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UK Wants Huge Expansion In Offshore Wind Power 264

Posted by kdawson
from the think-of-the-birds dept.
OriginalArlen writes "The UK government has announced an ambitious plan to expand the existing offshore wind turbine farms, which are already extensive, to an estimated 7,000 units — two per mile of coastline — enough to generate 20% of the UK's power needs by 2020. The newly green-friendly Conservative opposition party is also backing the scheme. Wonder what they'll make of it in Oregon..."
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UK Wants Huge Expansion In Offshore Wind Power

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  • by the_humeister (922869) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @12:56AM (#21652089)
    France does it quite well. In fact they're a net energy exporter.
    • I assume they sell to Spain via the grid? Also, does France create and export Hydrogen with the left-over nuclear energy?
    • by Dr. Cody (554864) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:38AM (#21652331)
      When you're next door to Italy, of course you're going to be a net exporter! Who are they going to rely on to generate their power? Themselves

      In case you're not familiar with power sources, for baseload power, you're generally going to be using hydro, nuclear, or coal. They're sources whose fuel is cheap and whose plants lend themselves to larger outputs. To cover infrequent peaks of demand, one frequently maintains reserve capacity in the form of gas turbines or, less common and more expensively, oil or gas-fired power plants. Reserve capacity has a low purchase price (or is leftover from decades with more favorable fuel prices, in the case of oil and gas-fired plants) and a high operating cost

      Italy--in goddamn 2007--maintains oil-fired baseload capacity. That's right, the stuff an American power company won't touch unless a market's gas lines happened to be cut on the same day their whirly gigs won't start up. Just like the rest of the West did up until the first Oil Crisis in the 1970's.

      So, while France's impressive system for licensing and standardizing plants, along with their active R&D in the industry, might be laudable, that surplus is there to profit from flaws in their neighbors' own energy policies.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:36AM (#21652881)

        When you're next door to Italy, of course you're going to be a net exporter! Who are they going to rely on to generate their power? Themselves
        In European hell all the cooks are British, the cops are German, the engineers are French the lovers are Swiss and the whole thing is administrated by the Italians.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kaos07 (1113443)

      Public mood in England is shifting away from Nuclear power following various leaks http://archive.thisisthenortheast.co.uk/2004/6/10/49327.html/ [thisisthenortheast.co.uk] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield#2005_Thorp_plant_leak/ [wikipedia.org]

      Not to mention uranium is a finite source, uses lots of energy to mine and refine, there's no way to deal with the waste long term and plants can be dangerous.

      So why not go with the safer, long term alternative which is wind power?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by polar red (215081)
        Not to mention the latest study of the German gov. which says that Living close to a nuclear power plant gives you a much higher chance(or at least your children) of cancer. see: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2994904,00.html [dw-world.de]
        • by owlnation (858981)
          And the fact that around 60% of the UK population is hungover or drunk most days -- do you want the hungover guy, or the still slightly drunk guy as your site safety engineer? Britons have always had a tendency to indolence and apathy, the Country's increasing love for alcohol over the past 15 years just takes careless to a whole new level.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        why not go with the safer, long term alternative which is wind power?

        Wind power aaaaaand...?

        Seriously, you need an "and" in there. The wind doesn't blow reliably all the time, no matter how hard Windy Miller whistles.

        So. Wind power and...?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by vidarh (309115)
          Wind power, assuming you can generate enough of it, can be combined easily enough with power storage of various kinds, whether termal (heat up water), kinetic (pump water into a reservoir, or speed up a flywheel) or chemical (batteries, hydrogen fuelcells) so there doesn't need to be anything else apart from extracting energy from the storage you use. Of course wind power won't be cost effective nearly everywhere compared to other technologies, but the reliability of wind doesn't make it impossible to use i
      • The waste argument doesn't work. France recycles something like 90%+ of its nuclear waste into something usable. Plus, if we put people to work on how to handle the waste, we'll figure something out.
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:29AM (#21652839) Journal
      This concept of "Base Load" gets bantied about, in (often) confusing and erroneous ways.

      An electrical energy system has two values that are critical in preserving the integrity of the system.

      1) "Base load" - the minimum amount of load the system can expect at any time. In short, there's *always* going to be this much or more energy produced at any given time. If you overproduce Base load you have rising voltages in the system and potentially cause problems. Though, this is rarely a problem - if there was too much capacity at any time, they could offset the phase of a generator or two, causing one system to effectively cancel out the other, reducing system voltage.

