Thursday, August 11, 2005

From radar to wind turbines

The most northerly inhabited island in Britain, Unst, hopes to build its economy on producing hydrogen fuel from wind power and rain, both of which it has in abundance. For the last thirty years, the biggest employer, practically the only employer, was a huge RAF over-the-horizon radar station, built to guard NATO's northern flank - the shortest route for Soviet Tupolev 22M3 (Backfire) bombers to take to Britain with nuclear bombs, and one that avoided the vast military buildup of the Nato central front. Now, The Threat is gone, and anyway, NATO's air defence in the north is well covered by radars positioned hundreds of miles forward in Lithuania, near the putative bases of any attack. Saxa Vord's twin, the Danish-run Pole Star radar on the Faeroes, has already been switched off for good.

The plan is to build several huge wind turbines that would produce electricity to electrolyse water and to liquefy the hydrogen for transport. The cost of production is estimated at 15p a gallon (although hydrogen is more usually charged in kilos). Pale fire, drawn from wind and water - an idea of north, as compelling as that cold-war image of huge sentinel antennas erected in the snow...

(sorry about the cod-Ballard finish)

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