It was interesting to read Mr Partridge’s letter about wind energy (News & Star, January 4) and no surprise that he represents Gamesa Energy, yet another wind farm developer with an eye on Cumbria.
Mr Partridge tells us that some nuclear power stations operate at 70 per cent of full capacity. That’s a pretty high figure and to find that this is, in fact, a reduction of more than one million homes’ worth of electricity is a real eye opener.
Wind farm developers expect us to be impressed that their various schemes may supply thousands of homes, rather than millions, so it is good to have these figures put into some sort of perspective at last.
I was a little concerned, however, that, while griping about others’ exaggerated claims Mr Partridge then dealt a large dose of the usual spin with the statement that “a typical UK wind farm generates electricity for 80-85 per cent of the time”. This may well be true, but there is no indication of how much output is produced during that time.
A recently published independent report by the Renewable Energy Foundation indicated that in Cumbria wind farms had only achieved 25.9 per cent of their full capacity ““ way below the figure of 70 per cent for nuclear power.
According to Gamesa Energy it would appear that nuclear power performs fantastically better, while producing negligible CO2 emissions.
Matt Partridge seems to be more than a little confused by the output of a nuclear power station compared with that of a windfarm. Perhaps I can help him.
A nuclear power station working at 70 per cent of full capacity will produce 70 per cent of what it is designed to produce. A wind farm which generates electricity for 80 to 85 per cent of the time will produce absolutely zilch 15 to 20 per cent of the time, and anything between one and 100 per cent of what it is designed to produce for the remainder.
This is a rather different concept from the one he would like us to see, ie that wind power appears to be more efficient than nuclear power.
When comparing like for like, his nuclear stations are operating at 70 per cent and his wind farms, depending on where they are sited, are probably operating at 23 to 28 per cent.
Mr Partridge rightly says “ever more clean energy (is) urgently required…”, so we must consider the following.
For around eight days over the Christmas period there was not a breath of wind over most of the UK. It was, however, very cold, so demand for electricity was high, yet there was none forthcoming from our motley collection of wind farms.
If 20 per cent of the UK had been dependent on wind energy, as is the government’s ambition, it seems that 20 per cent of us would have had no power during that period. Not a thought that makes one enamoured of wind energy, is it?
I can only echo Mr Partridge’s sentiment that “it is important that the debate about wind energy is not distorted by mis-information”. Sadly, letters such as his only serve to compound the mis-information.
Matt Partridge deliberately confuses the issue of windpower by suggesting that a typical UK wind farm generates electricity for 80 to 85 per cent of the time and then contrasts this with power stations having temporarily reduced output because of boiler faults.
He fails to say that, during that “85 per cent of the time” windpower swings unpredictably and repeatedly between zero and peak generation!
By contrast, our baseload power stations run continuously at peak output to give about 40 per cent of the UK’s electricity. Such stations provide 85 to 90 per cent of maximum possible output during the year losing just 10 per cent to 15 per cent to service downtime.
Windpower, despite being operated to generate the maximum available from the wind, manages just over 25 per cent of the output that continuous high wind would give.
Furthermore this 25 per cent load factor is the result of those unpredictable swings which are totally unrelated to the needs of the Grid.
Matt says “the Nat Grid can accept many more wind farms”. How then does he explain the findings of the Union for the Coordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE ) interim report on Europe’s largest ever power failure which disconnected 15 million consumers on November 4?
The UCTE report says that wind power delayed the restoration of supply across Europe. UCTE also warns that “wind generation [is] characterised by a short term predictability: within a few hours, the production of wind farms can change from minimum to maximum and conversely”. Practically impossible measures will be needed to resolve the problems posed by large-scale windpower in our islanded electricity system.
Dr John Etherington
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