Feeds

WRONG kind of WIND blamed for renewable red-ink FAIL

It doesn't blow, it sucks

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Windfarm operator the Renewable Energy Generation Group has blamed "abnormally low wind speeds" across the UK for greater-than-expected losses.

The, er, REG Group acquired Cornwall Wind and Power in 2005, and now operates 10 wind power sites with a (theoretical) capacity of 41.15MW. It is quoted on AIM, the London Stock Exchange's international market for smaller growing companies.

Broken windmill

picture credit: sota-k

Losses before tax rose to £1.9m, up from £400,000 in the corresponding six-month period a year ago. In a statement, it blamed "abnormally low wind speeds" for "over £1m of lost EBITDA". The full results are here.

Despite the bullish statements, the wind industry remains vulnerable on Government kindness, in the shape of feed-in tariffs (FITs). FITs are a form of wholesale price-fixing, introduced to stimulate investment in new energy sources. If consumers' desire for cheap energy was allowed to be met by the market, it would lift millions of poor people out of fuel poverty. But then wind farms wouldn't be economical at all.

It's a uniquely inefficient technology. Windmills must be shut down if the wind blows too hard. And, quite often during the December cold snap, wind plants used more electricity than they generated – just when the electricity was needed the most. (Electricity is drawn from the grid for yaw control, lighting, de-icing, pumps and to power the control mechanisms.)

The current UK FIT schedule – introduced in 2009 – sees solar, not wind, as the most-specially-favoured: with 43.3p per kWh guaranteed (for retrofitted small installations). But wind isn't far behind at 36.2 per kWh for small installations and 28p for larger ones. These are the highest in the EU, nine times higher than Denmark. The wholesale spot market only very rarely exceeds such numbers, meaning that for most of the time consumers pay more than they should.

This generosity can't go on forever. All across the EU, subsidies and sweeteners are being pulled. Germany, Spain, France, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have scaled back their FITs. Last month, the government indicated that it would too, announcing a review of solar FITs for large solar installations (large is relative here, meaning greater than 50kWh). Two major investors that favoured solar have pulled out of the market: Ingenious Media and Matrix.

"Suddenly the rug has been pulled," observed CEO of eco-energy Good Energy Group plc.

Yet even as a method of reducing CO2 emissions, wind remains singularly hopeless. Denmark has been the biggest European investor in wind energy, yet still gets half of its electricity from coal-fired power stations – as much as it did before. When the wind blows correctly, Denmark is able to reduce the energy it imports from Norway's highly flexible hydro-powered network. So it simply swaps one renewable for another – at some considerable cost.

Not all renewables are quite as harmful to humans or the economy, it should be stressed, as wind turbines. Hydro, where you have the fjords, or can build the dams, is a reliable large-scale power source. Geothermal energy could one day exceed it. Even burning our rubbish, instead of making the pointless and ritualistic gesture of recycling it, could provide free heat, or so a study commissioned by the former Mayor Ken Livingstone found. London's rubbish could power a quarter of London's homes. But solar and wind are simply poor technologies that today, in the UK, simply represent a huge cost – and rigging the market to favour them simply guarantees winter misery for millions. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.