© Gurelur - By kind permission.
A single 2MW wind turbine operating at 30% capacity 'earns' its operator over £235,000 per year in subsidies that are paid for by the electricity consumer.
'Developers of renewable energy schemes such as wind farms are profiteering from the Government’s drive to curb carbon emissions by making customers pay more for their electricity than is necessary, the energy regulator Ofgem warned yesterday.
'Publishing figures which reveal that the cost of the so-called “renewables obligation” is at least eight times greater than other schemes designed to combat climate change, Ofgem called for a wholesale shake-up of the current arrangements.
'The obligation works by requiring energy suppliers to buy a certain proportion of their electricity from renewable sources or buy certificates to cover the shortfall. The cost of this is then passed on to the end customer.
'Ofgem calculates that since the obligation was introduced in 2002 customers have been overcharged by £740m. The scheme adds £7 to the average annual bill at present, but by 2015 this will have risen to £20. At present, 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable sources, but this is due to rise to 20 per cent by 2020.
'The regulator said the way the scheme worked meant that customers paid more even if renewable generation projects did not get built or were delayed, for instance by planning problems.
'It also said that because the level of subsidy under the scheme was not linked to the wholesale price of electricity or the market price of carbon, developers were benefiting at customers’ expense, as electricity prices rose. “This is leading to much higher returns for current renewable generators than investors expected or required.”
'The regulator calculates that it costs between £184 and £481 to cut a tonne of carbon under the renewables obligation. This compares with a cost of between £12 and £70 under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme and £18 to £40 under the Climate Change Levy.
'The Department for Trade and Industry last night rejected Ofgem’s criticisms, saying: “The Renewables Obligation is here to stay.” However, it is proposing changes to the obligation so that subsidies are banded according to the type and cost of technology involved.
'Ofgem said this did not go far enough, and called for a new scheme under which the level of subsidy is linked to the wholesale electricity price and long-term contracts are auctioned to guarantee renewable developers a fixed return.
'Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, said: “We think that a review of the scheme could provide more carbon reductions and promote renewable generation at a lower cost to consumers who are already facing higher energy bills.”'
Michael Harrison, Business Editor, 23 January 2007 Independent.co.uk
(The full OFGEM submission on reform of the renewables Obligation is available as a PDF download from the OFGEM site).
The Carbon Trust has also criticised the RO as being 'deeply flawed' and needing revision.
(See 'Policy frameworks for renewables' - Report available as downloadable PDF from Carbon Trust website.)
The Government are going to revise the RO (in 2009/10).
But they have ignored advice from Ofgem, the Carbon Trust and others who advised against their favoured form of banding.
The wind industry repeatedly claims that wind turbines are an established, proven and competitive technology, then howls with outrage whenever bodies such as the National Audit Office criticise the excessive subsidy paid to onshore wind.
They have succeeded in hanging on to their excessive rewards, while higher rates will be paid (by the consumer) to other technologies that have been sidelined by the Klondike wind rush:
See: DTI. Energy White Paper - Supporting documents - 'Renewable energy: reform of the renewables Obligation' (PDF download).
British Wind Energy Association 'Top Myths About Wind Energy'
"4. Wind farms are inefficient and only work 30% of the time
Fact: A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs depending on the wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will typically generate about 30% of the theoretical maximum output."
BWEA Website - Top Myths
We already know that existing turbine arrays in the North East are failing to produce anything like the 'typical' figure claimed by the BWEA:
Regional wind industry 'experts' claim that the figures are distorted because many of the existing turbines are old/small/inefficient. But they fail to explain how building new turbines in areas such as ours with very poor wind figures is going to improve the picture. We would venture to suggest that the figures will actually get worse unless the industry starts developing offshore sites or upland areas with a decent wind resource!
Recent research by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), using OFGEM's recorded production figures for 2005 has now exposed more widespread problems. While capacities offshore are encouraging, those onshore are generally only superior in locations very distant from the populations requiring the electrical energy.
Using this analysis of the Ofgem data, researchers have also calibrated a model predicting how a large installed capacity of wind power built across the UK would actually perform. The project used Meteorological Office data to model output for every hour of every January from 1994-2006.
The startling results show that, even when distributed UK wide, the output is still highly volatile. Mr Graham Sinden argued in a controversial paper that there would be a much greater 'smoothing effect' from distributed wind installations.
UK wind farm performance 2005, based on Ofgem ROC Data [PDF file]
25GW of distributed wind on the UK electricity system [Wind smoothing analysis, PDF file]
From: Hugh Sharman, 'Why UK wind power
should not exceed 10 GW'.
Civil Engineering journal: PDF download
The above diagram clearly shows the problem of forecasting wind speed and hence power production from wind turbines. The margin of error in forecasting wind speeds plus a safety margin has to be covered by reserve when significant amounts of power are generated from wind.
The real world experience from countries with a large installed capacity has been that it substitutes for only a small percentage of fossil-fuelled power and that it leads to significant problems in grid management. It is no coincidence that some of the most critical voices of wind power generation come from the companies that manage electricity supply and distribution.
(See article below on California's 2006 'energy crunch')
"Whilst wind power feed-in at 9.15am on Christmas Eve reached its maximum for the year at 6,024MW, it fell to below 2,000MW within only 10 hours, a difference of over 4,000MW. This corresponds to the capacity of 8 x 500MW coal fired power station blocks. On Boxing Day, wind power feed-in in the E.ON grid fell to below 40MW. Handling such significant differences in feed-in levels poses a major challenge to grid operators."
Capacity factor so far is 22.3% (not including results from a wind farm apparently experiencing start-up problems);
Periods of very low or no production were particularly common during high-demand periods;
High but highly variable wind production during low demand periods was common;
The hourly production pattern in most months demonstrated a declining average output during the 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. period – a period when consumer power usage consistently increases.
Noise created by commercial-scale wind turbines has become a major concern around the world as wind power development continues to proliferate. Although the industry claims that modern turbines are quieter - even as they grow ever larger - complaints are increasing from people who live near new projects. National Wind Watch in the USA has issued a statement calling on the commercial wind industry to respect the people who reside in targeted development regions, to honour their right to healthy lives and peaceful enjoyment of their homes, by adopting meaningful separation distances - measured in miles, not in feet.
While the wind itself may mask some of the noise under some atmospheric conditions, the deep unnatural pulsing as the giant blades pass their supporting tower is particularly intrusive. Testimony from hundreds of turbine neighbors confirms this, most recently from Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Canada, the U.K., New Zealand and Japan.
The noise is especially intrusive because wind energy facilities are often built in rural areas where the ambient sound level may be quite low, especially at night. On the logarithmic decibel (dB) scale, an increase of 10 dB is perceived as a doubling of the noise level. An increase of 6 dB is considered to be a serious community issue. Since a quiet night in the country is typically around 25 dB, the common claim by wind developers of 45 dB at the nearest home would be perceived as a noise four times louder than normal. And because it is intermittent and directional, those affected assert that one can never get used to it. The disruption of sleep alone presents serious health and human rights issues.
