When I was in Devon before the summer I was asked by an enterprising BBC coorespondent about a proposed 'Wave Hub' project for Cornwall. The idea is to provide a real life test for wave power. I am afraid I was stumped and had to plead ignorance.
This is because David Miliband is a wilfully ignorant little prick. But let me remind you that this no-nothing retard—"the kid on the chess team that you bullied incessantly"—is the man who is in charge of our entire Environmental Policy (or the bits of it that the EU doesn't control, anyway); this idiot is the guy who decides whether what policies we pursue, what renewables strategy we adopt. And, despite all of the comments that I have left on his blog, the fucking turd has not even acknowledged the existence of WaveGen's LIMPET wave power generator on Islay, an installation that has been delivering power to the National Grid since 2000 [PDF].
But perhaps I am being too harsh on him, for it seems to be a well-kept secret, as I found when I visited Neil Craig's blog; Neil has made Scotland's power capacity something of a speciality, but I decided to pull him up when I read this:
Image courtesy of WaveGen.
The remaining 15%, while not detailed, must be the long promised wave & tidal which currently provides zero % of our power & has not progressed as far as completing the journey across the drawing board.
There then followed something of a discussion based around this paragraph from WaveGen's website.
The performance has been optimised for annual average wave intensities of between 15 and 25kW/m. The water column feeds a pair of counter-rotating turbines, each of which drives a 250kW generator, giving a nameplate rating of 500kW.
We were undecided about what this capacity actually was, with Neil erring towards the 15–25kW, and myself towards the nameplate rating of 500kW.
So, to clear up the confusion, I emailed general manager, David Gibb, and asked if he could clarify the situation. I also asked whether the plans to fit a LIMPET into the 300ft cliffs on the Faroes had been shelved, as the page had disappeared from the website's main menu (although it still exists). Here is his email. [Emphasis mine.]
The figures of 15 and 25kW/m refer to the incident wave energy per metre of wave front at the location. This means for the lower figure the total energy available to the 20 meter wide collector is 15 x 20 = 300kW
The turbines on any plant are sized to suite the incident wave energy and the collector dimensions. The LIMPET plant is used as a test and development facility and as such the turbines are reconfigured at intervals to allow us to increase our knowledge of the OWC system. Recently the plant has been operating with a 250kW main turbine together with a 20kW research turbine. We are currently commencing a test programme where a new turbine will be tested in place of the existing 250kW turbine.
The project in the Faroe Islands is currently on hold while the utility in the Faroes seeks funding for the demonstration plant.
As Neil admmitted, this is an impressive amount of power for a relatively small installation. As you will see from the picture above, the LIMPET installation sits almost flush with the cliff top and, as such, is far less unsightly than the expensive and unreliable windfarms.
(Now, I am going to do a bit of mathematics, which is not my strongest suit so, should anyone spot any mistakes, please do let me know and I shall correct them. I am also, necessarily, working on quite inexact figures here.)
According to Neil, Scotland's power requirements are around 6,000MW, which is 6,000,000kW [Is this right?—Ed].
At the lower rating of 15kW/m—or, rather, 15,000kW/km, Scotland would require roughly 400km of LIMPET "collector" space.
Whilst not all sites would be suitable for LIMPET, apparently Scotland has roughly 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of coastline: surely we could find 400km of useable sites?
Let us assume that all LIMPETS use a collector of 20m in length; we would then require 20,000 LIMPETS. The Faroes project is projected to be worth "up to £7m"; assuming the same expenditure for every LIMPET (and I think that the £7 million is on the high side: not every LIMPET will require drilling into such high cliffs), Scotland would require a capital expenditure of £140 billion to meet its power needs.
Let us assume that this site is roughly correct and that Britain's coastline is 12,429 km. If we took, say, 50% of that figure, that would give us a wave generating capacity of 6,200km x 15,000kW = 93,000,000kW or 93,000MW.
Does anyone happen to know what the rough power consumption of Britain currently is?
UPDATE: thanks to the Remittance Man, in the comments, for this.
Apparently the UK needed about 363.6 terrawatt hours in 1994/5. That's 3636 followed by eleven oh's.
Now if one divides this by 8760 (the number of hours in a year) this means the UK needed about 41.5 megawatts* of generating capacity.
* It should be 41.5 GigaWatts.
If one allows for 30% surge capacity and downtime that means the UK needs about 55 megawatts of installed capacity.
I guess the bulk of this would need to be pretty consistent output to cover the base load (say 80%) such as nukes or coal stations with the remaining 20% made up of capacity that could be turned on and off pretty quickly to cover spikes in demand and so on.
From the sounds of it this system could be considered a consistent power source, but since it's "fuel" is free and I guess it really needs no start up time to speak of it could be switched on and off at will.
RM does raise the problem of transmission, but then I shouldn't think that many people want nuclear stations near large population areas either. Also, all powerstations require large amounts of water, so tend to be situated near the coast.
Or, more pertinently, can anyone tell me why our omniscient government is ignoring the massive potential that wave power has for meeting the generating needs of our country? Is it ignorance? Or something else?