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Wind-Turbines and our Future


I know some of you may think this is a bit tenuous to be on GoY, but Wind-Turbines are a big talking point at the moment and are going to be part of our landscape in years to come, therefore I think it very relevant to strike up a discussion about it.

There is currently much controversy on the Isle of Wight where I live about the placement of wind-turbines being placed in areas which are considered to be areas of outstanding beauty (AOB). There are the pro wind energy group and the anti-turbine group affectionately known as Not In My Back Yard’s (NIMBY’s). The Island has been chosen to be an Eco Isle and Wind Energy has been chosen by the local authority as the main provider for electricity on the Island, although I know that the turbines will probably not generate enough power to sustain the whole Island.
Wind energy is about the only renewable energy that is able to stand on the same platform as Gas and fossil fuel Electricity and be taken seriously as an energy source, so why so much controversy? The size of the structure?
I am interested in finding out other people’s views on this, I personally am pro wind energy, but I would love to hear from fellow members and their experiences and opinions

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Wind energy seems a good idea.

5 Jan, 2009


I also think they are a very good idea, We cannot sustain ourselves with what we already have , and I personally dont want the UK covered with nuclear plants. What better way than to use the wind. I also dont think they look any worse than the electricity pylons that criss cross our beautiful countryside, and a lot of wind farms could easily be off of the coastlines anyway

5 Jan, 2009


hi a i agree with you abt being pro wind turbines i dont think that WTs are ugly especially as they are doing something positive for our environment.
living on an eco friendly island is excellent and something to be proud of ....but as the saying goes you cant please all of the people all of the time.... old fashioned opinions standing in front of progress.... my mother in law doesnt recycle, she doesnt understand what all the fuss is about etc...i havent been able to reprogram her in nearly ten years!

5 Jan, 2009


The same controversy is going on in the US and for the same reasons, some people are very pro because of the clean energy, and some are very anti because the huge fields of turbines are a "blight on the landscape." From my point I would rather see the turbines than all the smog in the cities. A hardship of beauty being damaged may just be something that we have no choice about. Unfortunate but true.
There has been some controversy about the effects on bird and insect life and I think more investigation is warranted on that front.

5 Jan, 2009


People do say that they look ugly, but I ask them to look at power stations, nuclear power stations and then say they don't look that bad in comparison. They are the shape they are because they have to get the most power they can from the wind, they turn on their axis to get the most of all wind directions and speed.

5 Jan, 2009


I think it might be a good idea for every house to have it's own wind turbine on the roof and solar pannels aswell in the walls or somewhere. People in windy areas could share their surplus energy with those in calmer places.

5 Jan, 2009


I am very pro wind energy. I think the power plants are much more ugly to look at than the turbines. In fact, I think the turbines are really quite graceful looking considering what they could look like. Do they have to be standing on open land or could some kind of crop or vegetation be planted around the bases?
Hywel, I think your idea is also good. I have heard though, in British Columbia, that you are not allowed to generate your own power. BC Hydro apparently can fine you or sue you or something. I don't know why this is or even how valid it is but it sure flies in the face of environmentalism. I wonder if there are similar rules in Britain??

5 Jan, 2009


I don't know much about it really. That was just a thought.

5 Jan, 2009


the british government offer grants to home owners who wish to convert to greener energy

5 Jan, 2009


I agree and disagree with all of you and alternate and renewable energy sources.
I'm into 100% recycling at home. I believe in alternate clean earth friendly energy. I do not like to see these mammoth power windmills doting the country side, now that's an eye sore. Why are they not regulating them to wind farms in areas that are obscured from sight that best can be managed.
I watched a program on TV just last week on those mills and I heard and saw first hand how menacing they can be. They are actually causing health problems and people are selling to get away from was once their piece of mind home out in the country. There is a large wind farm in Alberta in Pincher Creek Ab that can be seen from the highway very well. I have not heard anything negative there not even on the program which was a Canadian broadcast.
I should add the people who loved these monstrosities were the ones getting kick backs from the power co. who is using their land.