The problem is worse than the industry admits. Frits van den Berg, a physicist at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, studied noise levels around a German facility of 17 turbines. In a 2003 paper published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration, he found that at night, because the surface air is often more still than the air at the height of the blades, the noise from the turbines is 15 to 18 dB higher than during the day and carries farther. He noted that residents 1.9 kilometers (6,200 feet or 1.2 miles) away expressed strong annoyance with noise from the facility.
The French National Academy of Medicine has called for a halt of all large-scale wind development within 1.5 kilometers of any residence, because the sounds emitted by the blades constitute a permanent risk for people exposed to them. The U.K. Noise Association studied the issue and agreed with the recommendation of a 1 mile separation distance.
In the U.S., the National Wind Coordinating Committee could not avoid the conclusion that "those affected by noise generated by wind turbines live within a few miles of a large wind power plant or within several thousand feet of a small plant or individual turbine. Although the noise at these distances is not great, it nevertheless is sufficient to be heard indoors and may be especially disturbing in the middle of the night when traffic and household sounds are diminished."
National Wind Watch calls on the commercial wind industry to respect the people who reside in targeted development regions, to honor their right to healthy lives and peaceful enjoyment of their homes, by adopting meaningful setbacks - measured in miles, not in feet.
Within weeks of the Government’s Energy Review proposing that planning controls be relaxed to speed up the introduction of wind farms, a new report by the Noise Association reveals that badly-sited wind turbines can cause real noise problems for local communities. 1
In compiling its report, the Noise Association carried out a comprehensive review of the research done into wind farm noise. The report states that wind turbine noise can be a particular problem in rural areas, where many of the wind farms are sited, because of low background noise levels.
John Stewart, the author of the report, said, “It would be a mistake to see this as an anti-wind farm report. But there is a real danger that, in the enthusiasm to embrace clean technology, legitimate concerns about noise are being brushed aside.”
The report recommends that:
as a general rule turbines should not be sited within a mile of where people live
the official government guidelines for the siting of wind farms be revised to take account of the more intrusive nature of the noise in areas where the overall background noise is low
there is a clear and public recognition by the Wind Power Industry, which has tended to dismiss noise as an issue, that wind farms can cause real noise problems for some people. The report argues that this could open the door to “constructive discussion”
A new report has been released by the DTI which addresses the issue of wind turbine noise. It has been written by the Hayes McKenzie Partnership which frequently acts on behalf of wind farm developers and was involved in the writing of the current noise guidance for wind farms: 'ETSU-R-97, The Assessment and Rating of Noise from Wind Farms, 1996'.
The new report describes an investigation into low frequency noise at neighbouring properties to three different UK wind farms where noise complaints had been made. The authors discount low frequency noise as a significant problem. However, they do state that amplitude modulation, commonly know as ‘blade swish’ noise, can be a problem. Their report concludes that, on occasion, blade swish is disturbing enough to prevent occupants of nearby dwellings from going to sleep although not sufficiently disturbing to wake them if already asleep.
The report authors found that even when the overall noise level inside a bedroom was less than the sleep disturbance threshold proposed in the WHO guidelines, the distinctive noise signature of the wind turbine blade swish attracted the attention of the listener and caused difficulty in returning to sleep.
The report states that the blade swish noise is more extreme for some wind farms and at some properties and particularly at night time. Significantly, the report acknowledges that the magnitude of the ‘swish’ noise is greater than was anticipated in the ETSU-R-97 guidelines and recommends that the issue should be re-visited possibly with a view to including a penalty in any noise condition to take into account blade swish noise. This would effectively lower the permitted noise at neighbouring dwellings.
This report is available on the DTI website.
Click on the link on the right hand side of the page under the heading ‘Related Documents’, entitled ‘The measurement of low frequency noise at three UK wind farms’.
See the noise section on our Myths page for much more material on noise.
'The NWG will address issues specifically relating to the Hayes McKenzie report:
(from 'Notes of Meeting of NWG', 2 August 2006).
Barbara J Frey, BA, MA and Peter J Hadden, BSc, FRICS have published a paper on the subject: 'Noise radiation from wind turbines installed near homes: effects on health. With an annotated review of the research and related issues.' February, 2007. This presents an interesting survey of noise research and reports on the effects on health, wellbeing and property prices. (PDF download from website).
© Daily Mail
'On a sunny spring morning, Deeping St Nicholas provides a perfect snapshot of English country life. The only buildings that break the flat horizon of the Lincolnshire fens are silver-grey church spires and neat red-brick farmhouses, around which are clustered barns and silos. A covey of wood pigeons clap their wings as they take off from the black, loamy, fertile soil striped with green lines of oilseed rape. And then you hear it. "Whoompf ... whoompf ... whoompf ..."
Like the sound of an approaching train that never comes, the thumps that break the still air are not overpoweringly loud - at about 65 decibels, they're the level of a lorry going by at 30 miles an hour 100 yards away.
But what is so menacing is the regularity and the scope of the noise, which feels like a giant heartbeat shaking the earth.
When you see the culprits - the eight mammoth wind turbines installed just outside Deeping St Nicholas last May - you're actually surprised that the noise isn't louder.
These aren't the little propellers that David Cameron nails to his roof to warm his cocoa and heat his children's baths. They're veritable behemoths - 100 metres high, as tall as Big Ben's tower.
The turbines hove into view from the Peterborough to Deeping St Nicholas road several miles before you reach the little village, and they dominate the skies from here to the North Sea, 15 miles away.
Five of these monsters are set in a straight line heading away from Deeping St Nicholas. And if you trace that line onwards for half-a-mile on the map, your finger slams slap-bang into the middle of Grays Farm.
And there, in the farmhouse sitting room, with its wood-burning stove and its bookshelves jammed with family photos, are Julian and Jane Davis - wan, sleepless and very angry indeed.
Three generations of the Davis family have farmed these 300 acres of tenanted land for wheat, sugarbeet, beans, oilseed rape and - ironically, given the green glow of windpower - the new generation of biofuel crops. Mr Davis's elderly parents live in a bungalow a few yards away along a gravel track.
For the first time in a decade, agricultural prices are looking rosy - and so were the Davises' finances, until recently. But now their chances of enjoying a comfortable future are in jeopardy because of the whirring brutes next door, erected on land owned by two neighbouring farmers.
The Davises' three-bedroom house, valued at £170,000 before the turbines arrived, is now essentially worthless because no one will grant a mortgage on a house blighted by noise pollution.
For the past eight months, the Davises have lain awake at night, staring at the ceiling, driven to distraction by the thump of the blades and feeling the whole house resonating around them.
During the odd moment of silence when the wind is in the right direction, they lie awake, still, dreading the inevitable return of the whoompfs.
Ever since the Davises were first woken from their sleep three days after the turbines were installed, they have kept a log of the noise. Of those 243 days, 231 have been disturbed.
Sometimes, the noise has been so bad that they have fled the house for friends' sofas, and once for the comfort of the local Travelodge. It is on the busy Helpringham roundabout but, for the first time in weeks, they slept through until 7.20am.
