Onshore wind farms, recently under attack from leading conservationists for damaging the countryside, can bring significant economic benefits locally and nationally, as well as contributing to the fight against climate change, a new study claims. Michael McCarthy reports in The Independent
Onshore wind supported 8,600 jobs and was worth £548m to the UK economy in 2011, says the report, by consultancy BiGGAR Economics. Of this figure 1,100 jobs were created at local authority level, with £84m of investment.
Looking at 18 case studies of wind farms of different sizes drawn from across the UK, the study analyses the contribution of wind farm development, construction, operation and maintenance to the economy at a local, regional and national level. It suggests if onshore wind is deployed at a scale suggested in the Government’s Renewable Energy Roadmap, the economy could benefit by £780m by 2020, with around 11,600 jobs being supported.
From its beginnings 20 years ago, Britain’s wind industry now has 3,176 large onshore turbines, with 568 turbines in the sea, according to RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body.
The onshore wind farms together can produce about 4.5 gigawatts of electricity, roughly the equivalent of four large conventional power stations, with another 1.5GW coming from offshore turbines. But the growing presence of turbines in the landscape – there are nearly 3,000 more in the planning process – has led to criticism from conservationists, and last week the Campaign to Protect Rural England broke ranks with other environmental groups who have hitherto been united in support for wind energy for the contribution it can make, with other CO2-free energies like solar and tidal power, to cut carbon emissions that cause climate change.
The CPRE said the countryside was being caught in “a hurricane of new wind turbines” and local communities were “struggling to safeguard valued landscapes” which were being industrialised by the presence of wind farms. Shaun Spiers, its chief executive, said his group accepted onshore wind in the right places as part of the mix required to meet the UK ‘s carbon reduction targets, “but we are seeing more and more giant turbines sited in inappropriate locations”.
The Government and wind industry stress the benefits wind farms can bring. “Rather than feeling wind has been imposed on them, people across the UK recognise the benefits of having wind in their backyard,” said RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffery. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Wind power provides secure, low carbon power to homes and businesses, and supports jobs and brings significant investment.”
- Report claims wind power benefits (thisislondon.co.uk)
- Wind power industry generates millions for economy, new report claims (scotsman.com)
- UK News: Report claims wind power benefits (walesonline.co.uk)
- National News: Report claims wind power benefits (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Scheme to finance onshore wind farms (premierlinedirect.co.uk)
- Plea to government on wind farms (bbc.co.uk)
- Warning UK Is Being Overrun With Wind Farms (news.sky.com)
- An ill wind blows in Northamptonshire (telegraph.co.uk)
- UK News: Warning over wind turbines spread (walesonline.co.uk)
- National News: Warning over wind turbines spread (coventrytelegraph.net)
The new technology could allow Britain to harness the consistently higher wind speeds available over deeper water
Before this week’s clean-energy meeting of ministers from 23 countries in London, the government announced it will collaborate with the US in developing wind technology to generate power in deep waters that are currently off-limits to conventional turbines.
In order to exploit the UK’s huge wind resource, which accounts for about one-third of Europe’s offshore wind potential, new technology is needed to access waters between 60 and 100 metres deep: too deep for turbines fixed to the seabed, but where wind speeds are consistently higher.
It is hoped that developing the technology will increase the UK’s potential for offshore wind power, particularly after 2020, by which time many shallower sites will have been developed.
The government believes it could also reduce the current high cost of offshore wind, cutting the expense of seabed foundations and allowing repairs on floating wind platforms to be carried out in port rather than out at sea.
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, said: “Britain has more wind turbines installed around its shores than any other country in the world, and our market is rated year after year as the most attractive market among investors. Offshore wind is critical for the UK’s energy future, and there is big interest around the world in what we’re doing.
“The UK and US are both making funding available for this technology, and we’re determined to work together to capitalise on this shared intent.”
The Energy Technologies Institute is commissioning a £25m offshore wind floating system demonstrator, which will require the chosen participants to produce an offshore wind turbine that can generate 5MW to 7MW by 2016. The project could be demonstrated off the Cornish coast at the WaveHub site.
In the US, four offshore projects are being backed by the Department of Energy, potentially including a floating wind demonstration.
Norway already has a full-scale demonstration of a floating wind turbine, while a similar project is underway off Portugal.
