Solar Roads – Another Epic Fail of Green Stupidity

Published on October 15, 2021Written by

Whatever happened to solar roadways? A few years back, embedding PV cells into road surfaces was going to be the next big thing. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

True it is, that the wind and solar cult attracts all sorts of cranks and crackpots, promoting all sorts of harebrained schemes and subsidy-backed scams. But, as Sarah Marquart explains below, there were a host of reasons why this one would never roll.
Understanding Solar Roadways: An Engineering Failure of Epic ProportionsInteresting EngineeringSarah Marquart4 March 2021
Remember Solar Roadways? As a fresh reminder, Solar Roadways became massively viral in 2014 after claiming to be the end-all solution to the global energy crisis. The idea was simple: to implant solar panels into roads to produce electricity. The panels were allegedly also going to light up the roads with different LED patterns, replacing painted lines. For the winter, heating coils could melt snow and ice – all while generating electricity and requiring less maintenance.
The promise seemed too good to be true. And as it turns out, it was.
After years of development and millions of dollars (including government funding), none of the solar roadways installed today are cost-effective or efficient energy producers. The roads are expensive and produce far less electricity than what could be produced if the money was used on a solar farm – or by simply placing the panels by the side of the road.
As it turns out, there were many, many obstacles when it comes to turning roads into giant solar panels.
An engineering failure
With the global road network spanning between 21 and 32 million kilometers (13 and 19.8 million miles), it seems reasonable that covering just a portion of them with solar panels could generate a substantial amount of electricity. Placing solar panels on a mere fraction of roadways, in theory, should generate energy enough to power the entire world. However, this is only achievable under the best of conditions – when the solar panels are in direct sunlight.
The largest incentive of the project was its ability to pay for itself and give a good return on investment (ROI). Though as of yet, no solar roadway has sustained a positivecash-flow. Instead, the projects have caused a slew of problems and required extensive maintenance. Although the technology has been in development for years, the idea is not yet viable.
Not enough light
On a traditional solar farm, solar panels are angled towards the sun to maximize efficiency. On more advanced farms, the panels are made to track the sun, further improving the amount of energy they can extract. A typical solar panel can utilize about 20 percent of the energy that the sun produces. Optimizing the amount of light the panels are exposed to is imperative to run a cost-efficient system.
On the other hand, solar roadways that lay flat minimize the panels’ exposure to direct sunlight, when the panels are most efficient. Laying a solar panel flat result will result in 60 percent powerless power, in comparison to direct sunlight. The already small amount of energy that is available is further restricted by the environment around it.
Flat panels are also going to be more prone to shading, even when they are not being driven over. Shade over just 5 percent of the surface of a panel can reduce power generation by 50 percent. The panels are also likely to be covered by dirt and dust and would need far thicker glass than conventional panels to withstand the weight of traffic, which will further limit the light they absorb.
On top of this, panels that are fixed in place are unable to benefit from air circulation and will likely heat up more than rooftop solar panels, making them less efficient. For every 1 degree Celsius (33 degrees fahrenheit) over optimum temperature, solar panel lose around 0.5 percent of energy efficiency.
In the best of conditions, the panels are at a disadvantage, without the consideration of the constant wear and tear that they will be exposed to for their entire lifespan.
One of the features Solar Roadways promised was the inclusion of LEDs that would replace the necessity to paint lines on roads. However, a critical balance must be met by making the lights visible, yet not drawing too much power.
With current LEDs, the power consumption is still too high and the lights burn out too fast to make the lighting economically viable. LEDs used in traffic lights use shielding to block out direct sunlight and make the lights appear brighter. On the solar roadway, the lights would be difficult to shield, making them much more difficult to see during the day. At night, they would be easily visible, but this also causes a problem: with no power being produced at night, the lights would be drawing electricity directly out of the grid.
The Solar Roadways team installed a small, 13.9 m² section of solar road in Sandpoint, Idaho in 2017, but the results were rather unimpressive. Unfortunately, the small section of solar panels broke almost immediately, and then caught fire sometime later. Also, the lights could hardly be seen, at even direct angles to the road. The panels did receive an upgrade, but the lights were still incredibly difficult to see without being at a high angle, the opposite of the angles drivers would view them at.
