Tag Archives: renewable energy

Solar farm up-date economic


Solar is on the edge of economic without government support. This is potentially an important source of dependable, long term income for landowners.

The cost of solar panels is coming down and “solar farms” are on the edge of becoming economic without government support.I f you are a land owner, you might be offered £750 to £1400 per acre in rent for 25 years, plus an RPI escalator, to cover a hundred acres or so with solar panels.  That is pension fund stuff. However, is it environmentally sustainable and does it matter anyway?

 It is almost certainly true that the energy put into making all the solar panels so far manufactured will not be recovered in the productive life of those panels.  If the energy put into manufacture, packaging, transport by sea (most are made in China), in road transport, in mounting on frameworks, in making the frameworks (all the same actions over again), and maintenance, and decommissioning, …  All of a sudden, it does not seem possible that “PV”, photovoltaics, or just “solar panels”, could possibly be genuinely environmentally sustainable.

There is at least some research which gives a useful guide. Much of that research suggests an energy payback period, on the panels themselves, of 2 to 10 years.  The US Department of Energy quotes in one of its published documents several pieces of research from all over the world where researchers of some academic standing looked at the question and showed a wide range of results but they were all presented by the Department as positive.  The summary of research indicated that crystalline modules were significantly better than a few years ago and their efficiency would improve still more.  The conclusions were also that thin-film technology was currently more efficient than crystalline and would continue to keep its lead over crystallines.  Further, as new technologies develop, this is very likely to increase efficiencies again.  For example, the sun emits a much wider range of energy wavelengths than just the visible spectrum.  New panel technologies will collect infrared and ultra violet and maybe wider.

Nevertheless, reading between the lines, most of the quoted research appeared to be limited to the energy cost of manufacture of the panels themselves. There was limited or no indication that the total energy cost of a working installation had been taken into account. One of the bits of research even admitted that they had not even included the thin frame that surrounds the panel before putting into its packaging. So, there is some doubt about whether the research figures cover all the energy costs, not just of manufacture, but also of packaging, shipping, land transport, installation, site infrastructure, site works, supporting frame construction, commissioning, maintenance, cleaning and failures.


Maybe not.  It depends on where you sit. If it makes money for everyone involved; maybe that is good enough?  Only the taxpayer might not agree.  One thing “renewable” (but not necessarily sustainable) might be seen to deliver is less reliance in future on imported oil, gas and electricity. (Yes, we import significant amounts of electricity from France.)  There is another plus.  Whatever the energy cost, it is paid for at today’s cost.  The energy produced over the life of the installation pays back at tomorrow’s energy values; it is an investment in tomorrow.

What it comes down to is, as usual, money.  If a detailed financial study says it makes cash, then read the small print, cover the “what ifs” over the next 25 years and go ahead.  However, tone down the environmental benefit; you might be on thin film, sorry, ice.



Je suis le Roi de la mairde


A normal pond? Not quire – note the white colouration of the water, This is spent drilling fluid from drilling through chalk to bring cables off the North Sea wind farms.



The attached below link is to the Dutch drilling company, VSH website. The pictures (scroll down a bit) are of the drilling operation bringing cables off the North Sea wind farms to the site at Holt in North Norfolk.  This brings renewable energy to the UK consumers.  What Land Research does is to take the cuttings and spent fluids from such operations and re-use them, usually on agricultural land to replace the 2.5 million tonnes of top soil which the UK loses by wind and rain erosion, down into the sea, every year. Renewable energy with zero waste from such construction operations.


Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 22 June 17


Farming, the utilities and UK economic life

Dom Arnold’s JCB Fastrack and 360 excavator on its way to assist in laying cables from the North Sea wind farms under farmland in Norfolk to the National Grid to supply the economicm life of the UK.

Farming is not just food production, it is the back-bone of the economic life of the UK. It is not just the food chain which is integrated with so much of UK industry, it is the land itself.

The land is what the whole lot stands on, even the City of London and all its financial activity. It is the land across which we travel and which carries the life blood of economic activity.  It is the land across which the water, electricity and gas are channelled to carry energy to the people and their businesses.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ld. 7th June 17













Survival! – free download


“Survival – Sustainable Energy, Wastes, Shale Gas and The Land” is available for free download for the next 5 Sundays starting 15 Jan.

