Cohocton Wind Watch: Farce of the wind farms: Power produced drops 6% after calmest year this century
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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Farce of the wind farms: Power produced drops 6% after calmest year this century

Some of Britain's most beautiful landscapes are blighted by wind farms that will not generate enough electricity for the future.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released figures which show a six per cent fall in the amount of electricity produced by Britain's onshore wind farms.

The department blames a drop in wind, revealing that 2010 was the calmest year this century, with onshore turbines producing only 1.9 per cent of all electricity in 2010, compared with two per cent the year before.

Some meteorologists believe that changes to the Atlantic jet stream could alter the pattern of winds over the next four decades, leading to uncertainty over the efficiency of wind power.

Dr David Brayshaw, a meteorologist from Reading University, says if wind speed lowers, it is obvious that less electricity will be generated by turbines.

But he adds, 'Predictions for long-term future changes in the North Atlantic jet stream are very uncertain, so average UK wind generation could go either up or down over this timeframe.'

A DECC spokesman said the wind speeds of 2010 had been 'unusually low'.

The annual average' load factor' for onshore wind in the UK is 27 per cent, meaning wind farms are operating at 27 per cent of their net capacity.

'This compares favourably to countries such as Germany, where the load factor is around 20 per cent,' said the spokesman.

'Even against a backdrop of the lowest average wind speeds this century in 2010 and the lowest rainfall since 2003, overall consumption of renewable energy in 2010 has risen significantly on the previous year.

'Offshore wind generation for example, increased by 75 per cent in 2010 on 2009 levels. And generation from on and off-shore wind farms combined was up 37 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 on the same period last year.'

EU targets dictate that 15 per cent of all energy, including transport and heat, is produced from renewable sources by 2020.

DECC called the EU target 'challenging' and said a soon-to-be-published report will show how the body will focus on overcoming barriers to utilising wind power and other technologies to deliver the 2020 targets.

But a damning report from conservation charity the John Muir Trust found that the UK’s wind farms were working at just 21 per cent of capacity last year.

Stuart Young, the author of the report, said: ‘Wind power is not what it’s cracked up to be.

'Over the two-year period studied, the wind farms in the UK consistently generated far less energy than wind proponents claim is typical.'

Developers of wind power have been accused of grossly exaggerating the amount of energy turbines will generate in order to get their hands on government subsidies.
Director of the Renewable Energy Foundation Dr John Constable said that even though wind farms had received subsidies of £5billion in the past nine years, they were failing to generate decent levels of power.

He said his calculations said subsidies will probably rise to £6billion a year by 2020 and even more in the following 10 years.

More than 3,600 turbines are expected to pop up throughout Britain over the next 10 years under plans by the Coalition government.

But many industry watchers are wondering why so much money is being thrown at wind farms in the UK - and whether vast swathes of the countryside should be set aside for more turbines.

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