Experts put value of ‘inefficient’ wind power strategy in question

The UK can never be reliant on wind farms, according to today's report.
The UK can never be reliant on wind farms, according to today's report.
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WIND farms are extremely volatile, with outputs fluctuating by five percentage points over short periods of time, a report claims today.

The study on new data by the Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance says these findings suggest the UK’s energy infrastructure can never be reliant on them in any significant way.

Specifically, the study found that wind farms generate below 20 per cent of their supposed output for 20 weeks a year, and generate below ten per cent for nine weeks a year.

Wind farms, on average, only exceed 90 per cent of their rated output for 17 hours a year.

Although the government acknowledges that wind farms produce much less energy than their capacity would suggest, the report shows that even the average production of around a quarter of capacity is extremely misleading about the amount of power 
wind farms can be relied up to provide.

It comes after villagers in East Yorkshire, the county with the highest density of turbines in England, say “enough is enough”.

Residents in East Yorkshire are reporting health problems because of noise from the largest turbines, which they say is turning the county into an “industrial wasteland”.

The county has the second highest number of turbines in the country, after Northumberland, with 226 turbines over 50 metres high, either built, approved, or pending decision, as well as numerous agricultural turbines.

But applications have continued to flood in, with 63 “scoping requests” to East Riding Council since January, leaving many to feel they are “under siege”.

The paper, called Wind Power Reassessed: A review of the UK wind resource for electricity generation, looks at previously unexamined wind speed data reported by anemometers located at various airfields, used as a proxy for nearby wind farms, and concludes that UK wind farms, on average, exceed 80 per cent of their supposed output for less than one week every year.

The study also looks at the short-term, 30 to 90 minutes, variability of wind generation and reveals swings in output are far higher than is normal from conventional energy generation, such as from gas or nuclear plants.

Swings of five percentage points of output are not uncommon, which contradicts the claim that a widespread wind fleet installation will smooth variability.

There are frequent but unpredictable periods where wind energy generation fails for days on end.

The report will undermine the case for a move towards yet more wind generation because it suggests that wind can never be a major, reliable source of energy for the UK or for the rest of Europe.

It also suggests that the UK’s drive to reduce its carbon footprint through expanding wind power is misguided.

It says wind power is so unreliable and intermittent that it makes much more sense to look to nuclear and gas as better low- emission alternatives to the status quo.

In his research, the report’s author Dr Capell Aris looked at 6.5 million individual recordings from 22 sites in the UK and 
21 from Ireland and the continent.

He said: “The current reliance on wind energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is inefficient and compromises energy security.”

He added: “The situation across the whole of northern Europe is much the same, so a Europe-wide power grid would provide no extra security.

“The study demonstrates that interconnectors will not solve wind’s intermittency problem.”

The Head of Policy at the Adam Smith Institute, Ben Southwood, said: “Wind farms are a bad way of reducing emissions and a bad way of producing power.”

He said they are expensive and inefficient and it seems like they reduce the value of housing in nearby areas.

He said: “We probably do want to reduce carbon emissions, because according to the IPCC global warming will begin to slow economic growth in 100 years, but nuclear and gas power are our best ways of doing that until cheap and efficient energy storage options are available on a vast scale to smooth the highly variable output of renewables.”