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Wind Power in the UK: Has the Sustainable Development Commission Got It Right?

Oxford_energy_comment_thumb "Even its supporters would probably now accept that in its early days nuclear power was oversold – the costs were underestimated (“too cheap to meter”); the practical problems (eg waste disposal) minimised; the benefits overstated; alternatives summarily dismissed; the risks ignored. The legacy of this overselling has been unhelpful – emotions are high on both sides and there is a climate of mistrust. It seems almost impossible to have a sensible debate about the place of nuclear in the energy mix, at a time when the need to look carefully at all non-CO2 emitting sources has never been greater. Have we learned from this experience? It does not always seem so. The current state of the debate about wind power presents many of the same unwelcome symptoms – exaggerated claims; confused arguments; strong emotions; neglect of the practicalities and risks. In this climate an authoritative and neutral examination of the issues would have been a helpful corrective. This is what the latest report of the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) seems to promise. The Report, entitled “Wind Power in the UK” describes itself as “a guide to the key issues” surrounding wind power development, providing information to help “considered decisions to be made”. Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, the Report fails to do so. The Commission ends up as just another cheerleader for wind power, using the Report to argue that “wind power must be made to work” because it is a “critically important part of the overall energy mix”. In its bullish (not to say bull-headed) approach, the Commission is repeating the errors of the early advocates of nuclear: underestimating the likely costs; minimising the practical problems; overstating the benefits; and dismissing the alternatives – in a report which, at many points, shows a poor grasp of the issues."
1 May 2005

Damaged Turbine Crystal Rig wind farm near Dunbar (1)

Damage_crystal_rig_thumb Britain The Times April 16, 2005 Wind farm fears as blade snaps By Katrina Tweedie A TURBINE at a Scottish wind farm has broken down after one of its blades snapped off. The 10-tonne turbine, one of 31 at the £80 million Crystal Rig wind farm near Dunbar, East Lothian, was destroyed last week when a mechanism to stop it spinning too fast failed. Onlookers reported strong winds and said one of the turbine blades flew off and hurtled into the countryside. The 60ft high steel turbines are designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and owners, Fred Olsen Renewables, denied the breakdown was wind related. A spokesman said they were investigating the cause and that there had been little risk to people at the remote wind farm. The turbines from German firm Nordex were installed in August 2004. It will cost an estimated £1.25 million to repair. Anti-wind farm campaigners said the incident confirmed their fears about the danger of blades flying off wind turbines. David Bruce, of the pressure group Scottish Wind Assessment Project, said: “There were high winds so the turbines were ‘feathered’, or locked so they couldn’t spin round. It was lucky nobody was walking below. This is only about the second incidence of this in the UK but it shows this is possible.”
1 Apr 2005

CO2 Emissions Reduction: Time for a Reality Check?

Reality_check_co2_thumb The Kyoto Protocol is due to come into effect this February and we are already more than half way from the signing of the Protocol to the beginning of its first commitment period (and three quarters of the way there since the baseline date of 1990). The world also needs to look beyond Kyoto. Many countries, including the UK, have set themselves ambitious longer term goals, to reduce emissions by 60% or even 75% by 2050. Meanwhile, a number of recent studies – for instance, the project based on distributed computing and the International Climate Change Taskforce – have stressed the magnitude of the risks and the need for early and effective action. At first sight, the impression given is that everything is more or less on track. The UK Paper says that “our latest projections on the impact that our policies and measures will have on our emissions suggest that the UK remains on course to comfortably achieve its target under the Kyoto Protocol”, though admitting that more needs to be done to meet the 20% reduction in CO2 emissions set as a national goal. The EEA report is more cautious: it acknowledges that the EU is only a third of the way towards meeting its goal (greenhouse gas emissions in 2002 were 2.9% below the 1990 base, as compared with the target of 8 % for the period 2008-2012). However, it suggests that with policy measures in the pipeline and use of the Kyoto mechanisms, the target could be met. What neither report states is that the evidence contained in them could lead to a much more pessimistic conclusion: that the policy measures favoured in the UK and EU have not delivered significant CO2 reductions and are clearly inadequate to the longer term challenge.
1 Feb 2005