The properties of the glass itself further restrict the road’s ability to produce electricity. Dirt and leaves will accumulate on the surface and will act as an abrasive material that will scratch and wear the road quickly, and the glass fragments may cause additional wear and tear to the cars that use the road.
Advanced polymers were considered for use in constructing the roads, to protect the panels. However, most polymers are expensive to manufacture in sufficient quantities to build a road capable of withstanding the constant force of traffic. The material is also typically made from fossil fuels, defeating the purpose of using solar panels to reduce the carbon footprint.
As the panels wear out, the glass material will become opaque. The clarity of the glass would significantly degrade the panels’ ability to collect light. The challenge is mounting. The cost of implementing the system could never exceed the efficiency and practicality of simply installing the solar panels in far more efficient arrangements.
The idea of replacing asphalt with a glass panel is even more absurd once the cost is considered. Currently, there is no coating available that can withstand the force of moving vehicles yet produce electricity at the same time.
It is absurdly expensive
Solar Roadways claims that covering the southern 48 US state roads with solar roads (about 6 billion square meters) would produce three times more electricity than the annual power consumption of the United States. However, this not only assumes the roads would work as advertised, but also does not factor in the cost of such an astronomical project.
For the demonstration project in Idaho, the panels had an installed capacity of 1.529 KW with an installation cost of $48,734, which implies a cost per installed kW of around $33,000, about 20 times higher than for a solar power plant. Solar Roadway estimates that the LED lights would consume 106 MWh per lane mile, with the panels generating 415 MWh – so more than 25 percent of the useful power would be consumed by the LEDs. The heating plates would draw 2.28 MW per lane mile, which means that running them for just six days would cancel out any net gain from the solar panels.
The idea is fun to imagine. However, with the materials available today, it is not quite feasible. Significantly more research is required to develop a viable solution. Although, it may be a better idea to tailor the placement of the panels and put them in places where they can be in direct sunlight. In fact, buildings cover a lot more space than roads. So, covering just a fraction of existing rooftops with solar panels would immediately yield more power than putting them on roads, and the technology already works.
It would also be significantly more efficient to run the solar panels alongside the road where they are not subject to harsh conditions, are easier to maintain, and are much more economical. Furthermore, the panels could be angled or made to track the sun, maximizing the power that is available to them.
What progress has been made
So far, a few solar projects have been installed around the world. Some of them work better than others, but as a whole, they do not generate much electricity- far less than what could be expected if the money that funded the project was used on traditional solar farms.
In December 2016, France unveiled a 1-kilometer (0,5 mile) solar road made out of approximately 2,880 m2 (31,000 ft2) of photovoltaic panels. Built using Colas’ Wattway technology, it was the longest solar road in the world. The road, which cost around $5.2 million, was meant to generate enough electricity to power the streetlights in a nearby town. However, that never happened.
By 2018, the road was already deteriorating, and 90 meters (295 feet) of it had to be demolished. Rotting leaves sitting on the road, cracks in the panels and a lack of sun in the region made it far less efficient than anticipated – at its peak it produced just 80,000 kWh a year (much less than the expected 150,000 kWh). Further, the road was noisy to drive on and was frequented by tractors, which increased the wear and tear on the road.
This was so bad that officials had to change the maximum speed limit to 70km/h (43 mph). In 2019, WattWay admitted that it was the end of the line for their road and the project would not be moving ahead.
After the installation in France, a test stretch of roadway was installed near the Alabama/Georgia border in the United States. In December 2020, Peachtree, Georgia officially unveiled the United States’ first solar roadway. The installation is meant to produce more than 1,300 kWh of energy annually that will be used to charge local electric vehicles. Because the roadway is fairly new, there isn’t much information available regarding its durability.
However, because it was made using the same technology as the French road, one could assume that it will likely begin to deteriorate within a few years.
Another promising installation was the Jinan solar highway in China. Engineers claimed the 1-km (0,6 mile) test road would be able to produce an impressive gigawatt of energy a year, and power as many as 800 homes. The road itself consisted of three distinct layers developed by the Qilu Transportation Development Group. The first layer was insulation, then the solar panel, and finally a transparent concrete top layer.
Yet, just five days after the road opened in 2017, one six-foot panel went missing, and the surrounding panels were damaged – allegedly by a professional team of thieves.