6 Jan, 2009


I would be interested to find out what health issues are being talked about, they don't generate any chemical emissions or radiation and technology over the last 20 years has made their noise levels drop significantly. I can only imagine that it is some sort of mental health issue?
People who have erected their own turbines on their property, on a much smaller scale can generate more than enough electricity and are even selling power back to the national grid, no more extortionate charges from the power companies!
I am going to be looking into that government grant to convert my property to a more greener energy, thanks Tanyamaria

6 Jan, 2009


If we put too much reliance on them what do we do when a huge area of high pressure sits over us for weeks at a time - like now. No wind, no power so we still need other sources capable of generating all our needs at any one time. Their production and building also produce a huge carbon footprint which takes donkey's years to repay. Just my humble thoughts on the matter, any criticism accepted.

6 Jan, 2009


wagger good point what does go into building them

6 Jan, 2009


I've also heard ( I don't know if it's true ) that they only work 40% of the time.
If the wind is too strong they don't work either , apparently.

6 Jan, 2009


They are made with composite materials, carbon, glass fiber, epoxy resin pre-impregnated material, or pre-preg. A good site to look at is They manufacture wind-turbines and also look into research and development. I will try and get some answers to Waggers question about production and carbon foot-print and to Hywel's query about working conditions..................I have a man on the inside...........

6 Jan, 2009


check this out! From the daily telegraph
Apologies if this is too heavy for most people but it just shows wind is not the only answer!
A revolutionary device can power the world using sea power.
Existing technologies require an average current of five or six knots to operate efficiently, while most of the earth's currents are slower than three knots .

The new technology can generate electricity in water flowing at a rate of less than one knot - about one mile an hour - meaning it could operate on most waterways and sea beds around the globe.

Existing technologies which use water power, relying on the action of waves, tides or faster currents created by dams, are far more limited in where they can be used, and also cause greater obstructions when they are built in rivers or the sea. Turbines and water mills need an average current of five or six knots to operate efficiently, while most of the earth's currents are slower than three knots.

The new device, which has been inspired by the way fish swim, consists of a system of cylinders positioned horizontal to the water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity.

Cylinders arranged over a cubic metre of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts. This is more efficient than similar-sized turbines or wave generators, and the amount of power produced can increase sharply if the flow is faster or if more cylinders are added.

A "field" of cylinders built on the sea bed over a 1km by 1.5km area, and the height of a two-storey house, with a flow of just three knots, could generate enough power for around 100,000 homes. Just a few of the cylinders, stacked in a short ladder, could power an anchored ship or a lighthouse.

Systems could be sited on river beds or suspended in the ocean. The scientists behind the technology, which has been developed in research funded by the US government, say that generating power in this way would potentially cost only around 3.5p per kilowatt hour, compared to about 4.5p for wind energy and between 10p and 31p for solar power. They say the technology would require up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power generation.

The system, conceived by scientists at the University of Michigan, is called Vivace, or "vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy".

Michael Bernitsas, a professor of naval architecture at the university, said it was based on the changes in water speed that are caused when a current flows past an obstruction. Eddies or vortices, formed in the water flow, can move objects up and down or left and right.

"This is a totally new method of extracting energy from water flow," said Mr Bernitsas. "Fish curve their bodies to glide between the vortices shed by the bodies of the fish in front of them. Their muscle power alone could not propel them through the water at the speed they go, so they ride in each other's wake."

Such vibrations, which were first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of "Aeolian Tones", can cause damage to structures built in water, like docks and oil rigs. But Mr Bernitsas added: "We enhance the vibrations and harness this powerful and destructive force in nature.

"If we could harness 0.1 per cent of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people. In the English Channel, for example, there is a very strong current, so you produce a lot of power."

Because the parts only oscillate slowly, the technology is likely to be less harmful to aquatic wildlife than dams or water turbines. And as the installations can be positioned far below the surface of the sea, there would be less interference with shipping, recreational boat users, fishing and tourism.

