A misleading Policy Brief on wind power has been sent to Westminster MPs, aiming to counter any criticism of wind farm economics. It was prepared by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.
The policy brief looks at wind farm economics in a misleading way. It imagines that the wind turbines work in isolation, and does not take account of the spinning reserve needed to cover up the intermittency of wind. It also says that although wind is more expensive than gas, the extra cost is justified in 'fighting climate change'.
Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University has published a more credible analysis. He concluded recently that the capital costs of wind plus gas back-up are up to ten times that of gas alone; that the net reductions in CO2 emissions are trivial or zero, and that the return on capital invested in wind plus back-up is, at best, 0.5%.
Another recent report by Ruth Lea and Civitas makes essentially the same case. (1)
The reasons, briefly, are these: firstly, for technical reasons, the wind back-up cannot be modern combined-cycle gas, but has to be the older through-cycle gas, which uses nearly twice as much gas per unit of output. Secondly, these stations are used intermittently, which lowers the efficiency drastically. Thirdly, the demand on the gas back-up is skewed to peak demand, so most of the gas used has to be bought at the highest price.
These facts are widely known amongst energy economists. Nevertheless the Grantham Institute is circulating MPs with what amounts to propaganda for the wind lobby.
The rational conclusion would be to build more modern combined-cycle gas capacity, and to forget wind entirely.
Roger Helmer MEP: More Misinformation On Wind Energy,
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
summarized by ND, habitat21, 15 Jun 12
(1) The Hughes and Lea reports were summarized here earlier in the year.
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