Improving science
Technological advances are being made all the time. Modern humanity thrives on innovation. Though there are many great ideas, solar roadways designed for cars are probably not one of them.
The design is far too expensive, unreliable, and does not work. With the technology available today it is not feasible to design such a project. Instead of using the time and money to develop impractical science projects, real advances could be made like funding functional solar farms that are proven to work.
Perhaps in the future, there will be a material that can withstand the stresses of traffic and can produce electricity. That time, however, is not now. The idea is incredibly cool, but unfortunately, it is also entirely impractical.
Also, a big thank you goes out to those who are willing to constructively criticize extravagant claims. Without criticism, science cannot progress. It is great to think outside the box, however, it is also important to invest time into more practical solutions. Albeit a great idea, it is an idea that just cannot work- not yet that is.
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Wind Farm Noise Nuisance Case Uncovers Wind Industry’s Culture of Lies

Published on October 13, 2021Written by

The wind industry’s entrenched culture of lying and deceit is well-known around the globe.

Uncovering precisely what these characters get up to is more of a challenge.
A noise nuisance case being pursued by farmers in the Victorian Supreme Court against the operator of the Bald Hills wind farm (see our post here) is revealing a whole lot more than the wind industry is ever open to admit.
The operator’s noise consultant, Marshall Day Acoustics has been destroying and deleting unhelpful noise data that it has gathered from non-compliant wind farms across Victoria for years, including at Bald Hills, which, we are told is one reason why it decided to not call any of its staff to give evidence during the trial.
The usual ‘dog-ate-my-homework’ excuse used by MDA whenever its noise data disappears was, apparently, deemed unlikely to cut it in front of a Supreme Court Judge.
But the officers and directors of the operator being sued by Noel Uren and John Zakula were unable to avoid giving evidence; their cross-examination made for some very interesting viewing on the live AVL feed.
The story below recounts the cross-examination of one of their number, James Arthur, as he squirmed his way through his evidence, revealing the manner in which wind farm operators destroy people’s lives, and the lengths they go to in their attempts to get away with it.
Bald Hills Wind Farm cover-up exposedSentinel-TimesMichael Giles19 September 2021
IT’S a wind farm, not a mushroom farm.
But as the Supreme Court of Victoria heard last week, that old adage about keeping them in the dark and feeding them on horse manure, certainly applies to the relationship between the operators of the Bald Hills Wind Farm and neighbouring farmers.
What can only be described as an extensive cover-up to hide such things as evidence of the highly irritating noise coming from faulty turbine gearboxes, came to light during a searching cross-examination of key Infrastructure Capital Group (ICG) employee, James Arthur.
It revealed, among other things, how the owner-operator of the Bald Hills Wind Farm, the IC Group, tried to remove, avoid or hide evidence of non-compliance, even to the point of accepting “liquidated damages” payments because of “tonal audibility defects” with a majority of the Senvion turbine gearboxes, while at the same time denying the complaints of neighbours about exactly that issue and pursuing the State Government for compliance approval.
In a feature of Day 9 at the Supreme Court hearing last Friday, September 17, Georgina Costello, barrister for the plaintiffs, local landowners, John Zakula and Noel Uren, demonstrated how ICG had known about the “special audible characteristics” coming from the faulty turbine gearboxes, not only from the complainants, but also from Marshall Day Acoustics, their own acoustic experts, and the turbine manufacturers Senvion Australia, as early as April 2017, but by 2021, the problem has still not been rectified.
Since the demise of Senvion in May 2019, ICG has been working with Vestas Australian Wind Technology Pty to try to fix the problem which may ultimately require the replacement of the gearboxes in most, if not all 52 turbines.
In August 2020, Vestas provided a condition report to ICG which included the following details:
“The Bald Hills Wind Farm, completed in 2015, consists of 52 Senvion MM92 wind turbines. Since commissioning, Senvion had been working with the owner, Infrastructure Capital Group, ICG, to resolve a gearbox tonality issue present in the majority of the turbines which breached Senvion’s contractual noise warranty and generated noise complaints from the community.”
Ms Costello pursed Mr Arthur over Vestas’ statement:
“There’s still a tonal problem affecting the turbines today, isn’t there?” Ms Costello asked Mr Arthur.