The engineers are now deploying a prototype device in the Detroit River, which has a flow of less than two knots. Their work, funded by the US Department of Energy and the US Office of Naval Research, is published in the current issue of the quarterly Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering.

6 Jan, 2009


Well i dont really know if they are good or bad, i'm into going more green, but i can't make my mind up about the wind turbines.

6 Jan, 2009


That sounds like a new innovative idea, it is a long way off being able to act as an energy source at present, even wave power is about 20 years behind wind energy in technology and research. It would be better for all if we could harness power from under the water, but take the UK, there are very few places any undersea devices can be housed because of shipping and artillary dumping sites are all around the UK from WWII.
In answer to Hywel
Shut-down in high winds
If the wind reaches speeds in excess of 25 metres per second, the turbine stops because such speeds place too much strain on turbine components. At the same time, wind speeds only rarely exceed the stop limit, so there is little need to generate energy from winds blowing at higher speeds. It would therefore be prohibitively expensive to design a model that could handle such high
wind speeds. When wind speeds exceed 25 metres per second, the blades pitch to 90º, which means that the leading or rear edges of the blades (depending on the output regulation principle applied) point directly into the wind. This makes the blades function as giant air brakes, slowing the turbine down until it comes to a complete stop. There was an explanation about high pressure which is too complicated to explain, but something to do with warm currents from the earth causing the turbines to rotate.

6 Jan, 2009


I appreciate what you are saying but I would rather they looked into this as a matter of urgency rather than consider putting a barrage across the Severn which would flood the Somerset levels and decimate the bird population!
I hope there is a public enquiry on that one!

6 Jan, 2009


Sorry Arlene, are you referring to offshore turbines on the river Severn?

6 Jan, 2009


no the proposal is for a tidal power station to be built across the Severn estuary!

6 Jan, 2009


I agree with you Arlene about the Severn estuary. I think a barage would cause a lot of harm to the natural environment - which is what these green methods are supposed to save.

6 Jan, 2009


I would be interested to find out more about that, I haven't heard of this idea so I can't really comment, but I do wonder whether this would go ahead if it was going to have such destructive effects on the environment, I'm sure there are concerns, but I'm also sure that they have been investigated, but then again, who did it and do they have a pecuniary interest in the project - who can you trust these days?

6 Jan, 2009


I certainly don't trust the government~ they need to produce a plan for more power in the 21st Century and I believe they will go for Nuclear Power and get the French who now own the UK's nuclear energy to do it on the cheap!

6 Jan, 2009


I don't think we can trust anyone really
If there's money in it they won't care what they do.

6 Jan, 2009


I agree with you Arlene, this government will almost certainly take up nuclear power despite any public disagreement, it is cheap and easily accessible, they have already got this country into so much debt that they can't afford any more options. I am lucky where I live, I won't have a nuclear plant where I live, it all comes in through pipes on the mainland, the wind turbines are another source.
I have been reading some of the Environmental reports on the impact on birds on the Severn Estuary project, I think they are going to need more investigation before it is allowed to go ahead - this is the website FYI

6 Jan, 2009


~ my worry is that they will feel a furore from a few nature lovers like us is a small price to pay to get 5% of our power cheaply~the silent majority won't get involved!

6 Jan, 2009


My answer to Wagger. Analysis of energy to produce and install the Wind turbine has found that it will achieve Carbon emission(foot-print) neutrality in 6 -8 months of operation, so whatever it takes to produce and install will balance itself out in that time and the wind turbines will last about 20 years before they are de-commissioned and they can be taken down. As for recycling the material after they are taken down, this is still a work in progress as not many have been around for more than 20 years, technically all parts are recyclable, but commercially no-one has taken an interest in this as it is not an on-going process as yet.

