Library filed under Energy Policy from UK
Denmark is proud of the fact that a fifth of its electricity comes from wind. But Hugh Sharman, an energy consultant, says this figure should be treated with caution. Sifting through the charts in his crow's nest office overlooking the Jutland peninsula in Denmark, a different picture emerges. "Every time the wind is high, the exports are high. Every time the wind is low, of course there are few exports". Mr Sharman says more than half of Denmark's wind power is exported - so it only actually uses nine percent of the wind energy it generates. If the Danes couldn't do this, their system wouldn't work. The UK, however, doesn't have this option.
The go ahead for one of the UK's largest offshore wind farms to date will be announced by the Prime Minister today, in a speech to business leaders. The 500MW West of Duddon Sands wind farm is planned near Walney Island off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria and will comprise of up to 139 turbines. ...The Energy Secretary John Hutton has also approved an updated application from Ormonde Energy Limited to build a 150MW wind farm comprising of up to 30 turbines, which will also be sited near to Walney Island.
Wind energy is so unreliable that even if 13,000 turbines are built to meet EU renewable energy targets, they could be relied on to provide only seven percent of the country's peak winter electricity demand, according to a leading power company E.On. E.On has argued that so little wind blows during the coldest days of winter that 92 percent of installed wind capacity would have to be backed up by traditional power stations.
In two years' time, the UK seems certain to miss one of the core environmental targets of the Blair-Brown years. The Government pledged that 10 per cent of the country's electricity would be generated from renewable sources, principally from wind farms, but also including tidal and solar power. Press releases from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Berr) still boast of the target, which was first promised in 2000 and enshrined three years later in the energy White Paper. ...But the energy industry does not agree. Senior figures point out that less than 5 per cent of electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2007, up from just over 4 per cent the previous year.
A leading power company has claimed wind energy is so unreliable that even if 13,000 turbines are built to meet EU renewable energy targets, they could be relied on to provide only 7 per cent of the country's peak winter electricity demand. E.On has argued that, during the coldest days of winter, so little wind blows that 92 per cent of installed wind capacity would have to be backed up by traditional power stations. It argues this would require new coal-fired power stations to be built so they could be used in an emergency when little wind blows. ...A spokesman said the question had to be asked how power companies would make money from plants that only run when the wind is not blowing.
For many years security of supply has taken a back seat in energy policy. We have been more concerned with price and, latterly, reducing emissions. ...security of energy supply must also be put back on the agenda with an equal priority. That means developing a mix of renewable generating forms including wave, hydro and biomass, which have more predictable output than wind turbines.
For Enterprise Minister Jim Mather and the Scottish Government, events of the past week have left a big hole in plans to turn the country into a global leader in the renewable energy industry. On Friday Mather flew to Kintyre hoping to rescue Scotland's only wind tower factory near Campbeltown following a decision by Danish firm Vestas to halt production at the plant. ...Mather's trip to Campbeltown came on the day he was forced to react to a Westminster decision to shelve a planned subsidy for renewable energy schemes in Orkney and Shetland. The UK Government is no longer willing to cap transmission charges, a move Mather described as "deeply, deeply disappointing". Jason Ormiston, chief executive of trade body Scottish Renewables, warned that transmission charges can be a major component in the cost of running a wind farm and could affect the viability of projects.
Senior figures from wind energy firms have been working at the heart of Government, advising ministers on the potential health impacts of turbines, the WMN has learned. The Government was last night accused of "doing unprecedented and highly questionable favours" for the wind industry amid growing concern about the "clear conflict of interest". ...Questions have also been raised about a move to limit the power for people living near new wind farms to sue operators for negative health impacts caused by noise.
The Ministry of Defence has finally withdrawn its objections to two major wind farms following the intervention of Gordon Brown. For years the MoD has fought the creation of two large wind farms off the coast of Northumberland and Norfolk because of fears of radar interference. It emerged last year that nearly half of all proposed wind farms were stuck in the planning process because of objections from the MoD, which has many RAF bases on the east coast of Britain. This meant that the Government had no chance of achieving its target of producing 20% of the country's total energy from renewable resources by 2020.
"Despite important announcements on new wind and biomass capacity in recent weeks, it is still not clear if Scotland will meet its target for 50% electricity consumed coming from renewable sources by 2020 and if we do hit the target, we need to know what this will mean in terms of costs. "The growth of renewables brings huge opportunities for Scotland, but there are massive barriers ...Equally, there are questions that need answered about the cost and reliability of wind power and the likely contribution from wave and tidal power before 2020."