Mr Arthur: “That’s correct, yes.”
C: “So for years, by August 2020, you’d been working with Senvion to try to resolve a gearbox tonality issue which had generated noise complaints from the community, hadn’t you?”
A: “Factually we did not think that statement was necessarily correct.”
C: “You didn’t think it was absolutely correct. Did you think it was probably correct, Mr Arthur?
A: “No, I did not.”
C: “Did you ask Senvion to resend you that slide (for the presentation) with the line about ‘generated noise complaints from the community’ removed?
A: “I certainly did.”
C: “That’s because you didn’t want anyone to read that, isn’t it?”
A: “No, because, as I said before, I didn’t think it was factually correct and the tonality issue Senvion and Vestas had investigated relates to the EPC contract and not the planning permit.”
Ms Costello had earlier demonstrated that by April 2017, Marshall Day Acoustics had also told the Bald Hills Wind Farm operators that there was a tonal noise issue with the gearboxes in the turbines.
It was around the same time as Mr Arthur acknowledged reading letters from John Zakula complaining “the noise was causing him considerable disturbance and seriously affecting his sleep” as well as “affecting his health, causing anxiety, stress, headaches and other issues”.
Mr Zakula said: “The noise is severe and at its worst at night and it’s continuous through the entire nights and days… exceeding night-time levels as specified in the planning permit,”
And he also specifically reported, in October 2016 and November 2016, that “there are significantly notable special audible characteristics”.
Earlier in the week, another neighbour of the windfarm, Don Jelbart, had independently described the sound from the turbines as like “a gearbox noise… a gearbox that needs attention, a grinding sort of mechanical noise”.
“You will be watching the television, you will have it cranked up to 35 or something and you can still hear the wind turbines over the top of it and the other night, it was a pity Your Honour didn’t visit us the night before you came down here, because with the dishwasher on and the telly on 34 I could still hear them,” he said referring to a site visit by Justice Richards on Wednesday, September 8.
In a letter to the previous wind farm manager, Matthew Croome, dated 13 April 2017, Stuart Mallinson of Senvion noted “multiple or harmonic tones coming from the turbines” describing it as “not ideal”.
Ms Costello: “Something of an understatement, Mr Arthur?”
Mr Arthur: “Well, we read this issue and from our perspective, under the planning permit, tonality penalties were applied and as a result, turbines were curtailed. So, we took note of this issue and we dealt with it appropriately.”
Ms Costello: “Now, a month later, so in May 2017, you’ve just seen some correspondence showing the tonal issues in April 17, a month later you reported full compliance with the permit to the minister, didn’t you?
Mr Arthur said he couldn’t recall.
Ms Costello challenged Mr Arthur over a report by Resonate Acoustics in August 2017, detailing how tonality exceeded the guarantee in 10 out of 11 turbines tested, triggering liquidated damages payments to ICG.
Ms Costello: “When did you tell the plaintiffs that your company had been getting liquidated damages because of a tonal audibility defect, Mr Arthur?
Mr Arthur: “I don’t believe we did.”
Ms Costello also referred to a query from the ANZ bank to Bald Hills in which they wanted to know when the gearbox problem would be fixed.
Ms Costello said a range of solutions were discussed in a report including this note by Mr Arthur: “We could also add that we don’t think it will be necessary to replace every single gearbox at the wind farm because it’s not impacting operational performance and we comply with the noise conditions of the planning permit”.
Ms Costello: “You said that, didn’t you?”
Mr Arthur: “That’s correct, yes.”
C: “So this tonal audibility problem wasn’t affecting the money you were making at the wind farm, was it?”
A: “That is correct, yes.”
C: “But it was affecting the sleep of the neighbours, wasn’t it?”
A: “I can’t answer that for sure.”
C: “You can answer that, can’t you, Mr Arthur?”
A: “According to the neighbours, that’s correct.”
Ms Costello went on to say that while the operators of the wind farm claimed to have successfully implemented a curtailment program, to reduce noise levels under certain conditions, it hadn’t been operating successfully in 2015, 2016 and 2017 when neighbours started complaining about the noise.
Ms Costello also demonstrated how uncertain wind speed measurement, due to interference from surrounding turbines, meant some turbines continued to operate in unrestricted mode, and are still making excessive noise.
