The Real Price of Wind Power

Last week, the BBC ran a series of reports by its science correspondent, David Shukman, on the Governmentís plan to spend enormous amounts of money on wind farms.

The Oxford academic Dieter Helm was interviewed. He said that the Governmentís offshore wind farm plans would, by 2020, cost £100 billion, plus £40 billion more to connect these windmills to the Grid.

£140 billion is equivalent to £5,600 for every household in the country. He described this as staggeringly expensive, and that, given the current extent of fuel poverty and the state of our economy, he doubted that it could be afforded.

Shukman also described an enormous new wind farm off the coast of Cumbria, where a Swedish firm, Vattenfall, has spent £500 million on building 30 five-megawatt turbines with a rated capacity of 150MW. What Shukman did not tell us, since it is against BBC policy, is that these machines will only produce a small fraction of their capacity (probably 30%). So their actual output is likely to average 45MW, or £11 per watt.

Britainís newest gas-fired power station recently opened in Plymouth. This generates 882MW and it cost £400 million. That is 50p per watt. The price of gas adds another 17p or so.

The wind farm is 20 times more expensive, and was only built because its owners will receive a 200 per cent subsidy: £40 million a year, plus the £20 million they will get for the electricity itself. This comes from our electricity bills and is known as the Renewables Obligation .

The BBC report did not mention any of this.

The Government is building wind farms because it has unfortunately signed a document which obliges Britain, within nine years, to generate approximately one third of its electricity from renewable sources. Six times the amount we generate at present.

There is no way this will happen, but by the time the policy is abandoned as unworkable, a large fraction of that £140 billion will have been thrown away.

The BBC is supposed to report scientific and other matters impartially and objectively. Here, it was only reporting half of the story.

It seems to me that it is breaking the terms of its Charter.

ND/ habitat21 / 21 Aug 11

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