West Fifers need a wind energy 'reality check'
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The changing face of the West Fife skyline showing FMC's newly-erected wind turbine.
Picture: Jim Payne
A PETROLEUM engineer has warned of the "massive reality check" West Fifers need to have in relation to alternative sources of energy.
Richard Lyon, who worked for BP for 16 years, spoke to Saline residents last week on the "rapidly declining" global energy supply - and said communities had to start taking steps "to build a system to protect themselves".
Richard, whose parents live in Saline, got interested in the dropping fuel supply while at BP and now aims to raise awareness of the issues at stake.
Now the director for a Dundee social enterprise, he said communities were the "best place to sort out the problem".
He underlined, "Communities are the only place it can happen.
"When a company wants to put something like a wind turbine up, the community doesn't want it and an individual putting on a jumper and turning off the lights isn't going to fix it.
"Communities are the perfect size for it - and it's when they own something that you can get them to accept it."
Richard did not condone or condemn wind turbines but compared the situation to musical chairs.
He said, "The music is playing because we're printing money and for as long as the system is running we can afford to build these things.
"But there are more communities than there are chairs and when the music stops what you have at that point in the community is what you'll have to live with.
"There will come a point when even if you want it, you can't have it, because you won't have the money.
"UK gas supply is halving every five years; UK oil supply is halving every 10 years, fuel prices are going up and increased prices get passed on to the customer.
"And those people who are complaining that they can't see the view will very soon be writing letters of complaint because they can't afford to heat their houses."
Saline Community Council member Donald Murdoch, who deals with planning matters, agreed it was "a serious issue".
He said, "We will need to dig our heads out of the sand and think about how our children will survive in the future.
"It's something that requires a lot of investigation and what we'd like to do is look at it and find something that the community needs."
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Oct 28, 11:55
Oct 28, 20:39
Oct 28, 23:16
What utter rubbish. An other environmental green spoiling life for everybody. These monstrosities are an eyesore and despite what other less educated posters think cause low level noise pollution. Live beside one and you will soon find out what I mean.
No wind turbines in my backyard please. If you want to put them in Rosyth, nobody cares, but nowhere near me please.
Recommend? Yes 22 No 31
Oct 29, 13:55
And whereabouts were the West Fifers in need of a reallity check, whos views have been destroyed by this eyesore, consulted about its construction?
The public at large have and continue to be fooled by the whole wind turbines and good clean renewable energy farce. The huge amount of windfarms constructed in recent years do not make any significant contribution to the country's energy needs, that is fact. Another fact is that the sole reason that these horrendous structures are built is the not for so called free energy generated by the wind but by monies received through government initiatives and certificates.
Whitelee windfarm over by Eaglesham moor is rated at 300 megawatts, what an acheivement says Mr Salmond, the fact is that most days this waste of time and money is generating a fraction of its capacity whilst its owners rub their hands together with all the money made from the grants, subsidies etc.
In the very near future the UK will have very few base load power stations left as they become de-commisioned, someone please tell me how we will power the country then, 'cause wind power won't cut it unless perhaps we base Salmond at some of these winfarms, I'm sure he could power a few with the amount of hot air he spouts!
The country needs a re-boot when it comes to much of the pie in the sky talk of windpower.
Recommend? Yes 16 No 20
Oct 29, 14:22
Why did FMC not combine forces with Fife Coucil and Scottish Power and have the Turbine erected at one of the many wind farms situated around the country? The money being spent on the turbine at Dunfermline High School could have been jointly invested in the large turbine and the profits/green accreditation shared. These turbines are metered at source. They do not have to be built next to the properties they are supplying the electricity to.
Recommend? Yes 13 No 14
Oct 29, 20:01
Mr Lyon I think it is you that needs the reality check,the power requirement from the turbines is highly inefficient.The so called free electricity that first minister Salmond spouts on about what a joke.This so called free electricity takes 12.5% from each households electricity bill,which pays the grants and subsidies to the landowners who have them installed.Remove the grant scheme and see how many applications come through for wind turbines.
Incidental during the harsh winter last year there was not enough wind to achieve any power from nearly all the turbines in the UK for a 3 week period,what would you suggest Mr Lyon put on extra jumper and turn the lights off.
Recommend? Yes 20 No 13
Oct 31, 15:31
Fintry is a village in Stirlingshire with 300+ homes. Half of them were in fuel poverty. Instead of moaning about the spoiled view, they clubbed together and built an extra turbine on a nearby development. With the current income of £30,000 a year for the village, they installed insulation in half their homes, reduced fuel poverty by 50% and reduced the total village energy bills by £90,000 a year. When the turbine loan is repaid, their income will be £400,000 a year - that's £1,200 per household - to pay for community renewable energy projects.
