch says (April 28, 2011 at 6:12 am): “First, I don’t believe the ridiculously low 209kWh figure.”

    Unless you have better information about that specific installation (reference, please), you’re just pulling numbers out of your butt. The sales page Anthony linked claims output of “between 500kWh and 1400kWh of electricity generated per year”, so a perhaps-less-than-optimal site (the school) could easily generate just 209 kWh. The page specifically recommends spending more money on a much better unit for serious electrical generation. In other words, the performance of the test micro turbine is known to be different from that of the “production model”, making the micro turbine no better than a wind logger.

    “As I have already pointed out, most of the cost will be in the planning, organisation, construction, installation and operation…the two-phase plan you suggest would not have ‘saved a bundle’. My experience argues that it would probably have cost nearly twice as much.”

    So what you’re claiming is that the cost of planning, buying, and installing a £200 wind logger (only) is about the same as planning, buying, and installing a small wind turbine plus connections plus logger, even though the results of the wind logger would have removed the need to plan, buy, and install the turbine? If true, it speaks volumes about the Sandwell Borough Council.

    And let’s not forget, folks, that the £5,000 Taylor’s Lane wind turbine wasn’t monitored, and so told the council nothing about wind power potential at its site. The council could have gotten exactly the same result by paying just the £750 to monitor the school turbine for three years (for which they report just 12 months of data in at least 22 months of operation…WUWT?).

  138. Paul Birch says:
    April 28, 2011 at 9:45 am (Edit)

    Latimer Alder says:
    April 28, 2011 at 6:48 am
    @paul birch
    Why do you find it so hard to read what I wrote?

    “Installations around the world produce around 20-30% of nameplate capacity; very few fall much outside this range; and certainly not as low as 2.3%.” There is no way that figure can be correct unless something was very wrong with the school’s turbine (when the experiment would need to be redone using the other turbine instead). It would be very hard to find anywhere with a wind shadow this deep.

    The original deadly “smog” (from “Smoke and Fog”) that hung around London for weeks at a time in years past PROVES that regions can – could – and still do have long periods of zero velocity with stagnant air. Winds above 15- 18 knots are needed for power generatin – and worldwide averages are regularly below 20% for so-called “wind generators.” Many days – but certainly not all days – yield power under 1.5% for entire countries.

  139. Since the trading markets in London’s City are the world locus for the CO2 credit Ponzi Scheme, it probably comes as no surprise that wind farms (not to mention tree farms) are sprouting like weeds throughout the UK. Spoilt vistas, navigation hazards at sea – it runs the gamut. Who’d have ever thought that a wind farm would be allowed right at the edge of the world’s densest sea traffic – in the North Sea, just off Kent? Seems they are also sprouting on every fell, and also in the shallower portions of the northern reaches of the Irish Sea. These days we behold shall live in infamy.

  140. Colin says:
    April 28, 2011 at 10:26 am
    “Paul Birch, no, installations around the world do not routinely produce 20-30 per cent. to cite just one example, the Gaspe projects of Hydro Quebec have never produced better than 19 per cent despite having one of the most favourable wind regimes on the continent.”

    19% is close to 20% (note what I said: “very few fall much outside this range”). We are not talking about just a few percent under, but a factor of ten, down to 2.3%. And for a turbine on a 10m mast in an ordinary location, that’s absurd.

    “Your efficiency claims are still rubbish. I explained to you above where the heat losses occur.”

    I’m afraid that it’s you talking rubbish. It’s obvious that you do not understand the basic physical concepts, so you keep conflating unrelated factors or constraints with an efficiency limit. It would be quite easy to design a wind turbine with aerodynamic, mechanical and electrical efficiencies in the high nineties. Rolling friction could easily be brought below .001 with roller bearings, even without ultra-low friction devices such as magnetic bearings, long thin aerofoil sections could get L/D>60, gears can be eliminated, velocity changes could be kept small. But as I have pointed out several times already, maximum efficiency is not the design driver of operational wind turbines.

  141. “Rolling friction could easily be brought below .001 with roller bearings, even without ultra-low friction devices such as magnetic bearings, long thin aerofoil sections could get L/D>60, gears can be eliminated, velocity changes could be kept small.”

    Utter and absolute fantasy.