This week’s Clean Energy Ministerial will be co-chaired by Davey and his US energy counterpart, Steven Chu. The two countries are signing a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on a series of areas including power generation, energy efficiency and transmission.
- UK and US to develop floating turbines (scotsman.com)
- Could ‘floating wind turbines’ solve UK’s energy crisis? (telegraph.co.uk)
- First floating wind turbine buoyed off Norway (news.cnet.com)
- Helium-filled floating wind turbine, renewable energy with style (engadget.com)
- Wind power surges as custom ships cut costs (bangordailynews.com)
- New York Maps Viable Offshore Wind Power (bfreenews.com)
- Japan Replaces Nuclear With Wind Power (solarfeeds.com)
- European offshore wind setting records in 2010 (news.cnet.com)
He also criticised the industry’s reliance on subsidies from electricity customers, claimed wind farms would “never work” and accused people who support them of believing in a “fairy tale”.
The Duke’s comments will be seized upon by the burgeoning lobby who say wind farms are ruining the countryside and forcing up energy bills.
Criticism of their effect on the environment has mounted, with The Sunday Telegraph disclosing today that turbines are being switched off during strong winds following complaints about their noise.
The Duke’s views are politically charged, as they put him at odds with the Government’s policy significantly to increase the amount of electricity generated by wind turbines.
The country has 3,421 turbines — 2,941 of them onshore — with another 4,500 expected to be built under plans for wind power to play a more important role in providing Britain’s energy.
Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, last month called opponents of the plans “curmudgeons and fault-finders” and described turbines as “elegant” and “beautiful”.
The Duke’s attack on the turbines, believed to be the first public insight into his views on the matter, came in a conversation with the managing director of a leading wind farm company.
When Esbjorn Wilmar, of Infinergy, which builds and operates turbines, introduced himself to the Duke at a reception in London, he found himself on the end of an outspoken attack on his industry.
“He said they were absolutely useless, completely reliant on subsidies and an absolute disgrace,” said Mr Wilmar. “I was surprised by his very frank views.”
Mr Wilmar said his attempts to argue that onshore wind farms were one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy received a fierce response from the Duke.
“He said, ‘You don’t believe in fairy tales do you?’” said Mr Wilmar. “He said that they would never work as they need back-up capacity.”
One of the main arguments of the anti-wind farm lobby is that because turbines do not produce electricity without wind, there is still a need for other ways to generate power.
Their proponents argue that it is possible to build “pump storage” schemes, which would use excess energy from wind power to pump water into reservoirs to generate further electricity in times of high demand and low supply.
It emerged last year that electricity customers are paying an average of £90 a year to subsidise wind farms and other forms of renewable energy as part of a government scheme to meet carbon-reduction targets.
Mr Wilmar said one of the main reasons the Duke thought onshore wind farms to be “a very bad idea” was their reliance on such subsidies.
The generous financial incentives being offered to green energy developers have led landowners to look to build wind farms on their estates, including the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s cousin.
Prince Philip, however, said he would never consider allowing his land to be used for turbines, which can be up to 410ft tall, and he bemoaned their impact on the countryside.
Mr Wilmar said: “I suggested to him to put them on his estate, and he said, ‘You stay away from my estate young man’.
“He said he thought that they’re not nice at all for the landscape.”
The Duke’s comments echo complaints made by his son, the Prince of Wales, who has refused to have any built on Duchy of Cornwall land.
Yet a turbine will be erected opposite the Castle of Mey in Caithness, where he stays for a week every August, if a farmer succeeds in gaining planning permission from Highland Council.
While they are opposed to onshore wind farms, the Royal family stands to earn millions of pounds from those placed offshore.
Last year, the Crown Estate, the £7billion land and property portfolio, approved an increase in the number of sites around the coast of England. The Crown Estate owns almost all of the seabed off Britain’s 7,700-mile coastline.
Experts predict that the growth in offshore wind farms could be worth £250million a year. Britain has 436 offshore turbines, but within a decade that number will reach nearly 7,000. From 2013, the Royal family’s Civil List payments will be replaced, and instead they will receive 15 per cent of the Crown Estate’s profits, although the Queen, the Duke, the Prince of Wales and other members of the family do not have any say over how the estate makes its money.
