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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Madness on sea:

At last the damage to our coast is being noticed!  DAILY MAIL 18/06/2011


Madness on sea: A massive windfarm is being built off one of our most glorious coastlines and threatens an ecological disaster

Last updated at 12:41 AM on 18th June 2011

A typical North Sea summer evening of alternate rain and sun and I am surging across the waves aboard a powerful launch, in the company of five Norwegians.
Three of them are teenage geography students from a high school outside Bergen. They are chaperoned by their teacher Jan; all here to witness their country's latest maritime engineering feat.
In the distance, long lines of yellow stumps emerge from the sea, giving the illusion that the earth really is flat and we are approaching a fence at the end of the world.
Vision of the future: Scroby Sands offshore wind farm in Norfolk, like the one planned for Sheringham Shoal
Vision of the future: Scroby Sands offshore wind farm in Norfolk, like the one planned for Sheringham Shoal
Up close, the stumps are revealed to be steel towers which loom more than 20 metres above our little craft, like the smoke stacks of so many sinking Titanics. Save, that is, for two of the towers which bear the globular, metallic, electricity substations on top of them weighing 1,000 tonnes each.
In the middle of this futuristic seascape sits a leviathan mother ship, the 14,000-tonne heavy crane vessel Oleg Strashnov, her boom raised more than 100 metres over the swell.
Our guide today is Einar Stromsvag, an affable beanpole of an engineer from a fishing town in the fjords of north-western Norway. Einar is the general manager of Scira Offshore Energy, a joint venture company formed by the global energy giants Statoil and Statkraft, both of which are majority-owned by the Norwegian Government.

