Heard a great story the other day from Matt Ridley, author of the absolutely essential The Rational Optimist.
He bumped into an engineer who was hoping to land one of the lucrative contracts for the massive, insanely expensive offshore wind farm programme which Dave’s new “Greener Than Anyone” administration hopes will reduce Britain’s carbon footprint while simultaneously creating that the philosopher’s-stone-type marvel that some men do call Green Jobs.
“What’s the chance of them being built on time?” Ridley asked.
“Zero,” said the engineer.
“And once you’ve stuck these things in the sea-bed, how long do you think they’ll last?” Ridley asked.
“Oh, virtually no time at all.”
“So if these offshore wind farms are going to be impossible to put up and are going to fall down as soon as you do, why are you vying for this multi-billion pound government contract?” asked Ridley.
“Duh,” said the engineer.
When Mary Tudor died, she predicted, they would find Calais engraved on her heart.
My prediction when my old mucker Dave Cameron pops off, they will find “wind farms” engraved on his. Of all the damage his lousy administration will do to this country of ours, none will be so mighty, permanent or thoroughly inexcusable as his wind farm programme.
Here’s further cause for gloom from the excellent German blogger P Gosselin, whose reports on what’s happening in Germany gives us an idea of the disasters coming our way soon.
Originally estimated to cost €189 million, the Alpha Ventus park has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. In late summer and autumn of 2008, bad weather made installation of the first 6 turbines impossible. Then the equipment to install the monster turbines was not available. Next there were major problems with the transformer facilities.
A few weeks ago the temperature of the bearings in the turbine made by Areva Multibrid was too high and thus they had to be taken out of operation. Now the turbines have to be removed from their 500+ ft. high towers and the bearings have to be replaced. Repair works will take weeks and extend into late summer. It’s still unclear if the other four of the Multibrid turbines have a problem. The remaining 6 turbines are made by Repower and are reported to be running smoothly. There are no reports on how high the costs for the troublesome dismantling and repair works will run.
And if that weren’t bad enough, the construction works on the massive Bard Offshore 1 commercial windparks have been delayed as a 300-foot foundation column crashed onto the construction ship Wind Lift 1 three weeks ago. Now other turbines have to be thoroughly inspected. The Bard project foresees the installation of 320 five-megawatt class turbines over the coming years. The cost for the first 80 Bard turbines alone is climbing far beyond original estimates. First they were estimated to cost over €500 million. Now it’s estimated costs will exceed a billion euros. German online newspaper projects the costs will even reach €1.2 billion.
The promoters of the offshore projects cannot say they weren’t warned of the risks of installing windparks in the North Sea’s harsh conditions. The Nysted offshore windpark and Horns Rev park in Denmark are examples, and have struggled with big problems. For example in 2007 a transformer malfunction occurred at Nysted just 4 years after being commissioned, causing a months-long shutdown. At the Horns Rev windpark there were problems with the turbines only 2 years after they had gone into operation. World leading turbine manufacturer Vestas had to remove all 80 turbines, haul them onshore and perform extensive repairs. Luckily these turbines were only of the smaller 2 to 2.3-MW class, and so much easier to do repair works. Repairs and maintenance on the 5-MW monsters will be much tougher and expensive.
But as long as windpark companies continue to have the full backing of wasteful governments, costs won’t matter.