Friday, 20 January 2012


UK wind power reached a new record for capacity this week. The fact that the Ormonde offshore windfarm off the Cumbrian coast now has 120 megawatts of operational capacity thrust the combined wind energy capacity of the UK's onshore and offshore windfarms to more than six gigwatts. That's enough to provide the electricity needed by more than three million homes.

The news that UK wind has broken through the 6GW barrier came on the same day as the right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange published yet another useless report rubbishing renewables (see previous post). The Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, responded robustly to the Policy Exchange's stupid attempt at derailing the burgeoning renewables industry. He called the report "nonsense on stilts" and aptly accused the "rather silly thinktanks" of "coming up with wild and woolly estimates to get headlines in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph."

(Foreign readers might care to know that the Daily Fail and the Torygraph are low-grade "newspapers" with a history of denying climate change (the Telegraph) and making up outrageous stories to scare the middle-classes (the Mail). Neither can be trusted to print the truth when it comes to renewable energy. Even petrochemical giant BP has recognised that renewables are set to be the fastest growing energy sector over the next two decades.)

In addition to the 6GW of wind energy capacity already installed, there's still another 19.5 gigawatts currently under construction, consented or in planning. Which means that the UK is on course to achieve the impressive total of 31 gigawatts of wind energy capacity required by the government's renewable energy roadmap for 2020. Well, lordy, lordy, looks like we might be doing something right, for once!

One thing that will help matters enormously is the fact that a new radar system has been developed which will allow the Ministry of Defence to put aside its objections to at least 4GW worth of wind power projects. Previously, the spinning blades of the turbines created "clutter" on the MoD's radar screens. But a new software system has successfully dealt with that. This will open up the way for many more new onshore and offshore windfarms, and the hateful nimbies who object to windfarms for no good reason can no longer rely on the MoD to put the kibosh on things.

And the good news just keeps on coming. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has published a report, compiled by a panel of independent experts, which reveals that there is no connection between windfarms and ill health. Executive Summary and link to the MassDEP report here:

The alleged impact of windfarms on human health has been grotesquely played up by nimby groups in recent years, purely to spread unnecessary concern and alarm. The claims made the nimbies, ludicrous and unfounded as they are, are based almost entirely on one poor-quality study, carried out under extremely unscientific circumstances, which has never been peer-reviewed or publishing by a recognised scientific journal. All this means that the "research" which the nimbies routinely point to is - scientifically speaking - pants.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's report joins the growing list of genuinely scientific studies which have established that there is no discernible link between windfarms and health problems ("There is no evidence for a set of health effects, from exposure to wind turbines that could be characterised as 'Wind Turbine Syndrome'.". It's yet another nimby myth - and how sweet of our barking neighbourhood nimbies to go round convincing their friends and fellow villagers that a windfarm would make them sick when they had absolutely no evidence to prove it!!

Oh, and one final bit of good green news. The Energy Fair group is taking the UK government to court over its policy of building ten new nuclear power stations. This is partly because the tax-payer would have to underwrite the costs of any nuclear accidents - which amounts to a subsidy. And that's illegal under EU law.

Think of it as a bit like an apocalyptic version of the PIP breast implants scandal. In the latter case, private companies inserted cheap silicone implants into large numbers of women. When it became clear that those implants could burst, the private companies decided, in the main, that it wasn't their problem. The NHS could sort it out. Or, in other words, a private company creates a godawful mess which the public sector then has to clear up. Well, a nuclear accident in the UK would be a bit like that, only on a massive scale. A private company screws up, and the tax-payer foots the bill.

The government has insisted that there will be no public subsidies to pay for the new generation of nuclear power stations - the sort that take twice as long, and twice as much, to build as originally estimated. However, the introduction of the carbon floor price is likely to see the nuclear power operators given £500 million of taxpayers' money every year until 2030 for doing nothing, and there are other hidden subsidies buried away in the system.

The more manic and mendacious anti-wind campaigners continually bang on and on and on about the "subsidies" which help to create a level playing field for renewables. Those "subsidies" - which actually come from small increments on the energy customer's bill, and not from taxpayers - will soon be phased out. After all, some windfarms are already producing electricity as cost-effectively as gas, and pretty well all of them will be within three or four years from now. But still, the raging reactionaries of the Taxpayers' Alliance (an extreme right-wing pressure group) and the nimby dingbats keep citing "subsidies" as a reason to halt all renewables, now and forever, amen.

The reality is that fossil fuels and nuclear are heavily subsidised. Renewables currently receive a mere fraction of the government support available to the more polluting and dangerous energy industries. Those who keep crying "subsidies" are either missing the point or having you on. And as recent surveys have shown, the UK public is quite happy to see subsidies going to windfarms. It's a good way of getting a strong, clean, green energy system going throughout the country.

By taking the government to court over its "hidden" subsidies to new nuclear, Energy Fair could call a halt to the deployment of new nuclear power stations. And why not? It's not as if they're really needed. One serious report after another has noted that, with a bit of effort, we could meet most if not all of our electricity needs from renewables over the next few decades.

We're getting there. 6GW of wind energy capacity already, and plenty more when they came from. Another major objection or two to windfarms swept aside. The government in the dock over nuclear. What's not to like?

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