Good article highlighting the parlous state of England’s watchdog for our beleaguered wildlife:
Good article highlighting the parlous state of England’s watchdog for our beleaguered wildlife:
Well, here we are in the far west of Wales in the Gwaun valley nestling below the Preseli Hills Mountains; the weather is wall to wall sunshine, not too hot at the moment but that might change…
On the drive down on Friday, 22nd taking the scenic route to the north of the Brecon Beacons, we saw many dying ash trees – ash dieback I wonder? Upon arrival at our little cottage, greeted by swallows, house martins and swifts! Indeed, upon driving around, there are quite a number of swifts over countryside and the local towns -so this is where all our swifts are?
Geologists list it as one of most important meltwater channels in Britain from the last Ice Age. The valley is pure rural idyll, thick with beech and hazel, ash and oak. Sightings of pied flycatcher, wood warbler, redstarts, marsh tit, nut hatch and tree creeper are recorded. We watch from the cottage, buzzards, kite and (our) four young swallows on the overhead cable opposite.
Up on the mountains, bog aspodel, sundew, cotton grass, heathers, western gorse(?) and a small pink flower I shall have to look up upon my return oh and ponies! Farming appears to be fairly benign , it mostly on the intermediate middle ground just above the valley. The road verges are quite floristically rich – the foxgloves are spectacular at the moment!
A lot of people are aware of the impact a meat-based diet has on water, land and habitats, and the implications of its associated greenhouse gas emissions. But few know the largest impact comes from the crop-based feed the animals eat. Go to the above WWF link and take a look!
Great news! I see the Rampion Field offshore from Brighton is progressing – from Brighton Clock Tower looking down West Street, a rig and towers visible on horizon and full extent surprised me recently as it came into view whilst driving along A259 from Eastbourne.
Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear. [ABRIDGED]
By Roger Harrabin,BBC environment analyst. September 11 2017.
Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm, Liverpool. copyright GETTY IMAGES
Energy from offshore wind in the UK will be cheaper than electricity from new nuclear power for the first time. The development, revealed in figures from the government, has been seen as a milestone in the advance of renewable energy.
The plummeting cost of offshore wind energy has caught even its most optimistic supporters by surprise. Nuclear firms said the UK still needed a mix of low-carbon energy, especially for when wind power was not possible. The figures, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, for offshore wind were revealed as the result of an auction for subsidies, in which the lowest bidder wins.
Two firms said they were willing to build offshore wind farms for a subsidy of £57.50 per megawatt hour. That compares with new nuclear plants at a subsidy of £92.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23.
Emma Pinchbeck from the wind energy trade body Renewable UK told the BBC: “These figures are truly astonishing. “We still think nuclear can be part of the mix – but our industry has shown how to drive costs down, and now they need to do the same.”
Onshore wind power and solar energy are already both cost-competitive with gas in some places in the UK. And the price of energy from offshore wind has now halved in less than five years.
Energy analysts said UK government policy helped to lower the costs by nurturing the fledgling industry, then incentivising it to expand – and then demanding firms should bid in auction for their subsidies.
Michael Grubb, professor of energy policy at University College London, called the cost reduction “a huge step forward in the energy revolution”. “It shows that Britain’s biggest renewable resource – and least politically problematic – is available at reasonable cost. It’ll be like the North Sea oil and gas industry: it started off expensive, then as the industry expanded, costs fell. We can expect offshore wind costs to fall more, too,” he said.
The subsidies, paid from a levy on consumer bills, will run for 15 years – unlike nuclear subsidies which run for 35 years. This adds to the cost advantage offshore wind has now established over new nuclear. Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “This massive price drop for offshore wind is a huge boost for the renewables industry and should be the nail in the coffin for new nuclear. “The government’s undying commitment to new nuclear risks locking us into sky high prices for years to come. Put simply, this news should be the death knell for Hinkley C nuclear station.”
Nuclear ‘still needed.’
However, the nuclear industry said that because wind power is intermittent, nuclear energy would still be needed. Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “It doesn’t matter how low the price of offshore wind is. On last year’s figures it only produced electricity for 36% of the time.”
EDF, which is building the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, said the UK still needed a “diverse, well-balanced” mix of low-carbon energy. “New nuclear remains competitive for consumers who face extra costs in providing back-up power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine,” the French firm said. “There are also costs of dealing with excess electricity when there is too much wind or sun.”
