One of Britain’s leading scientists will deliver a stark warning against the rush to wind power in a speech to be delivered in Shetland next week.
Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a former commissioning engineer at Sullom Voe, believes that too much emphasis has been put on wind generation at the expense of other potentially more efficient forms of renewable energy.
His remarks, to be made on Tuesday at the Shetland Museum and Archives at an event supported by the Pure Energy Centre, will re-ignite the debate over Viking Energy’s proposed windfarm.
Speaking to The Shetland Times prior to his visit Mr Pike, who will be remembered locally for having swum across both Yell Sound and Bluemull Sound in 1980, said: “In the longer term people need to look at the bigger picture. One of my concerns in general is that the big picture for energy provision in the UK I don’t think has been investigated as fully as it should.
“We can’t rely on too much focus on one type of energy provision – we need to have a diverse range. We need to have the science available to support whatever mix is needed. That mix will vary with time, I suggest. To get fixed on to one in particular, it may sound right at the time, but in the longer term it may not be.
“You can imagine people saying ‘wind is great’ but right next to you might be some very good tidal currents that can provide an excellent source of energy. The important thing with tidal turbines is that because the density of water is a thousand times greater than air, you can do the sums and you can do a lot more with a smaller turbine under water than with a windmill above ground. Not enough people are standing back comparing costs and comparing efficiencies. That would be my plea – that there would be a view of the diverse range.”
As well as tidal power, which received a boost this week when the test turbine at the Falls of Warness, off Eday in Orkney, produced electricity for the National Grid, Mr Pike highlighted sea barriers, solar and geothermal power.
“In the widest sense, we really need to progress the various options,” he said. “I think people have got a rather narrow view of what it means.”
Mr Pike will also be heavily critical of biofuels. He believes what is called biologists and chemists “life-cycle analysis” should be applied to all potential sources of fuel.
“What people didn’t think too carefully about was how much enegy is needed and how much CO2 is expended in actually clearing the land in the first place. Typically in some places overseas woodland would have grown for decades, and then suddenly a farmer would get a subsidy to grow biofuels and clear that woodland. Literally hundreds of tonnes of CO2 would be put into the atmosphere. The carbon payback is decades.
“Biofules are extraordinarily inefficient – for every one per cent of petrol or diesel you want to replace, you need about one per cent of the UK land surface to grow the crops.”
30 May 2008
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