Wind FAQ

1. What are people’s objections to windfarms?

People’s first objections to wind farms are the despoilment of British natural heritage and fantastic scenery, the noise and nuisance during and after construction and effects on tourism and house prices. However, objectors soon learn that wind farms simply do not work as they are intended. They do not reduce CO2 emissions or provide a reliable electricity supply.……………..read on!

2. Do windfarms produce a reliable electricity supply?

No. Wind turbines have rated maximum power outputs, typically 1.8 MW, but because wind is variable, the output of wind turbines also varies according to the wind speed (measured in m/s).[1]

Wind speed
(meters/second)
Description Turbine output as
%age of installed capacity
7.5 moderate breeze 26
9.0 fresh breeze 46
10.5 strong breeze 69
15 gale maximum
25 + storm 0 — shutdown

It is claimed that the wind supply will not be interrupted because it is always blowing somewhere, but this is not the case. Often areas of high pressure cover the entire of Western Europe, meaning there is very little or no wind.

3. Do windfarms reduce CO2 emissions?

No. Their construction and manufacture causes CO2 as they are anchored in concrete containing cement, and access roads are needed to transport heavy construction machinery to the site, which is often very remote. On average about 500kg of CO2 are released for every 1000kg of cement.[2]

Furthermore, because wind farms do not produce a reliable supply of power, a constant back up from conventional sources is required, known as ‘spinning reserve’, meaning that it is constantly burning fuel and emitting CO2. For instance, a coal fired Power Station emits 10.8 tonnes of CO2 per year, per gigawatt-hour of electricity, as balancing partner it still emits 7.8 tonnes of CO2 per year per gigawatt-hour.[3] The wind industry itself admits that ’power stations with capacities equal to 90% of the installed wind power capacity must be permanently online in order to guarantee power supply at all times’.[4] In high winds and with a large wind turbine contribution, sharing becomes unmanageable. In Germany they have to shut down wind turbines in this situation, but official UK Government sources do not reveal this.[1]

4. Doesn’t Denmark have a reliable and functioning wind energy network?

No. Although wind power appears on paper to meet 20% of Denmark’s electricity, as much as 70% of this is not usable and is sold cheaply or at a loss to neighbouring countries. Because wind is intermittent and unpredictable, wind turbines cannot replace reliable ‘base load’ generators without destabilizing the grid, and so often produce excess electricity when it isn’t needed and cannot be used.[5]

5. So why do people build wind turbines if they don’t work?

A system of subsidies (the Renewable Obligation scheme) has been put in place to make them financially viable for investors and wind energy companies. The money comes from your electricity bill. Without the Renewable Obligations system, wind turbine developers would not see a return on their investment. By forcing suppliers to provide electricity from renewable sources, the government guarantee an income for wind power companies.

6. So why is the UK investing so heavily in wind power?

The current and previous governments have failed to plan for the replacement of Britain’s ageing energy infrastructure. Meanwhile, a loud global warming lobby have demanded dramatic CO2 reductions, and scare stories have poisoned public opinion against nuclear power. Windfarm developers and environmentalists have convinced the government that wind power can meet the UK’s energy demands, and help to reduce CO2, but as we have shown, the potential of windpower to deliver clean, reliable energy has been greatly exaggerated. Instead of responding to criticism of wind, wind power advocates and the government have instead complained about NIMBYism.

7. So what will happen?

If the UK continues with its wind power scheme and subsidies, energy costs will continue to rise. This has even been admitted by the government, although they underestimate by how much.[6] There is also the possibility that in the medium term the national grid will be unable to cope with demand. High energy costs will result in a loss of competitiveness for the UK economy, a loss of jobs, a huge reduction in public and essential services and continuing escalation of prices for all other goods and services.


[1] Paper, Why UK Wind Power should not exceed 10GW,Hugh Sharman, principal of international energy consulting and broking company Incoteco (Denmark)
[2] Substantiated by Rick Bohan PE, FACI, Fellow of the American Concrete Institution, Director of Manufacturing Technology, Portland Cement Association
[3] Paper, UK Power, by Robert J Bass and Dr Peter Wilmot, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University
[4] E-on Netz ‘Wind Report 2005’ www.windaction.org/documents/461
[5] Wind power in Denmark. Dr V.C. Mason . December 2008. Download Essay from the Country Guardian website www.countryguardian.net
[6] “A Briefing Note & Comment on the UK Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy” found on the Renewable Energy Foundation website www.ref.org.uk/(ref.on.re.strategy.27.07.09.pdf)
[7] http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/Environment/RenewablObl/Pages/RenewablObl.aspx http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/uk_supply/energy_mix/renewable/policy/renew_obs/renew_obs.aspx

18 Responses to “Wind FAQ”

  1. Dr Phillip Bratby says:

    In section 3 you say “a coal fired Power Station emits 10.8 tonnes of CO2 per year, per gigawatt of electricity”. I suspect you mean “per gigawatthour of electricity”.

