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Friday, 24 February 2012

Pie in the sea

tide turbine

The government will today be called on to increase its support for wave and tidal power in a new report from MPs warning the UK is at risk of repeating mistakes which allowed the country to lose its early lead in the developing wind power industry.

MPs on the Commons' Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) on Monday released a report on the future of marine renewables, which will claim the UK could become a leading exporter of wave and tidal power equipment and expertise if the government adopts a more visionary approach to developing marine energy.

Oh that’ll work well then. As my one reader will recall, (Hi Mrs FE) the author of this poorly written blog was a marine engineer for some 43 years. I know from bitter experience how corrosive sea water is. Many a time I’ve been called to fix a salt water leak from a corroded  pipe. Especially when you are at the North of Norway in the middle of winter and it’s at two in the morning.

I envisage that these turbines will be vastly more costly than above water wind turbines.

1)  Wind turbines only have to be weather-proof. Submersed turbines have to be waterproof to the depth they are subjected to. What are the materials to be used in the manufacture? What paint coating will they use to protect against marine growth? After all they would be foolish to use a cheap coating. It’s somewhat difficult to re-paint underwater.

2) You have to place and secure them underwater. Somewhat expensive in my mind. You’ll need divers and submersibles for that.

3) Ditto connection of cables.

4) Maintenance. This always seems to be left out of the equation when these schemes are floated in front of our lords and masters. How do you change a gearbox bearing underwater? In fact how due you change the oil in the gearbox?

5) has anyone assessed a failure rate and what to do when one or more fail? Considering that seaborne wind turbines appear to have an effective life of eight years rather than the twenty touted by the industry.

6) The one in the picture above is designed to swivel. How long before the swivel bearing seizes due to salt water seepage.

Anything I’ve forgotten? 

You get my point I hope.

The reason why I wrote this post is the “My dick is bigger than your dick” mentality by our politicians when it concerns being “Green”.

But the report warns that an overly cautious approach to deployment may allow other less risk-averse countries to steal the UK's lead.


The ECC report will issue a series of recommendations designed to ensure the UK retains its leading position, including clarifying how much revenue support marine power can expect to receive beyond 2017 as soon as possible.

and more

"Britannia really could rule the waves when it comes to marine renewable energy," said committee chairman Tim Yeo. "We are extremely well placed to lead the world in wave and tidal technologies, which could potentially bring significant benefits in manufacturing and jobs, as well an abundant supply of reliable low-carbon electricity."

The question I’d like to put to Tim Yeo (I refuse to call him honourable. MPs’ lost that honorific due to the expenses scandal), why do you want to destroy the UK’s competiveness by hiking up energy prices to obscene levels?

Dear reader (Bugger, Mrs FE has gone to bed), what would you prefer? A cheap energy source supplying your needs, or one that threatens you to a life of fuel poverty and rolling blackouts. I know which one I prefer.





  1. " due you change the oil in the gearbox?"

    Build it over an oilfield, & give BP the drilling-rights?

  2. Remember 'Salter's Duck', an original attempt to harness wave power?

    "In 1975, scientist Swift-Hook and others ran a series of tests which determined Salter's duck is able to convert "90% of the wave energy into mechanical energy". However, this percentage was when the duck was tested in a laboratory.

    In varying types of realistic conditions, the efficiency of the duck varies wildly and often drops to around 50%, as ducks are more often used in rough weather in order to convert enough wave power. Conversely, ducks are not useful in calm weather, as the waves would not have enough energy for there to be any efficiency in converting it."

    Oh, and:-

    "After later investigation, it was discovered that the Energy Technology Support Unit's cost determinations had mis-estimated the cost of building Salter's duck by more than double the actual cost."

    Doncha just love the euphemism for "under-estimated".'s_duck

  3. Just have the BOE print the money for all this. They already own One Third of all Gilts outstanding. What's a 100 billion pounds more after all?

  4. There are (very expensive) stainless-steel alloys suitable for underwater use, but of course the insensible companies making these shite elephants will not use them.

    But what happened to the trial device on Islay? It is/was an air turbine which ran regardless of the airflow direction, from rising & falling water in its underwater funnel. In theory, this is not a bad way to harness wave energy, as the arrangement kept all the moving parts out of the water.

    The future is, or would be in a sane world, proper nuclear power. By that I mean LFTRs - liquid fluoride thorium reactors - these are very safe & sustainable, and a limitless source of fuel already exists for them (from the spoil tips of rare-earth mining). The only reason the whole world is not using them already might just have something to do with the fact that LFTRs do not produce weapons-grade materials in their decay isotopes.

  5. Ed P Bang on! from what I read India is developing LTFRs with a 100 year working life........I also follow the JET and ITER projects, ultimately I believe the scientists will get there but not for 20 years at least.

  6. I would suggest the same. Lets invest in future reliable energy generation. Not quack* remedies.

    * salters duck

  7. "Anything I’ve forgotten?"

    How about "Water & Electricity Don't Mix" - Especially SALT Water....

  8. For many years I worked as a Design Engineer in a Marine Laboratory. I can confirm that sea water is bloody horrible stuff for which to design equipment. The corrosion is phenomenal.
    Not to mention the barnacles and other sea organisms which quickly attach themselves to anything which is put in the sea.

  9. "...the UK could become a leading exporter of wave and tidal power equipment and expertise..."

    Or alternatively, (the more likely outcome) it could be the leading spunker of billions of taxpayers money on (yet more) useless green technology.

    Why don't we hear things like: "By using tried and tested fracking technology, we could generate cheap energy security for years to come, meanwhile investigating clean nuclear options for the future. And we won't need to spend a penny of taxpayer's money."

    Or is that too easy?

  10. I'm afraid it will be the former. After all what do politicians know about the technicalities of power generation other than what they are told by vested interests.


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