6 Jan, 2009


I've got to comment on this, as our area already has Nuclear Power Stations and we have also been under threat of a wind farm for the last 5 years. This would have been built next to the existing Power Stations. It would have stood out like a sore thumb and been visible from the near-by Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ruining the beautiful countryside. Every local Parish Council was against it as well as the West Somerset County Planning Committee. Needless to say, a whole lot of Government money had been promised to the group wanting to build it - as a huge subsidy (bribe?). They are appealing against the decision.
I have been very interested in the views of David Bellamy - read them if you can - he feels much as I do that the miniscule power generation capability of these monsters is totally ridiculous and that they are a danger to wild life. Imagine what they do to birds and bats!

Either the wind here is far too strong, or non-existent, so there wouldn't be much power there! Such a silly place to think of building them. Why not go off-shore??

Now, we are top of the list for more Nuclear Stations, and as the Government seems to be going down that route, albeit rather late, we shall probably get them - eventually! What will happen to the Wind Farm I really don't know - I guess it won't happen as blade-throw to the Nuclear site would be a dangerous possibility.

Maybe I am a NIMBY - but I do think that sites should be much more carefully chosen. As to the Severn Barrage, I don't think it will happen. It's such an expensive option and again would have an enormous effect on wild life in the area. A step too far.

6 Jan, 2009


~I would love to think so but you should read the blog about it I have taken from yesterday's Guardian~cause for concern!

6 Jan, 2009


The look of the Wind farms is always an old chestnut, but I am sorry to say that some of the information is mis-informed. One turbine can power a sudden switch on of 1,000 kettles and can continue to do this. More birds and bats are killed each day by other animals, cars, flying into our windows, electricity pylons, etc, I'm sure there are some casualties, I don't dispute that. I have never heard of blade throw, I would be really interested to learn more about this.................
We do need to look a Europe as a whole in regard of turbines and share power as we do now with our current electricity. This country isn't really capable of housing huge turbine farms like the ones sited worldwide, however I think we should contribute somehow and turbines are safe and environmentally friendly more than nuclear and current power sources. There are new innovations every day, but none are able to compete on the world stage against gas and fossil fuel electricity as wind power is able to at present. I am really surprised at Nuclear and wind energy being talked about in the same breath and wind energy being described as the sore thumb. I'm afraid we will have to disagree on some of your points Spritz lol

6 Jan, 2009


You know what I think before you all retire for the night is to take a visit over to blog # 9 an my pg and take a break from alternative energy. Some of you who are my fav members have not visited yet!

If you r just waking up and removing the sleep from your eyes come on in and have a chuckle if that does not do it for you then read a comic book or buy some penny candy!

Just a thought.

6 Jan, 2009


~hi there~
I don't think turbines are the only answer~ and I am not in favour of sharing power with Europe ~they charge us a fortune now and I think we need to be as self sufficient as possible.
If the govt was to give a more substantial grant for photovoltaic panels to generate either heat or hot water in single occupancy dwellings it would certainly cut down , possibly eliminate in the summer the use of normal heating fuels .Even for families whilst it probably won't be enough to heat or provide hot water for a normally built house,it would save money and fuel.
Grants /loans should be made more easily available and given more publicity.
The Germans are experimenting with housing estates which have no heating at all as such but are totally thermally efficient because of their construction ,materials,and insulation and use solar power etc and even factor in body,lights and appliance heat.
The main problem is poor insulation in a rapidly aging housing stock some of which have solid walls and cost a fortune to heat~we won't need as much power if we are better insulated!

7 Jan, 2009


I wish the UK was more equipped to stand on its own like Denmark who are totally self sufficient, but unfortunately it isn't and I don't think it ever will be, the changes needed cost money and aren't commercially viable which is the answer at the end of the day - money.

Up early, little Jenny Wren has a temperature and is poorly after some immunisations............bless

7 Jan, 2009


Hi Andrea ~
I hope everyone is okay with you.
Just to tell everyone on this thread of a TV show coming up this evening - all about being green. :o)

Please see my blog #4.

Best wishes, TT.

7 Jan, 2009


Dick Strawbridge and his lovely son Jamie...............watching just to see him do some diggin, yum, yum!!!!!!