    Also you say “as balancing partner it still emits 7.8 tonnes of CO2 per year”. I think you need to check the units again. Is it meant to be “as balancing partner it still emits 7.8 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatthour”?

    [ADMIN: Thanks for pointing out the error, Dr Bratby. Changes made]

  2. Billyb says:

    I don’t understand your comment “as balancing partner it still emits 7.8 tonnes of CO2 per year per gigawatt-hour” – less than 10.8tonnes?

    Your film states that coal is used as baseload not load-following/balancing, and you don’t point out that in the total absence of wind on the system, coal or gas stations would be ramping up and down anyway to follow demand.. What matters is the effect that adding wind on to the system has. And to answer this properly is a statistical thing, as it depends on the interaction with time of day, load, gate-closure times, forecasting success etc etc.

    [ADMIN: Of course coal and gas ramp up and down to meet demand. But that demand is predictable, so that you can do that efficiently, ramping coal up or down slowly, and taking up the slack with gas. But wind is intermittent. The point remains, then, that you need to build conventional back up, adding to the cost of wind. This is less of a problem while wind accounts for a smaller proportion of total production. But Huhne has got it into his head that we can build turbines to supply 50gigawatts +, and has told the wind industry that he'll continue to provide the incentives they need to provide it.

    Addition: The film does make the point that coal and gas are ramped up and down to meet demand. The effect of adding wind is to destabilise the grid: the backup systems have to ramp up and down faster to meet the changes, and have to dispose of the surplus, i.e. giving it away in Germany. It's also mentioned briefly in the film that Denmark has too much wind capacity, and so although on paper it seems to produce as much as 20% of total production from wind, less than half of this is usable. This problem can only amplify with greater deployment, all the while upsetting people who really don't want to live near these things, for very little return. ]

  3. Billyb says:

    I still don’t understand your balancing partner /spinning reserve figures – where do they come from? what do they mean? How do you calculate the incremental effect of wind? The balancing mechanism MAY have to ramp up and down faster, but by how much and under what conditions? Your 7.8 tonnes of CO2 per year per GWh is meaningless.

    [ADMIN: I will reply more fully later. For now, the fact is referenced, and as the film points out, there have been insufficient studies into the CO2-reducing potential of wind farms. It is incumbent on wind energy advocates, then, to demonstrate that it really can displace CO2-emitting capacity from the grid. Currently, it looks as though they cannot.]

  4. Billyb says:

    In the interests of fairness perhaps you should point out that ROCs also support offshore wind, landfill gas, biomass, small hydro, wave, tidal, PV, sewage gas and other technologies. Last figures I saw these in total outnumbered wind ROCs. I think anti-wind group REF usefully summarise the data every so often.

    [ADMIN: The film is about wind energy, not about ROCs. The ROC system is explored because it creates incentives for wind farm developers to site wind turbines where people don't want them, and secures the funds for developers to be able to overwhelm opposition efforts and local planning processes. Moreover, as the REF have pointed out, the ROC system is so generous, it actually impedes R&D, because it makes incentives to put up windfarms, rather than actually produce new technology.]

  5. Billyb says:

    Re point 3 – Vestas have done a detailed life-cycle assesment of several of their turbines that ( naturally I guess) come to a different conclusion from your blunt assertion.

    http://www.vestas.com/Admin/Public/Download.aspx?file=Files%2fFiler%2fEN%2fSustainability%2fLCA%2fLCA_V90_june_2006.pdf

    [ADMIN: Fancy that... A wind turbine manufacturer producing a favourable assessment of its own products! Who'd have thought?!!]

  6. NorfolkDumpling says:

    Sorry “Billyb”.
    Not wishing to get personal but your total ignorance is plain for all technically proficient persons to see.
    ALL renewables must have conventional power station backup to function because they are not continuous and secure. This means we are burning fuel, generally backup gas, without producing electrical energy to the Grid by that standby spinning reserve.
    If we follow the path of renewables, to prevent the lights from going out very soon, instead of some 76GW conventional generation which includes Plant Margin, we will need 76GW PLUS whatever Installed Capacity of wind power generation we end up with. If we are aiming for 40% of this as renewables we have to build an extra 30GW, probably gas, conventional so we end up with a fleet of 106GW conventional. Without the renewables we can adequately preserve the 76GW and meet ALL the UK Demand in the modern competitive world.
    ALL renewables are responsible for that spinning backup and more which increases the level of CO2, SO2 and nitrous oxides being emitted into the atmosphere. Of general interest, CO2 is a non-polluting life source whereas SO2 and nitrous oxides are deleterious to our health.
    Start from the basic fact that wind power stations are embedded on the DEMAND side of the Grid and not the SUPPLY side; the reason is because of the stochastic intermittent nature of the output.
    Generally, normal traditional loads on the Grid do not exhibit the fast periodic unprogrammable fluctuations exhibited by wind generation and are historically predictable.
    Do you believe the Vestas propaganda? Do you believe Renewables(UK) propaganda? Do you believe Huhnes DECC propaganda? In short, do you believe wind’s green propaganda?
    Here is one very well academically and practically experienced electrical engineer who does not and was advocating nuclear power stations some 30-40 years ago and continues to do so.
    The arguments for the financial viability of wind generation Offshore are at least 5 times worse in bill payer subsidy requirement than ONshore especially when you consider the ramifications of a “wet” distribution system in an alien environment. And I do not advocate them Onshore either.