Noise generated by a constant flow of traffic is easier to ignore than a repetitive thump that seems to go right through the body. "It's just that little bit faster than the noise of a heartbeat," says Mr Davis, aged 42. "So your body is constantly racing to catch up."
As well as the thump-thumpthump - which makes the television flicker - there is a low-level hum from the electric motor housed in the turbines' main shaft, which gets the blades going and controls the mechanism's air-conditioning.
This noise often mutates into what the Davises call the WD-40 noise - a grating sound similar to that produced by an engine that needs oiling.
"It drives you mad," says Mr Davis. "Your whole body becomes sensitive to it. It draws you to it. Your mind is constantly looking for the noise. I can be farming half-amile away or watching telly, and then suddenly you'll hear it. It's destroyed our lives."
Things have now become so bad that the Davises have been forced to rent out what they call a "sleeping house" in the village for £600 a month.
Now, every night at around 10pm, they take a look at the weather and decide if they should abandon ship for the evening. The noise is particularly irksome if the wind comes from the south along the line of the turbines, whipping them up in unison, so their individual noises are harmonised and amplified.
The list of disasters goes on and on, all recorded in the Davises' scrupulously kept logbook. Last July, reads the book, "we tried to have a BBQ and had to go inside due to noise and vibration - felt by guests also. Difficult to get to sleep. Wind SSE, SSW.
"Whoosh - yes. Pulse - yes. Hum - yes. We are so tired today that the simplest things - following a recipe, assembling a cupboard - seem impossible. Everyone very tired and totally exhausted. This is not living any more."
At the moment, there are more than 120 applications pending all over the country to erect windfarms close to houses - ranging from plans for just a pair of turbines to great clumps of 80 whirring away on the Humberhead Levels in Yorkshire.
If these applications go through, the number of windfarms in the country will double - even though the jury is still out on the effectiveness of windpower, which is completely dependent on the whim of the weather.
Meanwhile, the complaints keep pouring in, particularly from rural beauty spots: from Bears Down in North Cornwall to Askham in Cumbria, prospective neighbours of mega-turbines are up in arms.
Of the 126 windfarms erected in Britain so far - most of which are far from human habitation - 5 per cent have engendered complaints about the overwhelming noise.
The next tranche of building is likely to attract far more outrage because the power companies are simply running out of wilderness.
As for the Davises, they don't even have the consolation that the turbines are providing power for their own home.
"They're making electricity for other people," says Jane. "One night, our power was hit by a lightning strike. So we had the worst of both worlds - nothing working inside the house, and then that noise going on and on outside. Whoompf ... whoompf ... whoompf."'
(By Harry Mount, Daily Mail, 10th March 2007. See full article).
'Jane and Julian Davis and daughter Emily had been moving between their home and a “safe house” in Spalding [Lincolnshire] on a daily basis whenever they found noise from the Deeping St Nicholas wind farm unbearable at night.
'Now they say they cannot go through another summer of interrupted sleep and are leaving the family home to live long term at a rented house until the situation improves.
'Mrs Davis said: “We have been living a transitory lifestyle, lugging bags backwards and forwards each day.
'“We can’t go back to that.
'“You just get to the point where you have to regain some control over your life.”
'At 10pm each night they would look out of the window to check on the wind direction.
'If it was directly behind the row of turbines then they say that a phenomenon known as aerodynamic modulation would take hold, amplifying the existing noise and low frequency vibration and causing sleepless nights.
'Now acoustic experts can move into the empty house to set up a laboratory to measure the noise as part of an ongoing investigation by DEFRA and the DTI.
'Since testing at the house last year acknowledged problems, the number of wind farms in the country affected by similar problems has risen from just five to 15.
(See Lincolnshire Free Press, 29 May 2007, for full article).
Your Energy Ltd., the 'Moorsyde' developers, have not carried out a proper 'worst case' assessment as required by Environmental Impact Assessment directive.
The independent Audit Report on the 'Moorsyde' Environmental Statement concluded:
9. Justification required of use of low noise mode in calculations and/or further assessment at other noise levels.
(Ironside Farrar, 'Moorsyde Windfarm ES Audit', 5.2)
The company have ignored the findings of this report and the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment process. As with other problems identified in their heavily criticised Environmental Statement, they are claiming that turbines can be monitored after they are built and any nuisance addressed then.
Unfortunately, it seems that the detached case officer has no interest in requiring the company to comply with the EIA directive. This approach is explicitly deprecated by Government guidance:
"It is important to stress that the authority must obtain all the information it needs to assess and evaluate the likely significant environmental effects of the proposal before it reaches its decision. It cannot adopt a "wait and see" approach or impose a condition requesting further work to identify the likely environmental effects after permission has been granted. It must be sure that all of these have been identified and taken into account before granting planning permission."
"... planning authorities need to exercise care and judgment to ensure that conditions designed to mitigate the likely effects of a proposed development are not used as a substitute for environmental impact assessment or to circumvent the requirements of the EIA Directive."
(HMG, Communities & Local Government. 'Note on environmental impact assessment directive for local planning authorities.' See website.)
The noise nuisance in Lincolnshire is occurring with new turbines that are 930 metres from the affected house.
There are at least 15 properties within a kilometre of the proposed 'Moorsyde' turbines. Some houses would be 200 metres closer to turbines than the Davises' abandoned home.
Streamed video testimony from local people living next to wind turbine installations in the United States:
Save Upstate New York website. Has short clips edited from Video 1 below.
Video 1 - Meyersdale, Pennsylvania.
Video 2 - Tug Hill, New York state.
There are other video files that can be accessed on the Wind Watch website.
We would particularly recommend the 'Wind turbines are coming' video that has interviews with people who have suffered from the effects of 40 m. turbines in this country, and the Australian 'Living next door to a wind farm' which says something about shadow flicker. The industry always claims that this only occurs within 4x the length of turbine blades or 4x the height of a turbine, depending on who is telling the tale (the writer has had experience of acute flicker effects at nearly 1 km from turbines at Crystal Rig).
(You will need a broadband connection to stream video 'live' without long holdups. Please be patient and allow your video player software to open and buffer the video stream.)
'Residents here have complained that noise from newly installed wind turbines perched atop a ridge of the Sadamisaki Peninsula has been rattling their homes and plaguing them with sleepless nights.
'Misaki Wind Power Co., which operates the Misaki Wind Park, has been forced to stop nighttime operations of four of its 20 wind turbines. Considering the business vantage, the company wants to keep all 20 turbines running 24/7.
'But residents living near the rackety turbines are demanding their dismantling or a relocation of operations.
'According to the residents, since the turbines began turning in December, they have been tormented by the booming sounds from the generator and the swooshing of the fan blades.
'The noise is enough to drown out the audio from their television sets.
'Some said they could not sleep at night while others complained of health problems due to the racket.
'According to a town official, nighttime operations for three of the four wind turbines were stopped from March 1, and the fourth stopped nighttime operations 10 days later.
