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Windmills bursting into flames

19 January 2012
Climate change

This is meant to be tongue in cheek as it seems those dratted windmills don't like it too windy. Generally, they are switched off when the wind starts blowing too hard, but electricity consumers still have to pay the operators of the windmills whether they are working or not, which is a nice little earner, or subsidy, if you can grab a piece of the pie. Let's face it – what a brilliant scam dreamed up by show-boating politicians and environmentalists that think that high energy prices will deter people from switching on their central heating or using their useful appliances, or watching television, or reading beneath an electric light bulb etc. It is hoped they will buy electric cars instead of petrol driven motors and as such won't be able to use them when there is a power cut (when the windmills don't perform). This attitude is exemplified in a recent government report on energy use that claimed renewables were just as cheap as fossil fuel energy (assuming those prices would gradually increase as fossil fuels become short in the supply chain) and on the very clever and contrived basis that it is assumed people will cut their electricity usage by half within the next 20 to 50 years – by what is described as energy savings (a metaphor for shortages and power cuts, a bit like modern Iraq). So, by working out that fossil fuels will rise exponentially as fossil fuels run out (which is a guess as there is said to be hundreds of years worth of shale gas) and by reducing electricity usage in half, another assumption based on number crunching, and at that point, just like magic, renewables such as windmills and solar panels are just as cheap as the inflated price of fossil fuels – I can see that happening, and so can you – but see for instance www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/1/9/the-cost-of-wind.html and www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/1/10/government-surveillance-of-windfarm-p… which is a bit off topic as people freezing at the cobs has nothing to do with flaming windmills.

An image of a windmill and its turbine bursting into flames in Ayrshire during a gale a couple of weeks ago caused the 'Weather Eye' correspondent in The Times to have a look at what happened to those old fashioned windmills in times of yore when the wind did blow up a storm. Back in them olden days windmills did useful things like milling flour for the daily bread of the good folks of this land but when the wind started to blow too hard they didn't have that modern novelty, a switch, to shut the darn thing down. What they did have was a bit of neat technology for the period, a thick piece of wood that was applied to the windmill shaft in order to slow it down when it started going round too rapidly. When smoke started to rise from the friction between the two pieces of wood, as it was want to do, they had a handy bag of brick dust which was applied to the shaft to cool things down a bit – but what happened when the wind did begin to howl and screech in the rafters and strain at the wooden clapboards? In the great storm of 1703 some 400 windmills were burnt down or toppled over as a result of the blades spinning round so fast. The wooden brake was just too inadequate. 

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