Intuitively it would seem logical that if enough wind farms are built then it must be possible to shut down some coal or gas fired power stations and save carbon dioxide.
But that is not the case.
The Government repeatedly states that they want to see 25 to 33 gigawatts of electricity generated from wind. That is about half of the UK’s total electricity requirements. If this amount were ever achieved, it would have to have at least 33 GW of coal or gas back-up. That is because there will be a few days every year when there is no wind – i.e., we would be 33GW short of national demand.
Of course at the moment there exists about 10GW of ’spare’ back-up capacity which is used if a major power station breaks down. This is enough to back up the current wind carpet without any extra. However, as the installed wind carpet grows, more and more back-up is needed. In a House of Lords Select Committee Inquiry into the EU’s 20% Renewable Energy Target on Monday 17th March 2008, Mr Christopher Barton (Director of the UK Renewable Energy Strategy Project at BERR) said, ‘the intermittency issue is not an insurmountable problem, albeit that surmounting the problem comes with a cost so, for example, there will need to be greater overall generating capacity in the uk as you introduce more intermitent generation.’
So there you have it. Wind power requires that further back-up capacity is constructed and that can only be coal or gas fired.
So much for CO2 savings!
— FELLS newsletter no. 16, Spring 2008