Well I have been a little quiet of late the perceived wisdom is that wind turbines do not deliver a power supply fit for the future. This assessment by Prof Jack Ponton nicely illustrates a number of our concerns. Yet every week we have more and more applications raising their heads and other plans being pushed forward. Do they know something we don’t or have they all been laughing all the way to the overseas banks in the knowledge that subsidies were just a blackmail of the government of the time, besotted by Climate Panic and ignorant of fact? Surely now is the time for a Wind Fall tax on all wind farm operators and a reduction of ROCs to a zero value. Also I would not compensate wind farms by constraint payments but fine them for when they are unable to supply power.
Myth 1: Onshore wind is the UK’s cheapest form of new power generation, so
we should use it to keep people’s electricity bills low.
It’s not cheap for consumers because we subsidise wind farm developers
through our utility bills, and taxpayers pick up the tab for grid expansion
and back-up power.
Myth 2: Scotland has abundant wind – about 25% of Europe’s wind resources.
There is little point in having 25% of something that no one will pay for –
unlike oil companies which pay royalties to the government, wind companies
Myth 3: Wind power helps Scotland to meet its targets for carbon emissions
and renewable electricity generation.
We all want to save the planet, but we need to be realistic. Scotland’s CO2
emissions are barely 0.15% of the world total, so even eliminating them
will have a minute impact. Meantime, the fixation on producing ever more
electricity from wind comes at a very high price – it makes our businesses
less competitive, puts jobs at risk and tips more people into fuel poverty.
Myth 4: Scotland reaps huge financial benefits from investment and jobs
created by the economic activity of wind farms.
Only a very small proportion of each wind farm’s total “investment”
benefits Scotland. The turbine (the most expensive bit) is invariably
imported, the blades are nearly all imported, and the pillars and steel
work are often imported. Most jobs in the renewables industry are in
planning and installing new facilities. Once a wind farm is operational,
what little maintenance it requires tends to be carried out by people with
skills and experience from outwith the area. The £millions invested by
developers with one hand looks much less impressive when they use the other
to rake in £millions of subsidies and constraint payments (when turbines
have to be shut down to avoid overloading the grid).
Myth 5: Most people (71%) think wind power/renewable energy is great
(Public Attitudes Tracking Survey), so there is no problem building more
Most people don’t live near huge, industrial-scale wind turbines and so
have little idea of how devastating they can be to those who do, or the
impact such massive structures can have on the value of people’s property,
which may represent most of a family’s life savings. Flicker and noise from
nearby wind farms can, literally, destroy peoples’ lives. The hundreds of
thousands of tonnes of concrete and hardcore trucked into our countryside
to support and connect wind turbines has a huge carbon footprint, degrades
the environment and is likely to remain forever.
Myth 6: Wind is important in Scotland’s energy mix, so we should be
increasing wind generation and decreasing our reliance on other forms of power.
When the wind is blowing, wind can indeed substitute for other energy
sources, but there are many times when there is not enough – or even no
wind – to generate sufficient electricity to meet demand. So we still need
the same amount of conventional – hydro, coal, gas, nuclear – generating
capacity on stand-by.
Myth 7: Wind provides Scotland with energy security because the wind is
always there, unlike oil and gas, much of which comes from the most
unstable parts of the world.
The wind does not always blow – or blow hard enough, and neither can we
store more than a fraction of any surplus wind power. So, to keep the
lights on, we still need many of our conventional power stations.
Fortunately, much of our gas now comes from Norway – not known for its
Myth 8: Scotland will make money by exporting surplus electricity to
England and beyond, maintaining its status as an energy-exporting country.
The Green Dream. Sadly, the only people who make money out of wind energy
in Scotland are those companies, often foreign, building or operating wind
turbines. Denmark may have the largest proportion of wind power in Europe,
but it has the highest electricity prices – and it loses money. Why?
Because when the wind is blowing in Denmark, it is almost always blowing in
neighbouring Sweden and Germany, so they are not prepared to pay much for
Denmark’s surplus power. When Denmark has little or no wind, it has to
import expensive electricity from further away. Electricity is much more
expensive to move long distances than oil or gas – the Beauly-Denny power
line cost £600m, twice the cost of a supertanker, yet has just a 100th of a
tanker’s power-carrying capacity.
Myth 9: Wind power is better than nuclear as a low-carbon electricity source.
Wind power is intermittent, whereas nuclear power is constant. In the
Borders, we have lived – many of us never even thinking about it – with
Torness on our doorstep for 30 years. There have been no fatalities at
those nuclear plants which meet western standards for design and operation,
and it is the only low-carbon source of dependable power generation as it
emits no CO2.
Myth 10: Local communities can participate in community-led schemes, or
receive money from nearby wind farms, which benefits the people closest to
Major wind farm developments almost always divide rather than benefit
communities, which are often spread over a wide geographical area. The
closer people live to a wind farm, the more likely their homes and
businesses may be seriously affected by turbine noise and visual impact,
while people living further away, but part of the same rural community, may
be completely unaffected. Relationships within and between communities may
be poisoned for years over relatively small sums of money – even if the
development never gains planning consent.
(vice-chair, Borders Network of Conservation Groups)