It is bad enough to be told by the First Minister that Scotland's landscapes are to be sacrificed to achieve irrelevant SNP targets for renewables but he now claims that another reason is to help Europe achieve theirs. I refer to the disgraceful announcement that the gateway to Scotland, the A74 at Abington, is to be covered by 152 x 406 foot (that's 90 feet taller than Big Ben) turbines spread over 11,707 acres (18.3 sq miles) of our countryside.
Last month, ministers launched a renewables strategy on how to meet the UK's share of the EU 2020 target, which requires Britain to generate 15% of its energy from clean sources. The strategy included steps on "removing grid access as a barrier to renewables deployment". ...But the strategy also noted that the draft EU directive obliged member states to give priority grid access to renewables, and said the government was working to "clarify this obligation". At a meeting of the EU energy working group this week, leaked documents show British officials tabled several amendments to the draft directive, including changing "member states shall also provide priority access to the grid ..." to "member states may also provide access ...".
As the wind industry meets for a major conference in Wales today, a new report was published this week claiming that wind power faces "hidden costs" and "reliability issues". ...The Renewable Energy Foundation said the new study "confirms doubts as to the wisdom of a large wind fleet", and "supports REF's long-standing recommendation that the contribution of wind should be limited for technical and economic reasons, to about 10 GW, mostly offshore where winds are stronger and more reliable". Mr Oswald said: "Wind energy is fine on a small scale, but it works less well on a large scale because British weather and wind is too variable.
Casting about for the least unpopular "solution" to the problem, politicians find a seductive answer: wind power. The wind power debate is full of cant which the bemused public cannot evaluate. Misrepresentation is inevitable where vested interests have so much to lose. Take away the enormous subsidies, and all the wind generation applications would disappear in a flash. If our politicians claim vision and courage, they should concentrate on strategies to generate real economic and environmental benefits and deliver long-term social advantages.
But what of wind's performance as an energy provider? Wind generation does not provide a reliable supply of power. It must be ‘shadowed' by baseload power stations such as nuclear and coal as it is intermittent. Over-reliance on it could lead to supply interruptions if the wind does not blow, blows too hard or does not blow where the wind farms are located. Importantly, such high-demand periods of cold and hot weather correspond to periods of low wind so overdependence on intermittent wind can actually increase carbon emissions as conventional power stations are required as back-up. Importantly wind farms perform well if their average output reaches as much as 35% of their generating capacity, but this rarely happens. Evidence shows that, throughout Europe, wind turbines have produced on average less than 20% of their capacity in recent years.
Your reporting of the Government's energy policy focuses on the supply problems that make the building of 7,000 wind turbines onshore and offshore by 2020 infeasible (News & Christopher Booker, June 29). But there is worse hidden in the 267-page consultation document. ...It is not until page 228 that the document says: "We will also need to consider the potential environmental impacts such as those on biodiversity, landscapes, air quality, soils and land as well as the marine environment." So much for our landscapes and historical assets.
Wind power would be too unreliable to meet Britain's electricity needs, according to a new report. It says wind patterns around the country mean turbines will fail to produce enough power at times of high demand. Written by an independent consultancy and funded by the Renewable Energy Foundation, the report says backup electricity plants will be needed to meet demand during calm conditions. It comes after the Government last week unveiled a £100million plan to build at least 4,000 wind turbines, with a further 3,000 offshore. The programme is expected to drive household bills up by £260 a year.
Since Gordon Brown on Thursday launched what he called "the greatest revolution in our energy policy since the advent of nuclear power", centred on building thousands of new wind turbines, let us start with a simple fact. Nothing conveys the futility of wind power more vividly than this: that all the electricity generated by the 2,000 wind turbines already built in Britain is still less than that produced by a single medium-sized conventional power station. ...herein lies the central misconception which bedevils the entire debate. Because of the wind's intermittency, turbines generate on average at less than a third of their capacity. Thus to contribute 10GW would need 30GW of capacity, which would require up to twice as many turbines as ministers are talking about - needing to be erected at a rate of more than four every working day between now and 2020.
When politicians call for a "national debate", it is a sure sign that the most dubious policy is about to be railroaded through, whether we debate it or not. That is what lies at the heart of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown's portentous declaration yesterday of a "green revolution". Thousands of new wind turbines are set to be built across the UK over the coming decade as part of a GBP 100 billion plan for renewable energy. What a dissembling cheek the Prime Minister has in suggesting we hold a "national debate" on the wind-farm "revolution". The die is cast and the EU-imposed target of 15 per cent of renewable energy has long been set. Where was the "national debate" about that?