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New doubt over wind power

The future of green energy has been thrown into doubt after a new report revealed that the region's biggest windfarm was producing less than a third of the electricity it should be.

When the 30-turbine Scroby Sands windfarm was built off the Yarmouth coast in 2004 it was hailed as the beginning of a modern, safe, clean and fertile era of energy production.

But the government's first annual report into the 67m development paints a very different picture - with the turbines generating only 28.9pc of the power they were meant to.

Yesterday a spokesman for owners E.ON UK said that the renewable energy sector was in its infancy and that lessons would be learned from the problems at Scroby.

It came as Norfolk County Council released more details of a proposed 70-turbine scheme for Sheringham.

The report from Department of Trade and Industry inspectors shows that the Scroby Sands windfarm was riddled with mechanical problems which significantly lowered production. Between January and December last year 27 intermediate speed and 12 high speed gearbox bearings needed replacing, along with four generators.

The report states that after extensive investigation “work is now at hand to resolve these issues” but that they had “serious implications for resources, costs and... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

When the 30-turbine Scroby Sands windfarm was built off the Yarmouth coast in 2004 it was hailed as the beginning of a modern, safe, clean and fertile era of energy production.

But the government's first annual report into the £67m development paints a very different picture - with the turbines generating only 28.9pc of the power they were meant to.

Yesterday a spokesman for owners E.ON UK said that the renewable energy sector was in its infancy and that lessons would be learned from the problems at Scroby.

It came as Norfolk County Council released more details of a proposed 70-turbine scheme for Sheringham.

The report from Department of Trade and Industry inspectors shows that the Scroby Sands windfarm was riddled with mechanical problems which significantly lowered production. Between January and December last year 27 intermediate speed and 12 high speed gearbox bearings needed replacing, along with four generators.

The report states that after extensive investigation “work is now at hand to resolve these issues” but that they had “serious implications for resources, costs and downtime”.

That shows in the amount of time the turbines were not turning: they were projected to turn for 95pc of the time - a figure exceeded only once, reaching 96.77pc in May last year.

By September that was 88pc, by October 73pc and by December it was 64pc - figures that were “below expectation”.

Worse still is the capacity factor percentage, the amount of electricity generated compared with what it would be if the turbines were turning 100pc of the time.

That peak was reached in January, 2005, with 48.9pc capacity but by June it was 20pc and it never again went higher than 30pc, giving an average over the year of 28.9pc.

Given E.ON's assertion that the windfarm could produce enough electricity to power 41,000 homes, the figures show that during 2005 fewer than 12,000 properties were actually powered by Scroby.

But the report was not all bad news - it states that 35,000 people visited the visitors' centre, far more than projected, and that the building of the turbines did not affect native seal or little tern populations, as had been feared.

Jason Scagell, director of E.ON UK, said: “We were very happy with Scroby's performance in the first half of the year, particularly as the operation was in its infancy, but the second half was less satisfactory due to a number of defects with the gearboxes and the generators.

“Scroby Sands was and remains a pioneering project from which lessons will be learned. We're certainly keen to continue working offshore and have four projects in various states of advancement that will allow us to use the lessons from Scroby in larger developments.”

The report will boost the prospects of a renaissance for the nuclear power industry, already riding high following publication of the government's long-awaited energy review last month.

Trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling announced that the government will approve the construction of a new generation of nuclear reactors, giving hope to campaigners for Sizewell C.

Mr Darling said that nuclear power would make a “significant contribution” to meeting the UK's energy needs, particularly as reserves of North Sea oil and gas declined.

Martin Pearce, spokesman for Sizewell owners British Energy, said the findings of the Scroby Sands report were not surprising.

“We do not believe that there is one solution to Britain's energy crisis but that nuclear and renewable energy have to work alongside each other,” he said.

“But it's always been known that wind is only about 25pc efficient and that this sort of energy will never be a mass producer.”

John Best, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, which represents all energy interests in the region, said: “The information in the Scroby Sands report is extremely helpful.

“It is always useful to consider the true value of the contribution which offshore wind can and will make in the future.”

The Sheringham Shoal windfarm, which will include 70 turbines, all measuring 172 metres from the tip of their sails to the watermark, is planned over the next few years with towers which will be 97 metres high - standing one metre higher than Norwich Cathedral on a site 17-23km off the coast.

Project backers Scira say the turbines will only be visible on 60pc of days, when the weather is clear, and even then will look like a “line of matchsticks on the horizon”.

If completed, the development could supply up to 176,000 homes with electricity.


Source: http://new.edp24.co.uk/cont...

AUG 13 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3950-new-doubt-over-wind-power
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