Tilting at Windmills

Written By: - Date published: 10:38 am, September 10th, 2018 - 42 comments
Categories: Donald Trump, energy, Environment, International, leadership, politicans, sustainability, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

While the Democrats and their fellow travelers go off tilting at some “Made in Russia” affairs, Donald Trump found himself some real live windmills to tilt at. Big ones too. In fact, the biggest and most powerful in the world, of course – what with him being an American and all! Anyway. He lost.

A couple of days ago, Aberdeen Bay was officially opened. It’s a small array of eleven windmills that can provide enough electricity for 70% of the domestic consumption of Aberdeen. (pop: 230 000 ) The biggest of them produces 8.8MW of electricity, and without them, it’s reckoned that some 140 000 tonnes of CO2 would have gone up into the atmosphere every year by getting that energy from “traditional” sources.

Here’s a very nice time lapse video of their final assembly at sea. It’s kinda neat.

But here’s what I want to get on to. There are a number of people who understand we need to get to a point of using only zero carbon energy within the next few decades. And some people point to windmills or solar or other technological possibilities that could achieve that. Which is all fine and good. But none of it magics itself into existence. Everything takes time, and time is something we don’t have very much of.

Those windmills off the Scottish coast took 15 years from inception to completion. That story repeats across the entire world, whether we’re talking nuclear, or wind or solar. Things take time. It’s called reality.

So here’s another aspect of that same reality. If we aim to have any chance of not seeing 2 degrees and the widespread resultant mayhem, then we need to drastically cut our energy use at the same time as laying in new, zero carbon sources of energy.

And when we say “zero carbon”, that obviously means taking bio-fuels off the table. So, for example, when Fonterra announced they were going to convert some of their coal fired milk drying plants to run on wood waste, we shouldn’t have been patting them on the back, or otherwise suggesting things were moving in the right direction, because bio-fuels contribute precisely zero towards any reduction in CO2 emissions – they are CO2 emissions.

It’s a bit early to making Christmas wishes, but here goes. This Christmas, I wish people would get real. So there you go. That’s much longer than a job trial period. Surely, more than enough time for people to shake off any drowsy dreams or crabby eyed sleepiness and be ready to face the cool light of day.

Or maybe I’m just tilting at windmills?

42 comments on “Tilting at Windmills”

  1. Poission 1

    NZ has installed capacity of around 690mw.

    10 minutes ago wind generated 5mw in the NI and 0 in the south due to an absence of persistent flow.


    • Marcus Morris 1.1

      Why don’t you give a mean wind strength for the whole year and the average generation of power in that time.

      We are lucky in NZ that we have another renewable resource in our hydro lakes. Wind and water are perfectly complementary. The lakes are huge batteries.

      If, as you seem to be implying, wind power is unreliable, one has to wonder why huge numbers have been built all over Europe. Have you been to Spain or Greece in recent years not to mention The Netherlands, the home of the windmill.

      And I have not touched on solar power. Again, solar “farms” have been established all over Europe. This country has the capacity to be totally reliant on renewable resources and it seem that we have at least started along the journey. Domestic solar electric generation is not quite as popular as it was a couple of years ago because the privatised generating companies realised that paying for surplus electricity was affecting the dividends they were paying to their shareholders.

      Electricity generation and distribution is an essential public requirement and should never have been privatised.

      • Incognito 1.1.1

        According to the link in the OP Swedish state power company Vattenfall built (and presumably owns) the Aberdeen wind farm.

      • Poission 1.1.2

        Mean wind speeds are distorted by high flow wind speeds, at higher wind flow say at makara or brooklyn these can not be used during high winds.

        • Marcus Morris

          In any set of statistics there are invariably “outliers”. They do not invalidate an argument – they just have to be allowed for.

      • Dennis Frank 1.1.3

        “Electricity generation and distribution is an essential public requirement and should never have been privatised.” There’s a widespread perception of market failure. I’m inclined to agree with you. If everyone switched to electric vehicles all electrons would get sucked out of the wires, right? Transport & economy would grind to a halt. So we must manage the transition carefully!

        • Bill

          Grid capacity needs to be greatly increased to cope with the demand that will come from converting all power derived from coal, gas, petrol etc, to zero carbon energy sources.

          Some people argue that peaks and troughs in demand mean that we can get by on what we have at present. But since (at least in global terms) carbon based energy sources accounts for about 80 or 90% of our energy use, I can’t see how we can package what we want into the box that we have.

          The grid, however it may be configured, needs to be carbon free and able to cope with likely peak demand.

          Seen any major works lately?

          • Antoine

            The people planning the grid don’t see massive growth in electric vehicle demand in the short to medium term. Thus, they don’t design the grid for it. They figure that if and when the EV boom hits, they can build more grid accordingly. I suspect they’re right; if it happens it won’t be overnight.


            • Bill

              Nah. It’s better than that!

              Andrew Tait (lead scientist etc at NIWA) reckons (at least in public) that global warming will lead to an 8% reduction in electricity demand in New Zealand.

