Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Letters / Mankind releases CO2

Frank Hay’s letter on behalf of Sustainable Shetland (Group in not anti-renewables; SN, 19/10/2018) states that wind farms cannot be constructed without using large quantities of fossil fuels.

You would think from the tone of the letter that the building of wind farms was the only industry that is not green. He also hints at demand for the power generated may not be guaranteed. On the contrary, evidence is that the demand for power is never endingly upwards. Infinitely increasing demand in a finite world – now that is definitely not sustainable.

While the use of fossil fuels during construction is true, by way of balance, why does he not mention the destruction of areas of forest in West Africa, Indonesia, South America to allow extraction of oil, gas and other minerals.

Vast areas of Texas and many other places are covered by oilrigs and nodding donkeys, the taiga in Russia is also damaged by the extraction of oil and gas. These are but a few examples of where humans are doing damage to the environment. And all this so we can use power as and when we want. Is it a case “of out of sight, out of mind”. The “green and carbon payback” of all these industrial activities is not only questionable; it is anything but CO2 free or neutral.

Shetland, which currently relies almost entirely on fossil fuel for our power requirement is obviously a net contributor to CO2 release. Large use of wind power locally would substantially reduce these emissions.

Is there a difference in negative environmental impact of one large wind farm, as opposed to hundreds or thousands of small turbines? Even small wind turbines rely on fossil backup when the wind does not blow.

Does he also think that the extraction of iron and other minerals from the earth is CO2 neutral, their transport around the world, the shipyards that build the tankers and bulk carriers, the transport of these products around the world are CO2 free? Is the construction and use of power stations whether by coal, oil, gas or nuclear power CO2 free? Is the manufacture of the car he drives CO2 free? I could go on and on, but this shows the gist of my argument. Mankind releases vast amounts of CO2 whenever he uses power.

If large wind farms are so abhorrent, why are their numbers growing daily around the world. Why does Texas, one of the great oil and gas producers in the world, have vast areas covered by huge wind farms?

The reason is that you locate them where the most benefit accrues. You don’t dig for iron where there is none. Long inter-connectors are not unusual, with quite a few, operational and planned, much longer than the one proposed for here.

He states that the wind does not always blow therefore its potential is overrated. Well the sun does not always shine, tide does not always flow (predictable, but not always at the right time), waves do not always come from the right direction, or with the same strength. No renewable source is perfect. No form of mass storage has yet been invented to even out the downtimes.

If we want to continue our daily use of all forms of transport, something has to change. Making cars all electric only shifts the pollution from the car exhaust to the power station exhaust – it is still released to the atmosphere.

Therefore a huge upgrade of electrical power generation and distribution will be necessary in order to meet these battery charging requirements. Carbon capture which could mitigate these additional emissions is still a dream.

We are told that the power generation and grid distribution systems in this country are running so close to capacity that they are in danger of collapse, with brown outs and black outs possible. Multiple construction projects to upgrade these systems will by their sheer scale be far less green than building a wind farm here. And they will, according to current plans, either be driven by hydrocarbon or nuclear generation.

Regrettably, the government’s current nuclear policy is chaotic, the same chaos that it is creating in all that it does, and does not bode well for their future plans.

Maybe we all need to share a little more of the downside for the greater good.

James Sandison