What we are inspecting this evening is Einar's baby; Scira's £1 billion flagship project. Covering 14 square miles on completion, it will be the world's second-largest offshore windfarm.
Hundreds of men, mostly Scandinavian but also Dutch and Belgian, are working aboard the couple of dozen boats and ships of the windfarm's fleet. Some live on a converted Danish ferry, at anchor a mile from the construction site. It frees up the holiday season accommodation ashore 'and keeps the men out of the pubs there', remarks Einar.
Not everyone in the project has to live so monastically, however. Einar, for example, is living in a cottage in one of the prettiest coastal villages. And the previous night I had stayed in a nearby hotel, in which the rest of the windfarm management occupy a whole wing.
A member of staff told me that the hotel, the largest in this popular holiday town, is sometimes more than half full of Norse maritime engineers. Yet we are not off Bergen, Stavanger or Tromso. Nor even Northern Scotland. This is the Sheringham Shoal, and some 10 miles to the south, the coast of North Norfolk — granted heritage status — can be seen quite clearly.
Outstanding natural beauty: Sunrise on a misty morning at Holkham Bay on the North Norfolk Coast
Outstanding natural beauty: Sunrise on a misty morning at Holkham Bay on the North Norfolk Coast
What a transformation! This was the empty seascape of my childhood holidays, themselves a legacy of my grandfather's wartime service in RAF Coastal Command. Four generations of the family have fallen in love with this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: it is utterly English, wonderfully austere.
And for the moment it remains a precious environment; its many nature reserves are home to rare migrational sea birds and seals, as well as myriad flora along the sand dunes, pine woods and salt marshes.
But now, where the sea meets the sky there is no longer the seamless grey of old. Gargantuan machines are driving piles 30 metres into the seabed as 90 towers rise just below the horizon, as seen from the shore.
The turbines atop them — the first is due to be installed this week and will measure 130 metres high from the sea surface to the tip of one of its three 52-metre blades — will supposedly power our toasters, washing machines and other gadgets for decades to come.
Scira says the farm will power the equivalent of 220,000 average households and save almost 500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The first power will be produced later this summer, running through some 40 km of offshore and onshore cable to a sub-station in rural Norfolk. From there, it will enter the National Grid.
It will form part of the Coalition Government's forceful championing of renewable energy — David Cameron has committed the UK to producing 20 per cent of our energy from renewable resources by 2020. The electricity companies are obliged by law to work towards this goal — only we do not appear to have the technological know-how to do it for ourselves.
So the gusts that blow with such vigour off the Norfolk coast are now being harnessed by Norwegians, using German, Dutch and Danish machinery, then sold on to French electricity distribution giant EDF before finally being bought by the British consumer — at considerable mark-up, of course.
Scira has the lease on the seabed beneath or around here for the next 50 years and is looking to build an even bigger turbine field some miles to the north of Sheringham, along the Dogger Bank. The size of North Yorkshire, if approved, it is said. Several other companies or conglomerates are vying to build more windfarms round here. The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed off the UK coast, is considering leases for fields which would dwarf the one at Sheringham Shoal.
New Viking invasion: Villages in Norfolk - Cley Next the Sea, Blakeney and Holt are particularly pretty and popular
New Viking invasion: Villages in Norfolk - Cley Next the Sea, Blakeney and Holt are particularly pretty and popular
No wonder it is being described as the New Klondike. But the question is: should it be there at all?
The journey to the heart of New Klondike takes you from the seaside town of Sheringham, with its famous steam railway and 'afternoon tea dances', along one of the most exquisite coastal roads in England.
You pass by the picturesque but obsolete wooden windmill at Weybourne, below which the windfarm cable comes ashore, through Stiffkey on the creek-ridden salt marshes and into the town of Wells-next-the-Sea. Horatio Nelson's birthplace, the village of Burnham Thorpe, is a few miles beyond.
In my childhood, Wells was the charming, if ever-so-slightly-shabby, town in a genteel coast dotted with flint cottages and stately homes. Wells lifeboat station sits at the end of the narrow channel which winds through sand bars from the open sea to the town's small inner harbour. I remember during my childhood trudging past it lugging windbreakers for family picnics on the beach.
Recently the landscape has been radically altered. Scira has dredged a new 'Outer Harbour' by the lifeboat station. Its fleet of 12 staff transfer vessels, supply and survey boats are moored alongside new pontoons.
The centre of operations for this activity is to be found in a former school house in the centre of Wells.
On a large electronic wall screen in the control room, 29 vessels and 535 Scira workers are being plotted by a Viking-haired man called Bjorn.
His computer mouse flicks on to a shape that represents one Scira boat. Immediately it shows there are three people on board. Another click gives their names, blood groups, next of kin etc. Very impressive.
Bjorn is a maritime engineer. He would like to drive 'a bloody great dredger' through the notorious sandbar at the end of Wells harbour, but that wouldn't be very popular — Scira is careful to keep in with the locals.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds is being thrown at various community projects along the Heritage Coast; the latest tranche of largesse is some £7,000 to be divided among a community centre in the pretty Georgian town of Holt, near to which the onshore cable trench is being dug, a nursery in Sheringham and a National Coastwatch Station at Mundesley.
Forty local jobs will also, eventually, be created by the Norwegian project. But much of the work is being done elsewhere.
The German engineering giant Siemens not only built the turbines, blades and towers at its facilities in Denmark, but also has the contract for their maintenance. The offshore cables are Norwegian manufactured. The piles for the towers come from Germany, Holland and Belgium. At least the two 1,000-tonne offshore substations were manufactured in Hartlepool.
What we do have to offer in Britain, as an island in the North Atlantic, is a lot of wind and sea.
Scira says the UK coastal waters have around 40 per cent of Europe's entire wind resources. Indeed, we apparently possess the largest shallow-water offshore wind resource in the world. The seabed is easy to drill off Norfolk. The waters are so shallow that even even 10 miles offshore the water is only 20 metres deep.
'If you went that far off Stavanger in Norway, you would find yourself at a depth of 300 metres,' says Einar. 'Then you would be looking at much more complex platforms like oil rigs and not monopiles that we can use here. It would be just too expensive.'
In other words, the windfarms are springing up close to the nature reserves of the east coast because it is the cheapest place to put them.
The higher cost of wind-power electricity compared to that from conventional energy sources is one of the main reservations of those who oppose the New Klondike.
Ecological risks: Seals at Blakeney Point nature reserve on the North Norfolk coast. Some have washed ashore dead since work on the windfarm started
Ecological risks: Seals at Blakeney Point nature reserve on the North Norfolk coast. Some have washed ashore dead since work on the windfarm started
This point is argued by Heritage Coast resident Peter Comins, author of a local newsletter. 'The public is now beginning to realise the considerable amount of infrastructure that is required on land,' he recently wrote. 'All this capital investment has to be paid for. The higher cost is passed to the consumers ... and will become increasingly onerous as we move closer to the 20 per cent target set for 2020.'
In the study of his home, a few miles from where the cables come ashore at Weybourne Hope, he puts it more bluntly: 'The economics don't make sense.' Yet the biggest fear along the coast is the effect the wind turbines' construction and operation will have on its delicate ecosystem.
Scira is treading very carefully. Under the terms of its lease, it is obliged to monitor marine and bird life around the shoal. While many conservation groups support renewable energy, it is a different matter when it is placed in areas like this.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds initially objected to Sheringham Shoal, claiming that it would have a devastating effect on the internationally important nesting colonies at nearby Blakeney Point and Scolt Head. It withdrew its opposition having received assurances from Scira, but is now facing a proliferation of windfarms nearby.
Toby Gethin, an RSPB casework officer, said: 'We support renewable energy and windfarms. However, they must not be sited in areas where they have an adverse impact on threatened species.
'We support renewable energy and windfarms. However, they must not be sited in areas where they have an adverse impact on threatened species'

