The fourth battle of Churchover

                                        unnamed
On October 3rd, I was invited down to a meeting in Churchover organised by Aswar, the local anti-wind-farm campaign group, and their chairman Lorne Smith, whom I have known, and done my best to assist, for many years.  Because of problems in the Church Hall, the meeting actually took place in the Church itself.  The other speaker was local Tory MP Mark Pawsey.

Pity the good folk of Churchover, a charming and (so far) unspoilt village in a vital green lung between encroaching Rugby and Lutterworth. They’ve seen off plans for a retail park.  And a wind farm.  And a second wind farm (although this battle is still in process and may depend on a decision from Eric Pickles).  And now they have a new proposal for a large solar farm close by the village.  (Technically the site they’re concerned about currently is actually in the West Midlands, not the East, but it abuts on the A5/Fosse Wayboundary between the two).

Is it right that a village should have to fight four separate planning battles, merely for the privilege of being left alone?  UKIP says No.  That’s why we want local referenda for developments of this kind.  But all credit to Churchover for their determined fight — and to Lorne Smith for leading and chairing it.  All strength to their elbow.

I made the points that there were huge questions about the theory of man-made global warming; and that wind and solar failed in their own terms, not least because they required conventional back-up to be run intermittently (and therefore inefficiently).  Much of the emissions savings envisaged for wind or solar were offset by inefficiencies and higher emissions in the back-up.  I argued that the subsidies for renewables were profoundly regressive, frequently (not always) taking money from the general population via their electricity bills (including the lower-paid and pensioners) and giving it (often) to wealthy land-owners (like David Cameron’s father-in-law).

I also quoted EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani: “We are creating an industrial massacre in Europe (with energy prices)”, and pointed out that high energy costs are driving energy-intensive industries out of the EU altogether, taking their jobs and their investment with them.  Often they go to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, so we could well be increasing global emissions while we damage our economy.

It was ironic that this meeting took place just days after DECC pointed out that Ed Davey’s predictions of higher fossil fuel prices (which might have made renewables competitive) were unlikely to be achieved any time soon – gas and oil prices are expected to stay low for a decade. And the HoC Public Accounts Committee criticised DECC for extravagant subsidy offers to renewables operators.

I argued that solar farms on agricultural land were immoral when the UKwas heavily dependent on food imports, and across the world many people go to bed hungry.  I said that if they had to install solar panels, they would be much better on the roofs of large agricultural and industrial buildings.  I recognised that in coming years solar could become so efficient that it would be economically viable despite intermittency — but it would be sensible to invest smaller sums in R&D today to create efficient solar technology, rather than to invest billions in today’s solar panels which are inefficient and will soon be obsolete.

We had a representative of a solar power trade organisation.  He said that solar was approaching the Holy Grail of “Grid Parity” (i.e. the cost of its electricity the same as the average for the Grid); that they were already seeking to install on large roofs; that solar panels on agricultural land still allowed sheep to graze under and around the panels.  And he told us about the “green jobs” that the industry was creating.

In reply, I pointed out that his “Grid Parity” calculation failed to account for the inefficiencies in the back-up; for the “capacity payments” which allow intermittent back-up gas plants to be economically viable; and for the major investments in the Grid needed to accommodate small, distributed and intermittent generation.  I argued that if solar were really competitive, owners of large industrial buildings would be queuing up to install it.  Perhaps (I suggested mischievously) the solar industry might demonstrate its sincerity by agreeing not to install panels on agricultural land, but to focus entirely on industrial roofs.

On “green jobs”, I cited the studies that have been done to show that each “green job” has the effect of destroying several real jobs in the real economy, because “green energy” drives up prices, undermines competitiveness, stunts growth and forces energy-intensive businesses off-shore.

But I felt the priceless point was the issue of agricultural land.  The design of solar parks is intended to catch as much solar radiation as possible.  Put another way, that means maximising the shadow on the ground.  But plant growth is driven by two main factors: sunlight, and atmospheric CO2.  Cut the sunlight by shading the grass, and less grass will grow.  That’s basic physics and biology.  The solar industry man insisted that some light reached the ground around the panels.  Of course it does.  But much less than if the panels weren’t there.  The sunlight on the panels is not available to power the growth of grass, and therefore the acreage will feed fewer sheep.

A piece of hilarious irony: if instead we used fossil fuels, not solar farms, to generate that energy, we’d add a little CO2 to the atmosphere.  That COwould in fact promote biomass formation and plant growth, and the agricultural land could therefore feed more sheep, not fewer.  Truly, the world has gone mad.

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19 Responses to The fourth battle of Churchover

  1. Gary Conway says:

    Re agriculture, are there any figures for the amount of carbon captured from the atmosphere by our crops? A field of wheat/rape/leeks must fairly suck the carbon out of the air.

    Presuming one cares about such things, surely millions of tons of carbon are captured each and every year. Each area of land given over to windfarms and solar arrays is an area of land that would otherwise have been quietly capturing thousands of tons of carbon…

  2. Philip says:

    Beautiful.
    Sheep and grass without sun. As soon as I read what Mr idiot said about there being space under the solar panels for sheep to graze I knew that Mr Idiot did not know that sheep graze on grass etc etc.
    Yes Roger, the world has gone made with imbeciles like that given voices to spread their lunacy.
    Personally I felt I this inevitable under a leader I regarded as King of Idiotspeak, Blair.
    That said, it is easy once this is understood to understand why UKIP is so important for our future well being and survival.
    Let the politics of truth thrive.

