Floating windfarms?

statoil hywind

Love them or loathe them, wind power is growing as an energy source for us here in the UK. Wind Turbines (those tall white things that look like modern windmills) currently generate about 12% of our electricity and is set to grow to 20% by 2020. Currently over half of that is generated by on shore wind farms, but more investment is now heading towards building large off shore wind farms, and this should see off-shore wind contribute much more to that capacity.

The latest innovative concept to take shape is the world’s first floating wind farm, off the east coast of Scotland. The Hywind £200m project initially seems far-fetched, but the pioneering technology could open up a whole new development in renewable energy.



So how big is this industry?

Well, the world’s largest off shore windfarm is being built off the Yorkshire coast. Hornsea 2 is being built after nearby Hornsea 1, and this multimillion-pound project will see 300 turbines, each taller than the Gherkin, span more than 480 sq km in the North Sea. It is expected to deliver 1800 MW of energy, enough to power 1.8m UK homes. Dong Energy, a Copenhagen-based company responsible for many off shore wind farms, and working on this project, recently floated for £10B on its recent stock flotation. And the world’s largest wind turbines have just gone live off Liverpool.

So this technology is important. Wind energy as part of the renewable energy industry (this includes the likes of wind, solar, biomass and marine sources, like the proposed Swansea Tidal Lagoon) provided about 26% of the UK’s electrical needs in 2015, and is set to grow to 30% by 2020. While there can be criticism of their looks, and where they are placed, the biggest barriers are the cost of developing them and the cost of the power they generate.

A recent Mckinsey report suggests that these barriers are being eroded….

For many years, 3- to 4-megawatt turbines were standard; now 8- to 10-megawatt models are common, and by 2024, 13- to 15-megawatt models will likely hit the market. This reduces the cost per megawatt. Even as turbines have become larger, they have also become better. In the 1990s, the expected lifetime of offshore wind parks was only 15 years; now it is closer to 25 years, and new sites project an operational lifetime of 30 years.






Airlander in the air

Anyone driving along the A421 near Bedford, England will wonder what are those two massive buildings that sit just off the road, but at enough distance to be near-unrecognisable. The locals know that what were once derelict giant ex-aircraft hangers are now hubs of industry. Being near enough to Bletchley Park, and with numerous active military airfields nearby, maybe there is a reluctance to let on what goes on there. But now all is revealed. It’s an airship

It is Big, And it is clever (hopefully). And apparently its not an airship, as it is not lighter than air! Watch the video for a few minutes in and you will see the giant airlander get inflated like a child’s beach toy, you can tell this is English technology! Interesting background and story. The actual company making this, have an interesting website for more information. There are some fascinating images of the Cardington Hangers and related pictures of RAF stations and equipment. And of course next door they filming Superman!

Too fast for Solar Impulse

Still way too fast for the Solar Impulse – The cycling world hour record has been broken. Bradley Wiggins completed 54.526km (33.88 miles)in the long-awaited attempt at Lea Valley in the UK. Beating the previous recent record held by fellow cyclist Alex Dowsett, who had done 52.937km (32.89 miles) back in May. So that’s it for a while.

And no it wasn’t all downhill!

It’s a gas

Gasometers, love em or hate ’em they soon won’t be here anymore. Curiously when they were operational they were (imho) a bluddy eyesore. Once they were emptied and stripped to a bare skeletal form they developed an empathy within the area, and developed a personality favoured like so much of our beloved Victorian structures.

This didn’t preserve these huge structures, even if the remaining structure looked, well structural, the resulting hoarding remained an eyesore. But posterity still remembers these great structures even if they no longer remain in situ.


DRONES. A bit like mobile phones, once they start to become ubiquitous you know a trend is happening. I’ve seen a few and although there is a concern about where they are, where they go and what they do it, looks like they are here now.

The drones can provide astonishing images although with a limited battery and most flights measured in minutes, these quality images may be the exception rather than the rule.

