The Wind-mongers strike back!

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 ( 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.

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8 Responses to The Wind-mongers strike back!

  1. Charles Duncan says:

    I liken wind power to an intermittent turbocharger in car.

    If you could rely on the turbocharger working whenever you wanted to overtake it would be useful. But it is just as likely to be on form when you are travelling at a steady speed, or going downhill.

    Extra power when you don’t need it is of no value.

  2. Charles Wardrop says:

    Mr Helmer, as a Conservative, which I used to be (don’t know how to vote now), do you have any ability to get a change of environment policies out of our Coalition’s leadership?
    For example, repeal of the Climate Change Act (2008), absolute cessation of renewables installations (through withdrawal of subsidies), albeit support for promising R&D,if any and abandonment of EU “Targets” on CO2 output reduction.

    These useless, damaging “Green” policies wd be daft for a prosperous nation, and are mad for us debtors to countenance.

    There are several other reasons for my abandonment of a lifetime’s Tory support, summed up by the “Liberal” characterization of present policies on various fronts, but the environmentalism of today’s policies is a good example.

  3. fenbeagle says:

    John Twidell, Wishes to have control over what you say. As well as control of your camera.

    He makes claims about being able provide for the energy needs of houses (1,000 of them.) with wind power. Houses that need energy every day. I Think John Twiddle overstates the reality. His wind energy will not be available to these houses on many days,and his claim is less than honest.

    John Twiddle hints that there are people in Swaffham that may not be pleased to be living near large wind machines, yet seems unconcerned.

    John Twiddle, having run out of argument, resorts to personal insults.

  4. Martin Dixon says:

    The 1000 homes Prof. Twiddle mentions are of course a mean figure. The actual number will vary depending on weather conditions, and so will the total requirement for power of those 1000 homes. The two are unlikely to match, and cannot be made to match without sufficient spinning reserve. Sometimes the turbine will only support say 100 or less homes, at other times maybe more than 1000. So waht are the others supposed to do when the wind drops?

    Then there is the problem of coping with sudden surges in demand, such as during the commercial break in a popular TV programme, when everyone puts on the kettle at the same time. It seems unlikely that we can engineer a sudden increase in wind speed at such times….

    Nuclear is the real answer, and those countries that have invested in it will prosper. And as for safety, the safest place to be during the recent Japanese earthquake and tsuname was inside a nuclear power station…

  5. Jonathan Ward says:

    Roger – “if Wikipedia is to be believed, his whole career is based on the Great Carbon Myth. Let me quote:”

    You would seem to be taking the same approach then as what you called ‘Warmists’ – personal attacks. If you don’t think it’s appropriate, then why employ it? I wouldn’t condone his comments on you, only on some of your views. But that seems to be the problem on energy and environmental, and indeed cliamte change debates, it seems to be reduced everytime into a polarised ‘dicussion’ with no allowance for views that don’t fit what seem to be personal and ideologial views, and not views that are nuanced. You can be strongly convinced of the need to act on climate change, oppose wind farms, support nuclear power, and question some government policies, and be pro-market.

    Yet on blogs like this, the comments, like comments on some ‘green’ blogs, seem to be like two gangs wishing to attack each other, with sensible discussion of evidence and respect for other views almost forgotten.
    From time to time, we all let our passion get away from us, but we shouldn’t let it diminish important debates.

    What is the carbon myth? You suppose that all people who work with alternative and renewable energy forms are the same, that their views are the same.

    Some are passionate about diversifying energy sources, especially due to the rising costs of our predominant energy sources and creaking grid capacity, and also because of the political and ethical problems long associated with fossil fuel extraction. Some may be interested because it’s their job, and a business opportunity, some because of a feeling we need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions because that’s what the balance of evidence from respected scientific institutions suggests we need to do over the next 50 years.

    • Thanks Jonathan, but I think it’s entirely appropriate to point out that Prof Twidell has based his whole career on Warmism, and that he therefore has an interest in protecting it. It’d be tough for him to accept that he’s spent his whole life backing the wrong horse.

  6. Mike Spilligan says:

    I’ve never really understood the habit (which is what it’s become) of quoting how many “homes” a windmill can power. When one works back to the power typically available they are unusual ones with few electrical appliances, so in the first place these must be predominantly gas-powered homes. In other words the windmills provide adequate electricity – providing you rely on gas, or some other primary power source.
    Then these are the figures for the homes themselves (as mentioned by you, Mr H) but they house people who have jobs in industry, commerce, hospitals and even universities, and go to shops, etc. So these are only the net consumption figures of “homes”, the gross being nearer 3.2 times the net. Of course the “number of homes” figure is meant to mislead us and no doubt does so for the willingly gullible; but professors involved in the Luddite “green” industries ought to stay well clear of such specious theories.
    To paraphrase (if I may) one of your previous comments Mr H: I haven’t got a Master’s in jurisprudence, but it doesn’t prevent me from knowing when I’m being robbed.

  7. James A. Hutchinson says:

    Roger ,
    Will you please refer in future to Professor TWADDLE and not Twiddle as currently ! Like all global warming enthusiasts , they don’t like being contradicted .
    Please keep on shooting them down.
    Jim Hutchinson ; another disbeliever .

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