    And with performance, wake up and smell the coffee. Gaspe’s performance is typical of wind fleets, not off the low end. There’s a drop of nearly a third between the median of your range and what the actual performance is.

    As for physics, it’s become obvious that you know nothing about it, so that topic is simply not worth pursuing.

  142. Latimer Alder says:
    April 28, 2011 at 10:59 am
    “Nope. What I ‘d prefer is that they stopped b….gg..g about with windmills and sustainability officers and all the flimsy paraphenalia of token greenism entirely and just got on with the jobs they are paid to do….empty the bins, sweep the roads, and cut the grass in the park. ”

    You are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Councils are paid – and required by law – to do the green thing. You may not approve of that, but it’s a fact. Unless they can show that they have attempted to meet nationally and supranationally set targets for recycling, energy conservation, renewables, etc., they will be fined (and also lose considerable quantities of grant money), the result of which will be higher council taxes.

    “So they can also save £50K a year on employing a guy who (according to you) is incapable even of transcribing numbers correctly in a FOI request.”

    Anyone can make typos. You yourself have made quite a few in this thread (as have I).

    “Mr Pickles (the Local Government Secretary) has still a long way to go to deflate the vast egos and wasteful habits of local councils. More power to his rather large elbow!”

    Westminster politicians always pander to the mob by pretending they will eliminate “waste” in local government, but it’s drivel. Councils do things the way they do because that’s what the law and the government demands. Most of them do about as well as they reasonably could under the impositions of our socialist welfare state. So put the blame where it belongs; with the EU, with the LibLabCon in Parliament, and with the electorate that foolishly keeps voting them back in.

  143. Gary Hladik says:
    April 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm
    “And let’s not forget, folks, that the £5,000 Taylor’s Lane wind turbine wasn’t monitored, and so told the council nothing about wind power potential at its site. The council could have gotten exactly the same result by paying just the £750 to monitor the school turbine for three years (for which they report just 12 months of data in at least 22 months of operation…WUWT?).”

    I pointed that out many replies ago (and the likely reason why it happened that way). However, although the rubbish dump turbine may not have been specifically monitored, its grid tie (and the rebate from the electricity company) will have told them how much electricity it produced over the period. That data must be around somewhere in the system. I don’t see anything strange in reporting just one year’s result when the monitoring had been in operation for less than two years.

  144. From dave ward on April 27, 2011 at 11:22 am:

    That didn’t work as planned at another UK school…

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/7870929/Primary-school-forced-to-turn-off-wind-turbine-after-bird-deaths.html

    “A primary school has been forced to switch off a £20,000 wind turbine because it keeps killing passing seabirds.”

    “The turbine, at Southwell Community Primary School, Portland, was installed 18 months ago thanks to a grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

    “It provided six kilowatts of power an hour…”

    Apparently it helps to have customers with a suitable grasp of electrical theory when selling £20,000 wind turbines. Six KW per hour?

    Here’s the evil bird mincer:

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_yc-Lk62n49w/TDGNd0BAwPI/AAAAAAAAFCA/Wg-HOprZYmc/s1600/School+Bird+Killer.png

    It looks just like this “grid connect” turbine and inverter package with a 6KW nameplate rating, current US pricing converts to £9254. Spec sheet has 230VAC inverter output, 50 or 60HZ. Sample list of commercial customers is UK dominated.

    http://www.solarhome.org/provenenergy6kwgridconnectturbine-300vproven6300.aspx

    Gee, if they really wanted to be “green” a 6KW diesel generator is going for around US$1200-1500, they could work on running it on the used vegetable oil from the kitchen. And with that at least you know you can get a full 6KW from it, whenever you need it. The wind turbine, probably not.

  145. Colin says:
    April 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm
    “As for physics, it’s become obvious that you know nothing about it, so that topic is simply not worth pursuing.”

    Sorry. As a physicist, I do know what I’m talking about. You don’t. Unfortunately you are clearly not willing to learn, perhaps because you might learn something that conflicts with your pathological hatred of wind power.

  146. racookpe1978 says:
    April 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm
    “The original deadly “smog” (from “Smoke and Fog”) that hung around London for weeks at a time in years past PROVES that regions can – could – and still do have long periods of zero velocity with stagnant air. Winds above 15- 18 knots are needed for power generatin – and worldwide averages are regularly below 20% for so-called “wind generators.” Many days – but certainly not all days – yield power under 1.5% for entire countries.”