  7. We are having the same problems here in Ontario Canada, though in the earlier stages than you guys are in. What we do have is access to the hourly data of all generators. I have done an extensive analysis of wind production in Ontario. http://ontariowindperformance.wordpress.com/ You guys need to get the same data and do the same thing to get the facts and evidence you need to take this on.

    Good luck.

  8. Billyb says:

    “NorfolkDumpling” – I’ve examined the “propaganda” from all sides and would love to debate the issues. But not here, due to the censorship being applied.

    [ADMIN: You weren't censored, you were rude. As the message in the post above says, criticism is welcome, but only if it is polite. If you can't be polite, even if you make a good argument, it will only generate heat, and so it will not be published.

    That's not censorship. Censorship is when you publish your own thoughts on your own outlet, and it is shut down. The removal of your posts because they are rude is merely moderation, and the post above explained to you that comments here will be moderated. We could, if we wanted, only permit positive comments here.

    You have an opportunity to debate right here, and plenty of visitors to read what you write. If you can't make the most of that by being at least civil, then don't expect a free opportunity to express your thoughts.]

  9. Kevin Lafayette says:

    I think you have missed an interesting wind energy fact. From numbers I have seen on the Internet, in Denmark (world wind energy leader), if the Chevy Volt were available today, given the current cost of electricity (over 40 cents CDN per kwh), and the current cost of gasoline (just over $2 per liter), operating an efficient gasoline powered car would cost less than driving the Volt. To me, that is simply incredible! Mind you, I have not crunched the numbers myself, but they make sense; cheap reliable electricity means you would save money driving an electric. As electrical costs increase you save less money until you reach the crossover point, where the electric actually costs more to operate.

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=p7rCpfT7GnytjXzmpU3Q3cQ

    If these numbers can be confirmed, why I bet you that is something every major media outlet in the world would not publish!

  10. Dr Phillip Bratby says:

    Billyb:

    I’m sure that you will find many scientists and engineers on this site who understand all about energy, power, electrical engineering, electricity etc who will be quite happy to debate the issues surrounding wind power with you. I am sure that if you are civil we can get a sensible discussion going.

  11. Paul Dennis says:

    Congratulations on the new website. I hope it develops into a useful forum in which we can debate the issues. One issue that is rarely tackled is that of the support infrastructure for both onshore, and in particular offshore wind farms. Little forward planning or thought has been given as to how the grid should develop. As a result we have offshore wind farm developments proposing ad-hoc connection to the National Grid. We have recently fought one such development where the proposal was for a ‘sub-station’ to connect an offshore wind farm to the grid. The substation was 80km from the wind farm (30km sub-sea and 50km underground). The substation was to be of the DC-AC conversion type and involved 4 buildings 70mx25mx15m, 5 supergrid transformers, switch gear, filter banks, reactance control circuits etc. covering 24 acres of industrial sprawl. All of this was to be located in a pristine countryside, on the highest plateau in Norfolk which the local authority landscape character assessment calls ‘strikingly flat’, ‘broad distant views with wide skies’, ‘feels remote’. Oh, and yes it wast next to a village of 100 houses. Fortunately, despite the best efforts of the local planning officer, the planning committee rejected the application. We, no doubt, will now have to fight on through a public enquiry.

    What is interesting is the pressure applied through statements about the national need, over inflated statements about load factors resulting in very optimistic assessments of energy produced, statements of powering 400,000 homes (in Norfolk!) etc. We need a thorough analysis and debunking of some of these statements and the ability to bring this home to politicians from local to national. The dash for wind power is nothing short of a national disgrace and runs counter to every independent analysis that has and can be made.

  12. Billyb says:

    Ok – lets “Start from the basic fact that wind power stations are embedded on the DEMAND side of the Grid and not the SUPPLY side; the reason is because of the stochastic intermittent nature of the output.”

