Wind in the Wellows, part II

Bless the fickleness of the Isle of Wight’s aspiring MPs, out for a vote, particularly Jill Wareham, Liberal Democrat candidate.

It is just a very short time since her spring newsletter arrived thought Island letterboxes, proclaiming support for the Cheverton Down wind turbine appeal and saying she “would like to see wind turbines here”.

Since then, the announcement has been made for a second attempt at constructing wind turbines at Wellow, a project that Jill’s husband Martin at least was against when it was proposed and he went around canvassing for the Lib Dems in the 2005 local elections (or at least that was the view he gave on this householder’s doorstep).┬áMartin Wareham, by the way, failed to take Freshwater Norton from now provenly corrupt councillor Conservative Andy Sutton way back then (Sutton is currently one of several councillors suspended over their conduct in a planning application).

No one remembers Jill having an opinion about the Wellow turbines at the time, and she was ultimately ousted from the Brighstone & Calbourne seat in a year when Lib Dem heads rolled like an avalanche after the party cocked up its policy on the Island’s schools. She resurfaced in 2010 banging her drum as prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

Back to turbines. Come this week, and with not one but two wind turbine plans now in the offing, Jill’s election communication omits any mention of wind turbines on the Island. And although her steps towards a fairer Britain and priorities for Islanders have increased from 4 to 7, renewable energy (a fair future: creating jobs by making Britain greener) has slipped from third to fourth.

Supporting wind turbines will cost Jill the votes of the Island’s old people and the wealthy. It’s no surprise that all mention of them should be dropped.


Power to the People

The Edinburgh trip resulted in Mike and I visiting the fabulous Museum of Scotland while Adrian and Noelle went off in search of emergency pants for their daughter. The museum isn’t as glorious as it usually is, with large sections of it closed for work, so what we saw was restricted to the Scottish history exhibit (the Stewart dynasty – ugly and useless monarchs) and the splendid interactive section mainly aimed at younger visitors but splendid for the young at heart.

I spent some time on a simple computer simulation as minster for energy of Lectraland, making decisions about what power plants to build, and which to tear down. I went completely green, and despite urgings from the now returned Adrian to ” go nuclear” simply built wind and tidal turbines, solar and hydroelectic plant. I even tore down one coal-fired power station. The lights stayed on, Lectraland had power, and I did an OK job.

Mike and Adrian both took turns as minister for energy and we all did good jobs according to the sim. Mike went for a complete mix of energy types; Adrian went totally nuclear. I then took another turn, building one nuclear station and staying green for the rest, improving on overall power levels.

The lesson from the sim was clear. Whatever energy strategy you adopt, someone, somewhere will protest about it. If you build wind or marine turbines, the people will complain about them despoiling the landscape or mincing marine wildlife respectively. Go nuclear or conventional, and people will complain about them being built too near to their homes. Go solar and the loss of land area becomes an issue.

Of course, some sites are only suited to particular types of power generation, so protestors about wind power will never usually be faced with a nuclear station being proposed for the same area. This is why small-minded protest groups such as Thwart on the Isle of Wight can afford to object to wind farms, because they know the area will never seriously be considered for something like a nuclear power station. You can imagine the fuss if a nuclear power station were proposed for the Isle of Wight. Thwart prefers to put alternative energy out to sea. Thwart members argue that land-based wind turbines will mince and disturb local wildlife, yet curiously do not then believe that wind turbines at sea will mince seagulls nor that marine turbines will mince sealife. Perhaps it’s because at sea the effects cannot be as easily seen.

Back to the museum, which also had a fun rocket exhibit driven by the gases from hydrolyzed water. You cranked the wheel, creating a current that separated water into hydrogen and oxygen, which were then combined and ignited to fire a model rocket up a wire.

That, and the power sim got me thinking. The biggest issue with alternative energy sources is the fact that they cannot produce energy 24 hours a day all year round. But what if alternative energy sources were used solely to hydrolyze water to form hydrogen and oxygen and the gases stored and compressed also by these energy sources. The erratic nature of alternative energy production becomes less important if it creates a product can be stored.