Ms Costello said the wind speed data, used to measure noise levels at Mr Zakula’s house and Mr Uren’s house was taken from a recording mast (BH80) located 5 kilometres away – Mr Arthur agreed.
Ms Costello then drew Mr Arthur’s attention to a report by the world’s largest technical consultancy firm to the renewable energy industry, DNVGL, in which they recommended mast 80 be completely refurbished due to the “uncertainty” of the wind speed data.
Ms Costello: “So, you say you don’t believe that the wind farm is causing the noise that Mr Zakula and Mr Uren were hearing because you’ve relied on your acoustic report. That’s your position, isn’t it?”
M Arthur: “That’s correct, yes.”
C: “But the appendix to the very report you rely on describes uncertainty associated with the wind speed as high, doesn’t it?”
A: “It does, yes.”
C: “So the acoustic report might be wrong. Do you agree with that?”
A: “No, I disagree with that.”
C: “So, you’re not prepared to accept that Mr Uren and Mr Zakula are correct on the one hand, but you will not consider that your acoustic expert might be wrong. Is that your position?”
A: “Sorry, can you please clarify the question?”
C: “You won’t accept that Mr Uren and Mr Zakula are telling the truth, but you will accept that the acoustic conclusion is correct, despite the uncertainty. Is that your position?”
A: “I just can’t say for sure if the wind farm is causing the plaintiffs issues, but in my opinion the acoustic work is correct.”
Ms Costello went on to describe how the Wind Farm operators had changed its complaints’ handling process without telling the neighbours, effectively allowing them to ignore any repeated issues.
A company secretary for ICG said in an email (May 12, 2017): “We don’t want to engage with the complainants until the Marshall Day report confirming that the wind farm noise is compliant with the regulations is confirmed by the EPA”.
Mr Arthur agreed, that in consultation with “the relevant government department” and “the National Wind Farm Commissioner”, they didn’t believe they had to investigate repeat complaints and the policy was changed in 2018 without telling the neighbours until 2020.
Ms Costello: “So you didn’t tell the plaintiffs – Mr Uren or Mr Zakula – that you were going to change the complaints handling process so that you weren’t going to investigate repeat complaints, did you, until much later? That’s right, isn’t it?”
Mr Arthur: “That’s right, we didn’t tell them at the time, that’s correct.”
Ms Costello: “And poor old Mr Zakula kept writing to you, didn’t he, before you told him that you weren’t going to bother investigating repeat complaints. That’s right, isn’t it, Mr Arthur?”
Mr Arthur: “Yes, Mr Zakula was still writing, I believe, yes.”
In fact, ICG didn’t inform the complainants that they had affectively stopped acting on repeat complaints until May 2020.
It was around the same time as they were trying to change the post-construction noise monitoring program.
Ms Costello quizzed Mr Arthur over the noise monitoring program, noting that a submission to the South Gippsland Council, on behalf of the complainants pointed out that Marshall Day Acoustics had used a different site from the pre-construction testing for post-construction testing.
Mr Arthur agreed.
She also went on to say that Marshall Day and ICG had used average noise level data when seeking operational approval from the government rather than reporting intermittent loud noises that were often well in excess of that allowed under the government planning permit.
Ms Costello: “If you look at the green dots, being the actual noise levels recorded, you can see that on many occasions the noise at the Jelbart property is almost 60 decibels, even in low wind conditions. The MDA report ignored the outlying results which reflect the conditions experienced by the residents because the MDA report only dealt with averages. So that flaw in MDA’s approach was pointed out in the submission that you received in November 2018, wasn’t it?”
Mr Arthur: “That was pointed out, correct.”
C: “This point that I’m making to you now, and that was made in a submission that you received in November 2018, is that there’s an intermittent noise nuisance, a very loud intermittent noise occurring from your wind farm at the property of Mr Zakula. That’s what this graph shows, isn’t it?”
A: “I can’t comment on that concept, sorry.”
C: “Your experts weren’t advising you on whether there was a nuisance, were they, Mr Arthur?”
A: “Marshall Day were not providing expertise on that, that’s correct.”
C: “They were only advising you on permit compliance, weren’t they?”
A: “Yes, that’s correct.”