'"When I checked the noise level with a sound measuring device, it recorded a high of 60 decibels. The average noise level exceeded 50 decibels. That's the noise level of an airport runway, or a Shinkansen bullet train," said Yasuhisa Oiwa, 44, whose home is near a wind turbine. "The company says it wants to go fully operational but we just can't allow that. We have asked that the wind turbine be relocated."
'Noise complaints related to wind farms are cropping up in other places, including wind turbines set up by another public-private joint venture company in Awajishima island in Hyogo Prefecture.
(May 15, 2007 in Asahi Shimbun)
Noise from the new wind farm at East Point on P.E.I. is loud enough that some some residents of Elmira say it wakes them up in the middle of the night.
"It's something like a washing machine when the clothes get off to one side. It goes thump, thump, thump. It's similar to that. Some people say it's like a jet engine," said Elmira resident Dwayne Bailey, who lives about one kilometre away from the turbines.
The Island's newest wind farm began producing electricity late last year.
While there have been no previous complaints about turbine noise from other wind farms, the turbines at East Point are the largest yet installed for commercial purposes. The blades of the 10 turbines cover a 90-metre span, making each turbine the height of a 30-storey building. The 30-megawatt farm produces enough power for about 12,000 homes.
Wayne McQuarrie of the P.E.I. Energy Corporation wouldn't agree to a full interview, but did say he's aware of the issue and is looking into it.
But the people living nearby want more action.
"We can't get anybody to come up and help us," said Bailey.
"Do some tests or studies. Something. Anything. Just get somebody to get up to talk to us."
Bailey said if nothing's done, he and his family will move.(April 2, 2007 in CBC News)
'Something has turned terribly sour for about 18 homeowners who live along the mountain roads where the state’s first and only wind farm has recently gone on line. To a man and to a woman, they feel betrayed, cheated, used, ignored, and dismissed. Put them in a room and they are spitting mad. Collectively, as they gather on a Saturday morning inside a home that sits in the shadow of the turbines, their anger is barely palatable. Since the turbines started up, they say, silence has become a luxury.'(See full story: by Paul Lefebvre in The Barton Chronicle - 21 February, 2007.)
(August 8, 2006)
'The most important findings of this report highlight studies that raise critical concerns challenging some of the claims made for wind power. Badly needed evidence is now available after three years of large scale operation of wind turbines in five countries..... These studies are the first real evidence showing how wind actually works, as opposed to what has been claimed, and come from some of the most authoritative voices on energy in the world......ABS Energy Research’s report does not relegate wind power to the dustbin. But it does show how essential proper analysis is to establish what renewable energy can and cannot deliver and how it must be accommodated within a total electricity generation system. Objective analysis is essential. Nearly every one of the points described in the study has been labelled a "myth" by a lobby group.
The most important findings of this report highlight studies that raise critical concerns challenging some of the claims made for wind power. Badly needed evidence is now available after three years of large scale operation of wind turbines in five countries. In one such country, Ireland, the government placed a moratorium on wind power development, although this has been rescinded.
These studies are the first real evidence showing how wind actually works, as opposed to what has been claimed, and come from some of the most authoritative voices on energy in the world. Reports from E.On Netz, the system operator with the largest wind power feed-in in the world, and Eltra of Denmark, which had the largest percentage wind power contribution, show disturbing results.
E.On cites a study from the Deutsche-Energie Agentur. The report was sponsored by the German government and all sides of the industry. Among bombshells contained inside, the study suggests that while wind power capacity will reach 48 GW by 2020 in Germany, the source is so intermittent and unreliable that it is equivalent to only 2 GW of stable fossil fuel capacity.
The evidence also shows a mismatch of supply and demand. High pressure weather systems bring cold winters and hot summers which unfortunately coincide with low wind levels. These meteorological realities mean that wind makes its maximum contribution when demand is lowest and its minimum contribution when demand is highest. In 2004, wind accounted for 20 percent of total electricity production in Denmark but supplied only 6 percent of consumption, because it produced a surplus at periods of lowest demand. What's more, 84 percent of Danish wind-generated electricity was exported to Norway, and sold at a loss for Denmark. Furthermore, the Norwegian electricity system uses carbon free hydro power, so the effect of carbon reductions realised in power produced by windmills was nullified.
Also, because of this variability in wind, back-up fossil fuel plants must be operated at low load to maintain system reliability. There is new evidence that shows that switching base load fossil fuel plants on and off to balance a system produces higher carbon emissions than continuous operation, certainly not a supposed benefit from switching to renewable energy sources.
Because wind installations tend to be concentrated in areas with high wind speeds, regional grids are heavily overloaded at times of maximum feed-in. Each country studied reported extreme difficulties in balancing the grid. A further 2,700 km of costly high voltage transmission lines will be required in Germany to accommodate new wind capacity.
It is clear that wind-generated electricity can only work as part of a generation portfolio. The US Department of Energy advocates small local targets within states, most recently proposing targets of 100 MW in each of the 30 states, rather than the huge wind parks favoured in Europe.
ABS Energy Research’s report does not relegate wind power to the dustbin. But it does show how essential proper analysis is to establish what renewable energy can and cannot deliver and how it must be accommodated within a total electricity generation system. Objective analysis is essential. Nearly every one of the points described in the study has been labelled a "myth" by a lobby group.'
(A summary is downloadable at ABS Energy Research. The full report is available for £830.)
July 6, 2006 by Ed Douglas in newscientist.com
'Mike Hall from the Cumbria Wildlife Trust in north-west England has developed a formula to give a wind-energy CO2 "budget" that balances the CO2 savings that a project is expected to provide against the CO2 costs from the manufacture and shipping of the turbines and construction work at the site.
'The CO2 costs are considerable even before accounting for emissions from peatland, primarily because of the energy required to produce the concrete in which turbines are embedded. The new generation of 140-metre turbines, need foundations the size of half a football pitch. Building on peat bogs contributes another large source of CO2 that can add years to a turbine's CO2 payback time. "The major CO2 debt incurred by a wind turbine on a peat-rich site is not in its manufacture and installation but in the ongoing degradation of peat," Hall says.
'Hall has devised three scenarios for CO2 emissions from degrading peat. The first is a baseline figure calculated simply from the amount of peat excavated in construction. The second "minimal scenario" includes emissions from degraded peat up to 50 metres around areas of disturbance such as foundations and service roads. This figure is being used by wind farm developer AMEC in Scotland. A third "high scenario" extends that range to 100 metres. Hall believes this is closest to the actual level of disruption, citing Lindsay's research, which indicates that damage to peat can extend for as much as 250 metres on either side of tracks or drainage ditches, as water drains from the affected area.
'To calculate carbon savings, Hall uses the developers' own predictions, which generally give figures for overall electricity generation of about 30 per cent of the maximum rated capacity of a turbine. The average achieved output for existing wind farms is actually lower than this - 25.6 per cent according to industry figures. Using the conservative "minimal scenario", Hall calculates that a 2-megawatt turbine built on peat moorland 1 metre deep will take 8.2 years to pay back its CO2 cost. The figure for the "high scenario" is a whopping 16 years. Even the minimal figure is a substantial portion of a turbine's normal lifespan of 25 years, and considerably higher than the industry's own figures, which range between three and 18 months.