Hydrogen is the key fuel in current fuel cell technology that creates clean energy for motorised transport. It seems appropriate to use alternative sources of energy to create it.

So what would I do? Build a plant that used solar heat or electricity from alternative energy to distill sea water to remove salt and impurities (if you hydrolyse salt water you produce a rather less desirable gas – chlorine). Sea water is a source of water of which, in general, we are not short (whereas freshwater reservoirs are more required for drinking water). Use alternative energy to hydrolyze that water to produce hydrogen and oxygen, which are stored as useful gases, and use the hydrogen to power fuel cells. Fuel cells generate electricity that can power cars, buses, and potentially even homes. The hydrogen recombines with oxygen in the fuel cell process to produce water. And the salt from the initial distillation process can be used in winter on roads (and if produced to excess is at least a lot safer than nuclear by-products) or returned to the sea, where it is naturally diluted by fresh water from rain or rivers.

The process is not energy efficient. But with the source of energy being sustainable and renewable, this aspects seems rather less important when compared with the ability continually to produce both fuel that can be stored and clean energy.

The Green Side of the Isle of Wight Festival

Much was made this year of the greener aspects of the IW Festival, though this largely seemed to consist of advice that it was possible to hire a bike and cycle from the ferry to the site. With this in mind it would have been handy to identify on the festival map where bikes could be safely left for the duration.

I can’t comment on the camp site, but there was the usual bike rack tucked away at the festival’s Medina High School entrance. I was there early each day so never had a problem finding a free space, but late arrivals would have been pushed. And that always leads to the fear that someone is going to double up on the spaces and chain your bike to their own. In short, the festival needs more bike racks, more clearly identified, and more clearly promoted.

As posted earlier, I initially cycled from Freshwater where I live to friends at Wootton, some 15 miles. On festival days I cycled in along the old railway line that picks up from the Havenstreet steam railway, joins the footpath/cycle route at the crematorium, and then conflicts with pedestrians all along Racecourse to the festival site. It takes just under 15 minutes – walking last year late at night took the best part of an hour, so cycling makes sense.

None of the marshals had the faintest idea where the bike racks were, and there was even one sign pointing in the wrong direction. It wouldn’t have taken much to pass on this information in their pre-event briefing.

On site, paper cup recycling was very much in evidence, with the sensible 10p refund per cup returned to points by the bars. Not everyone, of course, could be bothered, and plenty of enterprising young children made minor fortunes over the weekend by scavenging the ground and bins. I thought there was definitely a cup shortage on the ground this year, so the initiative in part worked, and probably accounted for the bottle-only barrage during The Kooks’ set on Sunday. It’s at time like that you simply hope for the best that the resulting shower of liquid is only beer or water…

Purple bins were marked for plastic bottles; red for mixed recyclables: both were used indiscriminately. The best initiative would be to match the cup-collection plan by having a similar one for bottles.

I approved of the wooden cutlery in evidence at food stalls, and of Smooth Criminals’ plastic-free paper cups that were 100 per cent compostable. If the festival used the same compostable cups for beer and cider, rather than what appear to be the usual non-recyclable composite paper and plastic cups, then the cups wouldn’t have to go off to be burned.

The waste is largely off to the Island’s new waste-to-energy plant. This is laughably called recycling by the local authority, when what it actually means is that it minimises the impact of the materials on landfill. The waste-to-energy plant merely gets a second and final use out of materials that could otherwise be properly recycled by turning them into other items – such as turning PET bottles into fibre for weaving, for instance. Burning waste without first re-using it is not really recycling.

Finally, there was BT’s wind turbine for charging phones in its chill zone. If the blades turned all weekend, I’d be surprised. It was poorly sited on a low mast right next to trees on the river bank, whereas turbines actually need a clear site with as few objects as possible that create air turbulence. Solar energy using photovoltaic panels is a far better bet on the Island during the hours of light. I have both a turbine and PV panels at home, and I know which produces more usable energy in a built-up environment. A bank of solar panels would have been far more impressive.

Solo needs to take much of the above on board to make the festival truly green. However, the biggest battle will always be getting people who can’t be bothered to stick the right waste in the right bins. People who, filled with alcohol, can’t tell left from right and up from down…