      2) "Max load" - the maximum amount of load the system could generate at any time. If your usage exceeds max load, you have rolling brownouts or even blackouts.

      Usually, the "Base load" is handled by slower-moving-but cheap power plants. A coal-fired plant can take an hour or more to change its output significantly, but it can produce electricity 24x7 at the cheapest possible cost. Thus it's a good candidate for "Base Load". But whatever solution is applied to base load, it must be very, very dependable.

      However, the difference between Base load and Max load can be quite variable, changing significantly in mere minutes. This "Variable load" must be met in order to prevent voltage spikes and/or brownouts, and to handle this, you need power plants that can vary their output quickly, and on demand.

      Notice that neither Wind or Solar energy can actually act as either Base or Variable loads. Yes, they add energy to the sytem, but they can't be considered "Base load" since their output varies. And they can't really be considered "Variable load" because their output varies with their wind-energy input, NOT because their output varies upon demand.

      Thus, Wind/Solar can't really be used as EITHER base or "Variable" load. ALL of the output of either Solar or Wind energy must be matched by other variable load sources, so that when the wind isn't blowing and/or the sun not shining, the system as a whole can preserve its integrity. And this is the part that nobody discusses.

      YES, you can get energy from the wind, or from solar panels. But it isn't reliable, so can't be used for "Base load", but it also isn't available "on demand" so it isn't useful for "Variable load".

      Which brings me to my point: what if they used the wind energy to compress air that's otherwise stored on the ocean floor? All that nice, heavy water would avoid the need for high-pressure tanks, simply pushing the water out of the way would provide significant amounts of energy. And it would be useful for either base or variable loads, since the compressed air could be used to power generators on demand. Oh, and piping compressed air is a fairly lossless ordeal.

      Why not?

      Why not?
      • Mostly correct, but in the UK at least:

        Coal is not that cheap, and pollutes more than anything else

        We have a few machines like Dinorwig [ic.ac.uk] which feed peak demand from baseload generation.

        We have a lot of windmills that are politically correct, but sited where they disfigure the environment, and generate no electicity at all, as far as I can see.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Thus, Wind/Solar can't really be used as EITHER base or "Variable" load. ALL of the output of either Solar or Wind energy must be matched by other variable load sources, so that when the wind isn't blowing and/or the sun not shining, the system as a whole can preserve its integrity. And this is the part that nobody discusses.

        Nobody discusses? It is discussed pretty much every time wind and solar is brought up :) Still, an excellent post, but there is a couple of factors you have overlooked:

        One is weather forecasts. It is perfectly reasonable to predict the wind and solar power output for the next few hours. Thus, if you get a period where significant parts of UK enjoys no wind and fog, UK would have hours notice to start up those coal power plants, or bring on line an extra nuclear reactor or two. This is quite unlike the p

      • If you overproduce Base load you have rising voltages in the system and potentially cause problems.

        First effect of too large production in a system would not be a rise in voltage, but rise in frequency - both effects will happen, but frequency rise will be more significant. Voltage change is usually an effect of inadequate reactive power generation.

        Though, this is rarely a problem - if there was too much capacity at any time, they could offset the phase of a generator or two, causing one system to effectiv

      • by stomv (80392) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:34AM (#21654087) Homepage

        Notice that neither Wind or Solar energy can actually act as either Base or Variable loads.

        This isn't quite accurate. In many industrialized parts of the world, the annual peak load is during sunny periods. Think: Arizona. Why is the peak load during sunny periods? Air conditioning. When do solar cells produce the most electricity? During sunny periods. Correlation can be used to allow intermittent power to be considered "base". Is it possible that there'd be a peak on a cloudy day in Arizona, or at night? I guess. It's also possible that all the coal power plants will have to come down for emergency service at the same time.

        Correlation can also be used to allow wind to be base load, under at least two scenarios: In the first, if you had two wind turbines spread geographically in such a way that they were highly negatively correlated -- that is, if one was spinning, the other wasn't -- then you could count one of the two as base load, since one of the two will always spin. You won't be able to get two turbines with a coefficient of -1.0, but you might be able to find a series of turbines in which they were always generating some power, and you could count that as base. The other way to count wind turbines as base is to use a second source of power [say, natural gas, wood chips, landfill gas with a storage tank, etc] and force them to have a correlation of -1.0 by varying the output of the second source of power perfectly negatively with the wind, thereby guaranteeing a minimum output between the two systems.