The plethora of boys-own type names like DJI Phantom 2, Parrot AR.Drone 2.0, Blade 350 QX suggests some are boys toys. But not the really big boys toys, that’s the preserve of the military. According to Wiki these are “An unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), also known as a combat drone or drone, is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is usually armed. Aircraft of this type have no onboard human pilot. Drones are usually under real-time human control, with “the human’s role in UCAV system [varying] according to levels of autonomy of UCAV and data communication requirement.” So now you know.

But when they can be used to generate such great content like this delightful tracking of a cycle journey set in Vancouver, Canada, what’s not to like about drones.

Driverless Cars

I thought there were already. Maybe it’s just their actual style of driving…anyway. Looks like the UK Government have decided to go ahead with the idea and allow them on the roads (good job really as they would be rubbish cluttering up the pavements). Um so there an idea.

The new city of Milton Keynes is one of those trying out the concept. Here’s more information about these MK Driverless cars, similar in concept to the Heathrow pods.

But it seems rather than some sort of real-life Scalextric we are now going for actual driverless cars. As the Cambridge driverless bus took years and never worked it will be curious to see how the new era of motoring gets off. Maybe they will have a bloke with a red flag walking in front of them!

Show me the answers….

I joined Yahoo Answers in May 2006, in its first full year of adoption, as it seemed an enjoyable interactive thing to participate in, and a smart savvy thing to do.

I jumped right in and became an active contributor and got my own little niche as “top answerer” in the Business/Finance, advertising/marketing section. By 2007 I had reached level 4 (there are 7 levels) and was still top answerer. But by now I was finding it a bit repetitive, with lots of vague questions and just plain un-thought-out things that just did not seem worth contributing too. I gradually drifted away and then got tired of the whole experience with some sections seeming to be the adopted place for the nutters, spammers and general dispossessed – a lot of the friendly sociable help-me-out-here interface seemed to have gone.

This year by chance I logged back in and was pleasantly surprised to see I was still in the top five. I gradually drifted back into it and then realised if I wanted to reach level 5, I had to get some more points and best answers. So during September 2011 make a concerted effort to drive up the points and answers – gradually creeped up to 4th in the “charts” and suddenly in the way that these things do I well overshot the mark and was well into the 5,000 points so now up at level 5. I’ve also been given the little orange badge as a “top contributor” so now there’s just the task of getting into the top three answerers and then seeing if I can get to be the top answerer again.

Putting this “achievement” into perspective though – The UK top contributor has over 850,000 points with 21K best answers. The global top contributor has over 1 million points and over 74K best answers. Crikey they must live there!

There’s an app for that…

Having left my IT background a few years ago, I sometimes stumble across some techie talk that I still appear to comprehend – desktop managed services, which was like a statement in my day and now just sounds like jargon. But now I’ve moved into the electrical area and words like PLC and HMI’s are everyday phrases, and you start to come to terms with a new set of jargon. But at least if you don’t understand these terms at least you have an inkling of what they mean, I mean PLC and HMI sounds as if they do something right? But sometimes you come across another industry or profession and abruptly that gap widens and you realise that you have no idea whatsoever what they are talking about – and so it was I came across MHT technology who do “LNG peak shaving”.

I’m sorry they do what? I can’t even make an un-educated guess what that is. I mean given the context is that a physical thing that they do to something, or a stage in a process or the whole process, or is it a thing – “LNG peak shaved for sale to good home” , or a service so that people go around saying “here’s your LNG peak shaved” – and you say “oh thank you very much”, or is it some technical wizardry that creates a “peak” that is somehow “shaved”, or some technological wonder like NASA where boffins go around saying “I’m glad we can orbit humans up into space but I wouldn’t want to risk LNG peak shaving”.

Fortunately of course there are people who do understand these things and the California energy commission gives a really useful bluffers guide – But what happens when there aren’t people around who understand such things. Will it be like losing your instructions for the IKEA cabinet so it ends up looking like a umbrella stand or will it improve things or will we re-create such things all over again. The problem is I still don’t really know what LNG peak shaving is, sure I understand the words I just don’t grasp what it actually means. Still when we run out of people who know what it means and can actually do it, well apple (or someone) will have an app for that.