The Odd Blog

And when our cubs grow / We'll show you what war is good for

UK Government commits to green power…

Posted by That Other Mike on 10/12/2007

… in a kind of half-arsed, wrong-headed way. Story here.

All UK homes could be powered by offshore wind farms by 2020 as part of the fight against climate change, under plans unveiled by John Hutton.

Up to 7,000 turbines could be installed to boost wind produced energy 60-fold by 2020.

The business secretary admitted it would change Britain’s coastline, and mean higher electricity bills.

Senior Tory Alan Duncan backed the plans, adding: “We’re an island nation. There’s a lot of wind around.”

Mr Hutton said there would have to be a switch to low-carbon energy production to combat the threat of climate change.

The commitment to green energy? Excellent. Full marks on that account. The wrong-headedness lies in the source – wind power. While it has good points in its favour, it also has a number of bad ones, namely the effect on local wildlife; the intermittent quality of the power produced, meaning that there always has to be a back-up, non-wind power source or a hell of a lot of redundancy; the effects on shipping of off-shore wind farms, and so on.

A better solution lies in what Alan Duncan said, if he but knew it; water power, or more accurately, wave power. We’re living on a island with regular strong tides and many inlets. Why can’t we build water barrages to tap into that energy or start building Salter’s Duck? They’d be more reliable and most likely cheaper in the long run.

Or if we’re really, truly stuck on the idea of wind power, why not try the wind belt? It’s new, but it operates at a much higher efficiency that traditional fan turbines and is much more efficient.

Or rivers? We have many rivers, and we don’t ncessarily need to have a national grid. Local power (for local people*) from water wheels or stacked series of water locks driving turbines could solve a lot of our problems. Why not use the thousands of weirs around the country for local power use? Even if we can’t totally replace other fuel sources for our electricity, we can at least lessen their use.

And who knows? With increases in power efficiency of machines and homes, we could maybe eventually get all of our power needs met by natural sources. Not only would this be the most environmentally sound way of living, it would have huge knock-on effects in global politics; think of the impact this would have if the developed nations were no longer dependent upon foreign oil or gas. Whether it would be good or bad is something none of us can safely say, but you can bet that it would relieve some of the tension involved in modern geopolitics.

* English TV joke. Don’t worry if you don’t get it.


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