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Archive for January, 2009

In a blog post earlier this month, Mark Brinkley wrote that the zero carbon agenda is dependent on private wire networks, which he contends are anti-competitive. While I have a lot of respect for Mark, in this case his arguments aren’t valid. Here’s why.

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According to the Guardian, most domestic turbines are only generating 5-10% of the manufacturers’ claims. Dramatic stuff but maybe not a huge surprise. I think there’s been a growing realisation among professionals in the built environment that small wind in built up areas rarely works.

But it’s important to remember that in most cases this poor performance is not the fault of the turbines themselves; they’ve just been placed badly by designers and over-hyped by manufacturers.

Located somewhere with decent wind (on the back of a sailboat, on top of a tall mast on a windy hill, etc) they’ll do the job. But bolted to the chimney of a Victorian semi in Surbiton? Almost definitely not. Even Ashenden House, a 13-storey tower in Elephant and Castle, hasn’t proved to be a salubrious place for turbines.

So blame the engineers and architects, blame manufacturers for short-sightedly over-hyping their own products, but don’t blame the turbines. It would be a mistake if we were to dismiss the technology as a result. Small wind still has an important role to play, even if that role is more limited than many people hoped.

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CLG drop quite a few hints in the zero carbon consultation that they’re prepared to set the carbon compliance requirement at 70%. In other words, new schemes would have to achieve a reduction of 70% in regulated emissions relative to 2006 regulations. But if you look a little closer, it soon becomes clear that this figure isn’t what it seems.

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From the zero carbon consultation, you can see that CLG has accepted that we need to resolve the onsite / offsite question. They have also moved away from the requirement for private wire networks or “direct connections” between generators and homes since it caused all sorts of problems.

So positive moves from CLG, but there is still a huge amount of confusion over what onsite and offsite actually mean. This is a crucial issue since only onsite energy will count towards carbon compliance, while offsite energy is only likely to count as an allowable solution.

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