C: “But if Marshall Day is wrong about how the averaging works, then they’re wrong about whether there’s an intermittent nuisance at night, aren’t they?”
A: “I can’t comment on that statement.”
Ms Costello, said that while ICG didn’t ask Marshall Day to investigate the spikes in noise from the wind farm, James C Smith & Associates did undertake such research for the South Gippsland Shire Council ahead of the council ruling that there was indeed noise nuisance breaches under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008. Mr Smith reported that he experienced the elevated noise levels at Mr Zakula’s house for himself.
But in a letter to the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, labelled “strictly confidential”, ICG ignored all these issues about the unreliability of wind speed data, the use of noise averaging instead of actual noise levels, the tonal noise problems, the managing of complaints and reports of elevated noise levels by experts in the field; to apply for and receive confirmation from the Minister that they were complying with their planning permit.
They received that confirmation from the Minister around the time, in April 2019, that the local council found there was an intermittent nuisance.
Council reached its decision, according to Ms Costello, based on what they described as credible and consistent noise logs, that there was a nuisance.
Ms Costello said the operators of the wind farm didn’t even tell the complainants that they were appealing the council’s decision, leaving them to apply to be joined in the appeal action that ultimately went to the Supreme Court.
The operators lost their appeal and the council’s decision still stands.
Ms Costello wrapped up her interrogation of Mr Arthur by summing up the number of actions ICG had taken to deny the complaints of the farming neighbours while shifting the goalposts, with the approval of the Planning Minister, most of the time without informing their neighbours about what they were doing.
After Justice Richards sought clarification about what the operators might do to improve the amenity at Mr Zakula’s house, short of shutting down the Bald Hills Wind Farm, Mr Arthur said his firm was complying with the planning permit conditions as they stand, so there would need to be new noise-level targets set by the government for that to change.
The Supreme Court action, being brought by two neighbours of the Bald Hills Wind Farm, John Zakula and Noel Uren, alleging substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of their land, due to the noise coming from the wind farm, continues this week and is expected to run until Tuesday, September 21.
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‘Wind Industry Jobs’ Lies Gets Busted in UK

Published on October 8, 2021Written by

The ‘inevitable transition’ to an all wind and sun powered future comes with a promise of an endless sea of ‘groovy’ sustainable jobs in the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines and much more, besides.

However, across the globe, the great ‘green’ jobs ‘bonanza’ is being revealed for the hoax that it truly is.
In Germany, wind and solar central, the reduction or removal of subsidies to wind and solar has seen more than 150,000 so-called green jobs disappear (see our post here).
Brits too, have been beguiled by the promise of a ‘green’ job extravaganza, which, surprise surprise, has failed to materialise. As detailed by the Global Warming Policy Forum, below.
Britain is turning into the Venezuela of wind as green jobs are exported to AsiaGlobal Warming Policy Forum11 September 2021
A trade union has slammed the “myth” of a green jobs revolution after Scotland’s only wind factory has closed permanently. The UK’s ambition to become the Saudi Arabia of renewables with promises of a wind farm jobs bonanza are evaporating as Britain is at risk of turning into the Venezuela of renewables.
The factory, which employed around 130 people, was the only UK facility manufacturing onshore and offshore wind towers when it was bought by the South Korean company in April 2016 but has been effectively mothballed by its owners since November 2019.
According to recent reports, more than half of the estimated £50bn investment for Boris Johnson’s planned offshore wind farm expansion is expected to go to companies overseas as companies opt for manufacturers in Asia which produce at lower costs.
Much of the electric components are no longer made in Britain partly because most firms specialising in heavy electrical equipment closed down or moved abroad 20-30 years ago. It is thus an effect of the long run decline of the manufacturing sector in the UK.

The other factor is that there has been huge shift in the industry manufacturing turbines. 20 years ago there were at least 30 substantial manufacturers with fringe of many small firms. Today there are 3 large international companies – Vestas, Siemens and GE – plus a fringe of Chinese and Indian suppliers, primarily focusing on local markets.
Boris Johnson’s green industrial revolution will make energy and thus manufacturing ever more expensive, making what little is left in UK manufacturing even less competitive.
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Editor’s note: We reported yesterday on the closure of the CS Wind turbine factory in Scotland. You can see that article here:
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