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Friday
Nov292013

WindMeal

There are days when I end up at some weird event that’s vaguely linked to renewable energy or electric cars or car sharing or battery innovation and I quietly question my sanity.

Today was not one of those days.

I got on an early morning train and dozed down to Plymouth,  got out, was met by a bunch of lovely folks from Energy Share.

Along with Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall and renewableUK they had organised todays ‘windmeal’ event. Yes, smutty giggle, windmeal. Fnaar fnaar.

It had been described to me a talk about wind in a posh house and a nice lunch supplied by Mr Fearnley Wittingstall’s delightful ‘River Cottage’ restaurant in an old Naval building on Plymouth docks.

Wind and posh nosh. Friday sorted.

Without wishing to be too star struck and sucky, the food was bloody amazing.

But back to wind.

Outside Plymouth station I got in a Nissan Leaf driven by local EV enthusiast Paul Churchly and was taken to the Plymouth Stonehouse Ferry Terminal where we all got on a small ferry and chugged over to Cornwall, well, to Mount Edgecombe House on the Cornish side of the Tamar which is a seriously posh gaff.

(A gaff in this context refers to a place of residence.)

There we listened to a very enlightening conversation from a panel of experts about the benefits of wind power particularly in relation to UK farmers.

Wind harvesting seems to be a better term for it, something most farmers could do and a few are doing already. I interviewed a wind-harvesting farmer in the Cotswolds near where I live for the last series of Fully Charged.

There are complications of course, some farms are too remote to push large amounts of electricity into the grid, they sometimes need to upgrade the local grid and that costs serious money. The farmer would have to pay for that which makes it impossible for some.

Interestingly in France this is not the case, no matter how remote a location, if there is serious renewable generation, wind or solar, then the French national grid will pay for the connection. Oh, and wait, there are more farmers producing more renewable low cost electricity in France that in the UK.

Quelle surprise.

A wonderful old school farmer from Bodmin Moor in Cornwall was a classic example, he has a wind turbine and solar array as well as an electric car.  He produces enough electricity each year for around 30 households, multiply that by say, 10,000 farms across the country and you’ve supplying vast amounts of homes. Zero CO2, zero fuel costs.

Anyhow, it was very refreshing to hear so many positive arguments for wind generation and it’s blindingly obvious benefits instead of the usual dirge of NIMBY nonsense so popular in the tired old behind the times British press.

Windmills (that is the common description for a wind generator for those of you itching to correct me) work, they generate electricity.

They are, in my most humble opinion, much less unsightly than a massive coal burning power plant, a huge gas terminal, or, dare I say it, a £700 billion nuclear power plant with 3 meter high security fences, 24 hour armed guards, security floodlighting and all the connected fuel transportation and storage issues.

Wind turbines can be situated anywhere, which means in the posh areas of the UK as well as the ones already blighted beyond redemption by 19th and 20th century centralised outdated, inefficient methods of power generation requiring endless supplies of increasingly expensive and harder to extract fuel.

Low density, widely distributed, locally owned sustainable, renewable power generation is a perfectly feasible solution to our current energy problems.

Sure there’s plenty of problems installing the required number of systems, solar PV, geothermal, wind, tidal. It’s a big investment that will take years to install.

Of course it’s not a patch on the size of investment or technological challenge of building and fueling any of the big centralised so called ‘solutions’ we are all going to have to pay for over the next 50-75 years.

Check Dale Vince’s blog for a quick rundown on the ‘green levy’ and the far less often referred to ‘nuclear levy.’

There are already a large number of local, community based power generating projects springing up all over the UK in villages, small communities and urban areas.

The Big Six UK energy giants have put up their prices recently causing all kinds of political ructions but one of the small energy firms, Ecotricity and yes, I’m biased and proud of it, have frozen their prices until next year.

I get my power from them because A, it’s cheaper and B, they are investing their profits in renewable energy.

So my experience today was very uplifting, the Southwest is clearly at the forefront of developing a lot of these schemes and if I wore one, I’d take my hat off to them.

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Reader Comments (4)

In the most part, for 'UK farmers' read 'extremely wealthy UK landowners who already benefit from obscene levels of agricultural subsidies'.

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwillbick

Ironic that just five years ago a multi-million pound gas/oil fired power station was built less than five miles from the very place you visited! Not only did this devour a huge chunk of land, it also required a huge (2 meter diameter!) gas main to be laid from the supply to the power station, crossing dozens of fields.

Further irony comes in for shape of the waste incinerator currently being built in Plymouth Dockyard, and the controversy surrounding the disposal of its waste ash. Some forward thinking might have removed the need for the incinerator and allowed the aforementioned power station to burn the waste! Ash disposal (or rather the transportation of it) would remain a problem though.

So, I guess the moral is a bit more forward planning might be the order of the day, especially when it comes to utilising renewable/recyclables.

December 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris

What I don't know and isn't mentioned is the effects on the balance of power so to speak of the latest rushed changes in government policy. Will they shift it in favour of the big six?

December 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave Jackson

There is another way the farmer could side-step having poor grid connectivity, storage!

simply put, you could have a system that only pumped into the grid what the power line could take, the excess being held in a battery for pumping in later.

other solutions would be to dump any excess power in the farmers home heating system

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNeil Carmichael

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