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UK Wants Huge Expansion In Offshore Wind Power 264

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 @01:56AM (#21652089)
    France does it quite well. In fact they're a net energy exporter.
  • Good news! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:35AM (#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 Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:57AM (#21652423) Journal
    Well, as I understand it, the windmill turns the wind into bread, and the building simply sways back and forth in an impressive display of capitalism. ...but, um, that's not what you were asking, is it? Nevermind.
  • by compumike ( 454538 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:09AM (#21652505) Homepage
    Denmark's Horns Rev [] 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. []
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:52AM (#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 polar red ( 215081 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @04:22AM (#21652817)
    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:,2144,2994904,00.html []
  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @04:27AM (#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.

  • Numbers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Propaganda13 ( 312548 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @04:35AM (#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.
  • by master811 ( 874700 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @05:33AM (#21653157)
    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).
  • by EsbenMoseHansen ( 731150 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:14AM (#21653283) Homepage

    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 power spikes that e.g. gas turbines handle so well, which are quite unpredictable. However, you are right that you need to increase the amount of variable power potential regardless.

    The other is fuel cells (or perhaps another tech will turn out to be the holy grail, but fuel cells looks well under way). As hydrogen can be transported in the gas line along with methane (at least, in DK the pipes are made to able to do this), surplus wind power can be stored and used to alleviate some of the worst spikes, thus reducing the need for gas turbines.

  • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:34AM (#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.
  • by cozziewozzie ( 344246 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @10:46AM (#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?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @11:27AM (#21655831)
    Coupled with the disastrous notion of privatisation and the destruction of most of our manufacturing base, it has ensured that Britain will never again be truly great.

    Old industrial manufacturing was never going to make Britian "great". When people whine about Thatcher "destroying" manufacturing they always forget to mention that it was also the Thatcher government that opened up the UK to world trading markets and allowed London to establish itself firmly as one of the world top financial centres. Thatcher allowed us to shrug off the old heavy manufacturing legacy and move into the financial, services and high technology industries which have proved to be highly profitable.

    Take a look at Germany or France and tell me they're better off than Britian is now. Take a look at what Sarkozy is trying to in France now: Thatcher did all that and more twenty years ago, and now the other European countries are finally waking up and realising that they too need to reform or die.

    The Poll Tax was a dumb idea though, and the treasury made a complete mess of things during the entire Tory government (Thatcher & Major).
  • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @01:44PM (#21658431) Homepage Journal
    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 it to generate all the needed power - the lack of reliability just makes it more expensive because you need to at least add temporary storage.
  • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:44AM (#21667795)
    I've seen the aftermath of someone manually paralleling a generator. They waited until the sync lights were their brightest to close the breaker... which is 180 degrees out of phase (you want to do it when the lights are off-- no voltage difference). The generator pulled off its vibration isolators and flipped on its end. Stayed inside the building, but you could see the damage to the louvers.

    We weren't allowed to take any pictures, and googling generally yields results on utility-grade units which are a bit more solid construction and have better protections to prevent more than twisting the shaft and control rod damage.

Keep up the good work! But please don't ask me to help.