Monday, October 28, 2013

Blighting the Landscape with Turbines

From Twitterer Emily Gosden of the British newspaper The Telegraph:

Decc [Department of Energy and Climate Change] deleted this graphic comparing nukes/wind/solar "because of sensitivities". Says "not inaccurate". Hmm.

This is a post about it by Telegraph news blogger Will Heaven:

It turns out that the Renewable Energy Association called it "unhelpful" in a press release, pleading that "as Ed Davey stressed… it is not an either/or choice".

And here’s the infographic:


It basically shows the land mass taken to generate a similar amount of energy. Well, it really isn’t helpful to the renewable folks, is it?. Wind farms and solar arrays can eat up a lot of space.

Context really matters: if land mass is the key issue, nuclear energy wins. Nuclear energy wins on capacity, too, the potential generated output. Nuclear energy the realizes most of its capacity, wind and solar do not. This infographic doesn’t reflect that.

Imagine that this infographic were about water use instead of land use. Hinkley Point C and the wind farm would change places (let’s leave solar aside) and Hinkley could look far less attractive, a virtual river leech compared to those dry-as-bone turbines.  NEI has a good paper about water use, but that’s really beside the point.

This is not an issue with infographics, which can be really handy for communicating a lot of data in a friendly way. NEI has some nice infographics that make do without tacit editorializing. So let’s allow the Renewable Association its concern.

And that concern is not without cause:

Michael Fallon, the Conservative energy minister, said that nuclear power stations will ultimately prove a cheaper and less controversial alternative.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "This is the first in a wave of new nuclear plants to replace the ageing fleet that Labour did nothing to tackle.

"Without new nuclear local people would face many thousands more wind farms blighting our landscape. By contrast, nuclear power is popular in areas that have existing stations and will deliver significant jobs and investment."

We can be thrilled about Hinkley Point C without calling wind farms a blight. Land mass usage is important, but there are a lot of issues to consider – many of them still favor nuclear energy, but the government view does seem a bit lop sided. I agree with Ed Davey: it’s not either/or.


Bas said...

Nuclear uses more land per GW than:
- Solar on the roof (as in Germany). That uses no land at all!
- Big wind turbines. An 8MW wind turbine has only a ~160m2 footprint. The land between the turbines is used for farming, etc.
That is far less than the land nuclear Power Plants use! With nuclear the land used by uranium mines should also be counted!

SteveK9 said...

Talked to someone from Germany at a Bed and Breakfast in Toronto last week. His comment on wind turbines: 'These hideous things are everywhere you look'.

Anonymous said...

In my state we have a big wind farm that took over pasture land and the land is unusable between turbine towers. It is too "broken up" in profile for efficient farming (drainage is bad, the tractors can't swerve around the towers very well, combines can't maneuver between them, etc.). It can't be used for livestock because the animals sense the infrasound from the propellers and it makes them sick.

Bill said...

"Imagine that this infographic were about water use instead of land use. Hinkley Point C and the wind farm would change places (let’s leave solar aside) and Hinkley could look far less attractive, a virtual river leech compared to those dry-as-bone turbines."
All three of them would look tiny, since Hinkley is on the coast, and doesn't use river water for cooling.

The inaccuracy in the graphic: "terrawatt".
Oh, and the use of "homes" as a unit of power.

Mitch said...

Can't electric-energize multi-family houses and factories and buildings merely with solar cells on the roof -- especially in winter. Isn't happening anywhere, even China. Just hate-nuke pie in the sky wishfulness.

Anonymous said...

"- Solar on the roof (as in Germany). That uses no land at all!"

Also, no power at all (at night)! Very little power on cloudy days! Those things get bird crap and dirt and snow on them, you gotta go up and clean them off. That means your risk of falling is higher! One of the leading causes of accidental deaths is falls in the home. Backup power means burning more natural gas or biomass or coal. That means more carbon in the atmosphere! That means more acidification of the oceans! That could mean the end of life on this planet!!

trag said...

It is, in fact, an either/or proposition.

Money squandered on expensive, unreliable wind, is money that could have been spent on affordable, reliable nuclear.

While it is theoretically possible to have both, the reality of economics says that money spent on one is unavailable for the other.

Also, it has been well established that the unreliability of wind and solar is a detriment to reliable generating sources, because of foolish laws that give priority to unreliable generation on the grid.

Finally, money wasted on wind and/or solar costs the consumer more money. Every single utility which has subscribed to wind has seen a disproportionate increase in their electricity rates to consumers. There is a $.0076/KWHr charge on my bill for transmission lines for wind. Wind is maybe 10% of Texas electricity, yet that charge is for every kilowatt-hour used. That means that the actual cost of wind transmission lines is $.076 per KWHr of wind generated electricity. That is more than half the national average of the total cost for electricity, and that's just for the transmission lines.

Wind is a disaster for the consumer. Anyone who cares about people and their well-being, would oppose wasting our money on wind energy.

But keep on pushing that wind Mark. Really, why aren't you over at NREL instead of here?

Ross S. said...


Thanks for your post, completely agree.

The other problem with wind is allows the uninformed to believe that something positive is being done, when in fact it is not.