    This doesn’t make any sense to me. What is the DEMAND side? Some WTs are connected to the high-voltage grid and some to the lower-voltage regional grids. About 50:50 by MW. I fail to see what intermittency has to do with the connection decision. I’m guessing its more to do with proximity to the relevant part of the grid. Perhaps the scientists and engineers can justify the opening sentence.

  13. Peter Hood says:

    —– 8< snip >8 —–

    [ADMIN: If you can't be civil, don't expect us to print your comments. Those are the rules. Are they so hard to follow?]

  14. NorfolkDumpling says:

    Billyb.
    If you do not understand what is the Supply side and what is the Demand side of the National Grid network, you make it difficult for me to explain. However, here goes.
    Any facility that needs to RECEIVE electricity for its electrical equipment to function is called “Demand”. This will include places such as our homes, factories, offices, wind turbines. (Yes, wind turbines are a “Demand” on the National grid when they are so often not turning – heaters, lighting, running mechanisms, electro-magnetic brakes-you name it, they’ve got it).
    Any facility that produces electricity is called “Supply”. This will include nuclear, coal, oil, gas, biomass etc. power stations which are self-contained on their own premise and do not need, other than a source of fuel, any external input (perhaps cooling water which is why they are located by the sea or heavy flowing rivers) to deliver (supply) to the “Demand” side of the national grid. The integration of all these massive high-inertia machines requires highly dedicated practitioners and specialised control systems to function with the SECURITY you have come to expect.
    You cannot switch, or even modulate outputs of, GigaWatt power stations on and off line as you switch your lights at home. When did you last suffer from a Grid outage? That is what Plant margin is all about and I do not intend to go into the ramifications of the Auction system utilised to ensure that if there is an outage, Plant margin availability serves that.
    That is why Plant margin in our system, honed from the experience of some 80 years experience, is not to be played with or stolen because of the fantasy dreams of politicians and “green religious converts/zealots” in trying to meet EU targets.
    That is why we have to build NEW power station backup to cover the renewables, no matter how inefficient and economically destructive we professionally qualified engineers know renewables to be, especially wind and solar photovoltaic in the UK.
    Thus, techniques taken from Germany, Denmark and Spain, all suffering enormously from their ‘adventure’ experiments into wind power, have been used in order to attempt to integrate stochastic, intermittent, low inertia (i.e. it can come and go in the twinkling of an eye), power generation and one basic method for this has been the inclusion of wind power stations on the Demand side of the grid generally below the 33kV distribution network. Thus, at the end where distribution losses are more/kWh delivered! Great logic, because the existing distribution systems are very seldom refurbished to increase cable sizing (very expensive work). And wind generation can involve 2-3 upward voltage transformations followed by 3-4 downward transformations before it gets to your home. How about that for criminal wastage of God’s scarce resources?
    Therefore, IF you could separate 1 Unit of “black” nuclear (sorry, it is actually truly green CO2 free), coal, oil or gas generation from 1 Unit of “green/darkgrey” wind generation, the pseudo-theory is that the wind power station will supply the local area first and export to the national grid second. In this manner a producing wind power station is seen as a DROP in Demand by the beasties you expect to keep your electric fire working when the wind fails, and seen as a DEMAND when the wind generation fails. Simple, isn’t it.
    I think I have said enough.

  15. Billyb says:

    Norfolkdumpling – you say “when did you last suffer from a Grid outage?” – this summer actually. It was a local thing. How about Germany, Denmark and Spain?, all of whom have many times the UK’s wind %age – do they have regular blackouts or have they managed to cope with the stochastic nature of wind output? Surely its just an engineering challenge to be met?

  16. John Brotherton says:

    It is well known that load factors for wind turbines are low, especially inland where they average around 20 per cent. However, has anyone then analysed how much of the power that is produced is actually usable? Clearly much is produced in times of low demand when it is not required anyway. Also, how much is produced even in times of high demand when the coal/gas/nuclear power stations do not require it because they are already meeting demand? Wind is intermittent, variable and unpredictable. By definition much of what is actually produced will not be able to be usefully utilised. The simple use of load factors does not deal with this point.

  17. Billyb says:

    JB says “However, has anyone then analysed how much of the power that is produced is actually usable? ”

    yes I have. I have analysed the public data from bmreports, and it averages out fairly evenly over time of day, with a peak around mid to late afternoon… more or less when our peak demand occurs. I consider that myth to be “busted”.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/39349403/WindGenTOD

  18. Elsa Watson says:

    See the report: “Green energy target ruining Scotland’s Scenic landscape, warn tourism and industry experts. 2008 report reveals chicanery ?”, which is on the ukipscotland blog. Som new detail, with particular regard to Scotland.

    http://ukipscotland.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/green-energy-target-ruining-scotlands-landscape-warn-experts/

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