Monday, 19 September 2011

Blowing Away Nuclear?

Has a major technological breakthrough in Japan created a new generation of wind turbines that finally destroy the claims by the nuclear lobby that renewables can't match their dangerous and dirty radioactive power? Martin O'Beirne of THE ECOSOCIALIST ponders on what it could mean...

The designers of this new wind turbine, based in Japan's Kyushu University claim output, the amount of electricity produced is up to 3 times greater than a conventional turbine. 

The first question is...What major design breakthrough could possibly be responsible? Some super light material allowing the turbine to spin faster? Some inexplicable method of increasing wind No that would be silly, why did you say it, but not far off, see the video.

They have had the amazing idea of ...Wait for it......Putting a ring around the outside...Oh....So we have to be a little guarded before we get too excited. If it was that easy, surely it would have been done before now, right? Let's wait for some independent research and so on, and I mean independent because the fossil fuel and nuclear industries will be falling over themselves to rubbish it. 

The other caveat (ironically) is that the anti-nuclear movement in the wake of Fukushima are making progress.  The energy agency plans to earmark up to 20 billion yen ($261 million) for offshore wind farms. This has displeased the local fisheries. At the end of this video the commentator suggests the wind farms could be used for fishing, which is a little hard to buy. But hey I don't want to play sceptic here! 

IF the designers are right, the implications are immense. If we were to be conservative and say that all it does is double the output this really could be the end of any of those arguments about the cost of nuclear actually being cheaper than renewables (Ask the workers and local people at Fukushima how they define cost) Wind generation would be closer to those claims we heard all those years ago about nuclear (that it would be too cheap to meter). In the video below a single offshore wind farm using the turbines would be equivalent to an entire nuclear plant. Think of the 8 new nuclear power plants planned for the UK replaced by 8 offshore windfarms with the benefit of no nuclear waste to bury or plants to decommission.
In addition there is no great paradigm shift involved if we were to propose that the very expensive tar sands extraction and fracking would not get a look in. Just a quiet woosh of spinning turbines. 

But the real deal is how the argument stands up for capitalism. This could be divisive, major fossil and nuclear companies with their dirty fingers in all the pies, could not compete with companies pushing the new wind farms, they would either have to embrace it themselves or suffer the consequences, but either way the Military-Industrial (Fossil Fuel, Nuclear, War) Complex (as David Schwartzman calls it) that sustains capitalism would wither. Perhaps an example of how the market  (for a change) could work in our favour. 

Wouldn't it be something if nature herself destroyed capitalism before it destroyed her. 

original article, plus video HERE


  1. Will these rings also stop the mass slaughter of birds that occurs at existing windfarms?

  2. house cats kill many more birds than wind turbines.

  3. But their wind does not smell so good

  4. if you are concerned about technology killing birds, I presume you never fly anywhere. Besides, how many more birds and other animals are killed unseen and slowly by the long term poisoning and destruction of their habitat by pollution, resource use and global warming - all things that can be countered by development of new, cleaner alternative technologies. or is it a case of out of sight, out of mind for the anti-renewables lobby?