        Are any of these methods applicable just anywhere? Nope. But, there's plenty of room for solar installations in the Southwest US to count as base [and as an added bonus they're distributed, so massive failure is far less likely], and some wind can be used as base load anywhere if there's enough negative correlation in wind or using a second type of power plant.

        All of this ignores the very real opportunity to use technology to shift peak. Give people instant feedback on the supply-demand curves [ie change price] and watch as they shift their usage off peak -- thinks like running the dishwasher or clothes washer/dryer will start happening later in the evening, helping to smooth the peak thereby making intermittent power sources like wind and solar less difficult to incorporate into the supply grid.
        • I believe that fridges and freezers consume ~ 5% of the national grid in the UK. You can over chill a fridge or freezer, and then switch it off for some hours, meaning that if the power company could control your fridge directly they could shut off 5% of the grid at peak usage time, and effectively store the output of turbines as cold in the fridge or freezer. It's not long term storage, but it'd cover a few hours.

          It's a big IF though.
      • by slim (1652)
        I'm no expert, but it seems to me that large scale energy storage projects should be able to address fluctuations in load.

        Your compressed air system would be one such project. The mainstream option for a long while has been hydroelectric (use surplus electricity to pump water into a reservoir; when demand is high, use that water to run a turbine).

        And there's the option of trying to flatten demand via economics (cheaper electricity at night), which has some success.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by supersnail (106701)
      I think this is actually a ploy to gain support for some new nukes.
      The number of turbines proposed averages out at one turbine for every two miles of coastline (according to the BBC news).

      Once middle England realises thier favorate beach/bird sanctuary/sea view is going to host a dozen turbines the "Not In My Back Yard" syndrome will kick in fast, then the UK government will say "Oh then we will have to build some nukes, heres a plan I made earlier".

      Most UK politicians are PR persons, lawyers or phone clean
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CmdrGravy (645153)
      Basically it's because the Labour government has been traditionally opposed to Nuclear power and whilst they do seem be coming around the realisation that it's actually the only option they also seem to be terrified of actually doing anything about it. Hence these stupid suggestions to build more windfarms.

      This is a pity because most of the current nuclear power plants will be decomissioned in the next 10 years along with quite a few of the coal fired ones leaving us with a large gap between the amount of e
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@g m a i l .com> on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @12:58AM (#21652103)
    Wonder what they'll make of it in Oregon..."

    The situation in Oregon called for the implementation of buoy-like devices to harness wave motion into power. Great Britain is talking about placing windmills offshore. The power generation and science in general is different. The politics of it may be the same though. I'm not qualified to speak about Brit NIMBY's (or I guess NOMSL-not on my shore line), Brit fisherman, or Brit energy lobbyists, as I am an American. I imagine there would be some resistance here, but I not familiar with the situation. On the other hand, wind is a proven tech so who knows. It really just comes down to how powerful the lobbying against this is, as it looks technically feasible and sufficiently beneficial.
    • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:52AM (#21652691) Journal
      They will most likely do stationary trubines in shallow water. Why not combine the pole with a bouy around it that generates wave power as well? I would think that the cost to do it is minimal.
    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:27AM (#21652827)
      One of our local farmers, a very progressive guy, tried to put up a serious wind turbine to power his farm. He was prevented by a hugely expensive public enquiry in which "experts" from nowhere local were paid to turn up by local celebrities who didn't want their views spoiled. They even wheeled on a celebrity botanist (!) named David Bellamy, who told the enquiry that over the world as a whole glaciers were increasing, not decreasing (and the other side were so startled they didn't call a real climatologist to disagree.)

      The opposition in the UK will come, not from locals, but weekending Londoners and expat American actors who will object to everything that spoils their view of the rest of the UK as their weekend playground. They will oppose the substations where power comes on shore (they've already done that in the Thames estuary), and, because they are lousy sailors, they will oppose anything that they might bump into while cruising drunk.

      And they will demand first access to food and power when the crunch comes. Welcome to a country of 60 million people entirely controlled by the inhabitants of one Southern city.

      • I have news for you dear boy... the UK planning system for major stategic projects is being "streamlined" precisely because of farces like the Hinkley Point PWR planning enquiries and the collapse of the road building programme in the early 90s in the face not of a bunch of crusties up trees, but by the costs involved in a full planning enquiry to which FotE, Greenpeace, CPRE etc would all be represented and would all put up very strong experts with well researched evidence. Even if the locals at the exist
    • Incidentally, the headline's wrong. It's not "UK wants huge expansion..." it's "UK *announces* huge expansion..." . This is not a proposal or a concept plan, this is a solid, funded, project and it WILL be built.
    • For what it's worth, pretty much everyone reported in the UK press seems to like this idea. All the major political parties are behind it. The relevant parts of the energy industry are behind it, of course. But the environmental lobby are behind it, too, and there have been very few dissenting voices generally.

