Wind en­ergy cuckoo

Argyllshire Advertiser - - YOUR VIEWS -

As I pre­dicted in my let­ter of Au­gust 31, there would be howls of an­guish from the wind farm in­dus­try, ad­dicted as they are to a steady flow of cash from the pub­lic, at the mer­est men­tion that ti­dal power would be prefer­able to wind re­gard­ing the pro­vi­sion of a de­pend­able and pre­dictable elec­tric­ity sup­ply.

What I did not pre­dict was that the only re­sponse would come from some­one who mis­took the elec­tric eel and the ray de­picted in Ann Thomas’s car­toon, ea­gerly din­ing on ‘free’ elec­tric­ity, for an at­tack on the fish farm­ing in­dus­try.

Fish gen­er­ate their own elec­tric­ity by bi­o­log­i­cal means, you see, and so have no need for charg­ing points.

Per­haps I shouldn’t even try to ex­plain the joke to Mr Lith­gow.

I had hoped for a more co­gent cri­tique of the points I made, rather than the am­a­teur­ish at­tempt to cover his lack of rea­son­ing by smear­ing my ori­gins and char­ac­ter, or what he er­ro­neously imag­ines them to be, and by re­peat­ing the end­less waf­fle of the wind in­dus­try’s PR depart­ment.

One ex­am­ple: when­ever a new wind farm is pro­posed there is a claim that it will pro­vide elec­tric­ity for a cer­tain num­ber of homes, say 10,000.

What is not men­tioned, how­ever, ex­cept in very fine print at the bot­tom of the page, is that these fig­ures are only achiev­able un­der per­fect wind con­di­tions, which rarely oc­cur, and that the real out­put of us­able elec­tric­ity is a small frac­tion of the head­line fig­ure.

What is also not men­tioned is who is go­ing to pay for the de­com­mis­sion­ing costs when the wind farms in­evitably turn into junk. Some­how, I don’t think it will be those who ben­e­fited fi­nan­cially.

More likely, it will be us, the pub­lic, al­ready be­ing fleeced by in­flated elec­tric­ity bills, who will have to pay to haul thou­sands of tons of un­re­cy­clable trash from our moun­tains or live for­ever with enor­mous eye­sores.

Let me re­state the case for ti­dal power. The tides are gen­er­ated by the moon as it or­bits the Earth which cre­ates grav­i­ta­tional pull on the oceans.

These tides are pre­dictable, both in power and tim­ing, for cen­turies in ad­vance, and will carry on be­ing so un­til the moon even­tu­ally flies off into space some bil­lions of years hence.

There are two in­com­ing tides and two out­go­ing ev­ery day, a to­tal of four, each one in­volv­ing an enor­mous quan­tity of mov­ing wa­ter and thereby pre­sent­ing the op­por­tu­nity to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity, to­tally free of car­bon diox­ide emissions.

The UK, and es­pe­cially Scot­land, has an enor­mous length of coast­line. Scot­land’s coast is about 18,500 kilo­me­tres, and Ar­gyll ac­counts for a very high pro­por­tion of this be­cause of the le­gacy of the last ice age which left us with such a con­vo­luted coast­line.

So we have plenty of scope to ex­ploit this re­source.

And we are dou­bly blessed be­cause the com­plex­ity of our coast­line re­sults in the tides reach­ing dif­fer­ent points at dif­fer­ent times of the day.

There­fore, by us­ing sev­eral dif­fer­ent sites, we could have an even amount of elec­tric­ity al­ways on tap.

Wind and so­lar power can­not match this, ei­ther in quan­tity of power or de­pend­abil­ity. They re­quire a du­pli­cate sys­tem of nu­clear, coal, gas, and oil-fired gen­er­a­tors al­ways fired up and ready to kick in when the wind and sun refuse to co-op­er­ate – an enor­mously ex­pen­sive sys­tem both in money and CO2 emissions.

There is a case for subsidies dur­ing the in­fancy of any in­dus­try to get it started off.

But the wind farm in­dus­try is not an in­fant - it is now a fully grown cuckoo. It has never has earned its keep and never will so it is time to chuck it out of the nest. Stu­art White, Mi­nard.

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