There is nothing wrong with using wind turbines to capture energy and convert it into electricity. The problem with wind turbines and wind farms is one of scale. As a small part of our efforts to make green energy, feeding into local networks, they work by giving us energy some of the time. 30% of the time if you believe the manufacturers, 21% of the time if you look up their monitored performance in 2010.
By deciding to put all your efforts into developing wind farms by building larger and larger turbines and covering more and more land we are heading for disaster. No matter how large the turbine (and the latest generation are as tall as the London Eye) they only work when the wind is blowing. When the wind stops, as it did for days this winter when high pressure sat over the island freezing the atmosphere, the turbines stop too. When the wind is strong they are shut down because, otherwise, they will blow over. Wind power will never be a constant reliable source of electricity and it is far less efficient than many other forms of renewable energy.
So why are we, in Mid-Wales, about to cover an area of a thousand square miles in wind farms which will, at the very best a produce only 0.58% of the country’s current electricity needs? There are two reasons. The second is how greed and speculation play their part and the first is TAN 8. We have been sold down the river by ‘Technical Advice Note 8 on Renewable Energy’ which was published by the Welsh Assembly Government in July 2004. It marked out Mid-Wales as fit for wind farm development and, crucially,TAN8 is designed to ensure that wind farms get planning approval. It can also be used by the Assembly Government to help over-rule any Local Authority decisions that have rejected wind farm planning applications in TAN8 areas.
The second reason, and you should read this and grow very angry indeed, is because of Renewable Obligation Certificates ROCs. Wind Turbines do not simply produce electricity, they produce something far more valuable, they produce ROCs. Three per cent of the energy provided by non-renewable energy producers, that is power stations and the power companies like Scottish Power, must be supplied from a renewable source. To do this they can buy a Wind Farm (hence Scottish Power’s great interest) or they get fined so much per kWh by the government. If they don’t want the fine they can buy ROCs to make up the 3 per cent.
Wind Farms register with the government’s energy regulator, OFGEM which then issues one ROC for every MWh generated. So, every turbine is producing electricity and ROCs and the ROCs can be bought not only by the power companies but they can be sold on the open market. Banks and Investment Houses around the world are scrambling to buy ROCs. This is speculation and this is why inefficient wind farms are so profitable.
Three massive wind farms, which are subject to TAN8 and not the local government planning authorities, are waiting for permission from the Welsh Assembly Government. (More than a dozen more are subject to local government planning permission and you can and should object to these). Should this permission be granted they will close down access to Mid-Wales for at least six years.
In order to get the turbines through Welshpool the town must remove both traffic islands, remove its standing stones, remove ‘street furniture’ that is benches, post boxes, bollards, traffic lights etc. It will take a minimum of 45 minutes for each turbine part to go through the town with men walking ahead to hold up telephone and electric wires. But the turbines themselves are only a small part of these monstrous convoys. Ready mixed concrete coming from Ellesmere Port will also travel the route through Chester, Wrexham, and Oswestry in order to get to Mid-Wales. The number of traffic abnormal loads in the first three years is 2,565, the number of convoys 855, convoys through Pant and Llanymynech each month 71, and convoys through Welshpoool town centre per week 18.
The National Grid expects to begin erecting the hub and pylons in 2013 and to complete this at the same time as the wind farms in 2015.
Wind Farm Development is a Political Issue not a Scientific One and therein lies our great hope. For we can force the Welsh Assembly Government to remove and rewrite TAN8, which has always been a deeply flawed document.