Read the full article.
See also the National Trust's campaign on peat moorlands.
There seems to be little awareness of the damage being done to peat moorland in the Lammermuirs in constructing turbine parks. Have Scottish Natural Heritage considered the CO2 losses from such damage?
Onshore wind generation is the cheapest renewable, but with back up, it costs two and a half times as much as gas or nuclear.
August 4, 2006 in European Process Engineer Magazine
In a report published on 10March, the UK-based Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) reveals that electricity from offshore wind farms, currently the most viable renewable source, will cost at least twice as much as that from conventional sources.
The independent study, commissioned from international energy consultants PBPower, puts all energy sources on a level playing field by comparing the costs of generating electricity from new plants using a range of different technologies and energy sources. The cheapest electricity will come from gas turbines and nuclear stations, costing just 2.3p/kWh, compared with 3.7p/kWh for onshore wind and 5.5p/kWh for offshore wind farms.
"This may sound surprising," said RAE vice president Philip Ruffles, who chaired the study group, "especially as we have included the cost of decommissioning in our assessment of the nuclear generation costs. The weakness of the UK government's energy white paper was that it saw nuclear power as very expensive. But modern nuclear stations are far simpler and more streamlined than the old generation - the latest are only about half the size of SizewellB - and far cheaper to build and run."
In the case of wind energy it is also necessary to provide back up capacity for when the wind does not blow. In this report, the RAE says it has been rather generous with the wind generation figures - assuming a need for about 65percent back-up power from conventional sources. The RAE has previously called for even higher back-up, more like 75to80percent. Even so, the cost of back up capacity adds 1.7p/kWh to the costs.
Onshore wind generation is the cheapest renewable, but with back up, it costs two and a half times as much as gas or nuclear.
Wind, nuclear and biomass generation all have the benefit of not emitting carbon dioxide, and the study also looked at the impact on costs of capturing carbon dioxide for all fossil fuels. This could add at least 2 p/kWh for coal-fired generators and 1-2p/kWh for gas generators. "Coal looks uneconomic in the future," said Ruffles, "by the time you capture the carbon dioxide it's going to cost as much as onshore wind."
This study did not consider transmission costs to individual technologies or storage costs for gas to ensure security of supply - the market currently absorbs these through system operating costs or the cost of gas.
However, providing energy a long way from the eventual customer will add to its cost. "The renewables sector already benefits from subsidies worth around £485million a year through the Renewables Objective," added Ruffles. "The UK government is also planning to offer further subsidies in the form of reductions in transmission charges - this may run counter to the spirit of the new European Electricity Directive aimed at promoting competitive energy markets."
Ruffles concluded that people need to appreciate the real costs of generating electricity, including wind power.
A paper on the achilles heel of the wind industry. Word doc download.
"You really don't count on wind energy as capacity. It is different from other technologies because it can't be dispatched," said Christine Real de Azua, assistant director of communications for the American Wind Energy Association.
(August 29, 2006 by Esther Whieldon in Platts Power Markets Week. See full article).
'California legislators need to remember wind generation is not the answer to California's growing energy capacity needs, said Yakout Mansour, president and CEO of the state's Independent System Operator.1
'On August 9, while giving a summary of the ISO's performance during last month's heat wave and energy crunch, Mansour told California's Senate Committee on Governmental Organizations that while conservation, demand response, interruptible programs, and voluntary load reductions played a "significant role in making it through the tough days," wind resources were on average only supplying about 5% of their installed nameplate power capacity during peak hours.
'It was a good time to educate the legislatures, Mansour told Platts in an interview on August 17. "It is very important for them to know what [wind power] does and what it doesn't do," Mansour said. "This was a good time to be honest with them."
'The California Public Utilities Commission is requiring investor-owned utilities in California to have 20% of their energy portfolios include renewable resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, by 2010. This energy does not have to be part of the utilities' capacity. Instead, a utility has to demonstrate through ownership of renewable energy credits that it has supported an amount of renewable generation equal to 20% of their annual kWh sales.
'"You really don't count on wind energy as capacity. It is different from other technologies because it can't be dispatched," said Christine Real de Azua, assistant director of communications for the American Wind Energy Association.
'The ISO believes wind is a great resource for replacing power purchased from gas and coal power plants, "but it is not a panacea," an ISO spokesman said. "We advocate a balanced portfolio." Generators will still need to supplement the intermittent nature of wind by shaping hydroelectric output or with new coal- and gas-fired generators.
'There is about 2500 MW of installed nameplate wind generation currently operational in California, according to ISO documents. Wind turbines typically can produce at 25% to 30% of capacity according to the American Wind Energy Association. This would mean that on average during a blustery day in California wind farms could produce about 625 MW to 750 MW.
'Daily snapshots of available wind energy when the ISO reached its peak from July 22 through July 25 was on average about 6% of capacity or about 150 MW, according to Cal-ISO data.
'California's rapidly expanding energy needs became quite clear when demand in July went about 6% above the worst-case summer scenario accessed by the ISO earlier this year. ISO control area loads hit a record high of 50,270 MW at about 2:45pm July 24. At that time, wind in California was contributing about 255 MW, or about 10% of wind nameplate capacity.
'Ironically, the very heat storm that caused loads to spike also caused decreased wind flows.
'In the meantime, load-serving entities know not to count on the full nameplate capacity of a plant, said a market participant who trades primarily in California markets, "Wind doesn't help from a keep-the-lights-on-perspective," the source said.'-------------------------------------
1 "The California ISO is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation charged with operating the majority of California’s high-voltage wholesale power grid. Balancing the demand for electricity with an equal supply of megawatts, the ISO is the impartial link between power plants and the utilities that serve more than 30 million consumers."
'A number of wind park operators in the northern German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein have filed an action for damages with the district court in the town of Itzehoe against the power grid operator E.ON Netz. They are accusing the company of using superficial or specious technical difficulties as an excuse for preventing the use of wind-generated electricity, which is unpopular with energy utilities. Last year the wind turbines were already taken off the grid for several hours on about 40 windy days. "And with respect to this year we are already talking about a downtime of 15 percent," Hermann Albers, vice president of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), said. This state of affairs had serious implications for the economic viability of wind parks, he noted.'(See full article, 23.06.2006. See also piece on the EON-Netz Wind Report, below.)
In 2003, faced with 4,500MW of intermittent power from renewables, the West Danish grid operator Eltra was feeling the strain:
Per Andersen, Chief Information Officer, Eltra:
"The large, unregulated output of electricity from renewables such as wind turbines and decentralised combined heat and power [CHP] plants puts Eltra's central control room operators in a position which can be likened to manoeuvering a speeding truck without steering wheel, accelerator, gears or brakes. For many reasons, this stressful ride can't go on.
