Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Monday, 27 September 2010
In all the publicity given to the opening of "the world's largest wind farm" off the Kent coast last week, by far the most important and shocking aspect of this vast project was completely overlooked. Over the coming years we will be giving the wind farm's Swedish owners a total of £1.2 billion in subsidies. That same sum, invested now in a single nuclear power station, could yield a staggering 13 times more electricity, with much greater reliability.
The first all-too-common mistake in the glowing coverage accorded to the inauguration of this Thanet wind farm by the Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, was to accept unquestioningly the claims of the developer, Vattenfall, about its output. The array of 100 three-megawatt (MW) turbines, each the height of Blackpool Tower, will have, it was said, the "capacity" to produce 300MW of electricity, enough to "power" 200,000 (or even 240,000) homes.
This may be true at those rare moments when the wind is blowing at the right speeds. But the wind, of course, is intermittent, and the average output of these turbines will be barely a quarter of that figure. The latest official figures on the website of Mr Huhne's own department show that last year the average output (or "load factor") of Britain's offshore turbines was only 26 per cent of their capacity.
Due to its position, the wind farm's owners will be lucky to get, on average, 75MW from their windmills, a fraction of the output of a proper power station. The total amount of electricity the turbines actually produce will equate to the average electricity usage not of 240,000 homes, but of barely half that number.
A far more significant omission from the media reports, however, was any mention of the colossal subsidies this wind farm will earn. Wind energy is subsidised through the system of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), unwittingly paid for by all of us through our electricity bills. Our electricity supply companies are obliged to buy offfshore wind energy at three times its normal price, so that each kilowatt hour of electricity receives a 200 per cent subsidy of £100.
This means that the 75MW produced on average by Thanet will receive subsidies of £60 million a year, on top of the £30-40 million cost of the electricity itself. This is guaranteed for the turbines' estimated working life of 20 years, which means that the total subsidy over the next two decades will be some £1.2 billion. Based on the costings of the current French nuclear programme, that would buy 1 gigawatt (1,000MW) of carbon-free nuclear generating capacity, reliably available 24 hours a day – more than 13 times the average output of the wind farm.
The 100 turbines opened last week cost £780 million to build, which means that the £100 million a year its owners hope to earn represents a 13 per cent return on capital, enough to excite the interest of any investor. And these turbines are only the first stage of a project eventually designed to include 341 of them, generating subsidies of £1 billion every five years.
A final claim for the Thanet wind farm (which Mr Huhne boasts is "only the beginning") is that it will create "green jobs" – although the developers say that only 21 of these will be permanent. These are thus costing, in "green subsidies" alone, £3 million per job per year, or £57 million for each job over the next 20 years. The Government gaily prattles about how it wants to create "400,000 green jobs", which on this basis would eventually cost us £22.8 trillion, or 17 times the entire annual output of the UK economy.
If all this sounds dizzyingly surreal, the fact remains that we must begin to grasp just what the green fantasies of Mr Huhne, the EU and the rest are costing us. Even the Queen, we learn, tried to claim a "fuel poverty" allowance for her soaring electricity bills, which have risen 50 per cent in the past year. But a crucial first step towards getting some grip on reality must be for those who report on these wind farms to stop hiding away the colossal price we are all now having to pay for one of the greatest scams of our age.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Matthew Penn and William Livingston, solar astronomers with the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson, Arizona, have found a marked decrease in sunspot activity lately. Studies show that such a marked drop in sunspots may lead to a prolonged cooling epoch or even a new ice age.
Since the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 the talk has been about global warming. But 22 years on the evidence has grown to raise fears of a catastrophic climate switch in the opposite direction. We look at the evidence that is raising some very serious questions in the scientific community.
Penn and Livingston used a measuring technique known as Zeeman splitting to study the magnetic strength of sunspots. The technique measures the distance between a pair of infrared spectral lines in a spectrograph from the light emitted by iron atoms in the atmosphere of the sun.
After examining 1500 sunspots they found that the average strength of the magnetic field of the sunspots has dropped by almost 40 percent in recent years. The reasons for the decline are unknown, but Penn and Livingston predict only half of the normal sunspots may appear on the surface of the Sun by 2021. Below that strength the formation of sunspots becomes almost impossible. More sunspots correlate with more global warming, fewer sunspots over a long period means prolonged cooling is likely.
Other Experts Confirm Fears
Backing up the claims is Australian Geophysicist, Phil Chapman, a former NASA astronaut. Chapman confirms the historic correlation of sunspots to global temperatures and points to the dearth of sunspots since 2007 as the reason why the world has since cooled by about 0.7C.
Writer, Alan Caruba (September 21, 2010) probes the story further after a June 14 article published in the New Scientist by Stuart Clark.
Caruba reports that Clark, “ raised the question of why and where the sunspots of gone. Noting that they ebb and flow in cycles lasting about eleven years, Stuart said, “But for the last two years, the sunspots have mostly been missing. Their absence, the most prolonged in nearly 100 years, has taken even seasoned sun watchers by surprise.””
Return to another Little Ice Age or Worse?
The last time sunspots disappeared altogether, during the Maunder Minimum (about 1645 to 1715), our planet descended into a lengthy period of cooling known as the Little Ice Age.
Prior to that an even more cataclysmic cooling event, known as the Younger Dryas happened 12,000 years ago. That sudden event plunged temperatures in the North Atlantic region to about 5°C colder and lasted for 1000-year duration.
Global Cooling Impacts Being Felt Now
Last year in the northern hemisphere, Britain suffered one of the worst winters in 100 years. While in the U.S. the National Weather Service (NWS) reported that the bitterly cold winter broke numerous temperature and snow extent records with 2010 seeing the 4th coldest February on record. New York and much of the U.S. Northeast was pumeled by record snow falls that deposited about 60cm (2 feet) of snow in NYC alone.
Worst Snow Falls Since 1970’s
Rutgers University Global Snow Lab also confirms that the 2010 Northern Hemisphere winter snow extent was the second highest on record, at 52,166,840 km2 and second only to February, 1978 which was slightly higher at 53,647,305 km2.
Indeed, it was in the 1970s, when climatologists were worried about the onset of an ice age, that we were warned of the ‘The Cooling World’ (Newsweek, April 28, 1975). Meanwhile Anna Petherick reporting for Nature.com ( August 27, 2010) shows that a brutal northern winter has been followed in the southern hemisphere by a viciously cold winter with an Antarctic chill killing millions of aquatic animals in the Amazon.
So will we see more scientists return to predicting global cooling due to changes in our sun?