Monthly Archives: December 2011


While it’s still quite fresh in my mind and following a related chat with my dad on the weekend I wanted to write about this picture.

Last week winds in Scotland were the strongest they have been this century. A photographer captured this stunning image of two wind turbines safely shut down with no adverse effects as they are designed to do. Oh yeah and there’s this one in the middle which didn’t.

A wind turbine going wrong

When I saw this picture on the front page of the BBC News website, my heart sank. I just knew that this photograph is going to be used by anti wind energy campaigners for decades to come. When there is a strong wind (over 56 mph), turbines are pointed away from the wind and their brakes engaged (this is basically a huge car disc brake) as you can see in this picture the one on fire is pointed in exactly the opposite direction to the two that aren’t.

The other point that has to be made is that there are over 4 Gigawatts of wind power capacity in the UK now. Making the reasonable assumption that the average turbine capacity is 1 Megawatt (the newest turbines are usually around 2.5 MW on-shore) then we can say there are 4,000 wind turbines installed in the UK. So a very very windy situation led to 1 in 4,000 turbines failing catastrophically. Or to put it another way 3,999 in 4,000 turbines shut down as they were supposed to in a completely boring way. How disappointing!


Update: I learned yesterday (16 Dec) that a grid fault put part of Hunterston B nuclear plant offline during the same storm. That’s in addition to well over 100 thousand homes being without power.


By way of an introduction…

Hello. My name is Pete Burgess. I work in solar power in the UK. Currently I’m doing an EngD in monitoring of systems. I will explain a bit more what an EngD is and why they are great in another post quite shortly.

As must surely be traditional I am starting this blog with a slightly meta- post about why I’m blogging.

Firstly why Set In Etch-A-Sketch? Well, I’m one of them scientists and I read something the other week saying climate change was scientific dogma that was set in stone. Well, science is never set in stone. The whole point is that we can and do change our minds if someone can convince us we should. Set in Etch-A-Sketch (I need an acronym, SIEAS?) was one I thought of for a better picture of how science develops over time. I first thought of Set in Jelly (jell-o to you America) but that didn’t get across that you can change and develop, just that you are a bit wobbly. Then I settled on SIEAS which is better but to be honest, still a bit rubbish as this means you have to throw everything out and start with a blank page which still isn’t how science works. Still, SIEAS does get across that science is only a temporary edifice and also that if you want to change everything you need to twiddle some knobs or give something a good shake!

Next what’s in my mind that’s so good anyway? Well, I’ve been active in sustainability (mostly energy) for a number of years and at the moment there’s a bit of a green backlash going on and when I hear politicians and commentators going on about how much of a burden it is on the economy I get angry and I need an outlet.

While I have opinions on a bunch of things, my intention is to keep this blog restricted to my areas of genuine expertise i.e. sustainable energy and the process of getting oneself an EngD. Let’s see if I can stick to this goal.