More wind farms, or more reliable sources of renewables.

With the talk of easing planning for on-shore wind farms, and with “Greens” pushing for less reliance on fossil fuels or nuclear, even more emphasis is being placed on wind as a major source of energy.  A look at Gridwatch shows that there has been only minor contribution of wind to the UK Grid Demand since August 23rd.  Fortunately, at the moment demand is fairly low and solar has made a contribution during the day but that is not always the case.  Is it not time that much more investment is made into more reliable sources of renewables, we seem to be working ourselves into a corner?

  • Should we consider ion harvesting as a technology that can complement other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar

  • Well offshore wind is now too expensive.

    Offshore wind auction fails to attract any bids - BBC News

    Maybe it was always more expensive and the low strike prices were politically driven. 

  • Wind is not reliable for our base load of 20GW.

    We still have nuclear power stations which can be rehabbed. 

    The original level of radiation was over specified and needs to be addressed quickly which will reduce the costs of using nuclear as a feasible alternative. 

  • In the UK the average ion flux is such that we get a few pA  (yep  I do mean 1E-12 Amps) per square meter of sky facing ion collection surface, and the typical voltage gradient is about 100V per metre of altitude. 

    On a bone dry day. Rather less when its raining. a million times more in a thunderstorm but not for long at a time.

    Put another way if you could connect to a perfectly insulated catcher 100m up (10kV) of say 10m by 10m (100m2 capture area) you have a few hundred picoamps times 10kV - some milliwatts.

    The problem is building supports for your collectors well enough insulated to not leak it all away before you can use it.  There is a lot of wild balony written about this sort of thing on the internet so be careful.

    An amusing DIY project ?


  • Hi Mike. This is what I read: The ICM is a special type of carbon nanomaterial that can harvest electricity from atmospheric ions. The wire is a conductor that connects the ICM to the ground station. The ground station is a device that converts, stores and uses the electricity harvested by the ICM. The atmosphere is the source of atmospheric ions that power the ICM. The ICM is exposed to the air using a balloon or a kite. The ICM forms an electron cloud around itself when it encounters atmospheric ions. This electron cloud increases the conductivity of the air around the ICM and causes electrical current to flow, driven by the atmospheric voltage. The current travels along the wire to the ground station. The ground station has three parts: a power converter, a hydrogen generator and a battery. The power converter converts the high-voltage alternating current (AC) from the ICM to a low-voltage direct current (DC) that can be used or stored. The hydrogen generator uses some of the electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. The hydrogen gas can be stored or used as fuel. The battery stores the excess electricity for later use. 

  • There is no doubt that microscopically hairy surfaces make better ion collectors and emitters than perfectly smooth ones and they claim the space charge is less likely to repel incoming charges. I'm not so sure of that, but the high field gradients exist where no of ions available is smallest, as that is where the air is not so conducting it all leaks away. Here, (Hants) the air has a time constant of about 10-20 minutes at the moment - that is the capacitance of a unit volume (about 0.1pF) versus its resistance (say about 10^16 ohms across the faces of the same 1cm cube.)

    I am aware of work published in the stormier parts of Florida that have occasionally harvested a few orders of magnitude more at times of windy weather, but it is still  fractions of a watt from massive installations, compared to say solar power.

    is probably the most enthusiastic about  it.


  • I appreciate the link you sent me. It is a very intriguing and exciting idea. The author is hopeful about the technology and its potential. However, there are some technical and regulatory challenges that need to be addressed before ion power can be widely implemented. These include enhancing the design and performance of the ion collectors, developing efficient and reliable systems for power conversion and transmission, ensuring the safety and security of the ion power infrastructure, and obtaining the necessary permits and approvals from the authorities.

  • The only thing that the pro nuclear and anti nuclear factions agree on is that the current LNT based regulations are wrong.

  • The price the government was offering was £44 per MWh.  Unless my maths is wrong, that's 4.4p per KWh.  Given that us consumers are currently paying about 33p per KWh, I hardly see how that's "too expensive".

    The government offered the generators a price that was too low for it to be economical at today's inflationary prices.  So nobody was interested.

  • I think this goes back to this post:

    The True Cost of Wind Power - Engineering Discussions - IET EngX - IET EngX (

    On a purely economic basis wind costs more than nuclear although the numbers have been being fudged for political reasons for a while.

    I will quote Andy Millar here:

    'The problem is that there are two different discussions going on here.

    If you're a climate change denier then it's purely a matter of cost.

    If you're not then it's an ALARP discussion - given the hazardous option of using fossil fuels the less hazardous alternatives should (in fact in UK law must) be used unless it is grossly disproportionate to do so. There's then the ongoing legal debate of what "grossly disproportionate" means, with figures of 10x cost to 100x cost being discussed (so if the higher end is taken, then if wind power cost 100x more but significantly reduced the CO2 emissions then it should be considered for implementation). Of course it's actually FAR more complicated than that, because if energy becomes more expensive there are other hazards introduced by that itself (energy poverty). But whether renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels is not the issue given an unnacceptable alternative. (But of course how to make them cheaper than they are is a useful discussion.)'

    ALARP is a fun and complicated discussion Upside down Angry Scream