    • Dv 1.2

      AND my solar power generated 0:.000 last night

      • Marcus Morris 1.2.1

        You sound indignant or surprised! Either that or you don’t actually have solar panels and are just taking the piss. Fair enough but it doesn’t really develop the debate.

    • corodale 1.3

      Demands a mix of generation. One problem with the bio-gas in Europe is the economic requirement that they always run at full capacity. So bio-gas isn’t being used act as short term (daily) storage, to off-set solar-power fluctuations. Potentially wind energy could, with electro-chemical conversion, be stored in the bio-gas tanks, or compressed, But in practice we’re not quite there on any grids I know of.

      • Bill 1.3.1

        The post – And when we say “zero carbon”, that obviously means taking bio-fuels off the table.

        The comment – One problem with the bio-gas in Europe is…

        The post – …when we say “zero carbon”, that obviously means taking bio-fuels off the table

        Is there something about the post that’s simply too difficult for you to grasp?

  2. ianmac 2

    The technology and manpower to build that windmill in the North Sea is just amazing. Thanks for the link Bill.

  3. dukeofurl 3

    Aberdeen. Isnt that main Scottish port for the UKs North Sea Oil and gas fields ?

    Some reports say that industry supports over 40,000 jobs in the region. Using wind turbines to support the oil and gas industry sounds a very Scottish solution.

      • dukeofurl 3.1.1

        How come production has been rising ?
        ‘Oil and Gas UK said it expected last year’s 10.4pc increase in production – the first rise in 15 years – to be followed by another rise of about 6pc this year as the industry “lives off the fat” of huge investment in the years before the oil price crash.

        Particular platforms may be at the end of their economic life and have exhausted production in immediate area and new platforms can use newer technology and reach areas where oil remains.

        We were lucky that the price fall meant offshore exploration largely dissipated and government got in a moratorium before rising prices meant they came back.

        • corodale

          Perhaps MI6 also supported the colour revolution in Ukraine, for returns on the North Sea (If so, don’t let Germany find that out 😉 Simple formulae of accommodation and drugs for homeless youth,.. Sources suggest MI6 are active in the Syrian chemical attacks, but I suspect the current airstrikes in the north west are removing much of that threat. One Syrian refugee I talked to said “…gas reserves are the main reason for the US/French occupation around energy rich Kurdish north east.”

  4. Antoine 4

    @Bill I suspect Santa will disappoint you


    • Bill 4.1

      I believe the carbon footprint of magical reindeer is somewhere between nothing and zero. Shame about all that carbon rich crap on the sledge, mind. 😉

      • Antoine 4.1.1

        One day you’ll take the logical step: “I think these things need to happen”, “but they are not actually going to happen”, “so what happens next?”


        • Bill

          Oh, they’ll happen.

          One way or the other, humanity’s carbon footprint is going to trend to zero rather fast. I guess the question comes down to which show we’d rather have front seats at.

          • Antoine

            > I guess the question comes down to which show we’d rather have front seats at.

            We get the show we get. Might as well sit back and ‘enjoy yourself’ rather than stressing. You know you can’t change the world.


            • Bill

              sheesh – glad I’m not a toddler on a busy road, with you as my best and only chance at being saved by a passing pedestrian (far too busy enjoying ice cream to be “stressed” with it all)

              • Antoine

                I can save a toddler on a busy road (funnily enough, I’ve actually done it). You can’t prevent global warming.


                • Bill

                  Really? Because, arguably, the first rather simple step is the same in both cases. Stop the traffic.

                  • Antoine

                    Which you can’t, and trying to only makes you stressed.


                    • Bill

                      You saying I can’t stop all traffic?

                      Hell, I can’t even prevent my underwear being full of carbon, but…I’m not solely responsible for global warming, and unless I’m god, or a god I, as an individual acting alone, can’t halt it.

                      It’s like this. There are deep systemic issues at play, and though I can lessen my carbon footprint, I’m still left holding carbon filled undies, right?

                      But given that the problem’s systemic, I could say to “the boss” that if they want me help punt for the sixth great extinction just so they can make money, then they can fuck off. I could just say that.

                      And legal precedent suggests I wouldn’t be any the worse off for saying so, because I’d be suitably compensated under the Human Rights Act by any boss who fired me for standing up like that.

                      UK – employee fired for refusing to take flights because “global warming” The case was settled on the grounds of “religious discrimination”. The employees genuine ‘belief’ was, as far as the judge was concerned, on a par with any religious belief, ergo “discrimination” Now sure, science as religion? 🙄

                      So I could say to the banks that I’m not doing it; to government – to whoever or whatever. And as long as I’m not a lone voice, and destined to remain a lone voice, then it works.

                      Here’s the problem.

                      People like you who don’t want to do anything, but who try to cover their cowardice by lying that they can’t do anything. 😉

                    • Incognito

                      I think you’re projecting. Other people trying stresses you.

                    • Antoine

                      > I think you’re projecting. Other people trying stresses you.