Hans Schiøtt, Chairman, Eltra:
You can understand that while the total was modest it was of no consequence to the system operator whether the plants operated or how they operated. But it's not like that now. We can now experience 4,500MW being fed into the system whether we can use it or not. Quite simply, it can't go on like this. Decentralised production must take its share of responsibility for the functioning of the system."
Eltra Magazine, No. 1, 2003 (translated from the Danish).
We are presently in the position described by Hans Schiøtt - our small amount of wind generated power is not large enough to affect grid operation. If we continue on the present course of unplanned, developer-led expansion of wind power, we will soon hit the sort of problems that the Danes and Germans have now had for several years: an unstable grid with feast or famine supplies of intermittent power being produced far from the end user.
At the moment, there is little sign that the powers that be have put any thought to how a possible 12,000MW of intermittent power is going to be managed. No doubt they will start to work that out when the juggernaut begins to go out of control.
It is interesting that the grid operators in both Denmark and Germany [see our piece on the EON Netz Wind Report 2005] are highly critical of wind power and the problems it creates. Even when, as in the case of E.ON (who own Powergen), they are also major wind power station owners and operators themselves!
Postscript: The huge installed wind capacity in Germany is only managed by what is euphemistically called 'curtailment' (and by exporting power below cost to neighbouring countries). Wind power generators are now up in arms because curtailment is affecting their profits. See above.
Nobody seems to be asking what will happen when every country in Europe has huge numbers of heavily subsidised intermittent generators. We suspect governments will then start compensating operators for curtailment before eventually paying them to decommision turbine arrays. What is certain is that the electricity consumer/tax payer will end up paying through the nose for the great wind power bubble of the noughties.
"Der Windmühlen Wahn: Vom Traum umweltfreundlicher Energie zur subventionierten Landschaftszerstörung"
("Wind turbine Madness: from a dream of environmentally friendly energy to highly subsidised destruction of the countryside.")
While the wind power industry in this country makes sweeping and, usually, wholly unsubstantiated statements about the benefits of large scale wind power generation, Denmark and Germany are living with the reality of very large installed capacity.
E.ON Netz, the German grid-operating arm of the E.ON group which is a major power generator and grid operator in the UK as well as the rest of Europe (they own Powergen and are the second largest power generator and grid operator in the UK), produce an annual Wind Report which should be essential reading for anyone who wants to be better informed about the facts of wind power generation.
We quote part of Martin Fuchs' (CEO of E.ON Netz GmbH) speech at the annual Report press conference on 16 June 2005:
The E.ON Netz Wind Report is available as a PDF download or the Company will send you a free copy.
Where do we stand today?
At the end of 2004, some 34,200 MW – over 80% – of the world’s wind energy capacity (41,300 MW in total) was installed in Europe. Roughly half of this figure was based in Germany.
At the end of last year, we had over 40% of German wind power capacity in all, with 7,050 MW of installed wind power, in the E.ON Netz area. The majority of this is concentrated in Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. Still occasionally praised as a decentralized form of power, wind energy has thus become one of the most geographically concentrated forms of power generation.The wind integration challenge is based on three simple facts:
- The wind blows when it will.
- The wind blows as it will – despite increasingly accurate forecasts, it is difficult to predict its actual strength.
- The wind blows where it will – and sadly, it does not blow where large quantities of power are required.
The effect of natural wind fluctuations on wind power generation can be demonstrated by the following examples from our 2004 statistics.
On 12 September, wind power supplies covered up to 38% of our grid power requirements at times. This was the highest value achieved during the past year. On 30 September, on the other hand, this figure was down to 0.2 % – the lowest value of the year.
Maximum wind power output in our control area was achieved on the morning of 24 December, with an absolute figure of 6,024 MW (compare this with the 2003 maximum power supply of 4,981 MW and the top figure of 3,546 MW for 2002). However, the supply on Christmas Eve 2004 fell to under 2,000 MW within just ten hours. By Boxing Day – on 26 December – the figure had slumped to under 40 MW, a negligible value to all intents and purposes.
The random nature of the wind energy supply means that control and compensation energy requirements, for the provision of which transmission system operators are responsible, are constantly increasing.
At the same time, the capability of wind energy to replace conventional power plant capacities is diminishing in percentage terms. If some 8% of wind energy output contributes to Germany’s secured total output today, this figure is set to fall to 4 % by 2020 if the predicted expansion of wind power goes as forecast. In concrete terms, this means that wind power plants with a 48,000 MW output will only replace a secured 2,000 MW of thermally generated power – the equivalent of just two new-generation coal blocks.
Hugh Sharman, a consultant in the energy industry, presents a devastating analysis of the problems created by Denmark's huge investment in onshore wind power generating capacity. He forecasts that these problems will be even worse in the UK
if we go ahead with the present massive unplanned expansion of onshore wind power stations.
Download pdf file
Britain’s wind-power market is at risk of overheating according to the latest issue (158, 4) of the Institution of Civil Engineers Civil Engineering journal.
Energy consultant Hugh Sharman examines how experience in Denmark and Germany shows that the UK will find it impractical to manage much over 10 GW of unpredictable wind power without major new storage schemes or inter-connectors.
He shows in his paper how a 12 GW wind-farm ‘carpet’ might perform based on how Denmark’s 2.4 GW carpet performed during recent storms. This indicates that wind-power peaks could suddenly be providing more that half of England’s and Wales’ summertime demand, making the grid very difficult if not impossible to balance given the relatively slow response times of gas and nuclear plant.
Download pdf file
The Tyndall Centre has been conducting in-depth research into renewables and their implications for carbon burdens, conventional power plant substitution and security of supply. This technical report shows that many wind industry claims for substitution and gross carbon savings are hugely exaggerated.* A part of their conclusions was:
We observed that wind generation has a relatively small capacity credit. At lower levels of wind penetrations the capacity credit of wind generation is found to be about the same as the average load factor of wind. However, as the level of wind penetration rises, the capacity credit begins to tail off. That is why in order to maintain the same level of system security a significant capacity of conventional plant will still be required.
However, these conventional plants will be required to run either occasionally and/or at part load when shortages of supply are likely to occur due to a low total wind power output. Considering that conventional plants at full load are the most efficient and generate the lowest amount of CO2 emission (per electricity produced) such occasionally and/or part-loaded plants will be less utilised and/or produce more CO2 per electricity produced.
Wind capacity credit could be significantly reduced if incidences such as anticyclone “cold snaps” occur. These incidences give high demand but little wind anywhere in the country. Such coincidence of high demand and no wind conditions in the whole country could reduce wind capacity credit by up to three thirds.
Generation and demand in an electricity system must be balanced at all times. Traditionally, the balance between demand and supply is managed by flexible generation. On average, the system operator in the UK commits about 600MW of dynamic frequency control, while about 2,400MW of various types of reserve is required to manage the uncertainty over time horizons of the order of 3-4 hours. These values could be significantly changed for the future UK decarbonised electricity systems, considering that renewable generation is both variable and unpredictable.