The Dutch businessman’s company describes itself as committed to preserving the planet. Infinergy, which is a subsidiary of the Dutch firm KDE Energy, is planning to build on a number of sites across the country, from the north of Scotland to Totnes in Devon.
Mr Wilmar claims that onshore turbines are less reliant on subsidies and more cost-effective than those built in the sea. “If you go offshore it costs you twice as much as being on-shore because you have to lay foundations in the sea,” he said. “It’s very expensive for very obvious reasons.”
Two-thirds of the country’s wind turbines are owned by foreign companies, which are estimated to reap £500million a year in subsidies.
A spokesman for the Duke said that Buckingham Palace would not comment about a private conversation.
- Royal Slam: Duke of Edinburgh calls wind farms ‘absolutely useless’ (junkscience.com)
- Wind Energy Update: Which Comes first? The Wind Farm or the Turbine? (prweb.com)
- Switch-off for noisy wind farms (telegraph.co.uk)
- Osage Nation Sues to Block Wind Farm (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Dutch fall out of love with windmills (business.financialpost.com)
- 14,000 abandoned monuments to Green stupidity (junkscience.com)
- Saving Germany’s Whales from Wind Farm Noise (environmenteng.wordpress.com)
From First News A world powered by nature
Have you ever wondered what would happen if we ran out of energy? How would we watch our favourite TV programmes, cook dinner or have a hot shower? Most of the energy we use is made from ‘non-renewable’ sources, such as coal, oil and nuclear, which large power stations
turn into electricity. These types of fuels won’t last forever, and burning coal and oil gives off carbon dioxide, a gas which causes climate change. The good news is we have plenty of alternatives around us – the wind, sun and water can provide ‘renewable energy’ which will never run out and does not give off carbon dioxide so is much better for the environment.
Because renewable energy won’t run out, so we can keep using our computers, TVs and games consoles, we need to use more renewables and less energy overall.
So, what would a world powered by wind, sun or water look like? What changes might it make to your day?
Let’s think about how your day might change.
As you are woken up by your alarm clock for school, your house would wake up to the morning light. If the sun was shining, the solar thermal panels on your roof would heat the water you shower with, for free! In the kitchen your mum or dad would make breakfast with a kettle and toaster that could tell you just how much energy you are using, and where it’s coming from – maybe from solar PV panels on your roof too.
As you and your family leave the house, a ‘Smart’ energy meter would be able to tell you the amount of energy your family has used so far today and how much it has cost. On a good day your household might earn money for generating more energy than you use. Your parents might work from home to make the most of all the power you are producing.
You would get in your family’s electric car, which would have been plugged in to a socket to recharge overnight. Because the car is electric it would not give off any bad fumes and so, as well as not needing to buy petrol, you would not damage the environment as you drive. On your way to school, you would notice all the houses you pass have solar panels on their roofs; maybe a small wind turbine if they were built on a hill with a large enough garden, and some with water tanks in the gardens collecting rain water to be reused. There would be no petrol stations, but you might see battery-swapping stations instead, where you could recharge a car and swap old batteries for new.
Your school would also look different as it would be run on renewable energy too. Like your house, the roof would probably be covered in solar panels and on the hilltop behind the school would stand big wind turbines, catching the wind and turning it into electricity to power the lights and computers. Inside, the school would be heated by a biomass boiler, which burns recycled wood chips – like the one Good Energy installed at St Mary’s Primary School, Timsbury, Somerset. A renewable cooling system in the school means that in the summer it will never get too warm!
In the winter the lights in the school and street lamps outside would have motion sensors on them so that they only come on when people walked past, saving energy.
To make this renewable future possible, we need to think carefully about where our energy comes from and how we use it. Wouldn’t it be nice to know when playing on your computer or listening to a CD that the energy you’re using isn’t affecting the environment?
In the meantime, remember that most electricity is not good for the environment, so recycle, turn lights off when you’re not in the room and switch your computers and televisions off at the main switch to save energy.
Words by Juliet Davenport for Good Energy
‘First News’ on twitter
- New California law says one-third of electricity will come from renewable sources in 2020 (venturebeat.com)
- The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Energy (fastcompany.com)
- 2012 Games ‘misses’ energy target (bbc.co.uk)
- Renewable Energy Production May Overtake Nuclear Power This Year In US (treehugger.com)