Friday, 13 November 2009

Commercial Realism and Wind Energy

Off-shore Wind Farm Turbine
Two articles published today (Friday 13th November) have caught my attention. The first is a discussion piece by Petra Barnby in the FT EnergySource blog. The second is the press release accompanying the Institution of Mechanical Engineers latest paper Climate Change: Have we lost the Battle?

Both these articles try to depict a true and realistic story, a story which is still being written and may or may not have a happy ending. They also address different topics; the FT piece is about offshore wind and how it can contribute to energy security, and the IMechE report is about Climate Change (i.e. reducing CO2) targets. They have different goals, although possibly with common causes and shared solutions.

However, I have a few observations. The FT article is outwardly a “pro-Wind” stance. It talks about the turbines’ “serenity and peacefulness about their understated orbital business that fits in with the drab North Sea scape” and contribution that wind could make to energy generation in the UK, with offshore wind farms “powering 18.5m homes in 10 years’ time.” The author also chooses to quote members of the BWEA. Yet there is something mildly frustrating about the opening line to the piece…

They’re beautiful,’ breathed a bearded wind farm enthusiast as he spotted the shape of a turbine appear from the mist on the horizon.

I think it is the use of the word “bearded” that concerns me. Are enthusiasts of wind power still associated with bearded, sandal-wearing hippies? Can we not be black shoe wearing, clean shaven (or female!) enthusiasts who see that energy security is a commercial, economical and political necessity? Maybe the analogy is only there in my mind? Maybe the guy stood next to the journalist was bearded AND suit-wearing, and it is my own sensitivities? Or is it a sub-conscious association that the journalist still makes with renewable energy enthusiasts.

I found the IMechE’s report refreshing. Whilst it may be pessimistic about actually achieving the 2050 CO2 reduction goals that have been currently set, it is real and it addresses action. It calls for a mixture of “geo-engineering” solutions. Whilst I disagree with the need to change DECC to DECS (is an initial actually going to make the difference?), I agree with the positioning.

Let’s move away from the association with bearded, sandal wearing climate change activists with pie-in-the-sky goals, and be realistic, commercial and proactive about securitising and changing our energy sources.

By Clare Buxton
Wind Energy Sector Lead

Picture courtesy of phault

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