      Basically, we have a lot of untapped, renewable resources in this area, and doing it off-shore both increases the yields and reduces the eyesore and wastage of land (a relatively scarce resource in

  • Kennedy Comment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <instascreed.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:11AM (#21652173) Homepage
    Good thing for the UK Teddy Kennedy doesn't own coastal property there. They'd be screwed.
  • Mmm breezy (Score:3, Funny)

    by OzRoy (602691) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:25AM (#21652261)
    At least the windmills will keep the beaches cool in summer...
  • by AcidPenguin9873 (911493) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:26AM (#21652275)

    (*) It will be fought by entrenched fishing interests

    (FWIW it is my firm belief that this phrase should become the next Slashdot meme.)

    • by OriginalArlen (726444) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:42AM (#21652357)
      No, it won't. The North Sea is pretty much fished out, and a combination of "no fish" and draconian quota restrictions brought in to try to help the remainder to recover has lead to there being very few commercial fishing fleet left in the UK. The remaining couple of dozen of inshore trawlers don't exactly have the government in their back pockets.
      • Sigh. I would have thought my quip about memes would have tipped off the mods and potential repliers. My original post was a reference to this post [slashdot.org], which itself was a refernce to this joke [craphound.com], both of which are meant to be funny, not serious.
        • You haven't been round the spam-fighting community much, have you... I have to tell you that those are only half-joking. Your objection is one I've seen before (eg on the Oregon tidal system story) so I thought it worth pointing out that fishing interests are really not a problem over here.
      • by Xest (935314)
        Any idea if these windmills have an adverse effect on ocean dwelling creatures or can they happily swim around them without trouble?

        I'm just intrigued by the idea that whilst providing power, they may also provide protection to allow fish stocks to recover in the waters around them where trawlers will struggle to fish.

        Of course, I hear these things are quite bad for birds instead however so it's still not entirely harmless I guess.
    • How much political or public sway to the "entrenched fishing interests" have?

      Three fifths of bugger all I'd expect.

      In the long run a large area which is never fished will probably have a rather positive effect on fish "restocking" levels.
    • by laptop006 (37721)
      ITYM "the thugs in the scallop industry [wikipedia.org]" for "entrenched fishing interests"
  • Good news! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ls671 (1122017) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:35AM (#21652315) Homepage
    The only way I can view us solve the energy crisis and its effects is:

    1) Phase out coal and fossil thermal plant. Fossil fuel will be reserved for things like airplanes or other moving equipment because of its high energy density (13 KWh/kg for gasoline compared to 0.14 KWh/kg for flywheels and 0.04 KWh/kg for batteries). It will slowly become obvious that it is silly to use fossil fuel for stationary equipment like power plants.
    2) Use existing hydro infrastructure
    3) Use wind
    4) Use solar
    5) Use nuclear
    6) Etc..
    In short, let's not put all our eggs in the same basket. This way if one way to get energy fails, we still have alternatives. Let's not pretend we are infallible and that we will get it right the first time with a single approach.

    I have problems with a recent article on /. saying we should only use nuclear because other ways can't meet the "base load". Funny how scientists can sometime ignore simple principle like "do not put all your eggs in the same basket".
    • by polar red (215081)
      Well, and I have a problem with the fact that people assume that wind can't provide base load. If your target area is big enough, there will always be wind. If there's no wind in the UK, there will certainly be wind in Norway or Portugal. There are always High-pressure and Low-pressure areas, with wind spiralling from the former to the latter.
    • by o'reor (581921)
      You forgot one, probably the most important :

      0) Use low-consumption electric appliances, enhance energy efficiency in every aspect of modern life and industrial development.


      The rise of energy prices will probably drive us towards that trend anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anne Thwacks (531696)
      let's not put all our eggs in the same basket

      You must be new here

      • by ls671 (1122017)
        Well not "that" new , only the 590,321th registered user after you ;-)

        Anyway slashdotters don't put all their eggs in the same basket and I find there is a lot of "diversity" here:

        Here is an example:

        1) Ubuntu
        2) Fedora
        3) Debian
        4) Slackware
        5) Red-Hat
        6) Suze
        7) etc.