So now we know the cost to the protesters of the view. £1,200 a year, per family. I hope it's worth it.
You can see a video about what they are doing here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls_1p8ad2mc or find "Wind of Change - Fintry community renewable energy film" on youtube.
Recommend? Yes 13 No 5
Nov 1, 14:37
... and Gigha community-owned wind farm off the Kintyre peninsula cost the islanders £440,000 (which they got from the lottery, a commercial loan from Social Investment Scotland and some equity finance) earns the community £85,000 a year net, or about £28,000 a year per turbine. Across the water on Kintyre, the developer-owned turbines pay the Kintyre community about £370 per turbine. Interesting stuff. But then again, maybe the view is that valuable. Who can say?
Recommend? Yes 5 No 4
Nov 2, 12:41
There is no doubt that windfarms are suitable, (when the wind blows, you will always need some back up/diversity of supply), in some circumstances.
However, the economical arguments do not really stack up, remember the income figures you give are grossly inflated due to the huge feed in tarrifs currently in place, similar to the feed in tarrifs that are paid into households that install solar panels, this help make the investment worthwhile at the expense of every taxpayer and energy user.
Let's consider a world where there was a level playing field;take away the feed in tarrifs and instead of receiving money from the lottery, SIS and equity finance, Gigha had to approach the banks on a purely commercial basis. Would taking on a £440k loan make commercial sense? It is highly likely that the real income from the wind turbine would even make the interest payments, let alone start eating into the capital.
Half the problem is the inflated feed in tariffs that are paid at every taxpayer and energy user's expense, do you think that the focus on building massive windfarms and the recent energy increases are just co-incidence?
Itis also interesting that the SIS "works closely with The Scottish Government not only to deliver the £30 million Scottish Investment Fund to the Third Sector but also to support delivery in key policy areas such as community renewable energy." quoted from their own website, in other words Mr Salmond and his crew are ensuring that monies will be made available for such projects, again who is ultimately paying for these falsified investments? Yes, yet again it is the humble taxpayer, saver etc.
where the £440k investment by the people of Gigha had to be funded by other means rather than the lottery and Social Investment Scotland who are closely partnered with the Scottish Executive, (I refuse to recognise the term Government for that bunch in Hollyrood), who just so happen to be on a windfarm fix at the moment
Recommend? Yes 4 No 2
Nov 2, 12:50
Ignore the last paragraph of my last post, should have been removed post editing.
Forgot to add though, the feed in tarrifs won't last forever, this could put many who have made significant investment in voltaic solar panels and other renewable energy sources that attract the feed in tarrifs in a bit of a predicament.
Above all, please don't think that I am anti-renewables, far from it but the country as a whole needs to look at diversity rather that put all its eggs in one basket with windpower and also look at the real cost benefit argument without all the various subsidies available for the time being.
Recommend? Yes 3 No 1
Nov 2, 15:35
daddyo - I appreciate your view, but there are some points I can't agree with.
> the economical arguments do not really stack up, remember the income figures you give are grossly inflated due to the huge feed in tarrifs currently in place
In fact, the figures *underestimate* future income because they do not reflect the doubling of electricity prices we will shortly experience. These are dominated by (1) your supplier's fuel costs and (2) your supplier's capital costs for building replacement generating capacity. Both are on the threshold of colossal increases.
The role of the tariff is to accelerate investment in capacity while the economy is still functioning - the time to make these investments is not *after* energy becomes unaffordable, then intermittent.
> Would taking on a £440k loan make commercial sense? It is highly likely that the real income from the wind turbine would even make the interest payments, let alone start eating into the capital.
Interest rates are at a historic low and, in this economic climate, unable to rise. Community developments attract alternate sources of investment capital with lower interest rates than commercial developments. Future real income will dwarf interest repayments, even without tariff. "Green" investment funds report an insufficient volume of projects to absorb capital fleeing collapsing "brown" investment.
> Half the problem is the inflated feed in tariffs that are paid at every taxpayer and energy user's expense, do you think that the focus on building massive windfarms and the recent energy increases are just co-incidence?
The energy commodity price index i.e. the fuel price for electricity generation - has risen 440% in the last 10 years (look up indexmundi.com). Your share of tariff payments is almost unmeasurable. Half the problem with the energy debate in the UK is that people just don't understand the basic numbers.
> who is ultimately paying for these falsified investments? Yes, yet again it is the humble taxpayer, saver etc.
