Braving 8 hours of wind and rain to see a…wind turbine

Just got back from a slightly surreal trip to Germany yesterday to see wind turbine facility run by GE. The factory was basically in a small town called Salzbergen quite close to the Dutch border but getting their from the UK at a reasonable hour meant flying all the way to Hannover and then pegging it down an autobahn at 100mph in the wind and rain – for almost two hours to get to the site in time. 

Along for the ride was Tim Probert, deputy editor of Power Engineering International, who like me found the whole experience slightly unreal – 8 hours of traveling for what turned into a two hour meeting and factory tour.

I did get some useful stuff from it which I am writing up for BusinessGreen but the fact that we didn’t even get lunch for our 8 hour schlepp – just some German cakes and coffee – added insult to injury. However we did get our wind turbine – albeit a little desk mounted one with no practical purpose apart from too look nice. 

On the plus side, we did get to see just how much Germany has fell in love with the turbine – there were stacks of the things all up and down the road from Hannover to Salzbergen which I managed to get some OK shots of – despite the wind, the rain and the 100mph we were doing.

BusinesGreen: GE warns of turbulence ahead for turbine production

US engineering giant General Electric (GE) yesterday warned that rising steel prices and turmoil on the financial markets will have a negative impact on its fast expanding wind turbine business.

Speaking at an event in Germany to publicise its latest turbine, GE Energy’s global sales leader for wind energy, Mete Maltepe, said that the rising cost of steel would drive up the price of turbines.

“There is a lot of steel in our turbines, so the cost of steel going up makes turbines more expensive,” he said. “It is a major issue for the industry,”

The price of steel has risen by about 30 per cent this year, driven largely by increased demand for raw materials from developing countries such as China. In 2007, the Chinese economy accounted for 37 per cent of global steel consumption, according to a report from financial services group Atradius.

But despite the negative impact that steel pricing could have on its turbine business, GE’s Maltepe added that at least the wind industry was not greatly affected by the rising cost of other commodities such as fuel. “We have a world where all commodities are going up including fuel,” he said. “Wind at least has free fuel and we don’t get affected twice.”

Maltepe made the comments at GE’s centre for renewables in Salzbergen, Germany, close to the Dutch border, where GE unveiled its latest turbine, the GE Energy 2.5xl, which it claims has been developed specifically for the European market.

More on BusinessGreen

mySociety: Open democracy, open source

Just finished this piece for Heise UK on mySociety the organisation behind site’s such as Theyworkforyou which provides tools for tracking what your MP is up to:

A group of free and open source enthusiasts are challenging the UK government to use the internet to its full potential

About a quarter of one percent. That’s the extent to which Tom Steinberg, director and co-founder of thinks the UK government has managed to embrace the potential of the Internet to re-shape democracy as we currently understand it.

For the full article go to Heise UK

Computer Aid media training

Thanks goes out to Tony Roberts from Computer Aid for asking me in to impart whatever tidbits I might have gleaned over the last ten years on dealing with journalists.

Computer Aid had seven of their Africa team over from Nairobi for a week of training – and they asked me into play the good cop with some media training and bad cop with some tough mock interviews.

We went over issues such as how to talk to journalists (answer – very slowly), different types of media, tricks and tactics that journalists use and how to defend against them, as well as how to put together an effective press release, and quite a lot on interview technique including how to talk in quotes.

As is usual with this type of thing, I am sure that I learnt a lot more from them than they did from me, especially when it comes to how some African journalists operate. I could only really give them my take on journalist/spokesperson relations in the UK. But I wasn’t really prepared for some of the horror stories they had to impart about how things operate in Africa including one story of a journalist asking for an contributed article which he not only printed verbatim – but put his own name on.

The other issue the spokespeople run into is journalists asking for money for stories. That isn’t magazines asking for money to print stories – although that does happen too – but rather individual journalists basically asking for cash bribes to cover a story. It sounds shocking to hear, but then given that journalist salaries are next to nothing in many parts of Africa, it’s not actually that surprising.

It was a pretty intensive session but it must have gone alright as I am going back to Computer Aid later this month to do something similar with the executive team including chief executive Louise Richards.

Thanks goes out to:

Gladys Muhunyo – African programme manager and the lady who makes it all happen

Dr. Hillar Addo – Southern Africa programme officer

Benjamin Makai – East African programme officer

Anne Musyoki – West African campaigns officer

Tito Mbua – Tito Wambua Francophone Africa