        Do you see the diversity now ? ;-)
  • Story update (Score:5, Informative)

    by OriginalArlen (726444) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:39AM (#21652347)
    Since I submitted the story on Sunday, they've actually made the announcement [bbc.co.uk] (on Sunday, it was just being heavily trailed in the press.)
  • by compumike (454538) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:09AM (#21652505) Homepage
    Denmark's Horns Rev [wikipedia.org] wind farm, which I believe is the world's largest offshore wind farm, was built in 2002. They had incredible maintenance issues with the turbines and electronics, due to the harsh environment with salt water. In fact, they cite 75,000 maintenance trips -- each requiring an engineer to be lowered down from a helicopter onto a turbine's nacelle platform -- in the first 1.5 years of operation. That's a lot for 80 wind turbines. And that was very expensive. Hope they get this right in the UK.

    --
    Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nogginthenog (582552)
      Well the UK already has at least 1 offshore windfarm at Kentish Flats [kentishflats.co.uk]
      Granted it's only 30 turbines.
    • by perky (106880)
      75,000 trips to 80 turbines in 18 months? Or 1.7 chopper flights per turbine per day? Don't be silly - they'd be bust in a week.
    • I guarantee the UK plant, at least, is designed to be accessible by boat rather than helicopter. (TBH I'd be surprised if it were otherwise anywhere else, have you got a reference for that claim?)
    • by Nim82 (838705)
      Can't see them getting it right here, I live near a big land based farm in Wales and we have the same problem. In the 10 years I've lived here, on any given day, at least half are out of service and non functioning. The fuel used to get big cranes and 4x4's up to them probably uses more power than they actually generate. When they were built they had to destroy a largish wooded area to make room and build an access road too.
    • by Peden (753161)
      Horn's rev is built with Vestas' faulty windmills. After all their problems they stopped selling offshore windmills.

      Siemens Wind Power is the only producer of offshore parks as far as I know and have not experienced any major problems. Several parks are planned in the UK at Siemens are putting up the so called Greater Gabbard wind farm with arounrd 140 windmills.
    • by cozziewozzie (344246) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @09:46AM (#21655285)
      They had incredible maintenance issues with the turbines and electronics, due to the harsh environment with salt water. In fact, they cite 75,000 maintenance trips -- each requiring an engineer to be lowered down from a helicopter onto a turbine's nacelle platform -- in the first 1.5 years of operation.

      That's 150 trips per day.

      For 80 turbines.

      So each turbine had to be serviced twice every day for 1.5 years, and each one of these involved a helicopter trip.

      Are you sure about this?
  • Numbers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Propaganda13 (312548) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:35AM (#21652873)
    UK Demand 2007 = 358 TWh
    Estimated UK Demand 2020 = 381 TWh
    Increase in demand = 23 TWh
    Vesta V80 2MW wind turbine will make about 0.006666666 TWh in a year. V80's are used at North Hoyle Offshore Wind Farm.
    3451 Vesta V80 will be required to meet the increase in demand.
    This does not cover the loss of some coal-fired power stations after 2015.

    Currently, there are 155 wind farm projects in the UK, with 1,900 turbines making around 6.4 TWh. The average makes around .003376295 TWh in a year, about half a V80. So increasing the efficiency of all wind turbines to average a V80 would be an accomplishment.

    57151 Vesta V80 would be required to make the 381 TWh in 2020. Over 7 wind turbines each mile of coastline.

    All errors above were possibly intentional.
  • stop this nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by e70838 (976799)
    All this is crap: wind turbines cost a lot to produce, need a lot of copper which production is very poluting and the amount of energy produced is always bellow estimations. The only purpose of wind turbine farms is to get subventions and fiscal advantages, there is no ecological justification and once this will become obvious to everybody, the subventions and fiscal advantages will disapear and we will stop this nonsense.
  • And what'd be the power trasmission medium? Copper cables?
    Ah ah ah ah!
  • by giafly (926567) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @04:11AM (#21653029)

    Ministers want 20% of Britain's energy needs to come from renewable energy sources by 2020, and see wind power as a major element of it - BBC.
    That 20% figure is for all renewable sources, not just wind. For example a tidal barrage across the Severn River [wikipedia.org] might produce several percent of this.
  • by master811 (874700)
    No, Its 20% of HOMES, not 20% of entire power usage - I'm not sure if thats how it was intended but I certainly read it as not including industry and the like (which is still gonna be a huge amount).

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