Green ambitions meet social reality

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Figure 18.1 is bleak news. Yes, technically, Britain has "huge" renewables. But realistically, I don't think Britain can live on its own renewables - at least not the way we currently live. I am partly driven to this conclusion by the chorus of opposition that greets any major renewable energy proposal. People love renewable energy, unless it is bigger than a figleaf. If the British are good at one thing, it's saying "no."

Wind farms? "No, they're ugly noisy things."

Solar panels on roofs? "No, they would spoil the visual amenity of the street."

"Defence": 4

Transporting stuff: 12 kWh/d

Stuff:

Food, farming, fertilizer: 15 kWh/d

Gadgets: 5

Light: 4 kWh/d

Heating, cooling: 37 kWh/d

Jet flights: 30kWh/d

Car: 40kWh/d

Figure 18.7. The state of play after we add up all the traditional renewables, and then have a public consultation.

Geoth kWh/d too immature!

Tide: 11 kWh/d

Wave: 4kWh/d

Wave: 4kWh/d

iomass: fo biofuel, wood, waste incin'n, landfill gas: 4 kWh/

too expensive!

not near my radar!

not near my birds! not in my valley!

not in my countryside!

too expensive!

too expensive! not on my street!

not in my back yard!

Current consumption: 125 kWh/d per person i*''

's Offshore: 4 kWh/d ^ Hydro: G.3 kWh/d ■*— Biomass: 4 kWh/d Solar PV: 2 kWh/d ^ Solar HW: 2 kWh/d "-Wind: 3 kWh/d

After the public consultation. I fear the maximum Britain would ever get from renewables is in the ballpark of 18 kWh/d per person. (The left-hand consumption number, 125 kWh/d per person, by the way, is the average British consumption, excluding imports, and ignoring solar energy acquired through food production.)

Figure 18.8. Where the wild things are. One of the grounds for objecting to wind farms is the noise they produce. I've chopped out of this map of the British mainland a 2-km-radius exclusion zone surrounding every hamlet, village, and town. These white areas would presumably be excluded from wind-farm development. The remaining black areas would perhaps also be largely excluded because of the need to protect tranquil places from industrialization. Settlement data from www. openstreetmap. org.

More forestry? Waste incineration?

Hyd roelecfric ity?

Offshore wind?

"No, it ruins the countryside."

"No, I'm worried about health risks, traffic congestion, dust and noise."

"Yes, but not big hydro - that harms the environment."

"No, I'm more worried about the ugly powerlines coming ashore than I was about a Nazi invasion."

Wave or geothermal power? "No, far too expensive."

After all these objections, I fear that the maximum Britain would ever get from renewables would be something like what's shown in the bottom right of figure 18.7.

Figure 18.8 offers guidance to anyone trying to erect wind farms in Britain. On a map of the British mainland I've shown in white a 2-km-radius exclusion zone surrounding every hamlet, village, and town. These white areas would presumably be excluded from wind-farm development because they are too close to the humans. I've coloured in black all regions magnified x100

all renewables in 2006: 1.05kWh/d nuclear (2006): 3.4kWh/d offshore wind: 0.03kWh/d small hydro: 0.022 kWh/d large hydro: 0.19 kWh/d biodiesel: 0.13 kWh/d

Figure 18.9. Production of renewables and nuclear energy in the UK in 2006. All powers are expressed per-person, as usual. The breakdown of the renewables on the right hand side is scaled up 100-fold vertically.

biomass (wood in homes): 0.07kWh/d biomass (cofiring): 0.12 kWh/d biomass (landfill gas, sewage, waste incineration): 0.3 kWh/d solar HW: 0.014 kWh/d solar PV: 0.0003 kWh/d wind: 0.16 kWh/d that are more than 2 km from any human settlement. These areas are largely excluded from wind-farm development because they are tranquil, and it's essential to protect tranquil places from industrialization. If you want to avoid objections to your wind farm, pick any piece of land that is not coloured black or white.

Some of these environmentalists who have good hearts but confused minds are almost a barrier to tackling climate change.

Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State for Energy

We are drawing to the close of Part I. The assumption was that we want to get off fossil fuels, for one or more of the reasons listed in Chapter 1 -climate change, security of supply, and so forth. Figure 18.9 shows how much power we currently get from renewables and nuclear. They amount to just 4% of our total power consumption.

The two conclusions we can draw from Part I are:

1. To make a difference, renewable facilities have to be country-sized.

For any renewable facility to make a contribution comparable to our current consumption, it has to be country-sized. To get a big contribution from wind, we used wind farms with the area of Wales. To get a big contribution from solar photovoltaics, we required half the area of Wales. To get a big contribution from waves, we imagined wave farms covering 500 km of coastline. To make energy crops with a big contribution, we took 75% of the whole country.

Renewable facilities have to be country-sized because all renewables are so diffuse. Table 18.10 summarizes most of the powers-per-unit-area that we encountered in Part I.

To sustain Britain's lifestyle on its renewables alone would be very difficult. A renewable-based energy solution will necessarily be large and intrusive.

2. It's not going to be easy to make a plan that adds up using renewables alone. If we are serious about getting off fossil fuels, Brits are going to have to learn to start saying "yes" to something. Indeed to several somethings.

In Part II I'll ask, "assuming that we can't get production from renew-ables to add up to our current consumption, what are the other options?"

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Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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