Tuesday, 10 January 2012


On the day that the government has wisely given the go-ahead to the High-Speed rail link (HS2), we take a look at what high-speed winds in Britain recently achieved.

The dingbat's favourite tabloid, the Daily Mail, rushed to announce a few days ago that high winds had wrecked three wind turbines in Yorkshire - "sweeping away any remaining illusions that strong winds simply mean more electricity being generated."

The three turbines in question were not part of any windfarm. They were installed by individual landowners as micro-renewables, generating electricity for their owners, the surplus of which is sold on to the National Grid.

Typically, the Mail then railed against the "constraint payments" made to windfarm operators when their turbines produce so much electricity that the grid can't cope. In those circumstances, windfarm operators are asked to shut down their turbines and are (rightly) compensated for lost revenue. The point being that - though the anti-wind loonies keep trying to persuade people that windfarms "don't work" - the reality of wind power in the UK is that it's almost too successful. It produces large amounts of electricity for next to nothing, and is much easier to control than conventional methods of generation. It's a lot quicker and safer to shut down a windfarm than a nuclear power station.

But if you work for or read the Mail, all that counts for nothing.

Just as the Mail was repeating its usual nonsense, the Reuters news agency released some interesting figures. The high winds which had harmed three small individual turbines in Yorkshire had also contributed to a massive increase in the amount of electricity generated by the UK's wind fleet.

For a start, on 28 December 2011 windfarms smashed the previous record for wind-generated energy in Britain. On that day, 12.2% of our electricity demand was met by windpower (the previous record was 10%). Not only that, but the UK's windpower capacity is projected to grow by one third this year, bringing it very close to parity with nuclear (according to the San Francisco Business Times renewable energy overtook nuclear as a power source in the US last September; God forbid that the States should turn out to be greener than our green-and-pleasant-land-fit-for-nimbies!!)

Even more amazing, the high winds had a huge impact on the load capacity of our existing turbines. Usually, the load capacity of a turbine is about 30% - meaning that, over time, it will achieve about 30% of the output it could theoretically achieve if the optimum wind speed was blowing 100% of the time. Now, 30% load capacity doesn't sound much, but it compares very favourably with the efficiency (pretty much the same thing) of coal, gas and nuclear. It does not, for example, mean that wind turbines only work 30% of the time. They typically generate electricity for between 70 and 85% of the time, although the variability of wind speeds mean that the average turbine will produce around 30% of its theoretical maximum.

On 4 January 2012, the UK's wind turbines achieved 66% capacity - more than double the average.

66% - !!!!!

So much for the Mail's nonsensical drivel about strong winds not meaning more electricity generation. In short, the Mail either has no idea how these things work, or it is simply ignoring the facts, or it is only interested in brainwashing its readers.

Given all this good news - a massive increase in wind capacity projected for this year, record-breaking contributions by wind to meeting our electricity demands, load capacity more than doubled during the recent gales - it seems a bit of an odd time for yet another right-wing think-tank to have produced yet another misleading report.

Civitas released a so-called study which claimed that there is "no economic case for wind power". This is as stupid as it gets. The report's author, Ruth Lea, wants us all to be paying a significantly higher price for imported gas. That, apparently, makes more sense.

Even more demented and detached from reality is the report's claim that windfarms actually increase CO2 emissions. Meat and drink to the nimby subculture, no doubt, but about as scientific a claim as pretending that the Earth is flat.

Unsurprisingly, the figures used for the rubbish Civitas report were all supplied by fervent anti-wind lobbyists, including those con-artists at the laughably misnamed Renewable Energy Foundation (Noel Edmond's uber-nimby hobbyhorse). It's a bit like the Adam Smith Institute publishing a report on the economic impacts of immigration and relying entirely on the BNP, the EDL and certain Premier League footballers for its source material.

If you're interested, the Guardian tried to get to the bottom of the insane anti-wind power claims published by Civitas, and you can read the results here:


Wade through all the data and you'll see that, as usual, the Civitas contribution to Britain's nimby nightmare is a hodge-podge of false facts, misleading comparisons, meaningless claims and absolute nonsense. Which is what you'd expect if hard-line anti-wind types like REF are behind the report.

They'd rather your fuel bills were skyrocketing forever (isn't that what "market forces" would require?) than a free and inexhaustible resource was cleanly, quietly and harmlessly harnessed, and to support their bonkers standpoint they are more than happy to misquote statistics, bend science and lie their heads off to you. You know, like nimbies do.

So - good news all round, really. Unless you read braindead rubbish like the Mail or the dimwit doggy-doos issued by Civitas - reports so crazy they're actually twitching.

Let's all raise a glass to our ever more successful wind fleet ... oh, and to the High-Speed rail link too, of course.

Nimbies be damned!

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