Statistical analysis of the fluctuations of wind output over the various time horizons in this report show that magnitude of this variation can be significant. The magnitude of wind output variations will also strongly depend upon the time horizon and wind penetration level. Clearly, the magnitude of wind fluctuations increases as the time horizon under consideration becomes longer. Penetration of wind generation will therefore impose additional requirements on the remaining large conventional plant to deliver both the flexibility and reserve necessary to maintain the continuous balance between load and generation, which will inevitably have cost implications.
(Conclusions, 5, Ensuring new and renewable energy can meet electricity demand: security of decarbonised electricity systems, Tyndall Centre Technical Report 30, July 2005).
*The British Wind Energy Association still continues to claim, without any qualification, that: "Every unit (kWh) of electricity produced by the wind displaces a unit of electricity which would otherwise have been produced by a power station burning fossil fuel." BWEA, Calculations and Statistics.
'Hundreds of millions of pounds raised from electricity bills to help develop renewable energy are being diverted to the Treasury, creating a new "stealth tax".
(December 10, 2005 by Oliver Tickell in The Independent Online Edition)
So far, the Treasury has taken £210m from the so-called NFFO Fund, while only £60m has been spent on renewable energy.
By 2010, the fund is expected to have raised as much as £1bn, which is likely to be taken by the Treasury for general spending. The process is based on the fund being a "hereditary revenue of the Crown" along with income arising from the Crown's traditional rights to treasure trove, swans and sturgeons.
Since it was set up in 2002, the NFFO (Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation) fund has raised £321m from consumers' electricity bills - more than £13 for every household in England and Wales. Of that, the Treasury has so far taken £210m. Just £60m has been spent on capital grants for offshore windpower installations, leaving a balance of £51m.
The Department of Trade and Industry has confirmed that once the money is in what is known as the Consolidated Fund, it belongs to the Treasury. "It is the policy of the Government that we do not hypothecate revenue, so once the funds are transferred that is it," said the DTI's renewables policy adviser, Alex King.
The Treasury took a first tranche of £60m in 2004, as it was allowed to do under a one-off provision in the Sustainable Energy Act 2003. However the power regulator Ofgem, which administers the fund, has now revealed that on 20 September it paid a further £150m to the Treasury.
"Further funding was paid to Her Majesty's Treasury under the Civil List Act 1952," said an Ofgem spokesman. "As receipts of levy surplus are regarded as hereditary revenues of the Crown, it is intended that annual transfers to the Treasury will continue, in accordance with the 1952 Act."
The Civil List Act 1952 states that "hereditary revenues of the Crown" are to be paid into the Treasury's Consolidated Fund. The nature of these revenues is not specified, however Halsbury's Laws of England, written by Lord Hailsham in 1932, states that the hereditary revenues of the Crown include revenues from Crown lands, and other revenues from treasure trove, fines, forfeitures and "prerogative rights relating to royal mines, royal fish and swans". It is not clear on what basis the NFFO fund could be so regarded.
The Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, failed to mention the transfer of funds in a written answer on 12 September, in response to a parliamentary question by Bill Wiggin MP, the Conservative environment spokesman. Instead he said the estimated "size of the fund" would be £500m by 2008. This figure, which does not account for the 20 September transfer or other subsequent transfers, was thus wrong.
"I am astonished," said Mr Wiggin, when presented with the facts. "Did the minister know he would transfer the money out a week later? He must have done. I suspect his officials could have tried harder to ensure that I knew what was going on. I find it hard to believe he has control over his department if this is what is going on. Either that or he did know and did not want me to know, which is not acceptable in a parliamentary written answer."'
See full article.
Australian Environment and Heritage Minister Senator Ian Campbell recently sent a letter on the issue of wind farms to all State Environment Ministers:
Alana LacyHere, our 'responsible' minister, Mr Malcolm Wicks, recently decided NPower's proposal for 26 turbines on Romney Marsh by ministerial diktat. The scheme was opposed by every elected authority in the area, including two county councils, two district councils and 12 parish councils; not to mention English Nature, the RSPB and a host of environmental bodies.
HON WILSON TUCKEY
I am writing to you and to other State and Territory governments to propose an agreement to development of a national code for the location of wind farms. A key component of this code should be an agreement that wind farms not be constructed against the wishes of the local community that will be most affected.
I am most concerned that members of local communities are often being given only limited involvement in determining if a wind farm is to be established in their area. While wind technology is a part of the portfolio of power sources that the world needs to combat greenhouse gas emissions, it is vital that local communities, including those in often sensitive and scenic coastal areas, do not have wind farms thrust upon them. If such action continues to be taken it will make wind farms increasingly unpopular and this will create an animosity towards wind energy and be counterproductive to all our interests. I believe that we need a truly inclusive and consultative local planning process. As you would be aware, the EPBC Act currently allows me to regulate to define specified actions as requiring referral under the Act. Because I am so concerned about the growth in negative sentiment toward wind energy which is occurring as wind farms are established against the expressed views of the democratically elected councils, I am considering making a new regulation under the EPBC Act in relation to wind farms. This regulation would require all proposed wind farms to be referred under the EPBC Act. As you know, economic and social factors such as the views of local councils and their communities would be relevant considerations in any decision I make to approve a wind farm following assessment. I would certainly be reluctant to approve a wind farm in the face of clear local opposition expressed through votes of shires of councils.
I also intend to examine my programmes to consider future funding arrangements for those wind projects that are clearly against the expressed wishes of the local community.
'The desert, just across the Mediterranean sea, is a vast source of energy that holds the promise of a carbon-free, nuclear-free electrical future for the whole of Europe, if not the world.
We are not talking about the vast oil and gas deposits underneath Algeria and Libya, or uranium for nuclear plants, but something far simpler - the sun. And in vast quantities: every year it pours down the equivalent of 1.5m barrels of oil of energy for every square kilometre.
Most people in Britain think of solar power as a few panels on the roof of a house producing hot water or a bit of electricity. But according to two reports prepared for the German government, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa should be building vast solar farms in North Africa's deserts using a simple technology that more resembles using a magnifying glass to burn a hole in a piece of paper than any space age technology.
Two German scientists, Dr Gerhard Knies and Dr Franz Trieb, calculate that covering just 0.5% of the world's hot deserts with a technology called concentrated solar power (CSP) would provide the world's entire electricity needs, with the technology also providing desalinated water to desert regions as a valuable byproduct, as well as air conditioning for nearby cities.
CSP technology is not new. There has been a plant in the Mojave desert in California for the past 15 years. Others are being built in Nevada, southern Spain and Australia. There are different forms of CSP but all share in common the use of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays on a pipe or vessel containing some sort of gas or liquid that heats up to around 400C (752F) and is used to power conventional steam turbines.
The mirrors are very large and create shaded areas underneath which can be used for horticulture irrigated by desalinated water generated by the plants. The cold water that can also be produced for air conditioning means there are three benefits. "It is this triple use of the energy which really boost the overall energy efficiency of these kinds of plants up to 80% to 90%," says Dr Knies.
