I would like to say that research carried out in the Netherlands and reported in a recent Telegraph article could have far-reaching implications for the roll-out of wind power in the UK, if not in Europe and beyond.
But such a statement pre-supposes politicians actually take any notice of research or that they can see beyond their personal obsessions. The reality is most don’t, or can’t, depending on which applies; and as such, the rest of us will continue to pay through the nose for an electricity-generating technology that is fundamentally flawed.
I write, of course, of the intermittent nature of wind power and the need for backup-power-generating capacity, sometimes in the form of coal, but increasingly in the form of gas-fired power stations. The cost of building and maintaining gas-fired backup is at least part of the problem in the uneconomic business model that is wind power, but a Civitas think tank report warns that Britain is in danger of producing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than necessary.
Indeed, more CO2 than the country would produce if it built purely natural gas-fired power stations than the mix of wind power and natural gas required to power for the estimated 70 percent of the time any particular wind turbine is unable to generate electricity.
Wind turbines fail to deliver the hoped-for low carbon electricity generating model on a number of fronts, retired physicist (and producer of the report) Dr. C le Pair concludes. They consume a substantial amount of electricity in producing the turbines, relative to the short life span of a wind turbine compared to a gas-fired power station.
Although supporters of wind power say turbines do not require backup — and that instead they’re integrated into the existing system to act as fuel savers such that they harness a free source of power when it is available — are really playing with words.
If wind power were really used that opportunistically, turbines would run for even less time than they do and much of what they produce would be lost. Base-load still needs to be produced from somewhere â€“ it either comes from wind with gas backup, or gas with wind providing an occasional top-up â€“ either way, wind’s shorter plant life, higher maintenance and unreliable supply explain the heavier subsidy required.
If these are all acceptable shortcomings, then put the money into tidal; at least tidal turbines are predictable for years in advance in terms of generating hours each day.
Not all renewables are quite so dubious, though. Continued in Part Two.