7 Jan, 2009



7 Jan, 2009


Wind farms are being built in southern Washington State and Northern Oregon in the areas of sparsely populated high desert. Technically, I know nothing about them, but aesthetically I was not as put off by them as I thought I would be. I guess I'm a NIMBY, too, but they build them on the high ridges; they are sky colored and are quite graceful and peaceful to watch. Not nearly as ugly as our darned cell towers or our hydroelectric dams with their related substations, towers and damage to fish habitat. I doubt that they would affect the bird populations in that area. They don't produce greenhouse gases. No fossil fuels involved. They provide renewable energy. They don't produce smog. (They don't "glow in the dark" like nuclear :-) If they fail, whole populations won't grow extra body parts.)
They might not be as viable for UK as wave technology because of population density.
I have read recently about producing electricity from extracting ions from seawater, anyone know anything about that?

9 Jan, 2009


Hi there Paula
Within the last few days there have been reports in the press of a wind turbine damaged by an Alien craft !!!%&@!! but apparently the blades can fly off which might be a bit tricky if you are living nearby!
I have also seen something about electricity from ions in Seawater recently but if you would like to check my blog entitled starlings it explains how the Portuguese are using sea power!

9 Jan, 2009


Wind energy and the turbines are a very emotive subject in this country for some reason, the people in the UK struggle to deal with change and tend to focus on the negagtives. There are negatives, but if you look at the bigger picture they are environmentally sound. They talk about fossil fuel burning power stations and turbines in the same breath and turbines are the eye sore? I just don't understand it. Denmark is totally independant power wise, most of it is Wind energy, about 80% I think, Spain is close on its heals at 30% being wind energy.

9 Jan, 2009


Those darned aliens! :-)
I haven't seen turbines near homes in Southern Washington, so not much danger of them smashing someone's home. Down there they have large areas of almost uninhabitable windy, rocky, sagebrush-covered terrain that lends itself to wind power.
The blades move slowly and in a wind farm area the winds vary, so some are turning and some not, I have never seen them all at a standstill at the same time.
They are huge and highly visible, I can understand why people are inclined against them. They put a double line of powerline towers between our house and MY scenic mountain view here. Much worse than wind turbines.

Arlene I'll come over and read your starlings blog.

9 Jan, 2009


Hi Weeds11, just to let you know, the blades may look like they are turning slowly but at the tips they are moving up to to 180 mph so don't be fooled.
As for the 'alien' incident, the blade that was ripped off has gone missing? My husband who is an engineer for a turbine company and his colleagues think it could be a mini tornado. The turbine did stop, can't explain the light I think that could be media hype!! Tornados do happen here, we had one on the Isle of Wight in the summer.
I'm not sure if our government has been sensible by implimenting legislation about the distance they should be sited from houses. I think there are guidelines but some stupid local authority in Peterborough have sited one right next to some houses, just to add to the controversy and negative feeling. I think in Minnesota they have to be 1800 ft away from buildings and houses, but I know that legislation changes from state to state. I'm sure people would be able to accept the turbines better if they were situated more sensibly.

9 Jan, 2009


~ there are times I worry for the future of the UK~where is the remotest logic in an alien Ship? damaging a wind turbine~ they have the technology to fly to us from god knows where but can't avoid a static object?
was it Marvin the Martian or Harry Potter?

9 Jan, 2009


I had no idea they went that fast. They don't appear to. Wow!
These in Oregon are miles from civilization. Don't know what the rules are here. My only experience is with these.
The picture of the damaged turbine popped up on my internet homepage right after I wrote last. Incredible. Had to be a freak wind burst. It would be interesting to know what did it.
We have the same controversy over them here.

Arlene, those aliens were probably driving and talking on their little cell phones. LOL

10 Jan, 2009


ET ~ phone home?? I'd hate to see their cell phone bill after calling home all that way. .... lol.

10 Jan, 2009


LOL, Gilli, I can't top that one!

10 Jan, 2009


~check this out!
This is from Business Cornwall 10 Jan 2009

South West Wave Energy Company Orecon Harnesses Support of US Embassy

The South West wave energy company Orecon has caught the eye of the US Embassy with its hi-tech plans to capture renewable energy from the sea.