According to UN sponsored research, I tonne of N nutrient, made in a modern, efficient USA fertiliser factory, typically takes 21,000 (yes, twenty one thousand) kWh to manufacture and deliver to farm. Yet, we lose around half to groundwater with rain or irrigation. This will dramatically affect how we farm.  Part of the answer is to recycle waste to farm land.  How to do this safely, how shale gas will affect the land, how sustainable energy sources can help farming are all reviewed in the book.  All these and how the global population  will reach crisis, and when, can be downloaded for free on the Sundays 15, 22 and 29 Jan, and 5 and 12 Feb.  Control and Click here  Survival” by Bill Butterworth Amazon.

Hydro at Lynmouth


Some will remember the flood of Lynmouth in 1952 in which 34 people died.  Lynmouth, however, has a much more positive contribution to world power history.   In 1890, a small scale hydro-power system was built in the gorge above Lymouth and it was the first in the world to provide pump-back storage at the top to provide a reserve of water to produce power at peak demand. In 1987, a 500m long, 500mm diameter pipe with a 77m head was commissioned to drive a 300kW turbine. Since, the feed pipe diameter has been increased to 700mm and two more turbines. The organisers want to expand further and, to our national shame, get political prevarication and ignorance from the authorities. The truth is that hydro here lives quite satisfactorily with an SSSI and a very pretty area of natural beauty of significant tourist attraction and an example to the rest of the world. Hydro is one of the answers to reducing global warming and we need more urgently, very urgently.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd., 10 November 2016

Sustainable energy, diesel fuel, and farming


A schematic view of Carbon fixing by green plants and the formation of coal, gas and oil, as in the Carboniferous Era, is shown in the Figure above.  What happened then was that plants took Carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to form large, organic Carbon molecules and gave back Oxygen. The most commonly quoted equation leads to a 6-Carbon sugar.

6 CO2 + 6 H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2

Plants, of course, go on to produce much larger Carbon-based molecules and although the whole process of forming those original Carbon reserves is not the subject of this paper, the result is summarised in the figure.


Closed lopp oil

Crops with green leaves can give us energy and take Carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and give us Oxygen back.

If humans were to try to mimic that process, then it would involve growing more green crops globally and on a very large scale, including reclaiming deserts and, in doing so, avoiding a further problem.  Research sponsored by the UN] showed that in the manufacture of mineral fertilisers in typical, modern USA factories, one tonne of Nitrogen nutrient used 21,000 (twenty one thousand) kWh of electricity. Many factories around the world are significantly less efficient. In the current world, the electricity used in that manufacturing process comes mainly from burning fossilised fuel, thus forming a disproportionate amount of Carbon dioxide.  Clearly, that is not sustainable.

The classic method of solving a problem depends on putting two, mirror-image “problems” together so that they wipe each other out and, preferably, do so sustainably. The mirror image problem identified in a research and development programme carried out by Land Research was urban waste. So, wastes were used to completely replace mineral fertilisers with a result that cultivation energy went down dramatically, crop disease fell and yields went up and became more consistent. More than that, farms were able to grow oil seed rape and use the extracted oil either as biodiesel or PPO (Pure Plant Oil) in their tractors, combines and pick-up trucks, so achieving a level of energy independence and security.

More by putting “Survival by Bill Butterworth Amazon” into your search engine or click here.

The  sustainability in farming blog                                                             from Bill Butterworth 19th August 2016

Flash-flooding and survival


Flash flooding will happen more often because of population density increases, consequential building and hard-surface increases and global warming.

Composts will absorb and hold between 5 and 16 times their own weight of water.  That might be useful in creating jobs in upland composting in Cumbria, Lancashire, and anywhere in the upland catchment areas for any of our rivers running through urban areas, including London.

“Survival – Sustainable Energy, Wastes, Shale Gas and The Land” by Bill Butterworth, published by Land Research, has just been released and is available in paperback from good bookshops or Amazon on the web as paperback (at around £10) or electronic version (at only £2.46) for computer or Kindle.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 10 July 2016