Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Renewable Energy and Scotland

Scotland definately has a proud engineering heritage. See an incomplete wiki list here. The future of energy is increasingly political with 'peak oil' a very real and imminent danger and the highly controversial carbon trading exchange issue.

I came across this article:

Gold mining magnate donates £1.3m to Edinburgh university
Robert M Buchan, who hails from Rosyth, has donated the money for research into sustainable energy.

and naturally think that Scotland could well be a hub for renewable technologies. As the philanthropist is quoted:

The money will fund a top-level post in sustainable energy engineering, with a view to keeping Scotland at the forefront of the field.

And this month we will see a visit from the Spanish company Gamesa. A fact-finding mission who NewsNetScotland quotes as stating:

Gamesa will play a leading role in offshore wind energy's progress and wants to be at the centre of the development process. Therefore, the visit to Scotland will help in our decision making about potential investments in the UK, which we recognise is becoming a renewable energy hub with significant wind projects and a promising future for offshore.

With renewable energy projects all over the world up and running and a massive volume of projects in the pipeline in Asia, Europe and North America can we say that it is all a big scam like one commentor on Scotland Unspun, RMcGeddon argues?

As many thinking voters know in Scotland, there is no end to propaganda when the subject of oil comes up. Energy is vital to the our economies and modern society in general and so there's no doubt that we are subjected to lies, damned lies and statistics on the matter.

Certainly, on my blog many posts only slightly related to energy is turned into a debate on windmills and climate change scams etc.

Let's see then if we can have as informed a debate as possible on the subject. A debate where posters can up the game and give SOUND cases for and against renewables being a valid energy source or just another scam.

Can we do that?


cynicalHighlander said...

Alex the problem is that all fuels are valued in a financial way which is why there is such controversy.

If they were valued as they should be on calorific value then it would show a marked difference to the misleading information out there. 'EROEI' Energy Return on Energy Invested.


Alex Porter said...

Hi CH,
Can't seem to get that link working. Yeh, I looked into a whole case that the EROEI on corn-based ethanol was so low in most parts of the US as not to make financial investment viable.

Perhaps you can summarise why EROEI is at the heart of the problem and explain why the 'energy debate' is really about 'fuel'?

cynicalHighlander said...

Hi Alex link ok my end.

After doing some rough calcs it looks like this.

Wood comes in at 1.5p per cal.
Oil 0.9p " "
Coal 0.03p " "

This shows that burning wood to produce electricity is nonsense as it needs large subsidy it would be far better to supply hot water to adjacent buildings as required.

no guarantee on my figures but it shows the disparity between energy prices resulting in total confushion on how we use different renewable and finite energies.

RMcGeddon said...


You keep mentioning peak oil and I keep telling you that we don't use oil in our power stations ( apart from 2 in the UK - both being decommissioned) so it's not relevant.

Gamesa are just following the subsidies. If Scotland is putting in £8Bn to reach their target of 40% reduction in CO2 then that's where the action is. Spain is bankrupt and can't pay the subsidies any longer so they're just following the money to Scotland..


No windfarms would ever be built without the EU / Copenhagen etc summit agreements that tie in countries to reduce their CO2 emissions and pay subsidies for windmills etc. Without the climate change scam it would all fall apart.

Once the people in the UK can't afford to subsidise the windfarms with more and more expensive electricity then the govt will be forced to stop the madness and Gamesa will move to another country.

The scrap merchants will have some windmills to melt down so it's not all for nothing I suppose.

Alex Porter said...

Can you explain a bit about 'calorific value' - I'm confused about how it relates to 'renewables'..

Alex Porter said...

The price of oil effects the price of 95% of products manufactured. The whole point of 'peak oil' or 'peak cheap oil' is that it drives up prices to the point where demand drops off and you have a collapse in industrial society. When that happens our energy needs will drop to around one-third of what it is now.

This has enormous consequences. Firstly, Scotland having oil will be important for security and a better transition to a post-industrial society. That aside it shows up nuclear as total nonsense. Clearly targets on carbon use are going to be met anyway as industrial society collapses and so the figures are silly. Demand will drop to the point where less energy will be imported/exported.

It seems to me then that 'peak oil' is central to the whole debate.

I see the logic of what you say about windfarms but no proof. I mean Gamesa are already all over the world and have many thousands of workers in production plants in several continents. That to me is evidence of demand for their product. It is certainly a stronger indicator than the assertion that they are simply following subsidies. Have you seen their financial models? Are they pulling out of Spain? Isn't subsidy a very typical part of rolling out expensive new infrastructure? I just don't see a case here?

What is net energy gain/loss of a windmill? Wouldn't that case back you up? I've been told windmills used to take 20 years to pay for themselves but that's down to 5 now and new technology would improve that rapidly. It's the same with solar panels or nuclear power plants or anything else - it takes time to return investment. In your scenario, it would never be repaid. Wouldn't that be the best way to prove your case?

RMcGeddon said...


You said...

" In your scenario, it would never be repaid. Wouldn't that be the best way to prove your case?"

I don't need to go into all the calorific values etc. We've got examples on our doorstep of what the future holds if we go down the windfarm route. Belgium is 10 years ahead of us and here is a summary of where they're at. I've put the sources at the end.

6,000 turbibnes

electricity prices double that of the UK

Difficulties in getting planning permission for any more due to noise nuisance etc

Provide 19% electricity

All convential power stations remained open.

50% more coal now used due to need for energy to ramp up and down when the wind sector can't provide any electricity.

carbon emissions up 36%

population have to travel outside of Denmark if they enjoy a clear view of a hill.

So my answer is no. They will never pay for themselves and require the high subsidies or will be binned immediately.




RMcGeddon said...


My example was Denmark not Belgium.

cynicalHighlander said...

Alex Its just another unit of energy. I find calories easier to relate to especially when one is using growing crops to provide fuel. 1 calorie = 4.184 joules. 1 calorie of food takes 7 to 10 calories of oil to produce.


What I am trying to explain is that to use one form of finite/growing fuels to convert it to another energy use(electricity) is highly wasteful since most power stations return about 30 - 40% as an end product. Doesn't make a lot of sense in a shrinking energy available environment to throw 60% away.

Alex Porter said...

Excellent Telegraph article. I thought you might find this useful - with a lot of good technical information too:


Alex Porter said...

You know The Telegraph article doesn't really explain a lot of things. For example, it says that the cost of electricity has gone up and attributes that to 'subsidy' without explaining how that it, or are there other reasons but most importantly it doesn't prove that the windmills are not efficient simply that the cost of infrastructure has been passed on. That won't necessarily last for ever even if it is all or partly true.

Another issue that comes up in the article I posted before is that much depends on where, how high and what size the windmills are.

It seems to me that large, highly placed windmills located in windy environments are very efficient.

Here's another look at how technological advances are improving renewables and how 'attitudes' have developed which make people cycnical regarding the subsidies etc. -


RMcGeddon said...


I'll have a look at the oil drum articles and let you know what I think.
The point about the subsidies for windfarms is that as soon as they are withdrawn then building stops and new projects are sought in Romania, South America, Scotland etc where the subsidies are still being paid. Seems a bit strange.( not)

I see that the Mafia have now gone green. After prostitution and drug dealing it seems wind is the next big target..


Alex Porter said...

Don't get me wrong. I'm now highly sceptical of anything with a 'green' badge. I have nightmares of greenshirts marching up and down the street in a new dystopian type of green dictarshop using carbon credits to kill us all off etc.

I mean the green 'win win' concept has been used to bring a 'green' on the board, give it a 'green' name but all they do is shift the problem on to someone else and get rich quick.

I know it.

It still doesn't prove to me that 'renewables' are an intrinsic scam. Maybe like everything else where money is involved there are scams in rolling it out but that doesn't demonstrate that 'renewables' are of no use to us whatsoever.

cynicalHighlander said...


"While subsidies do matter, as shown in Germany, other common power sources also receive major support. Fossil fuels and nuclear receive about $500 billion in subsidies worldwide every year. If not for the Price-Anderson Act, which limits liability of nuclear power plants in the U.S., they would be unable to operate since insurance costs would be too expensive."

Indy said...

I agree that the problem with this debate is that it often turns into one about whether man made climate change is real or not. Let’s put that to one side.

Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth, on why it is right for us to aggressively promote renewable energy over either fossil fuels or nuclear.

1. It is renewable. We will never run out of a renewable energy source. I know that’s a really obvious point but it’s worth stating.

2. Nuclear power is punted as a clean and renewable source of energy but it is still potentially dangerous and creates a legacy of dirty, dangerous and expensive waste. I’m not saying that modern nuclear power stations are unsafe but there is always a chance, however slight, of something going wrong. If something goes wrong with nuclear power it can go catastrophically wrong. Perhaps if we had no alternative energy sources it might be sensible to run the risk of nuclear (which is I accept an extremely controlled risk) but since we have a vast renewable energy potential there is no need for us to have nuclear power.

3. We have a big comparative advantage over other countries when it comes to renewable energy. We have something like a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal power capacity and 10 per cent of its wave potential. To my mind it would simply be daft for the Scottish Government not to go all out to promote investment in that potential and develop the inftastructure, I agree with you that the subsidy is primarily about helping to develop the infrastructure – it’s also about helping to build the market.

4. My final point is simply to highlight the fact that the only area of energy policy which is wholly devolved is the promotion of renewable energy. Everything else is reserved. I would point out two things about that. Firstly, the SNP Scottish Government is sometimes accused of focussing on renewables to the exclusion of everything else. Well that’s why – they can actually do stuff to promote renewables whereas they have no powers over other energy policy areas. That leads me to my second point, the Scottish Government has been very successful at promoting renewable energy – imagine what they could do if they had control of the whole energy sector. That is the fundamental point for me.

RMcGeddon said...

Indy said...

" 1. It is renewable. We will never run out of a renewable energy source. I know that’s a really obvious point but it’s worth stating."

Yes but if it totally bankrupts us Indy then what's the point ?
I'm totally in favour of renewables if they can be beneficial but although something is renewable it doesn't mean that it's good.
Just look at the evidence.
Governments and the BBC keep saying that we couldn't have forseen the economic collapse yet there was plenty of evidence available to warn us.
With the climate scam we have decades of evidence to warn us.
Just look at Denamrk, Germany, California etc.


Yes all sources of energy recieve subsidies but only wind power lives or dies by them.

RMcGeddon said...

Alex said..

" It still doesn't prove to me that 'renewables' are an intrinsic scam "

I'm sorry but after studying all the facts then that's the only conclusion that an intelligent person can make.

When subsidies stop then renewables stop.
People who deny the global warming scam are ridiculed and ignored by the MSM.
The Mafia are now into renewables as that's where the free money is.
The carbon trading scheme has taken over from derivatives as the next multi trillion dollar scam.
Indian company Tata can close down Teeside steelworks and open a factory in India creating twice the CO2 pollution because of 'carbon trading'
Al Gore is a multi millionaire and has a mansion with a gas powered swimming pool.
Michael Manns 'hockey stick' showing global temp rise is a total fake proven By Montfords book 'The Hockey Stick Illusion'

RMcGeddon said...

Scam update...

We had the..
'global warming ' scam but it was pointed out to the polticians that the world wasn't actually warming up so we had the....

'climate change' scam but it was pointed out to the politicians that the climate has changed since the beginning of time....

So let me give you the ' global climate disruption' scam....


Thank you thank you.

cynicalHighlander said...

Scam update!


Alex Porter said...

Having chewed over the possibility of extensive cover-ups and possibilities of scams etc. The scam case seems to come down to subsidy therefore scam. And that requires a lot of facts to make the narrative stick.

For me, it is all very simple. If a windmill will produce net energy over an extended period of time it is a valid source of energy. That is established and so the problems come down to market manipulation, grid issues or other matters which are not intrinsic to the validity of the energy source..