The Dog Ate My Wind-Farm

The Irish Times relates this morning an Oxford Mail report of a lucky escape for a corporate financier formerly employed with Barclays and Lehman Brothers. Michael Chase-Sarver copped a four-month prison sentence from Judge Eccles at Oxford Crown Court. He had been prosecuted for perverting the course of justice in attempting to avoid a speeding conviction.
He called a witness from Derry who testified that Mr. Chase-Sarver was the promoter of a wind-farm project in Donegal which would cost €1 billion, occupy 35,000 acres and employ 300 people. The judge suspended the sentence, citing the risk to the 300 jobs.
Neither Donegal County Council nor An Bord Pleanala are aware of this project according to local media.
This is surprising. The average cost of 1 MW of wind capacity is about €2m, so the billion Euro tab would equate to around 500MW, the largest generation facility to be built in Ireland since Moneypoint in the mid-1980s. At 35,000 acres the site (70 acres per MW sounds about right) would occupy 3% of the land area of Donegal, a large county. The witness from Derry, a co-investor in the mystery project, claims that agreement has been reached with 100 very discreet farmers.
Ireland already has about 2,500 MW of intermittent wind capacity. Peak demand is about 5,000 and total capacity about 10,000, of which 7000 is dispatchable. Wind gets priority when available and a price guarantee, or compensation if ‘constrained off’. Further additions of intermittent generation, from wind or solar, will add to the subsidy costs and strand more gas-fired assets, many of which belong to the government.

9 replies on “The Dog Ate My Wind-Farm”

There’s little point lamenting the imposition of these excessive and unjustified costs now. The time to get stuck in was prior to the EU’s heads of state and government, overcome by hubris, agreeing to set the silly and excessively expensive 20:20:20 targets – or, failing that, prior to Eamon Ryan enlisting FF’s assistance to ram the legislation that enabled his hare-brained approach to meeting these targets through the Oireachtas.

In any event, these excessive and unjustified costs are a relatively small fraction of the unnecessary costs being imposed on final energy consumers.

What most governing politicans appear to have difficulty understanding is that while they may not understand the detail of how or by whom they’re being ripped off an increasing number of voters is well aware that they are being ripped off across a range of essential services. And, in addition, while voters may not understand precisely how these rip-offs are officially authorised they are well aware that they are officially authorised – and they respond by punishing politicians in the mainstream parties. The increase in the number of non-mainstream factions and independents is evidence of this.

Variants of these rip-offs are pervasive in most developed countries. And while a variety of other factors have contributed, these rip-offs have played a part in the rise of Donald Trump, in the Brexit vote and in the increased support for right-wing populist parties – and to a lesser extent in the rise of new left-wing factions.

But governing politicians, in particular in Ireland, in hock to the various powerful interest groups in the sheltered private, public and semi-state sectors (and the armies of functionaries and flunkeys they retain), simply perpetuate and extend the offcial authorisation of these rip-offs. And then they wonder why so many voters are sullen, resentful and angry.

An Bord Pleanala may have to scrape off quite a bit of Tipp-ex to find the right application.

“The judge brandished Chase-Sarver as “unbelievably dishonest” but said he could not allow an honest man’s life and 300 potential jobs be ruined by his actions.
After being caught speeding earlier this year, Chase-Sarver, who has previously worked for Barclays and Lehman Brothers and now runs his own company, had his car resprayed, convinced the garage which did the work to backdate the job and told police his registration plates were being fraudulently used by someone else.”

Oh dear; oh dear! Revives memories of the ‘Spirit of Ireland’ debate in 2009 and the proposal to replace all national fossil fuels- based energy production with a wind energy-pumped hydro storage system within five years. In this instance, it appears the proposal-eating ‘dog’ has intervened at an earlier stage…

@ Veronica McDermott

Ray Kinsella almost ran short of superlatives in his praise of the ‘Spirit of Ireland’ project and in an allusion to the misguided boomtime adherents of Say’s Law, wrote of [Leveraging Ireland’s “Golden Demographics”…]

Four years later, the main promoter was declared a bankrupt in the UK:

It is of course common for estimates of jobs to be plucked from the air when planning permission is required for a project. It can also be a handy nixer for economists providing economic impact reports!

Common sense is often a useful guide.

Remember the Euro-China trading hub that was to be built on 360 acres near Athlone requiring an investment of €1bn?

American buyers from the East Coast would arrive in Shannon and be bussed to Athlone to view the wonders of Chinese manufacturing but any significant firm would deal directly with China. Besides, even for potential SME distributors overseas, personal relations with traders representing manufacturers in a place like Guangzhou, are important to minimise quality problems before goods are shipped as a lot of business is done on a 100% cash basis.

Michael Hennigan

Meanwhile, as we mutter and mumble
The heat goes on
“In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?
Here’s the answer: zero.
That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.”
Report here:

Context : we in ireland are at or near the bottom of the league in renewables use ;

That’s right: If we’re serious about achieving and maintaining a global economic rate-of-growth at its historic 3% p/a, compounding trend line, then we have to mine and burn a greater quantity of coal in the next 23 years than the total quantity of coal that we have already mined and burned. We will also have to drill, extract and consume a greater quantity of oil than all the oil we have have already extracted and consumed since 1860. Mind you we have to find sufficient coal and oil reserves before we start. Bit problematic that. We would also need more rigs, more excavators, more processing plants, more pipes, more pylons … and more and more and more. The prognosis? Bleak.