RSPB casework officer Toby Gethin
'We have outstanding objections and concerns regarding four further offshore windfarm proposals planned for the Greater Wash because cumulatively they could result in an adverse impact on wildlife.'
Seals have been found dead, perhaps killed by construction boats but no one knows.
Local fishermen, who worked the Sheringham Shoal and are paid 'disruption compensation' during construction, are similarly wary. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations said: 'We have not got much choice but to live with the fact the Government has decided to issue licences to build such windfarms and instead try to focus on mitigating the impact of them.
'Only time will tell and that is very worrying.'
Who really knows? Norwegians like Einar can offer experience in oil and gas. But they are windfarm pioneers. They cannot say what impact their turbines will have on the ecosystem, or indeed on our power supplies.
Only this week, it was revealed that windfarms may have to be shut down for 38 days of the year when it gets too windy, because the National Grid cannot cope with a surge in power. And if the wind drops too far, they do not work at all.
But why should the Norwegians who are building the Sheringham Shoal windfarm care about that? Or indeed French giant EDF that will sell the electricity it produces? After all, they're not the ones who live here.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Answer Isn't Blowing in the Wind

Because of its enthusiasm to sign up to poorly thought out climate change policies Britain is now on course to have the most expensive electricity in the developed world.  By 2020 one third of our electricity bills will be made up of green tariffs, (money taken from us and given almost entirely to wind farm constructors). Industry and commerce will pay an even higher price.
These costs, as you may have noticed from your recent electricity bills, have already begun.  Between 2002 and 2010 the UK electricity consumer paid a premium of £5bn over and above the wholesale price of electricity, almost all of that went to wind farm developers.  According to calculations made by the Renewable Energy Foundation the subsidy will grow to a still increasing 6bn by 2020 if the policies we have at the moment are not changed.  Most of this will go to offshore and on-shore wind energy companies.
A wind farm enthusiast recently told me that we have no right to inflict the legacy of nuclear waste on our grandchildren, but I guess its OK to bankrupt them and sabotage their economic competitiveness.
The REF calculate that, from 2002 to 2020 the scheme will cost around £35bn and that even if these policies were cancelled in 2020, the legal obligation for continued support for the wind farms already built would add a further £65bn in the following decade. All of that will be taken from us.
These costs are not obvious like VAT or income tax because the are hidden in our electricity bills, these charges are levied on private households regardless of income which suggests to me that they will present a disproportionately large burden for the less well off in our society.  It also of course adds hugely to the cost of everything else that is manufactured or transported.
These costs were imposed on us by the last government in its eagerness to conform to the EU’s Renewable Electricity Directive, which was to obtain 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Despite the £5bn subsidy we have significantly failed to do this, managing just 6.5% in 2010, which suggests that the 2020 targets are wildly optimistic.
Wind farm developers and their supporters continually blame what they call ‘Nimbys’ for creating delays through the planning system, but when you are operating in a world that is insulated from the normal constraints of finance and competition I guess democracy might also seem like something you can circumvent; there is however, much more to it than that.  With such vast quantities of easy money available to throw at these schemes and the eagerness of these people to get their hands on as much of it as possible, they are not being thoroughly thought through. Take Sheringham Shoal for example, at the beginning of 2010 after the initial explorations were complete they arrived to begin construction with the Svanen, a floating crane used to construct the ├śresund bridge that links Sweden to Copenhagen.
 Apart from possibly being the main culprit in the deaths of many grey and common seals it was also the wrong piece of equipment for the job, as it was only able to operate in seas with a wave height of a 1mtr or less.  Which meant that it spent considerably more time in Yarmouth then it did off Sheringham killing seals.  I guess it’s an ill wind that blows no good at all.