                      What, you think Bill’s posts over the last 6 months sound like they come from a happy, contented, fulfilled place?

                      If he stuck his head in the sand like me, he’d be better off.


                    • Incognito

                      I don’t know anything about Bill’s emotional wellbeing. He sees an issue that affects us all and has decided to take action. You, on the other hand, maintains that it is all too hard and confess that it stresses you out trying to do something about it. You are projecting this onto Bill. As I said.

                    • Antoine []

                      I’m not really talking to you, I’m talking to Bill. He will know whether his thinking on climate change really achieves anything or brings him happiness or fulfilment.


                    • Bill

                      Think of it like this Antoine. It’s like AGW comes down to something pretty basic like 1 + 1 = 2. (An “observation” if you will – a simple enough piece of logic that produces an inescapable conclusion.)

                      But then, there are people around insisting we can’t do that (add one to one to make two), or that we should ignore 1 + 1 and divide one into one instead…or whatever.

                      But I can’t see where you get from that, to making pronouncements about someones supposed state of mind or emotional well being… unless it’s just that you get to maintain your “head in the sand” position a bit easier by insinuating bullshit about those who choose (or who might choose) to forego the sand option. 😉

                      Meanwhile. 1+1=2

                    • Antoine

                      At the end of the day, only you know how you want to live your life. I now leave this thread.


  5. Dennis Frank 5

    “The reality is, though, that climate and energy contrarians are exerting less and less influence on media or politics.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/10/bbc-climate-change-deniers

    “as the CarbonBrief website has reported, the BBC” [is now] “setting up a new one-hour course on reporting climate change “… covering the latest science, policy, research, and misconceptions to challenge, giving you confidence to cover the topic accurately and knowledgeably”.

    “There’s been a lot of climate change coverage this summer, and the vast majority that I’ve seen has been exemplary. But if this initiative can, for example, make sure that Today presenters know that individual extreme weather events are now routinely being linked to climate change… that will be a step forward.”

  6. Mack 6

    I like the way these conglomerations of noisey, unsightly, bird-chopping windmills are referred to as a wind “farm”. Don’t expect to see cows and sheep grazing in the meadows at the wind farm.
    It’s the same with industrial “parks”. The kids will get sadly disappointed expecting swings and slides…trees and birds and rocks and things….but instead, get an oil refinery surrounded by razor wire.

    • Bill 6.1

      1. They ain’t very noisy. And if they are, I’d punt the waves breaking on the beach drowns out any noise they may make.
      2. I think they look really cool. (It’s subjective)
      3. The blades on windmills located at sea take account of the “dive heights” of various sea birds and their elevation is fixed accordingly.
      4. Wind farms, farm wind, not cows….or sheep. And there’s not a lot of grazing for sheep or cows to be had at sea .
      5. Parks aren’t playgrounds. Sometimes, a playground will be in a park. But then, as your comment implies, there are many different types of park, and they’re not all conducive to swings and round-a-bouts…of which there are more than one type too -some of which you wouldn’t send your kids to play on.

        • Bill

          I very much doubt anyone is living out in Aberdeen Bay. And the coastline, which was a designated area of ‘special scientific interest’ is now a golf course – Trump’s. (There was something about windmills and crazy golf half crossing my mind when I did the post, but I couldn’t quiet get it).

          How much coastline does NZ have? How much of our off-shore is relatively shallow?

          Funny how there has been this information always lurking in the background about the detrimental health effects of windmills, yet the whole thing about cell phones and cancers “died a death” and we’ve now wrapped ourselves in layers of G3 and G4 and G whatever….

          You think money and profit might have something to do with “concerns” over public health?

          • Dennis Frank

            You bet. Btw, I was originally alerted to the ultrasonics thing by a news report of nearby residents being so enraged by the noise of a local wind-farm that they organised themselves into resistance. Can’t recall where but think it was in Britain.

            • Andre

              The turbine noise-illness thing appears to be a good example of the nocebo effect. That somehow goes away when the people experiencing the noise don’t suffer from when they receive a direct benefit such as income from the turbines.

              “The worldwide expansion of wind energy has met with opposition based on concerns that the infrasound generated by wind turbines causes health problems in nearby residents. In this paper, we argue that health complaints are more likely to be explained by the nocebo response, whereby adverse effects are generated by negative expectations. When individuals expect a feature of their environment or medical treatment to produce illness or symptoms, then this may start a process where the individual looks for symptoms or signs of illness to confirm these negative expectations. As physical symptoms are common in healthy people, there is considerable scope for people to match symptoms with their negative expectations.”


              “There is compelling evidence that creating a positive context for the experience of wind farm sound, has a correspondingly positive impact on reported annoyance. A field study conducted in The Netherlands indicated that respondents who benefited economically from wind turbines, by either full or partial turbine ownership or by receipt of other economic benefits, such as a yearly income, were less annoyed by wind turbine noise than other respondents, despite exposure to higher sound levels (49).”


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