30 July 2009

Ampair 6000 video and on BBC television

A couple of weeks ago the BBC visited us to film for the BBC2 Working Lunch programme, including the Ampair 6000.
They broadcast the footage on the same day that the British government made a number of announcements about green jobs and their latest low carbon strategy. They edit things immensely so it doesn't matter how balanced we try to be as the odds are that the clip they use will only be a short segment. So they get the balance from the overall programme rather than from individual clips. In a way that's a pity because the interview segment they used with me was about jobs in the UK and I come across as being quite parochial but I guess that's par for the course and they do their best. They took some footage of the Ampair 6000 as well as the inside of our workshops which they used as the backdrop. They also contrasted our creation of a few jobs and being the UK's oldest turbine manufacturer with the announcements about the Vestas plant closing and the loss of about 600 jobs on the Isle of Wight. As I've said many times the UK government is a lot better at paying consultants to write strategy papers than it is at doing things in practice.

I was going to post the link to the BBC website for people to see but it cannot be viewed outside the UK and expires after two weeks. We did ask them about putting it on our website but it costs £1,150 for a 12-month licence for a 2-minute segment which is a joke. So I went out in the field this morning and took a clip of the Ampair 6000 running in winds between 4-6m/s. If you look carefully in the back left you can see smaller Ampair turbines on poles by our factory. This movie runs OK in QuickTime, not sure about other viewers.

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13 July 2009

Energy Saving Trust report - "Location, location, location"

The Energy Savings Trust have released a very short report into their Domestic Small-scale Wind Field Trial with the snappier subtitle 'Location, location, location'.

The EST claim to be a non-profit making organisation acting as a bridge between government, consumers, and trade bodies. From where I sit they have the same existential objectives as any other organisation and in practice are funded by the major utilities and central government through a system of levies, contracts, and subsidies. They are one of the better para-state organisations and I pay attention to a lot of their work but always ponder why it is being written.

The report itself is the result of over a year of work and 57 sites. They consulted industry prior to starting the work and as a result they expanded the scope from just being a building-mounted urban microwind trial to include freestanding smallwind in rural locations. After a great deal of behind the scenes coaxing and persuasion they ultimately cooperated with the Warwick Wind Trial which front run them. They are not technology discipline experts and have subcontracted analysis of the trial results to Southamption University which is why they still have the capacity to make embarassing gaffes from time to time, sometimes so fundamentally that I was looking forwards to the opportunity to read the full report to check their methodology. Unfortunately although industry encouraged the trial to include vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT) they seem to have evaded the trial net. This trial includes some Renewable Devices Swift units which is very unusual as they are seldom in independent trials.

The published report is frighteningly thin and bereft of almost all the data one would like to see. This is the most obvious thing that has already caused a lot of comment around the world. The other thing that is very obvious to me is that there is no data from the Warwick sites and this is a shame as they are not confidential and we as an industry have already taken our lumps for them. So I suspect that the EST sites include a series that are incredibly embarassing for one or more parties. (I know it can't be us as we only injected units into the EST trial via the WWT).

In advance of publication they met with the various turbine manufacturers to discuss results. Although they discussed the Ampair-specific data with us they did not show us the report, likewise for the other manufacturers. There is a lot less in the public report than I anticipated. It is my understanding that there is a much more comprehensive private report which has been sent to the study funders but I am not sure if this includes the datasets. I personally am uncomfortable inasmuch as I do not know what is being said in that other report which upsets me as I believe it is being made available to one participant, but there are many things I have no control over and so just have to accept as the way the world is. I see from the report that one of the project partners is the Scottish Government and another is the UK government department called DEFRA. It might be that a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to either of these would gain you access to the other report although I doubt it. The EST themselves are a quasi-governmental body and so I believe are ordinarily sheltered from FOI requests.

Perhaps the reason that the EST have such a slim public report is that they are seeking to do the minimum of damage to the industry. There is a long history in the UK of mainstream journalists being only too keen to trash literally anything ("if it bleeds it leads") and certainly when I listened to the EST being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme (equivalent of NPR at drivetime) I felt that EST were doing their best to be low key and supportive but realistic which is probably the most appropriate stance. The same balanced message seems to have come across on the other news items and I think they have done a good job in this respect.

The EST have provisionally agreed to analyse the datasets in support of the IEC / IEA 61400-2 ed 3 revision work that is going on, but not to release the raw data to the IEC / IEA committee. Therefore they will be asking the University of Southampton to conduct the analyis and release only the analysis results into the committee. The area of interest is the suitability of the existing wind class definitions in small wind design & (strength) testing. This illustrates on the one hand that EST are being very protective of their raw data (presumably for commercial reasons), but on the other hand they are trying to be supportive of the smallwind community in its efforts to move forwards. In contrast to some other recent UK (quasi) government funded work the EST are to be praised for this level of support.

You can download the report here.Domestic_small-scale_wind_field_trial_report_July09.pdf

On a different note one commentator has already pointed out that their are photos of Proven turbines on every page so I went through and counted the photos to see how balanced a view of the industry it gives:

Proven = 8
Windsave = 3
Eoltec = 3
Renewable Devices Swift = 2
Ampair = 0
Eclectic = 0
Zephyr = 0
Iskra = 0

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