Another Comparison of Energy Prices: Wind and Coal

I found a long thoughtful piece discussing the price of wind power on Ben Pile's Climate Resistance website recently.

Some of his calculations are summarized below.

You'll find my own most recent estimate (done about a year ago) here .


Renewable UK, previously known as the British Wind Energy Authority, gives the number of employees for the 'wind sector' of the electricity industry as 100,000.

There are 339 onshore and offshore wind farms in the UK, with a total rated capacity of 6587 megawatts.

Assuming a load factor of 0.25, the net capacity of 'wind UK' is 1647 MW.

So if there are 100,000 employees, that's 165 kW per employee, and the salary cost per MWh (assuming the same wages as employees of Drax Group, below) is 49.65.

Add in the cost of subsidies (694M in 2010-11) and the cost comes to 97.77 per MWh, or 9.77P per unit.

Drax Group, which burns fossil fuel, principally coal, employs 712 people at a cost of 51M. Its rated capacity is 5317 MW and its capacity factor is 0.76 so 4041 MW is delivered.

There are 712 employees, so the power per employee comes to 5676 kW. This makes the cost per employee per MWh 1.44. The total cost of electricity, with fuel price 30.23, is 31.67 per MWh, or 3.167P per unit.

This back-of-envelope calculation suggests wind power is about three times the price of fossil power with the current subsidy regime. Without the Renewables Obligation, wind would be 57% higher.

Drax Group supplies 7% of the UK's electricity.

The article, which contains interesting discussion and comments, is here .

Protesters who ambushed and hijacked a power station coal train failed to convince a jury today that their actions were justified by the "imminent threat" of devastation from global warming.

The 22 men and women, including a senior university lecturer, teachers and film-makers, were convicted - after less than two hours of deliberation - of obstructing the service carrying 1,000 tonnes of coal to Drax in North Yorkshire last June.

The judge refused to allow the argument that the hijack was necessary to prevent the greater crime of carbon pollution.

Although he allowed an unexpectedly large amount of evidence about climate change to be heard, Judge James Spencer also refused to let the Nasa scientist, Prof James Hansen, address the seven women and five men on the jury at Leeds crown court. In a pre-trial ruling he said that to do so would allow the protesters to hijack the trial process as surely as they had hijacked the train.

(Summarized from The Guardian, 3 Jul 09)


Turbine blade fallen off a lorry onto the A696 near Otterburn, Northumberland, May 2012

ND, habitat21, 27 May 12

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