Construction of the Hinkley Point plant is under way after gaining government approval last year. EDF added that energy from new nuclear plants would become cheaper as the market matures, as has happened with offshore wind. Eyes will be raised at this suggestion, as nuclear power has already received subsidies since the 1950s but storage of surplus energy from offshore wind is still a challenge.
Prof Grubb estimated the new offshore wind farms would supply about 2% of UK electricity demand, with a net cost to consumers of under £5 per year.
Experts warn that in order to meet the UK’s long term climate goals, additional sources of low-carbon energy will still be needed.
[Extract from a lightly longer article; go to above link for full version].
The UK has failed to make any cuts to emissions from agriculture. Again.
New government statistics released 22 August show UK farming emitted 49.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, the exact same amount as a year before and remaining at about the same level since 2008.Overall, agriculture accounted for about 10 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas
While the sector only contributed one percent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, it was responsible for 53 percent of the UK’s methane emissions. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and – pound for pound – can trap much more heat in the atmosphere over the course of a couple of decades.
Agricultural emissions come from a variety of sources. The production of animal feed is the main driver, while generating power to keep the industry going also creates a lot of emissions. Livestock such as cows, sheep and pigs also emit a lot of methane.
A recent study suggested converting land for farming has led to the release of 133 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally over the last 12,000 years. That’s the equivalent of 13 years of global emissions from all sectors at their current levels, the Washington Post pointed out.
Since 2008, the UK has failed to cut its agricultural emissions, with reductions stalling at about 17 percent below 1990 levels. There is no specific climate target for the agriculture sector, instead the industry is captured under the UK Climate Change Act’s general 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, from 1990 levels, by 2050. continues…
Two items of current focus in Brexit news this week have been environmental standards and trade talks.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox, appear to have differing goals where these two suggested policies meet.
Post-Brexit, Gove is talking of a ‘gold standard’ for the environment and for farming in the UK, whilst Fox has been in America getting-up close and cosy discussing a possible post-Brexit trade deal, which would very likely have to include meat US, produced to both lower husbandry and processing standards, being imported into this country. Read here, industrial-scale animal production with far fewer animals enjoying life outside grazing on grass (at least during the summers) and gobbling-up vast amounts of cereal and soya. Widespread use of growth hormones, antibiotics in feeds and lower cleanliness in poultry slaughter relying on a final clean-up with heavily-chlorinated water. The emphasis here should be about how the meat is produced not about whether the meat id healthy to eat or not.
The UK can’t have post-Brexit both Gove’s ‘gold standard’ environmental standards and Fox’s imported meat produced by cheaper, lower welfare standards. This ‘cheapness’ – with animals paying the difference with their lower standards of well-being, would make both the profitability of UK farmers even harder to achieve and it would also allow meat produced by these morally lower methods into the UK’s food chain.
Ballast-Water Reform. An international agreement on ballast-water, water which is taken on by ships for stability and when discharged, often on the other side of the world releasing invasive species, causing huge problems for local marine wildlife. As of September 8th, all discharged ballast-water will have to be treated beforehand.
Shrinking Shorelines. The UK National Ecosystem Assessment estimates coastal habitat has decreased by 16% since 1945. In England, this has amounted to a loss of some 13,000 hectares with only 800 hectares created or restored.
Pesticides and Profitability. New research from France has found that reduction of pesticide does not necessarily result in reduced crop yields and profitability. The study looked at 946 non-organic arable commercial farms showing contrasting levels of pesticide use and covering a wide range of production situations in France. It was estimated that, on 59% of farms nationally, total pesticide use could be reduced by 42% without any negative effects. France hopes by 2025 to cut pesticide use by 50%. The UK has no plans to reduce overall pesticide use.
Unusual, rousing speech at end of tonight’s Prom concert by conductor Daniel Barenboim in the Royal Albert Hall with the Berlin Staatskepella orchestra, about international isolationism, education, music, Europe and rounding it of with a rousing performance of Land of Hope and Glory. Watch last 15 minutes of the concert on BBC iPlayer!
UPDATE BBC have edited/blacked-out speech! So listen to some of it at https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://youtu.be/PmBDKk6YlF0&ved=0ahUKEwjLsLOA7Y7VAhVBYlAKHTlmAPsQhlQI9wEwHA&usg=AFQjCNEPKEHli664mh8pKFHtoXPYdGzKYg
July 4. Flock of about 20 oystercatchers perched on one of the reefs that run out here and there along the beach at St.Leonards this afternoon.