Why energy conservation trumps windmills

Why_energy_conservation_thumb If you really want to cut energy consumption, reduce pollution, improve public health and protect our environment, it’s time to contact your elected officials, educate them about the lessons of Denmark, Germany and elsewhere, and tell them you want tougher energy efficiency measures instead of wind power plants. Otherwise, in the next few years, you’ll be looking at wind turbines in some of your favorite places, with the knowledge that they’re doing little more than funneling your tax dollars to a few lucky corporations and landowners, and away from better solutions.
1 Feb 2005

2005–2006 Review of the Renewables Obligation

Incoteco_denmark_thumb This response to the Dti’s consultation has been prepared by Hugh Sharman of Incoteco (Denmark) ApS, and The Renewable Energy Foundation, working in collaboration. Hugh Sharman is an energy consultant, based in Denmark. Most of Incoteco’s work is done for and with large energy companies seeking innovative environmental solutions to practical problems. An example is its leading role in the formulation and development of the “CO2 for EOR in the North Sea” (CENS) project during 2001. During 2004, Incoteco (Denmark) ApS completed a wind-energy related study for the Danish Energy Agency that was also supported by a number of important Scandinavian energy companies. Its purpose was to find more effective uses for the large wind power surplus that is generated in West Denmark. The Renewable Energy Foundation is a newly created foundation which has arisen from widespread and growing public concern that the current renewables energy policy is in itself unbalanced, and causing subsequent imbalances in the rest of the energy sector. REF encourages the development of renewable energy and energy conservation whilst safeguarding the landscapes of the United Kingdom from unsustainable industrialisation. In pursuit of this goal, REF highlights the need for an overall energy policy that is balanced, ecologically sensitive and effective.
1 Jan 2005

Yeo: Conservative Action for a Greener Britain- Speech to the Centre for Policy Studies

Yeo_speech_uk_thumb Instead, the Government insist that onshore wind farms are the answer to meeting both our energy needs and our carbon dioxide emission targets, despite the fact that: • wind farms only generate energy when the wind is blowing, and then not too hard • they can't store energy, but only pass it on for immediate use, • they are sometimes opposed by local communities for sound environmental and economic reasons, and • they can only make a tiny contribution to achieving our renewables target .
7 Dec 2004

Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Estimating the Potential Contribution from Wind Power

Renewable_energy_foundation_thumb In the UK, the parallel objective is to generate 10% of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Renewable electricity has become synonymous with CO2 reduction. However, the relationship between renewables and CO2 reduction in the power generation sector does not appear to have been examined in detail, and the likelihood, scale, and cost of emissions abatement from renewables is very poorly understood. The purpose of this report is to analyse a wide range of technical literature that questions whether the renewables policy can achieve its goals of emissions reduction and power generation. To some, renewable energy has the simple and unanalysed virtue of being “green”. However, the reality of this quality is dependent on practical issues relating to electricity supply. ......In conclusion, it seems reasonable to ask why wind-power is the beneficiary of such extensive support if it not only fails to achieve the CO2 reductions required, but also causes cost increases in back-up, maintenance and transmission, while at the same time discouraging investment in clean, firm generation.
1 Dec 2004

Danish wind power – a personal view

Referenced_w.da%c3%89_experience_thumb Denmark (population c. 5.4 million) is a leading pioneer in renewable energy. Since 1985 it has set up about 3,100 MW of wind capacity. Of this 420 MW are sited offshore (Nielsen, 2004), and more is planned for the near future (Bendtsen and Hedegaard, 2004). Over the same period many small gas- or bio-fuelled CHP plants were deployed, primarily for local district heating but also to produce electricity. Interest in solar power is also considerable.
22 Sep 2004

Prince Charles: wind farms are horrendous

The Prince of Wales believes that wind farms are a "horrendous blot on the landscape" and that their spread must be halted before they irreparably ruin some of Britain's most beautiful countryside. The Telegraph can reveal that Prince Charles, who has an abiding interest in environmental issues, has told senior aides that he does not want to have any links with events or groups that promote onshore wind farms.
7 Aug 2004
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