Decades of oil exploration in the North Sea mean that more research has been carried out here in respect of wave height and wave/tide effect than on any other body of water on earth, yet still they got it wrong.  The upshot of this was that they had to cease operations last autumn, take the Svanen away and begin construction of a completely new lift platform in Norway to complete the job. As yet this hasn't appeared and another larger floating crane has arrived on site. Look out for more seal carcasses.
Grid connection problems also cause wind farm delays as I guess does the reluctance of bankers to invest money in schemes that are only sustainable through subsidy. Low wind conditions, particularly through the very cold weather periods we have had during recent winters also contributed to their failing to achieve the required 10% reductions.
Work done by the Renewable Energy Foundation shows that the 2010 targets would have been missed even if wind speeds had exceeded the highest annual average over the last ten years. The optimism that thought them attainable in the first place seems to be pretty much of the kind we get with most wind farm generation predictions.
Wind farm propagandists make much of the job creation that comes with wind farm development; apparently the wind farms off north Norfolk have so far created 65 new jobs.   However, an EU Commission paper released in 2009 showed that the wider economic effects of these targets entailed net job losses for the UK.  Not difficult to understand, when all the wind farms are completed off the north Norfolk coast I believe the job losses in the tourism industry here will far outweigh anything that wind farms might temporarily create.
I have not invented this scenario, the facts are out there, they are neither difficult to find or to understand, yet their significance is completely lost (the REF excepted) on the Green lobby and wind energy supporters.  Such facts are obviously unpalatable to the government, who cannot be seen to be making  U turns. Somehow the truth of all this must become more widely known. I  believe that there is an increasing resistance to wind energy as a solution to reducing our reliance on finite resources, but I seriously doubt it will gain enough momentum to so slow this money-making gravy train unless there is a sudden and dramatic sea change in public opinion..
Our future like our landscape is being sacrificed. I sometimes think that the greater the value of what is being sacrificed the more heroic these fanatics believe they are!

Godfrey Sayers            07/05/2011

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Not the Only ones

  Scira Offshore Energy Limited have been set back many months as a consequence of selecting the wrong   equipment for the construction of Sheringham Shoal wind farm, what their losses are is anybody's guess.  It would seem however, that they are not the only ones to catch a cold in this mad rush for easy money.
Learns costly EPC lessons
from Greater Gabbard
Long delays and heavy cost overruns at the 504MW Greater Gabbard offshore wind project have taught an “expensive lesson” to engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) giant Fluor, and developers Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and RWE Npower Renewables.

US engineering giant Fluor Corporation says third quarter results will take a hit of $163m, or $0.90 a share, because of estimated cost increases on the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Project in the UK.
In a statement, Fluor says its full-year earnings will now be between $2.20 and $2.50 a share, versus an earlier estimate of $2.90 to $3.20 a share. It expects to release Q3 results by 4 November.

“During the third quarter, the project experienced a variety of execution challenges, including material and equipment delivery issues, primarily relating to the installation of wind turbine generators and subsea cabling,” the company says in a statement.
Fluor says it revised estimates to include substantial costs for additional marine vessels and other subcontractor costs associated with equipment installation, equipment repairs and the estimated schedule impact which has been exacerbated by weather-related delays.
“The company has taken a number of remedial actions to mitigate further cost escalation and delays to the schedule,” it adds.

Fluor is the main contractor for the 504MW Greater Gabbard scheme located 23km off the Suffolk coast. Developer Scottish and Southern Energy is the developer in the 50-50 joint venture with RWE.
In 2008, Fluor was awarded a $1.8bn fixed price contract to construct the wind farm. To date, all 140 monopiles and tower transition pieces have been installed and 53 of 140 wind turbine generators are in place.

Installation and commissioning of the remaining wind turbine generators, subsea inter-array cabling and grid substations are expected to continue through the latter part of 2011. The overall project is expected to be completed in early 2012, according to Fluor.
The project has experienced a number of challenges since construction began in late 2008. Through the second quarter of 2010, the company had recorded $202m in claim revenue relating to costs incurred on a dispute with the joint venture regarding specifications for monopiles and transition pieces required under the contract, says Fluor.

Additional costs arising from this dispute are expected to be incurred in future quarters. Fluor continues to pursue claims for costs recoverable under the contract, it says.
Richard A. Kessler ( 

Godfrey Sayers  05/05/2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011

BBC Bias

Why is it that the BBC can give extensive and exaggerated coverage of extreme weather events that 'might' be considered to be the result of climate change i.e. the floods and cyclone in Australia whilst totally ignoring this.

 The BBC is supposed give us unbiased and accurate news, thats what we pay them to do. Instead all we get for our money is sensationalism and propaganda!

 This picture shows the Northern Hemisphere as it is at the moment. Click to enlarge
At first glance this image looks like a graphic from a Discovery Channel programme about a distant ice age. But this astonishing picture shows the world as it is today - with half the Northern Hemisphere covered with snow and ice. The image was released by the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Association (NOAA) on the day half of North America was in the grip of a severe winter storm. The map was created using multiple satellites from government agencies and the US Air Force. That Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland and the frozen wastes of Siberia are covered in white comes as no surprise. But it is the extent to which the line dips down over the Northern Hemisphere that is so remarkable about the image. Read more: