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Saturday, January 21, 2006


The Scotsman today published this short letter - unfortunately they shortened it by taking out the explanation as to why the amount of power produced under most wind conditions is pretty nominal. I know that readers are normally expected to be turned off by statistics but this greatly weakened the point. Deletions shown []
In defending the British Wind Energy Association [from accusations of "fiddling its numbers" ] Richard Ford (12th jan) has produced some misleading numbers. While it may be true that windmills produce power 75/80% of the time they don't produce very much.[ The energy generated is proportional to the cube of wind speed so a 12 mph wind produces only a very nominal 1/8th of a 24 mph wind.]

His statement that wind is free, while true, ignores the fact that that windmills are so expensive & inefficient that it ends up twice as expensive as most alternatives.
Gary read this email out on Radio Scotland on Friday during a discussion about global warming. I think that with Bliar having quietly decided to ditch Kyoto the BBC have noticed that the party line has changed. One of the guests was Benny Pieser whose CCN is blogrolled here. By comparison a few months ago Newsnight broadcast what they described as a report on the non-catastrophic side of the GW debate which had 2 x 10 second soundbites from sceptics & the rest was rubbishing them.
The actual evidence for global warming, as opposed to computer models which are only as good as the assumption programmed into them, is very limited indeed.

On the other hand we know that the world has been warmer than it is today, around 1200 & in the late roman period when grapes grew in York without catastrophe, indeed both periods were relatively prosperous.

This letter was unpublished by the Herald. I am rather sorry about that since it left Alex Salmond's letter uncriticised. The SNP policy of playing up to the luddites over nuclear is pure populism, even if now no longer particularly popular, & unworthy of a serious alternative government.
I would like to defend the English from the charge of improperly providing even more subsidies to a putative London windfarm than to one in Northern Scotland (Alex Salmond letter 13th Jan). The answer is hysteresis. Transferring electricity hundreds of miles loses energy & since London uses more electricity than northern Scotland electricity generated there is de facto less useful.

As the entire windfarm industry depends on us providing massive subsidies the market principle has already been waived but the villains here are the laws of physics not of Westminster.

Mr Salmond is correct when he attacks Ofgem as having acted as "apparatchiks" for politicians in bringing about the entirely unnecessary energy crisis we are now facing (& the worse to come). Indeed it is the failure of the entire political establishment to allow the creation of new nuclear reactors rather than choose the "dash to gas" which is responsible for this crisis. A crisis which is much more serious for Scotland not only because so much more of our power comes from reactors due to close but because, again due to hysteresis, Scotland cannot make much use of the French nuclear power (produced at 1.5p a unit & sold at much more) which already provides 5% of UK electricity & keeps the south of England safe.

Unfortunately he has been one of those selfsame politicians who assumed that windmills will work if they just believe in them strongly enough. I have elsewhere* credited the SNP with having adopted a modern & progressive economic policy to achieve Irish style growth but their current energy policy remains driven by doctrine rather than reality & would be disastrous for Scotland.
Yours Faithfully
Neil Craig
* letter in the Scotsman last spring but we need not go into that
This letter was also unpublished. In this case I am largely going over old ground in response to Mr Robertson doing the same. Unfortunately with neither this nor the last letter published the figure of 1.5p a unit for French & Canadian nuclear electricity production is still unpublished - the link showing foreign nuclear costs (in cents) is provided at the end.
Mr Robertson doubts (letter 29/12) there is a difference between the maximum proportions of electricity generators can produce & their average rate. Nuclear does produce, at a low marginal cost, at its maximum rate for nearly 24/7 whereas windmills (granted I use an extreme example) work only an average of 28% capacity. It follows with inevitability that if nuclear represents 37% of installed capacity it is going to produce a much higher amount of the end product.

In another letter* he doubts the Royal Academy of Engineering figure of 2.3p per unit of nuclear electricity as being incorrectly low. Readers may be interested to know that France & Canada, among others, produce electricity at around 1.5p a unit (Uranium Information Centre figures). These countries use modern off the shelf reactors unlike our 40 year old bespoke ones. Should we decide to do something to replace the 2/3rds of our production (some coal & all nuclear) due to close in the next 15 years we could do the same.
Yours Sincerely
Neil Craig

Ref International nuclear costs in cents

hysteresis = transmission losses? Can you please explain?
"On the other hand we know that the world has been warmer than it is today,.."

The geological record also indicates it has been colder, much of the north of England has evidence of glacial activity.

So, the evidence for recent and specifically man made global warming is, at best inconclusive, compared to the earths naturally occurring trends.
Sorry for the delay replying. You are quite right hysteresis is indeed a technical term for transmission losses. The creation of a magnetic field slows the current. I was being uneccessarily technical.
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