Orecon’s Chief Executive David Crisp was among industry leaders invited to a meeting in Bristol to brief Seth Patch, Environment, Science and Technology Officer at the US Embassy in London.
Mr Patch has a watching brief to monitor new technologies that could benefit the United States and was keen to learn more about progress being made by the South West company.

David Crisp said: “Seth Patch was very interested in what we had to tell him and appears determined that the US should not miss out on the new, renewable technologies we are developing here in Britain.”

“He was also extremely keen to know how we are going about producing and training the specialist people required to work within the industry around the world and was impressed to hear about the Renewable Energy courses being offered at the CUC, Combined Universities in Cornwall.”

From Orecon’s point of view, the meeting could prove an important opportunity with Mr Patch ideally placed to introduce the company to some of the world’s largest potential corporate partners.

David Crisp added: “Getting a major global offshore operator on board for construction of the buoys is one of our key objectives and many of those large corporations are based in the United States. Given that the US is committed to reducing its’ dependency on non-US energy supplies, we very much hope our talks with Mr Patch will prove fruitful for both of us in the months and years to come.”

Orecon will deploy its first 40 metre buoy here in the UK in 2010. Designed to address problems experienced by earlier wave power devices, the buoys are the result of six years of development work. Each will have a rated capacity of 1.5MW, that’s enough to power around a thousand homes.

Editor’s Notes

Orecon has patented technology for a Multi Resonant Chamber device to overcome difficulties experienced by other wave energy projects in the past. Based in the South West of England, the device is the result of six years development work together with more than 20 years of coastal and offshore experience. Orecon is committed to preserving the environment and it’s buoys pose no risk to marine life.

A syndicate of international Venture Capitalists including Advent Ventures, Venrock, Wellington Partners and Northzone Ventures have this year invested a total of £12 million in Orecon. The investment will enable Orecon to build and deploy its first full-scale device before moving on to the commercial rollout of its technology.

It just goes to prove there are lots of new innovative ways to harness power from the sea and considering nine tenths of the planet is covered in water it has to be the way to go!

10 Jan, 2009


I have always thought wave energy was the way to go Arlene..nothing else makes sense..I have seen the wind turbines on the way to Spokane on my way to visit..Weeds...they are right there by wild horse monument...after Ellensburg...are those the ones you are talking about Sisty...?

11 Jan, 2009


The ones I saw were above the Columbia River east of the Gorge. On both sides of the river.

12 Jan, 2009


There are ones on the bluffs as you cross the columbia after Ellensburg too...I am trying to recall the name of the little burg there..I believe it starts with a V..Vantage..does not seem it? It is right where we had to stop and buy ropes to pull our wiper blades back and forth from inside the car that time when the snow and ice cause the wiper motors to freeze and break on our way home from your place that one me double over laughing remember David coming out of the store with rope and tieing his system up to the blades..I sat in the car and laughed while he did it until I had tears rolling down my cheeks...I believe I laughed while we took turns pulling them back and forth all the way to Ellensburg in the storm...LOL...we got a motel there..David walked to a junk yard and bought a used wiper motor for his vintage volvo...put it in the trunk and we slept for the night...the next moring the motor was frozen into the trunk and David had to throw hot water over the trunk to get it open to get the wiper motor out to repair the old one...LOL.....oh dear I have lost the train of this thread...sorry all....

12 Jan, 2009


Yes, it is Vantage where the windmills are. I had forgotten them. Same kind of terrain as the east end of the Gorge. I was reading about possible plans to build some in the ocean. According to this article, they are still in the design stage. I think they have a long road ahead of them. They were hoping to elimate bird strike problems by lighting them with white lights, guess the red lights confuse the birds and they would have to monitor the bases and shut individual ones down to protect sea life. There are issues with the depth of the water, at this point they are saying 40 meters is about the limit. They will have to redesign the bases for deeper water. They will be more costly than land installations.

Yes, I remember the windshield wiper saga. In fact I thought of it when we were driving to Sandpoint in a nasty storm with iced up wipers.

