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Wind power…it splits opinion

By 9th April 2012No Comments

The study ‘Why is wind power so expensive?’ published by the climate change sceptic group Global Warming Policy Foundation (GMPF) suggests the Government’s policy of backing wind power could be a “blunder” which could cost roughly £120bn, ten times as much as gas plants, and actually be worse for the environment.

To meet the Government’s target for renewable energy in 2020, the report reckons 36 GW worth of wind capacity will be needed, backed up by 13 GW of open cycle gas plants. On top of this, it says extra investment in transmission capacity will bump up costs.

The study claims the same electricity demand could be met from 21.5 GW of combined cycle gas plants with a cost of £13 billion.

Professor Gordon Hughes at Edinburgh University, who wrote the study said: “The key problems with current policies for wind power are simple. They require a huge commitment of investment resources to a technology that is not very green, in the sense of saving a lot of CO2 but which is certainly very expensive and inflexible. Unless the current Government scales back its commitment to wind power very substantially, its policy will be worse than a mistake, it will be a blunder.”

But the Government attempted to dismiss the claims.

A spokesperson said: “Wind technology is becoming cheaper. The relative gap between onshore wind and gas electricity costs has halved over the past 5 years, which is why we have proposed to cut the subsidy received by onshore wind by 10%.”

Two wind farm projects that are currently in the planning stages are themselves subject to opposition.

Sky News reports that the landscape that inspired the Bronte sisters to pen some of English literature’s most enduring works is now the centre of a brewing storm over wind power.

Thornton Moor near Haworth in West Yorkshire is the subject of an application by Banks Renewables. On moorland owned by Yorkshire Water, the company want to build four wind turbines. Each one would be 100 metres tall, and the four together would provide power for approximately 4,400 homes.

Those opposed to the scheme include local residents and the Bronte Society, who think the moorland should remain untouched.

Anthea Orchard, chair of the Thornton Moor Wind Farm Action group, told Sky News she was not being a “nimby”. “We’re used to windfarms here,” she said. “But these will be twice the size and much nearer the houses.”It will also affect tourism, putting them on either side of the Bronte Way walk.”

On its website, Banks Renewables says: “Energy generated from onshore wind farms such as Thornton Moor will be crucial in meeting our future regional and national energy requirements, and we believe that we will be able to design a scheme for this site that both produces renewable energy efficiently and is environmentally acceptable.”

The Mail Online is reporting that the world’s biggest wind farm is being planned for the South Coast of England.

The 200 turbines would earn Dutch company Eneco billions of pounds in Government subsidies. Critics say they will ruin coastal views, while yachtsmen warn they could cause crashes.

The Royal Yacht Squadron, the prestigious sailing club whose patron is the Queen, has written to 200 sailing clubs on the Isle of Wight and along the South Coast to call for action against the development, named Navitus Bay. The Cowes-based club fears the wind farm could ruin sailing from the Isle of Wight to the South-West, including the famous Fastnet Race.

Chris Radford, of the Challenge Navitus campaign group, said: ‘This could damage an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a World Heritage site and a great public amenity. There are also potentially damaging effects on tourism, safe navigation, diving and fishing interests.’

Navitus Bay, which is still in the public consultation phase, would be three times bigger than any existing wind farm, covering an area the size of Glasgow in the English Channel between Swanage, in Dorset, and the Isle of Wight. A report from Eneco suggests its turbines could be just eight miles from the coast and as high as 670ft. In comparison, the Gherkin skyscraper in London is 591ft tall.

Eneco said its south coast project – which is expected to cost £3billion to build, with a lifespan of 25 years – would create jobs as well as sustainable electricity to power up to 800,000 homes. It claimed the majority of its turbines would be at least 12 miles from shore in waters between 100 and 150ft deep. Guy Madgwick, managing director of Eneco’s UK division, said: ‘We are now in the consultation phase which will run to the end of next year. ‘Eneco takes community consultation and community opinion very seriously.’

What do you think? Whilst there is a drive to use more sustainable forms of energy, is the use of wind turbines a credible way of doing this or are they just a blot on the landscape and a way for ‘big business’ to make more profit?