The cost of wind power

It would be a stretch to discuss a recent story that I read in the Daily Mail Online in the context of Green IT, though it fits into a green technology debate and is, I believe, worth pointing to.

The article discusses the process used to extract neodymium, the element needed to make the magnets in wind turbines.

The piece goes on to discuss how much energy wind turbines will actually produce. It’s not a lot, and there are some who believe that money would be better spent developing tidal power.

The tides that surge around the UK’s coasts could provide up to a quarter of the nation’s electricity, without any carbon emissions. But as this article suggests, the sea environment is harsh and existing equipment – long-bladed underwater wind turbines – is prone to failure.

I wonder, two years on, what happened to this tidal turbine experiment?


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You asked about the "tidal turbine experiment" mentioned in an article in the Guardian primarily reporting that a tidal turbine would be installed offshore Wales in 2010 - and you are correct that it did not happen (this area is full of over-optimistic developers). However speaking as a non-over-optimistic developer, one bit of the article near the end is perfectly correct... namely ... "The country's first experimental tidal turbine began generating electricity in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland last year, built by Bristol-based company Marine Current Turbines. SeaGen began at about 150kW, enough for around 100 homes, but has now reached 1,200kW in testing. It had a setback early in its test phase, with the tidal streams breaking one of the blades in July." Funny how any pioneering efforts are so often cynically reported in terms of "setbacks" but I'm glad to say that the setback reported on was minor and the SeaGen turbine has functioned well since. As can be seen from our web site at it is unique in being accredited by OFGEM as an official UK power station and we have delivered over 2.5 million kWh into the national grid. SeaGen continues to operate and MCT is now developing larger and more powerful version through building on the successful results and data collected so far. So we believe this is an exciting new technology that is about to take off. Regards Peter Fraenkel
Perhaps it's time for Government to revue its target of generating 30% of electricity from wind. It hopes to do this by adding another 10,000 turbines to the 3,000 already in existence. Whether for or against wind power, what non-experts don't understand is how this is going to be achieved and how on earth we are going to pay for it. Can Government explain why we are continuing to subsidise: - An energy solution capable of operating at only maybe 20% capacity on average - Operational efficiency dropping considerably when power is needed most eg. when it's very hot or cold - Requiring alternative energy generation solutions as a back up, at all times. - Constructed from materials extracted at considerable environmental cost Perhaps most important of all, why we are continuing to invest in technology being dropped by countries with a far longer track record and greater expertise than us in this type of 'renewable' energy?