    Irrelevant. The point is that annual output is seldom much below 20% of nameplate. It could not get as low as 2.3% unless the turbine was out of order for most of the year.

  147. Smokey said at 6:58 am……… critters and water.

    Smokey,
    My well produces about 35 gallons per minute. Hence I go without a holding tank (just the pressure tank) as I like the water cold and don’t like to deal with various things that seem to get into tanks of water.

    I have had gophers, moles, voles, etc. eat through my irrigation lines in a small vineyard and garden area multiple times to get a drink. I have redone the vineyard’s irrigation lines to above ground and I leave a bucket of water out for the critters- this seems to keep the critters from eating through the lines. I am not looking forward to going with above ground irrigation in the multiple garden areas………

    It sounds like your Scotts Valley place was close to the big earthquake local… I experienced that one on and quickly off a deck in the Evergreen area of SJ.

  148. Paul Birch says (April 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm): “However, although the rubbish dump turbine may not have been specifically monitored, its grid tie (and the rebate from the electricity company) will have told them how much electricity it produced over the period.”

    Er, then why spend an extra £750 to monitor an off-site turbine when the information is (allegedly) at hand for the site of interest?

    “That data must be around somewhere in the system.”

    Well, the info was apparently unavailable for the council’s FoI reply. I wonder how much of the council’s expensive time and effort will be required to actually retrieve the numbers?

  149. Paul Birch:

    Concerning the fact that wind is so variable that on some days it is too low to power a wind turbine, at April 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm you assert:

    “Irrelevant. The point is that annual output is seldom much below 20% of nameplate. It could not get as low as 2.3% unless the turbine was out of order for most of the year.”

    No! It is NOT “irrelevant”. It is the most important point concerning wind turbine output.

    If you do not know why then read my above post at April 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm which explains the matter.

    You are attempting to force the discussion onto your unjustified assertion that the performance information in the FOI was wrong when that information is trivial whether it is wrong or not.

    Richard

  150. @paul birch

    I juts checked with my local council about their ‘environmental initiatives’.

    They are of the opinion that they can meet their statutory obligations by reducing their own energy consumption within the town hall by 10%. A laudable aim..and one that can be achieved for the price of a few Post-It notes saying ‘please switch the lights off whne leaving the office’. And they are one of the better run councils in England with a good track record of well-delivered and mostly well-accepted services.

    So I just don’t believe that councils would be fined if they didn’t bugger about playing with windmills on their rooftops. They may choose to do so because they feel it is the right thing to do, because they are interested in it or because they have employed a ‘sustainability officer’ who now has to be given something to do.

    But pretending that doing so is forced on you against your better judgement them by the big bad EU or the evil Westminster government is ‘stretching the truth’. There is no statutory obligation on each concil to investigate wind power. Any council that chooses to do so is making a local decision and should be locally accountable for the money they waste on doing so.

    It will only take about ten minutes reading for any councillor or council officer to rediscover that all the literature agrees with Latimer’s Helpful Hints for Wind Power for Councillors.
    I will restate them in case they have escaped your attention:

    1. Wind power does not do what it says on the tin
    2. Don’t do it
    3. In case of doubt refer to 1.

    And Sandwell Council have provided a fantastic public demonstratio of the proff of those laws. By spending in excess of £5,000, they have generated £20 worth of electricty in a year. This is not a good idea. If they had heeded Latimer’s Helpful Hints they would be £5,000 better off.

  151. It is slightly disingenuous of Cllr. Paul Birch to reprsesnt himself as just an ordinary councillor, strugglign to bring benefit to his constituents.

    According to this public record from Hayle Town Council, apart from his local duties, he has been employed by Penzance Town Council as a Finance Officer sine 1995

    http://www.hayle.net/southward.htm#pb

    I think his remarks should be viewed in that light. An absolute slap bang local government establishment insider from a big city…not only as an elected representative from a dog and pony town council.

    More power to Mr. Pickles!

  152. I’m really hoping on this side of the pond that Dems will once again beat the drum of subsidized green technology as the political ticket to vote for in 2012. Now that the subsidized money trail has been traced to our picked back pockets as we continue to sink into record government spending, I can’t imagine a single out of work democrat voting their own ticket. And maybe ever again.

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