CORRECTION: I have now checked with Professor Fred Singer, and I find that I have simply repeated a false blogosphere smear (for which I apologise) — he has in fact never received any money from a tobacco company. Around a decade ago, his SEPP think-tank (www.sepp.org) received $10,000 dollars from Exxon — a tiny fraction of a total of around $10 million which they donated to various university groups.
If you blog, and especially if you take robust positions on hotly-debated topics, you are bound to attract the ire of a few opponents — indeed there would be something seriously wrong with democratic debate in our country if it were otherwise. So in the interests of transparency and openness, I’d like to share with you a critical comment challenging my views on wind farms, posted by one John Twidell. In the interests of fairness and transparency, I’ll quote his critical comment in full:
How much longer can Roger Helmer distribute such biased and often totally incorrect information?
1. He has used the equivalent to a telephoto for his photograph so to distort the impact (sic). The people of Swaffham in Norfolk have as large a turbine nearer than this and are predominantly proud that they participate in self-sufficiency. Does Roger Helmer wish to continue for ever as an energy parasite?
2. The wind turbine he shows will generate an annual amount of electricity for about 1000 homes; this in no way ‘an intermittent trickle’ as Roger Helmer says. Is he muddled with another problem he may have?
But a few words on Mr. Twidell — or Professor Twidell, as I’d better call him (and I’ll ignore his snide, below-the-belt final comment).
The Warmists love to attack “climate change deniers” by questioning their integrity, and suggesting that they must be in the pay of big oil, or of sinister think-tanks funded by energy interests. They seem not to have noticed that these days, energy companies seem to spend more on promoting warmism, and indeed investing in marginal “renewable technologies”, than they ever spent supporting the sceptics. I’ve noticed that whenever I mention my good friend Professor Fred Singer, a very distinguished atmospheric physicist and Emeritus Professor from the University of Virginia, someone will point out that twenty years ago he received a few thousand dollars from a tobacco company — although quite what that has to do with climate change, I’m not clear. They ignore the fact that a man well beyond retirement age continues to travel the world, largely at his own expense, not for profit but because he, like me, passionately believes that climate policy has been hi-jacked by junk science and media hysteria, and he wants to rescue it.
It’s OK to speculate that sceptics may be in the pay of big oil, but it’s apparently bad form to point out the money that Al Gore makes from his climate propaganda, or that railway engineer Ravendra Pachauri, the much-criticised Chairman of the IPCC, makes from his green energy consultancies.
So what about Professor Twidell? I don’t question his integrity, but if Wikipedia is to be believed, his whole career is based on the Great Carbon Myth. Let me quote:
“John Twidell is Director of the AMSET Centre Ltd. and is a visiting lecturer at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, and the School of Aeronautics and Engineering, City University, London He is Editor Emeritus of the academic journal Wind Engineering. He co-edited the 2009 book Offshore Wind Power.
Professor Twidell previously held the Chair in Renewable Energy at De Montfort University and was Director of the Energy Studies Unit of Strathclyde University. He has served on the Boards of the British Wind Energy Association (now RenewableUK) and the UK Solar Energy Society, on committees of the Institute of Physics and as an adviser to the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on Energy. He has been a long-standing champion of wind energy”
I imagine that a CV like that must create something of a commitment to Warmism. But let’s look at his claims. Swaffham? Self-sufficiency? Does he imagine that the Swaffham turbine delivers power just to Swaffham? And am I an “energy parasite”, whatever that is? I want secure access to reliable, reasonably priced electricity, and I want British industry to have similar access, which is why I favour a core strategy of coal and nuclear, supported by gas, with sensible use of viable renewables (if we can identify any) at the margin. I have commented on the “telephoto” picture in a previous blog. But these turbines, he says, will produce energy for 1000 homes (although roughly two thirds of our energy is used on non-home applications, but let that pass).
So, 1000 homes? These turbines are rated at 2MW, which gives a theoretical maximum annual capacity of 17,520 MWh. A typical estimate of average annual household consumption is 4.7 MWh, so if a turbine produced at full capacity 24/7, it could power 3,725 homes. To meet Twidell’s 1000 homes figure, therefore, you’d need a load factor of nearly 27% (1000/3725). Recent studies indicate, however, a typical UK on-shore figure of 21%, giving 782 homes. But a comparable wind farm in nearby Northants is delivering around 18%, which at Low Spinney would give 670 homes.
Twidell dismisses the intermittency of wind, but it’s a fact. Indeed it’s not uncommon to have sustained high pressure and low wind during winter cold spells — just when we need power. So wind turbines have to have back-up, and industry sources suggest that we’ll need 90 or even 100% of the capacity backed-up. In other words, you pay for the capital expenditure twice. Once for the wind turbines, and again for the gas power-station. Why not just build gas? It has to be gas because only gas has the instant flexibility to compensate for changes in wind speed. But of course a gas power station with constantly variable output (to back up wind) is running less efficiently than one run steadily. Higher costs, more emissions.
Twidell also fails to mention the huge investment which will be needed in the Grid to cope with distributed generation. Or the eye-watering amount of money that the government proposes to spend to achieve its fanciful emissions targets. Or the rapid rise in domestic electricity prices to pay for the turbines. Or the undermining of British competitiveness by high energy prices. Or the million extra British families who will be forced into fuel poverty. Or the increasing evidence that adverse health effects are being reported up to 5 km from turbines. Or the damage done to property values as the turbines blight communities and homes, and lives.
So thanks for your comments, Professor. But I’m not convinced. Nor, I think, are the residents of the villages around Low Spinney.