The CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) were not blinkered and recognised that wind had a capacity credit value

We weren’t blinkered in the CEGB. We were well aware that wind energy CAN be credited with firm capacity [see Swift-Hook, D. T., 1987   “Firm power from the wind” Wind Energy Conversion, Ed. J. M. Galt, (MEP : London) p. 33] and that the cost of off-setting the variability of wind is modest, see attached by David Milborrow.
We had started well before the 1980s. I got together with Stephen Salter on wave power back in 1974, [see for example Swift-Hook, D. T., Count, B. C.,  Glendenning, I. and Salter, S.) 1975   “Characteristics of a rocking wave power device” Nature, Vol. 254, p. 504. Brian Count subsequently became Chairman of the London Electricity Board, by the way].  At the same time, we contributed to Chris Cockerell [of hovercraft fame] in developing his wave power  raft, which also did not succeed.
Garry Hammond’s 1978 paper in Physics in Technology [which I was editing around that time] looked pretty sick just a couple of years later. Not his fault but the Government’s. They had wrapped up the Severn Barrage and all Wave Power research but had increased the total funding considerably, mainly on wind.
The ¼MW machine at Carmarthen Bay was built by James Howden of Glasgow who pulled out of wind power 2 or 3 years later when they secured the contract for a large borer to bore the English half of the Channel Tunnel.  [It’s tough trying to pick winners.]
And it’s tricky trying to say what would have happened if we had put more money in than was enough to support just one large megawatt-sized machine. The Americans put in enough to build a dozen or more of them, their 2-bladed Mod series, very much the type which we ourselves would have built if money had been forth-coming, and that whole part of the US programme failed i.e failed to get anything into commercial production.
Their big success was to pour money into subsidies designed to  encourage commercial wind farms  –  the Californian wind rush  –  but most of that money landed up in the pockets of Danish manufacturers. It did not stimulate US manufacturing industry at all. Its fair to say that the US ceded the lead to the Danes with full Government support.
Even being wise after the event is not easy!
Prof Donald T Swift-Hook, Visiting Professor, Kingston University,
MA, MSc, PhD, CEng, FIET, CSci, FEI, CPhys, FInstP, CMath, FIMA, MInstD,
Bourne Place, Horsell Common Road, WOKING, Surrey  GU21 4XX,  UK
Tel:   0(044)8448 123 902; Mob: 0(044)7921 153 902; Fax:  0(044)8448 123 903

We weren’t blinkered in the CEGB. We were well aware that wind energy CAN be credited with firm capacity [see Swift-Hook, D. T., 1987   “Firm power from the wind” Wind Energy Conversion, Ed. J. M. Galt, (MEP : London) p. 33] and that the cost of off-setting the variability of wind is modest, see attached by David Milborrow.

We had started well before the 1980s. I got together with Stephen Salter on wave power back in 1974, [see for example Swift-Hook, D. T., Count, B. C.,  Glendenning, I. and Salter, S.) 1975   “Characteristics of a rocking wave power device” Nature, Vol. 254, p. 504. Brian Count subsequently became Chairman of the London Electricity Board, by the way].  At the same time, we contributed to Chris Cockerell [of hovercraft fame] in developing his wave power  raft, which also did not succeed.

Garry Hammond’s 1978 paper in Physics in Technology [which I was editing around that time] looked pretty sick just a couple of years later. Not his fault but the Government’s. They had wrapped up the Severn Barrage and all Wave Power research but had increased the total funding considerably, mainly on wind.

The ¼MW machine at Carmarthen Bay was built by James Howden of Glasgow who pulled out of wind power 2 or 3 years later when they secured the contract for a large borer to bore the English half of the Channel Tunnel.  [It’s tough trying to pick winners.]

And it’s tricky trying to say what would have happened if we had put more money in than was enough to support just one large megawatt-sized machine. The Americans put in enough to build a dozen or more of them, their 2-bladed Mod series, very much the type which we ourselves would have built if money had been forth-coming, and that whole part of the US programme failed i.e failed to get anything into commercial production.

Their big success was to pour money into subsidies designed to  encourage commercial wind farms  –  the Californian wind rush  –  but most of that money landed up in the pockets of Danish manufacturers. It did not stimulate US manufacturing industry at all. Its fair to say that the US ceded the lead to the Danes with full Government support.

Even being wise after the event is not easy!

Prof Donald T Swift-Hook, Visiting Professor, Kingston University,

MA, MSc, PhD, CEng, FIET, CSci, FEI, CPhys, FInstP, CMath, FIMA, MInstD,

3 comments on “The CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) were not blinkered and recognised that wind had a capacity credit value

  1. Dave

    I have to say I am sympathetic to Chris’s cri de coeur. I am not enough of an economist to appreciate all the benefits that have surely flowed from the privatisation and liberalisation of UK electricity and gas markets, and too much of a physicist to ignore the many downsides. The CEGB had a wind power programme in the 70s and 80s and Don Swift-hook, David Millborrow, and Tony Rockingham and Taylor were ahead of their time. Some of their papers were reviewed in Mike Grubb’s papers on the subject. I seem to remember a paper by Taylor and Rockingham that clearly identified the size of the UK offshore wind power resource.

    I also recall a meeting of the BWEA – I would guess either 1979 or 1980 – at which it was put to one or more representatives of the UK government that Denmark was in the process of establishing a wind power test station at Riso and that if the UK didn’t do something similar, any lead that we had would be lost. History records that we didn’t and it was.

    I was a bit player in all of this. One of my few insights was that the approach of the UK government with respect to wind was inexplicably similar to its approach to nuclear reactor development. The DEn funded a 3.7 MW wind turbine in the late 70s. For several years this was the sole focus of their effort – yet it was an over-engineered and expensive evolutionary dead-end. Great effort was put into making sure it didn’t fail. I said at the time that this was a fundamental mistake – that, unlike nuclear reactors, it didn’t matter much if wind turbines failed, provided lessons were learnt, and that the strategy should be to try out a large number of systems quickly to learn. The cost of a single conventional power station would have funded hundreds of wind systems. This is essentially what the Danes did.

    Bob (Professor)

  2. Have you considerd using the large electricity pylons, situated in exposed areas [moorlands etc] as the frame for wind turbines?
    Power generated from these turbines could be plugged directly into the main grid?
    Planning would be easier as the Pylon exists, much faster developement without further ruining the landscape.
    The Pylon frames could be strengthened.

  3. The towers were not designed to have wind turbines, any significant size would collapse the tower in high winds. Wrong voltage so would need large transformer. Impractical.

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