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Wind power: Even worse than you thought

But your 'leccy bill will keep going up to buy more of it

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Want to know why your 'leccy bill is climbing, and will keep on climbing no matter what happens to coal and gas prices? Yes - it's wind farms

Or, in other words, there is little point building more wind turbines above a certain point: after that stage, not only will they miss out on revenue by often being at low output when demand is high, but they will also miss out by producing unsaleable surplus electricity at times of low demand. The economic case for wind – already unsupportable without the ROC scheme – will become even worse, and wind will require still more government support (it already often needs large amounts above and beyond ROCs).

The idea that pumped storage will be able to compensate for absent wind – meaning that there will be no need for full thermal capacity able to meet peak demand – is also exposed as unsound. The UK has just 2,788 megawatts of pumped-storage capacity and it can run at that level for just five hours. UK national demand is above 40,000 megawatts for 15 hours a day and seldom drops below 27,000. Pumped storage would have to increase enormously both in capacity and duration – at immense cost – before it could cope even with routine lulls hitting the planned 30-gigawatt wind sector, let alone rare (but certain to occur) prolonged calms.

The John Muir analysis goes on:

The nature of wind output has been obscured by reliance on "average output" figures. Analysis of hard data from National Grid shows that wind behaves in a quite different manner from that suggested by study of average output derived from the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) record, or from wind speed records which in themselves are averaged. It is clear from this analysis that wind cannot be relied upon to provide any significant level of generation at any defined time in the future. There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the implications of reliance on wind for any significant proportion of our energy requirement.

Unfortunately given all this, the ROC scheme is on an escalator: the amount of ROCs an end-use 'leccy supplier must obtain will rise to 15.4 per cent of megawatt-hours supplied in 2014, up from 10.4 per cent last year. The effect of this is to provide the large extra funds a wind farm needs to compete with thermal generation, by driving up electricity prices for the user: The ROC scheme is a stealth tax which appears neither on the electricity bill nor the Treasury accounts.

High electricity prices worsen the case for electric transport, electric heating and electric industry, so there are reasons to dislike windfarms even from a carbon-emissions point of view. There would be little point going to partially-wind electricity if the effect is to drive people more and more into using fossil fuels wherever possible.

But that's the way we're headed. ®

Bootnote

You can look up all the current National Grid power figures here: archives since 2008 are here (registration required).

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