15 Jan, 2009


Hey folks
grab yourself a paint brush!

Hashem Akbari has a vision of a shiny, happy world. He sees polished roads and cities that gleam in the sunlight. Rooftops are bright and pavements light. Akbari wants to turn our cities into a giant mirror and he needs your help. And paint, lots of it.

Akbari is no architect and his grand plan is no conceptual art project. Based at the prestigious Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, Akbari is a scientist who has come up with a new way to fight global warming. It could be the easiest solution you've never heard of.

His big idea is based on principles as old as the whitewashed villages that scatter the hills of southern Europe and North Africa. Turn enough of the world's black urban landscape white, he says, and it would reflect enough sunlight to delay global warming, and grant us some precious breathing space in the global struggle to control carbon emissions.

Akbari is poised to launch a campaign to paint the world white. He wants dozens of the world's largest cities to unite in an effort to replace the dark-coloured materials used to cover roads and roofs with something a little more reflective.

It sounds simple, but the effect could be dramatic. Study after study has shown that buildings with white roofs stay cooler during the summer. The change reduces the way heat accumulates in built-up areas - known as the urban heat island effect - and allows people who live and work inside to switch off power-hungry air conditioning units.

Aware of the benefit, California has forced warehouses and other commercial premises with flat roofs to make them white since 2005, and, if such an effort could be extended, the results could make a big difference.

Together, roads and roofs are reckoned to cover more than half the available surfaces in urban areas, which have spread over some 2.4% of the Earth's land area. A mass movement to change their colour, Akbari calculates, would increase the amount of sunlight bounced off our planet by 0.03%. And, he says, that would cool the Earth enough to cancel out the warming caused by 44bn tonnes of CO2 pollution. If you think that sounds like a lot, then you're right. It would wipe out the expected rise in global emissions over the next decade. It won't solve the problem of climate change, Akbari says, but could be a simple and effective weapon to delay its impact - just so long as people start doing it in earnest. "Roofs are going to have to be changed one by one and to make that effort at a very local level, we need to have an organisation in place to make it happen," he says. Groups in several US cities, including Houston, Chicago and Salt Lake City, are on board with his plan, and he is talking to others.

The idea is a form of geo-engineering, a broad term used to cover all schemes that tackle the symptoms of climate change, namely catastrophic temperature rise, without addressing the root cause, our spiralling greenhouse gas emissions. And if altering all of the world's roofs and roads sounds extreme, then take a look at some ideas from the other end of the geo-engineering scale: giant mirrors in space, shiny balloons to float above the clouds and millions of fake plastic trees to suck carbon from the air. An increasing number of climate scientists argue that the world has little choice but to investigate such drastic options. Carbon emissions since 2000 have risen faster than anyone thought possible, mainly driven by the coal-fuelled boom in China, and a global temperature rise of 2-3C seems inevitable. Last year a special edition of a Royal Society journal dedicated to geo-engineering said the geo-engineering schemes "may be risky, but the time may well come when they are accepted as less risky than doing nothing".

Akbari says his plan is more workable than other geo-engineering ideas. The science is simple. Sunlight reflected from a surface does not contribute to the greenhouse effect, which drives global warming. That problem comes when dark surfaces soak up sunlight and send it back up as thermal energy, at just the right wavelength to rebound off CO2 in the sky.

The problem with shiny cities, according to Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, is more simple science. "It won't tackle global warming because carbon emissions are still rising," he says. Like all geo-engineering schemes, it will need to be kept up indefinitely, he says, and does not address the growing acidification of the oceans, caused as extra CO2 dissolves. The cooling effect and energy savings in cities would be welcome though, he adds.

Akbari says his idea is not intended to replace efforts to cut carbon emissions, but to work alongside them. "We can give the atmosphere time to breathe," he says. "I just don't see a downside to this idea. It benefits everybody and you don't have to have hard negotiations to make it happen."

