Saturday, 19 March 2011

Round-up: The Power Generation

Events in Libya and Japan have caused Berkshire commentators to broach questions about the future of energy generation.

Across the spectrum

Eco-libertarian Robin Smith sets out the main groupings and attempts to position a safe nuclear option at the core of debate.

On the other side of the fence eco-authoritarian Adrian Windisch is implacably opposed to all nuclear sources. He describes Fukushima as a 'crisis' for the industry and hails the triumph of off-shore wind turbines which have 'kept the lights on'. He also highlights the theory of 'peak oil', using this populist argument against fossil fuel dependency to draw crowds, although he can't accurately predict at what level or when oil production will top out.

Meanwhile Darren Bridgeman provides a balanced summation of his party's position, arguing that nuclear can remain part of the energy mix provided it isn't shown any unfair favoritism and huge-scale commercial investments don't distort the energy production market, adding, "we can not just rely on green technology only at this point."

He may be surprised to find some overlap with Wokingham's John Redwood MP, who makes his support plain for greater efficiency and capacity on the grounds that this provides greater security and self-sufficiency.

However the arch-capitalist says that much will depend on Mr Huhne's judgement in setting the prices for the 'carbon floor' and any carbon taxes. He urges caution and says he should make careful consideration of all the facts.

Many overlooked the coalition government's new energy policy and carbon plan when it was recently announced as it got bounced by the more immediate and visceral events, all despite David Cameron's assertive attempt to attract attention by laying claim to be 'the greenest government ever'.

Adrian Windisch was first off the mark to report on the announcements, but he could hardly have been more scathing, using the phrase 'shambles', alongside what he calls a 'dodgy definition of zero' and a quote from his party leader of 'flimsy greenwash'.

Then in a strange twist he says he can't give his support to the plans because they are 'not ambitious enough'.

Elsewhere I also have a look at the same policies, and conclude that the reforms are generally positive, but the claims made for them are probably a bit too bold.

What's required is a sense of proportion and appropriateness.

So it's also worth having a look at what's happening around the county.

Solar power

St George's Church in Newbury has been praised by former Archbishop of Canterbury as an environmental leader, after it installed 129 photo-voltaic solar panels to become the first 'carbon-neutral' church in the whole country. Rev. George Carey said he hoped it would become a 'beacon' for others - you can check out some pictures of the panels on the blog set up for this purpose.

The initiative has certainly helped inspire parishioners to raise money as £40,000 was donated towards the £900,000 costs within 12 hours of opening the appeal.

In Reading Rachel Eden debates the merits of installing solar panels on her own roof, before concluding it is worth the investment on educational grounds as much as anything else.

Wind power

Controversy was raised recently when UKIP released figures showing wind generation doesn't pay its own way. The totemic turbine at Green Park in south Reading runs at 17% capacity and consequently requires a £30,000 annual subsidy from taxpayers.

And the new development of a 4-turbine wind farm at Rushy Mead near Arborfield is stirring opposition as residents say they haven't been consulted and the location may not be ideal.

But over in West Berkshire Adrian Hollister bemoans NIMBY's who threaten a new wind turbine at Sheepdrove Farm on the Lambourne Downs. He argues it is short-sighted not to ensure every farm has a wind generator and every new house maximises self-generation capacity.

Hydro power

Berkshire may be landlocked, but that hasn't stopped community activists from dipping into the well of history to infuse their imagination.

After previous suggestions to Newbury Town Council and West Berkshire Borough Council fell by the wayside, a discussion on Newbury Forum raised the prospect of using the Kennet and Avon to generate water power.

Greenham Mill previously supplied a constant source of electricity to the town in the early part of the last century, and over 200 businesses could benefit from fresh proposals which could be brought about as part of the government's Big Society scheme.

Mark Knight urged for a visible location to help transparency around the project,
"I think there is the interest, it is just about energising people and I think, we the people, can make it happen and make a sense of community."
The plan has been given impetus by the Sustainable Newbury group where supporter Cllr Roger Hunneman expressed concern about the possibility of exhorbitant capital costs, but was buioyed by attendees at a public meeting who suggested these could easily be surmounted if local experts volunteered their assistance.

Oranjepan says:
As Darren Bridgeman aptly explained,
"Those that don't want wind farms on their doorstep also wouldn't want a coal fire or nuclear power station in it's place. Energy generation is not pretty, but we all use it and all need it.", to be able to understand how things can be used in our best interests we need to be able to reconnect with where they come from - and that includes our energy sources!


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