This form of solar power is also attractive because the hot liquid can be stored in large vessels which can keep the turbines running for hours after the sun has gone down, avoiding the problems association with other forms of solar power. [and wind energy!]
See full article: The Guardian, 27 November 2006.
"A £90 MILLION BIOMASS POWER STATION is to be built in Scotland, the first of its kind in the country, it was announced yesterday [12 October, 2005].
The [44 MW] development, at Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, will burn natural fuel to power around 70,000 homes when it opens in December 2007.
The energy company E.ON UK [owners of Powergen], which already operates two wind farms in Scotland, said the project would generate more than 300 jobs in the area - 40 directly and 300 in forestry and farming. All 220,000 tonnes of fuel required for the station every year will come from the local area, the company said, with up to 45,000 tonnes coming from willow trees harvested by farmers. The plant will also be the largest dedicated wood-burning power station in the UK. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass is renewable energy."
Read the full Scotsman story.
Hundreds of these carbon-neutral plants have been built in Scandinavia [See some Danish examples] and Germany. "The largest output of sustainable energy in Denmark comes from biomass, that is, from the burning of, or the production of combustible gases from, hay, wood chips, manure from domestic animals, and garbage. Biomass accounts for 80% of the Danish production of sustainable energy." (Danish Govt. Portal)
Biomass is an example of a proven renewable technology that can be scaled to local needs and resources without damaging whole landscapes. Unfortunately, its development has suffered due to the Government's myopic concentration on wind power generation.
Unlike wind turbines, biomass provides 'firm' (i.e. predictable and reliable) energy that can substitute for fossil-fuelled power generation. Biomass energy generation also makes a real contribution in jobs and work for local businesses rather than just producing large windfall profits for a very few landowners and more work for Danish turbine manufacturers.
In Northumberland and the Borders, we let hundreds of thousands of tons of waste that is produced in harvesting and processing timber rot on the ground, releasing CO2 in the process. We also produce a huge tonnage of straw that could be used for biomass firing of combined heat and power (CHP) or ordinary power stations.
The only plant that has been constructed so far in the region is one tiny district heating scheme at Kielder. However, a 30MW wood-fuelled power station is planned for Wilton, on Teesside. Known as 'Wilton 10', this will create about 400 jobs during construction and 15 permanent ones. It is expected to be operational by mid-2007. [See Guardian article]
The largest straw burning power station in the world has been running for 5 years near Ely (see: EPR, Ely Power Station), in Cambridgeshire. This 38MW plant generates over 270GWh each year. It has successfully burned oil seed rape and miscanthus in addition to its usual fuel of cereal straw. The 200,000 tonnes p.a. fuel demand of the plant is supplied by Ely's sister company, Anglian Straw. The plant is highly efficient, is noted for its high reliability and achieves one of the highest load factors of any renewable energy plant.
'A cross-party group of MPs has delivered a damning indictment of the government’s attempts to develop bioenergy in the UK, accusing it of lacking ambition and calling for greater support for biomass heating and electricity generation.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee’s report ‘Climate change: the role of bioenergy’ found that current government policy is “piecemeal” and raised questions about commitment to the domestic climate change agenda.
The report stated: “Government must renew and redouble its efforts to exploit the potential of bioenergy. We are concerned about the multiplicity of government bioenergy support schemes currently planned or already in place, and the attendant level of confusion that this causes.
“Government departments must work much more closely together on bioenergy to develop a more streamlined and coherent strategy, and to demonstrate a more convincing commitment to tackling climate change.”
Renewable Energy Association head of fuels and heat Graham Meeks said it is a scandal that government continues to overlook the potential of bioenergy. “Although we have abundant bioenergy resources available from our forests, farms and waste management industry, the government has still to introduce coherent policies to encourage the supply of heat, transport fuels and renewable power from these sources.”
(Renewable Energy News, Issue 104, 22 SEPTEMBER 2006)
Parliament's Public Accounts committee has published a Report (pdf file)
on Renewable Energy which suggests that the existing
renewables subsidy system is both wasteful and unjustifiably expensive,
costing the consumer about £1 billion a year by 2010.
Following on from the the report from the National Audit Office earlier this year, the Committee shows the extent to which public monies are being wasted through the Renewable Obligation's "poor targeting", creating undeserved rewards for some technologies, mostly onshore wind, at the direct expense of other renewables which are much more deserving of support.
This chimes perfectly with revisions announced to the Renewables Obligation Scotland (ROS) recently announced by the Scottish Executive in favour of marine energy generation, such as tidal and offshore wind. (see Scotsman report).
Now the Committee of Public Accounts has given conclusive backing to such revisions, and makes many other significant criticisms. This underlines the necessity for a thorough overhaul of the existing ROC system on a UK-wide basis to ensure that there is a better balance of support for technologies which themselves have more to offer, such as tidal and biomass, which are 'firm', high value generators.
See The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee’s report ‘Climate change: the role of bioenergy’, above.
The Government is currently consulting on a review of the Renewables Obligation subsidy system, though nothing will change before 2009/10 - such is the urgency of global warming! It seems likely that they will introduce higher banded payments to encourage higher value renewables rather than reducing payments to the wind industry. This reveals how far the DTI and the Government are in thrall to the BWEA. However, it is only the consumer that is paying, so who cares? (And the Treasury benefits too - see Treasury Hijacks Funds ...).
In its public pronouncements, the wind industry claims that turbine accidents are very rare. It is more honest in private: for example, a Dutch company whose core business is blade repair admits that, "Rotor blade lightning damage is a common problem" (NGup Rotor Blades).
In 2005, with comparatively few [as yet] turbines in this area, we saw the high speed break-up of a 38.8 metre (127 ft.) turbine blade at Crystal Rig [see pic] and a turbine fire at Nissan. One of the two Blyth offshore turbines suffered a blade failure in 2002 (see story) and since April, 2006, both turbines have been shut down with an underwater cable fault.
Turbine fires are far from uncommon, which is no great surprise when you consider the combination of large volumes of lubricants, highly stressed bearings and electrical generating sets - all on top of a 350-425 ft. high lightning conductor.
Turbines of this height are too high for the fire brigade to tackle with their ladder equipment and are normally left to burn out, burning off quantities of oil and other noxious materials in the process.
'A HUGE wind turbine [167 ft. [51m.], 193 ft. smaller than 'Moorsyde' turbines!] went up in smoke in a massive blaze seen for miles across Wearside.
The 200ft structure at the Nissan factory, part of a £2.3million wind farm built in August, burst into flames just after 12.30pm yesterday.
The fire was so fierce all three 75-ft long fibreglass blades eventually dropped off and thick black smoke could be seen for miles around.
Almost 200 people dialled 999 to alert emergency crews as flames engulfed the turbine.
Police closed both the A1231 and the A19 for an hour-and-a-quarter amid worries that parts of the metal tower could fall on to the busy roads.'
(Read the full story: Northern Echo, 23 December, 2005)
One thing is certain - turbines should not be built anywhere near housing or roads or on high fire-risk sites.
© Laurie Campbell
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