Opinion – A Load of Hot Air?
While on aukholiday recently I was located in view of a hilltop which has recently sprouted five giganormous wind turbines. Sometimes the right kind of wind was blowing and the massive blades twirl merrily around, presumably generating umpteen megawatts of electricity as they do so. At other times though, there was hardly any wind and the blades turned imperceptibly slowly. Sometimes there is too much wind and the blades have to be locked to prevent them leaping off their mounting and creating carnage over a wide area. At times like these the wind turbines produce very little electricity or none at all.
If you set aside things like the noise, the huge cost, shadow flicker and the fact that lots of people object strenuously to having a whopping great propeller erected at the bottom of the garden this, then, is the big problem with wind turbines; they can’t be relied on to produce electricity all of the time. Unfortunately, we have a constant need for electricity – I, for one, am not prepared to sit in darkness, staring at a blank television screen while drinking a cold cup of tea just because there’s an area of high pressure over the country. This might also explain why we missed our target of producing 10% of our electricity from renewable sources in 2010 by a country mile; we actually managed 6.5% and the chances of hitting the 15% target set for 2020 look slim indeed.
This has all got me scratching my head. The reason that we’re trying to produce more and more electricity from renewables is that we want to reduce our co2 emissions in order to prevent all the icecaps from melting and the polar bears from drowning. Almost half of our carbon emissions come from electricity generation, so if 15% of our electricity comes from renewables then we reduce our carbon emissions by about 7%. But here’s something to think about; gas fired power stations produce about half the co2 that ones that burn coal do. About 28% of our electricity comes from coal, so if we converted all the coal fired power stations to gas that would reduce carbon emissions by 14%, which is a damn sight better than we’re likely to achieve by sticking propellers at the bottom of everybody’s garden.
No doubt the eco lobby will think this idea is not nearly painful enough for all of us and, besides, we’re still burning fossil fuels like they’re going out of fashion – just a different kind of fossil fuel. Well, I’ve just read about something that should set their minds at rest. An eccentric British inventor (remember those?) has set to work in his garden shed and invented a gas boiler that is also an electricity generator. Before you start scoffing, hear me out. This little beauty will generate enough power for all your household needs and more besides, whenever you happen to need it. You can sell the any surplus electricity back to the National Grid and make a decent profit thanks to the feed-in tariff. The best thing is that the boiler is 95% efficient, which compares to about 50% for a gas fired power station. Because it is so efficient and, because you do not have to pay for the Chief Executive of Eon’s million pound bonus, your home grown electricity will be a lot cheaper than the stuff you buy from your friendly neighbourhood utility.
The generator/ boilers will go into production this year and should cost about £3,500. Admittedly, you’ve also got to pay to get it installed but, even so, I reckon you’re looking at about 5 years to recoup the cost of your investment. There you have it then, a product that’s both invented and manufactured inBritainthat saves you money, cuts carbon emissions and reduces fossil fuel consumption. The climate change PR machine might call this thinking outside the box but I call it common sense. We could do with a bit more of it.