Fossil commodity consumer prices are currently way below the levels needed to fund the massive infrastructure investment that would be needed to increase our capacity to extract and consume them at the above mentioned amounts – not to mention paying down the already accumulated debt loads of the producers. Those lowish price levels are somewhat curious: the rates of extraction and production costs have doubled. Now, if the economic demand for fossils was where it was expected to be, then the end-user costs would likely be twice their current figures. This ensures that the intermittant generation of electricity from renewable sources is an economic dead-loss. Absent more and more state aid, investment in renewable generating capacity will cease since the pay-back revenues woud be be negative. Only a massive level of de-industrilization and a significant reduction in domestic electricity demand would make renewable generated electricity a viable, sustainable economic option. Ain’t gonna happen.

Debt levels increase in an exponential, compounding manner. Whereas our physical economy on can only expand in a step-wise, incremental, linear manner. Its the surplus from the physical economy which has to be used to pay down our debt loads. The increasing divergence between these two rates of growth is now too great to be bridged. Worries? I should think so. But GW? Well, if its begun we will more likely be submerged before we warm up. Hope folks enjoy saunas. And no, renewables will not save us. But they will bankrupt us quicker.

On topic. It’s commonplace for those with a vested interest in the form of resolution of any problem to over-hype the capacity of their own preferred solution irrespective of how the evidence stacks up in its favour, or not, over other possibilities, or its underlying social, economic or political feasibility.

Climate change is no exception in this. The science is long since settled and underlying warming trends appear ominous. Hence, the argument as to what to do about it is primarily political.

As we head towards the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, it is clear that the current international policy model for action on climate change has failed. GHG emissions worldwide are increasing. Most climate scientists, including climate economists, are agreed that the 1.5 or 2.0 degrees targeted limit on warming this century are a political fiction on which the boat sailed a long time ago. There is no ‘silver bullet’ – or at least none that everyone in the world community of nations can agree upon or that doesn’t carry the potential for catastrophic consequences, known or unknown.

Outsourcing of carbon emissions by the developed world to underdeveloped regions makes the achievement of climate ‘targets’ look good for the former, but takes no account of subsequently repatriated ‘carbon consumption’, nor of the consequential pollution and environmental deterioration in those regions to which the emissions were exported in the first place. Simplistic and patronising injunctions to the public like ‘stop eating meat!’, or to developing countries, with an abundance of coal or other fossil fuel reserves but no electricity supply for the vast majority of their own populations that might lift them out of poverty, to ‘build renewables only’, rightly fall on deaf ears. Casting the argument in such moral terms does no favours to anyone.

What we do know is that leaving fossil fuels in the ground is infeasible.There are, as I understand it, several thousands of products beyond direct energy use which rely for their production on fossil fuels, including pharmaceuticals and fertilisers. Further, calls to immediately halt any further development of fossil fuels ignores the fact that most reserves are the property of states, not private developers, and the decision to exploit such resources rest with them and their judgement of what is in the best interests of their own society, its development, and the welfare of its citizens. Instead of berating them about their choices on spurious moral grounds, and even more spuriously seeking to limit ‘aid’ to first world energy technology preferences, might it not be better to provide technologies and assistance that will facilitate effective and sustainable development of developing countries own indigenous resources?

Changes in land-use take a long time to effect. You have only to look at Bord na Mona and the massive land-use transformation programme that company is undertaking to seek to restore our peat resource – highly significant in the context of climate change emissions absorbtion – which will take several decades to bring to fruition. The BnM case effectively also makes that point that sustainablity is not just about limiting emissions or reducing them significantly, it’s also about the long-term economic and social welfare of the communities likely to be affected by such purposive change.

Most climate experts and climate economists are in agreement that when it comes to transformation of energy systems to deliver carbon-free electricity generation, or as near to it as we can get by mid-century, we need all the technologies currently available, including ones we don’t like, such as nuclear, gas as a transition medium, oil, coal etc. . Plus, we need some new ones too. And when failure occurs – whether in production/economic costs or through unforeseen environmental consequences, as with biofuels, for example – that needs to be acknowledged and given effect in changes of policy direction. When the ‘wind for export’ craze was gathering pace a couple of years back, I asked a leading climate economist if the rush to wind energy, and overhype of its potential to create jobs, solve our & the UK’s climate emissions problems, generate huge export revenues etc. might bankrupt us all over again, I was assured this could not happen as, unlike construction, the wind renewables sector is only a small part of our overall economy. That’s a relief to know. It pretty much puts those occassional ‘the dog ate my windfarm’ merchants into perspective too.

Perhaps, then, the real question that economists should put to all such purveyors of green utopia is something along the lines of “That’s grand. Now, so how much will your solution actually cost us?”

Meanwhile, from opposite sides of the world, two entertaining examples of how to deal with those happily increasingly rare specimens who just won’t countenance that human activities have anything to do with the build up of atmospheric GHGs, or that there’s anything we need, or should, do about it:

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