Even if you accept the theory of man-made climate change, wind turbines are a rotten way to reduce CO2 emissions, or to improve energy security. Wind farms are only viable with a complex structure of indirect subsidies, which amount to very nearly doubling the cost of electricity. The complex subsidy régime appears to be designed as a stealth subsidy, making it very difficult for the public or the media to see the sums involved. While the industry disingenuously argues that there are “no direct subsidies”, wind involves a total subsidy of as much as £60 per MWh, which falls directly on electricity consumers. The burden on consumers will grow as our government attempts to achieve its heroic renewables targets (as a recent OfGem report has confirmed).
And the bitter irony is that wind farms will do little — or perhaps nothing — to reduce CO2 emissions. Because wind is unpredictably and continuously variable, wind power requires conventional back-up, and the more wind capacity in the system, the more variability, and the higher the required percentage of back-up to ensure continuity. Even the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) accepts a figure of 75% back-up required. Generating industry players like E.ON say over 90%, while a recent House of Lords Report suggests that we’ll need 100% back-up. The back-up will generally be gas-fired power stations, which will be run intermittently, variably and sub-optimally to compensate for wind variation — and therefore run inefficiently, with higher costs and emissions than necessary. These higher emissions may well outweigh the CO2 emissions savings from wind. Certainly Denmark, with the highest intensity of wind generation in Europe, has amongst the highest per capita emissions in Europe.
BWEA argues that with enough wind-farms, wind will be less intermittent because “while the wind isn’t blowing in one place, it’ll be blowing somewhere else”. But the data show a strong self-correlation in wind speeds across the UK, so total wind output for the country as a whole can also be extremely and unpredictably variable.
These, at least, are the conclusions of a new book, “The Wind Farm Scam, an Ecologist’s Evaluation”, by Dr. John Etherington. Formerly Reader in Ecology at the University of Wales, Dr. Etherington is a Thomas Huxley Medallist at the Royal College of Science, and a former co-editor the international Journal of Ecology. Since retiring from the University of Wales, he has devoted himself to studying the implications of intermittently available renewable generation, and especially wind.
I am reminded of the comment from Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), who said “There is a danger that we will come to see wind turbines as redundant relics of our compulsion to do something”.
The book is sufficiently technical to be reassuring, with extensive references, yet still accessible to the interested general reader. It is also an invaluable reference source for information about wind turbines. It includes a forward by Christopher Booker, and a cover blurb from TV biologist David Bellamy, who says: “Wind power is a swindle … Please read this book to find out why”.
The book is published in the Independent Minds series by Stacey International at www.stacey-international.co.uk, price £9.99.
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