Dark roofs reflect about 10-20% of sunlight, while white surfaces tend to send back at least half. In technical terms, the percentage of light reflected by a surface is called its albedo - so a perfectly reflective surface has an albedo of 1. Coloured paints have an albedo of 0.1-0.3, and white paints an albedo of 0.5-0.9. Asphalt road surfaces have albedos as low as 0.05, so they absorb up to 95% of the sun's energy. Concrete has an albedo of up to 0.3, tar and gravel just 0.1. Akbari's mission is to get individuals, local authorities, builders and communities to think about albedo alongside cost, colour and design when it comes to repairs, maintenance and new construction.

"This is not just a question of painting things white. Roofs and roads are routinely repaired and replaced and, when it comes to a householder changing their roof, we want them to look at reflective options. That's the time to target people." He says an "aggressive" programme could convert all cities within 10-20 years.

It is fairly easy to persuade, or require, the owners of buildings to select white materials for flat roofs, because the colour is only noticed by passing air travellers. But sloping roofs, found on most houses, are a different issue because they are visible from the ground. As pretty as snow-coated Alpine villages may look, skiers wear powerful sunglasses for a reason. Streets of white-roofed houses would dazzle in the sun. The same is true of road surfaces - too light a colour and too much light reflects as glare into the eyes of motorists.

16 Jan, 2009


Pink maybe? or blue? not dark or light hues...just in between. actually would any lighter color be better than the darks?

16 Jan, 2009


~from what I gather Caroline it needs to be white for maximum effectiveness~any other colour absorbs heat to a slight degree.

16 Jan, 2009


hmmmmm...poses a problem then doesn't it....

16 Jan, 2009


`~pale pink better than black Caroline which absorbs maximum heat .Imagine very pale roofs everywhere ~could look quite pretty! Free designer sunglasses to combat the glare in the summer!

16 Jan, 2009


~Could this be the future~hardly any power needed!
Passive houses
Murad Ahmed

Being green is great, but it’s an awful lot of work, isn’t it? Sorting paper from plastic. Pedalling a bicycle instead of sitting back in a car. Remembering to turn out the lights. Such hassle. But by living in a “passive house” you can be eco-friendly without lifting a finger.

– These are energy-efficient homes that get all the heat and hot water they require from the amount of power needed to use a hairdryer.

– Passive houses can do this by using super-thick insulation and complex doors and windows that create an airtight shell that stops cold drafts getting in and warm air getting out. The buildings are then warmed by the sun, heat from appliances, and body heat.

– There are 15,000 passive homes in the world, most of them in Germany and Scandinavia. The European Parliament has proposed all new buildings meet passive-house standards by 2011. More passive homes are being built in the US and Britain.

– All this could mean the end of families huddling up beside a log fire. But it could also end arguments about how high to turn up the thermostat!

17 Jan, 2009


Well, I really feel like I need to say something about the NIMBYS now. I live on the Isle of Wight which has a small population and not much skilled employment is there. On 28th April 2009, Vestas one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers decided to close its doors on the Isle of Wight making 700 people unemployed. This will have a devastating effect on the local economy of over 20 million pounds. Many skilled and graduate employees will leave the Island taking their families and spending power with them! The Government promised during the budget that it would help financially 'green' companies, but no help from Whitehall has been offered. The Government have held a Low Emission Summit where they said the new green manufacturers would make it an industrial revolution and more green collar jobs would be created, not here!! The Government seems committed to renewable energy, but then it leaves the local authorities to impliment the planning procedures and leaves its Councillors to vote. that is where the Country comes to a NIMBY standstill. The NIMBYS are the only one third of this population that votes so the local Councillors will not vote for Wind Turbines as they want to keep their local seats. These are the same narrow minded hypocrites who's parents made a stand against the National Grid and the erection of Pylons, they are still here and no-one ever talks about them do they?? Central Government needs to make sure it sets targets for local authorities to stick to, get this country moving forward instead of backwards. BBC Radio 4 are coming to interview me about this next week, I am disgusted with people who don't want to help our planet because it will spoil their view.

13 May, 2009

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