  3. Me_Again says:

    Agree totally. There’s also the little matter of ‘run off’. Plainly the areas shadowed by the panels would also reduce the rainfall per square metre on that land causing run off and less absorption into the land. Again this will reduce the mass of biomass i.e. grass, available to sheep/cows/pigs

    On the subject of solar itself, like you Roger I do not favour solar on agricultural land nor actually, in its current efficiency, on industrial complexes. However, if each new build house which had an appropriate aspect, had 4kw solar included -but NO subsidy- it would lower the electrical usage of said property by something between 50% and 70%, without cost to the taxpayer. This in keeping with ‘house for life’ and other money and energy saving ideas could reduce massively the amount of daytime electricity/water/gas taken for domestic use. It would add a little to the cost of a new build BUT the cost would be quickly recouped, within 5 years easily. I saw at the Rowntree site above York, the centralisation of water and heating production for 564 houses using a single biomass incinerator [may not be the smartest source but the principal is the same] which as I say provided heating and hot water for all the houses on the estate guaranteeing to undercut the big six by at least 10%. The project was in design stage before the crash in solar panel prices so they had not included the panels BUT had designed in the option. You should visit Roger, it is fascinating, I thought I’d be bored but not a chance. Ironically I was sent by my local council as part of an Eden project scheme since I was on the neighbourhood Planning group.

  4. annie cage says:

    well i don’t really favor solar over agriculture land either. People can place solar panels over their roofs as well. Apart from that we can use bio mass system as well in villages.

    • Ian Terry says:

      Annie. You are totally missing the point. Without these outrageous subsidies none of the RE crap would be installed. It is the old old storey problem? or a solution to the problem.
      Don’t fight it work with it. How many people are in fuel debt and poverty? The numbers speak for themselves

  5. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Stick them on a lake…as one recently has. Am sure the lake will be poison in no time.

  6. Jane Davies says:

    What has happened to the idea that the glass in windows act as solar panels? They look like regular windows but trap the suns energy. Almost every building needs windows a no brainer I would think.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      The place to put them is in place of a glass/polyc conservatory roof (south facing). Mine is as wide as my house roof. Don’t think domestic windows with semiconductors incorporated will do much at all. Rip off Britain will likely see it off anyway?

      Signed

      A Pessimist with Sceptic Iron Cross + AGW cluster

    • Me_Again says:

      Think Colin has a point. They wouldn’t be much use on standard vertical windows.

      • Jane Davies says:

        Not what I heard….apparently this idea does work. Have look……
        http://www.sciencealert.com/news/20142108-26048.html

      • Me_Again says:

        Jane, wasn’t disputing the technology just the angle. There’s an optimum angle for the panels to be at to get the sunlight to strike vertically and get the most photons kicking the the panel silicon into action.

      • Jane Davies says:

        So what say you Roger?

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        The fuller article is here:
        http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/188667-a-fully-transparent-solar-cell-that-could-make-every-window-and-screen-a-power-source

        Its a re-radiator principle at the IR wavelength. 2 processes. Pick up IR from the Sun at one IR frequency and convert to a second IR frequency, beam second to photo-voltaic cells at the edge of the glass – DC volts acquired. The researchers think that a 5% efficiency is achievable, What we are looking for is a figure in watts/mtr squared (window size). We need 25 watts for a poor performance CFL lamp. What we really want is kw/mtr squared.

        I know they talk about covering whole buildings in this stuff, but I think it has a long way to go. If they can’t get past 5% eff then its a problem. The USA had some talk of surfacing all roads with PV arrangements….tricky to say the least.

        I was going to roof my conny with PV units, but 6 years ago it was impossible. Better now, but am not as rich. Water through triple polycarb panels had me very interested because my conny reaches in excess of 25 deg C many times of the year (incl. winter). Heating water like that removes a good few Kw/h from your bills.

        I think if PV was to get useful then roof tiling systems need to be looked at…its that surface area thing.

  7. Ian Terry says:

    Some of the lunatics are having second thoughts. The potential replacement for Clegg, Vince Cable seems to be begiining too late to see the impact on industry. Scotland’s Parliament still believe that the ” Community Benefits” are to everybodies advantage. Who the ***************** do they think is actually paying for all this. With the announcement of yet another freebee for lazy farmers the subsidies for growing wheat and rye to be burnt to obtain electricity. Never to mind we will pay not only in our energy bills but this will impact on the price of food.

    Nobody seems to have learnt three fifths of naff all from history. The logistics of operating meant that at most times only 76 U boats were attacking the convoys and we were nearly starved out in WW2. It is only going to get the third world or food suppliers to adopt the attitude of ” you want to pay me what for this?” and turn off the supply chain, how is this island going to feed itself?

    Taxation is the only language these greedy land owners will understand. The money paid in leasing to be taxed at 85% or the areas involved redesignated as apower station and heavily taxed accordingly. If not taxation stop all subsidies immediately on everything under the green heading. The country has a £1.43 trilliion debt I think that constitutes a very good reason for doing it.

    UK industry needs a level playing field to do business abroad and cheaper energy cost would be a great help.

    In Scotland they have enough turbines to hit their target but still the planning applications pour in.
    Water contamination from large wind farm sites keeps raising it’s head as fast as they try to stamp it down. The spectre of side health effects still bubble under the surface. What a total cock up.
    This is what happens when rich boys get into power with no understanding how the real world works.

    • Me_Again says:

      If we had the power to tax them, we’d also have the power to stop the subsidies. I’m sure we could just say go away in short sharp jerky movements. The civil servants wouldn’t like it. Perhaps pass a law that says in circumstance of dire national emergency [2.2 trillion debt] contracts which contribute towards the debt which are unnecessary [as vague as it gets] can be abrogated.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        There was JIT (Just In Time) often followed by JFDI (Just F****ing Do It). I’ll go for the latter…would that be WW3 or 4 whatever? There is a use for ISIS…forgot what it was….oh, now I remember.

        Imagine the VI’s screaming out the woodwork once JFDI kicked in. Bring it on!!

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