George Wood is the retired head of technical services and economics for the National Grid Ancillary Services. He also served as the National Control Engineer at the Central Electricity Generating Board.
The renewable energy malarkey has certainly been carried too far when communities around Kenly and St. Andrews in Fife, and as far afield in my own area of South Warwickshire, vote against the installation of energy harvesting structures in low wind resourced areas and their considered wishes are ignored by their own governments.
We have heard from National Grid that the balancing activities are becoming more and more complex as the energy density levels of wind turbines in the UK are increasing. This statement is carried further by leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Alex Salmond, who has stated that he intends to reach 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. The SNP should realize that this is an unmanageable scenario on the British Grid. I personally believe that it is patently unachievable, and that Alex Salmond should not expect financial compensation ot bail out support from the rest of the UK when the wind does not blow or when England and Wales refuse to accept imports from Scotland in low demand conditions when it is very windy in Scotland.
The sanctioning of the proposed development for Kenly will benefit St Andrews University at the expense of renewable energy subsidies levied on all other electricity consumers. It will only add to the abundance of hundreds of wind-turbines across the borders with England, and since the predominant electricity flow is from Scotland to England the construction of more wind turbines here will only increase transmission flows to England and add to the overall UK balancing costs which are levied through the electricity suppliers’ charges. Also, when the wind is high during summer periods it will also add to the need for Scottish exports of electricity to be “constrained-off”, causing yet more increases to the overall UK balancing charges.
The installation of these wind turbines does not work toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions above an energy density level of 20% for the whole of the UK – so why do it? Local harm outweighs the renewable energy benefit, as the amount of energy generated at any given time never satisfied demand.
Now, a Reuters report has at last got National Grid to state that the electricity supply stability is threatened by the ever increasing energy density levels of wind turbines. On 7 October it became known that in some parts of the UK, the National Grid may have to shut down due to forced closures of thermal coal-fired power stations from Europe, which are connected to the unreliability of wind-farms.
Increasing the number of wind farms in the UK is not economically beneficial, and we arguably have sufficient wind-turbines built or in the planning stages to satisfy the 15% renewables target by 2020. Many experts – including Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University – have indicated that should the construction of wind turbines continue, by 2020 we will have reached a point when NO carbon emissions benefits will be achieved, yet too much money will have been invested to change course – a ‘point of no return.’ There is no point to Ed Davey’s demands that the UK target 30% renewable energy when 15% is only just achievable, and there is absolutely no point in Alex Salmond’s insistence on achieving 100% renewable energy for Scotland by the same date. This is both economically untenable and an endangerment of transmission stability across the UK. It is time that Ed Davey and Alex Salmond stop spouting idealistic nonsense and put their feet firmly on the ground to deliver sound electricity generation strategies for the UK.
This is why, apart from the untold visual damage to a beautiful landscape, I sincerely believe that this development should not proceed.
I think the UK government should cut the subsidies to wind farms immediately, develop the shale gas resources rapidly and move to reliable nuclear resources.
Read the opposing view on wind farms here.