July 8. Trained to Brighton… Beautiful show of hollyhocks at Berwick station, real cottage flowers! Scrub is still being allowed to increase in area at a number of locations along the Firle Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This is one of SE England’s major landscape features and if attitudes, government grants, and funding for Natural England staff do not change before too long, this majestic view will be lost to future generations. In a field near Firle, saw windrows of straw from an early combined crop of cereal. People who criticise on aesthetic grounds the Rampion wind farm some 10 miles seaward of Brighton, should turn their gaze 90 degrees and consider the factory chimney (aka i-360 attraction), parked on Brighton’s promenade! Evening withdrawal of some evening train services meant I was stuck on Lewes station for about an hour from 8-45pm but I was rewarded by one of Nature’s spectacles. I became aware of lots of jackdaw chatter emanating some 200m away in trees in Southover Road. Over the next hour, wave upon wave of jackdaws came in low over the station from the south-east, many beginning to chatter on their final approach to their companions already settled amongst the crowns of the tall trees. I was left wondering how they all managed to fit into the the available space. Home at 22-45!
July 9. Sensible dogs, and Englishmen go out in the midday sun! Why sit on baking-hot pebbles when you can lay on cool, damp ones or even better, in the water!
July 14. Buff-tailed bumble bees bottoms-up on artichokes on my allotment.
July 19. during the evening, I counted some 20-24 swifts over the centre of St.Leonards. Another couple of weeks and I guess they’ll have largely departed south.
Why couldn’t the UK have led this research and we built them? Instead, a Norwegian state-owned company is leading in this great new technology!
World’s first floating windfarm to take shape off coast of Scotland. [Abridged]
Adam Vaughan in Stord, Norway. Tuesday 27 June 2017.
The world’s first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power.
After two turbines were floated this week, five now bob gently in the deep waters of a fjord on the western coast of Norway ready to be tugged across the North Sea to their final destination off north-east Scotland.
The £200m Hywind project is unusual not just because of the pioneering technology involved, which uses a 78-metre-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines that will be attached to the seabed to keep the turbines upright. It is also notable because the developer is not a renewable energy firm but Norway’s Statoil, which is looking to diversify away from carbon-based fuels.
Irene Rummelhoff, head of the oil firm’s low-carbon division, said the technology opened up an enormous new resource of wind power. “It’s almost unlimited. Currently we are saying [floating windfarms will work in] water depths of between 100 and 700 metres, but I think we can go deeper than that. It opens up ocean that was unavailable,” she said.
Offshore windfarms are springing up across the North Sea for a reason – its waters are uniquely shallow enough to allow turbines to be mounted atop steel poles fixed to the seabed. However, such fixed-bottom turbines can only be installed at water depths down to 40 metres, making them little use for the steeply shelved coastlines of the US west coast or Japan.
“If you look at coastlines around the world, there’s few that have sufficient area at depths down to 40 metres so if they want to deploy offshore wind, they need to introduce floating wind,” said Rummelhoff.
As well as opening up new frontiers such as the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, floating windfarms could be placed farther out to sea to avoid the sort of aesthetic objections that scuppered a £3.5b windfarm off the Dorset coast.
While Hywind is a minnow among modern offshore wind projects – it will power just 20,000 homes compared with the 800,000 by one being built off the Yorkshire coast – proponents say floating turbines could eclipse fixed-bottom ones in the long run.
Bruno Geschier, chief marketing officer at Ideol, a French company hoping to build floating windfarms in Japan, France and elsewhere, said he expected floating farms to begin to take off in the next decade, “reaching cruising altitude in the mid-2020s and a big boom in 2030-35. Floating wind is an opportunity for France to step on to the podium.”
The commercialisation also means a chance for new countries to emerge as renewable energy leaders. The UK has the most offshore wind capacity in the world, with Germany not far behind, but France, which has none, wants to become a market leader.
For Statoil, the ambitions go well beyond Peterhead in Scotland, where Hywind will be moored and providing power from October at the latest.
Rummelhoff said floating windfarms will come of age in the areas where conventional ones have been established, as countries such as the UK run out of suitable sites in shallower waters. It is also talking with state governments in Hawaii and California about projects, and eyeing Japan and the new, pro-renewables government in Seoul.
Like many new technologies, the biggest challenge will be cost. Behind the turbines at the deepwater port of Stord in Norway sits a huge lifting vessel usually used in the oil and gas industry. It is the second biggest of its kind, very expensive to hire – and, for now, essential in the process of lifting the turbines off the quayside and floating them. A generous subsidy deal from the Scottish government made the project viable.