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Thursday, October 04, 2012

If Pigs could Fly The Conservatives Would Have An Idea

This article is now up on ThinkScotland. Please post comments there:

  This press release is the Tories' brilliant new thought on keeping the lights on:
"Scottish Conservative energy spokeswoman Mary Scanlon MSP said:

“Given the SNP’s obsession with windfarms, it makes sense for existing ones to be made more effective, meaning there will be less need for others to be built in future.

“We cannot have a situation where there is a single-minded drive to force windfarms on communities across Scotland, regardless of how little energy they produce.

“People will find it hard to accept that windfarms are producing energy which is being simply wasted.

“Electricity storage would solve a lot of problems for the Scottish Government, especially as councils and residents across Scotland are losing patience with its bullying approach on the matter.”

    Certainly if energy could be easily and cheaply stored  many of our problems would be solved.

   And if pigs could fly we could raise bacon in dovecots.

   There are some basic laws of physics that get in the way. Pigs would need to far more efficiently burn food to fly (except in the cargo holds of 747s). In the same way the Laws of Thermodynamics prevent transfering energy from one state (electricity) to another (something you can store) without significant losses. Perhaps they should just repeal the Law of Gravity - phusicists consider that marginally less fundamental than the thermodynamics ones.

    We actually do have a storage method which is pretty inefficient. Cruachan above Loch Awe is a pump storage site. Off peak energy from Hunterston is sent the relatively short distance, as the cable flies, and pumps seawater 360m up Ben Cruachan and lets it run down again when needed. This is as efficient as we are going to get since it is a physically simple system that does not involves dissociating atoms as batteries & some other magic solutions would. It returns about 60% of the power put in. Add the losses from transporting the power to and from and we get back about 55%.

  Cruachan can produce 400MW. When built in the early 1960s it cost £14 million. In inflation terms that is £200 million now but,  the Forth Bridge cost £19 million and is now costed, for reasons no Holyrood MSP is willing to explain, at £2,600 million. So £1.5 billion, for a project run by them would not be unexpected.

    With the Westinghouse AP1000 gigawatt reactor on sale at £800 million worldwide another Cruachan might just about make sense, if another equally viable site were known of & it could be done at the lower price. because it uses off peak nuclear power which has a marginal cost of about zero.

    But as a way of pretending windmill, electricity, already far and away more expensive than any commercial power source, makes any sense it is merely piling new subsidy on old subsidies to hide how expensive and unreliable it is.

   The shame of this is not that this is what the Conservatives are saying. It is that this is the what the Conservative radical thinkers are saying

   Most of them are happy to simply go along with what the "Holyrood Consensus" wants until their brand, someday, "detoxifies" itself.

    Proving not only that pigs can't fly but that dinosaurs can't either.

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