Your distinction between customers, tax payers, etc, is false - there is only one source of capital, and that's you, either in your tax bill or your fuel bill. You appear to be arguing that you should reject the opportunity to earn £1,000 per year per household because of a £10 per year per household tariff cost. Like arguments about the value of the view today in comparison to the value of having affordable energy in a couple of years time, it's not one I find convincing.
Rejection of renewable energy only makes sense if there is a better, affordable alternative available of sufficient capacity in sufficient timescales - yet I don't think you could suggest any alternative that isn't either a science project or a science fiction story. Time's up. We haven't time to wait around until the perfect solution arrives. We need to get building, and the communities that are doing so seem to me to be doing a lot better than those that aren't.
Recommend? Yes 3 No 5
Nov 3, 11:22
Ditto tylerdurden, I completely respect your view and don't intend to turn this into a never ending debate where we have differing views and will just get frustrated at each other. As I have said there are circumstances where wind turbines make a lot of sense however, the country should not be in a position where we become overly reliant on them, as per my comments re diversity of supply.
My argument remains however that wind farms are currently heavily subsidised in many ways and yes it is both the customer and the tax payer that pay the price for these subsidies. The feed in tariff being one of these subsidies and currently under review for all new build/installed renewable sources from Jan 2012 onward, the rational for this review and I suspect a heavy reduction is perhaps because the level of subsidy in place is not sustainable moving forward.
I do not reject the fact that under the current economical and political climate that a household tied into or with renewable energy sources installed can and does make £1000 p/a but this will change, as you know this figure is made from the feed in tariff. It is entirely feasible that should the economical/political climate change that the old adage here today, gone tomorrow could well apply and that could put people who have made major investments into renewable sources of energy up a certain creek with no means of propulsion.
From a personal view, and digressing slightly, the worst thing that happened was the electricity supply industry being handed carte blanche into the private sector, worthy of note is that many European countries, although run privately in the main, remain a percentage owned by the governments, this is why some years ago the French Government basically stuck two fingers up at an aggressive takeover bid for EDF by E.on, thus retaining the Energy supply industry in the hands of a French owned company. Look at the UK energy market , it is now owned almost in its entirety by foreign companies who in reality have little interest in whether the lights go out in the UK. It is also no coincidence in the amount of wind farms that have been erected in the UK sit there for days, even weeks on end not generating but still making these foreign money through various subsidies and agreements, even more galling is that we are actually feeding money from this directly to those governments who retain part ownership of these companies.
Recommend? Yes 4 No 1
Nov 3, 12:05
> the worst thing that happened was the electricity supply industry being handed carte blanche into the private sector
I don't think it is a digression at all - markets work great when the conditions necessary to maintain the market are in place, and they don't work at all when they aren't. We are now on the verge of massive market failure.
Your points are all well made. The situation is far from satisfactory. But the point you haven't made - and I think can't make - is why, given where we are, doing nothing is better than doing something, however unsatisfactory. You point out that we will lose 25% of generating capacity in the next five years.The government is paralysed. The market has failed. There is no plan B. In a country in which 30,000 people a year already die of cold related illness in winter, we will (collectively, not you and me!) still be arguing the toss as they introduce energy rationing, by which time it will be too late.
Recommend? Yes 2 No 2
Nov 3, 13:26
"The government is paralysed. The market has failed. There is no plan B. In a country in which 30,000 people a year already die of cold related illness in winter, we will (collectively, not you and me!) still be arguing the toss as they introduce energy rationing, by which time it will be too late."
Agreed, and this is in essence why I get so passionate about the reality of our situation. The wind turbine/farm argument is what it is but the reality is that so much focus has been made on this one part solution, again partly because of Government/Executive funding/grants etc that have been made available. The ESI should have had at least 5 plates spinning, considering all options, clean coal, nuclear, tidal, wave and indeed wind power, but they have concentrated on spinning one plate furiously whilst neglecting all the others.
Recommend? Yes 5 No 1
Nov 3, 21:58
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Nov 7, 14:35
You forgot solar power. Nuclear isn't an option! Tidal and wave are the same. Hemp and willow can be used for biomass instead of coal. As long as economics and politics are involved the full range of possibilities for creating renewabele and sustainable power will never be considered. There could be mini-power stations on every street, houses could create their own power, the options are limitless, it just takes imagination. This would liberate people from relying on the Nationlal Grid but it would mean they wouldn't be easily controlled by government. We have huge military resources being used to destroy other people's countries when they should be getting used to restore this country's infrastructure and housing stock.
Recommend? Yes 1 No 1
Nov 7, 16:07
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Nov 8, 12:23
Nov 8, 15:45