Once again we have a correspondent to the Gazette calling for more wind turbines to be built to save the planet. Regrettably Mr Knight’s faith in these machines is misplaced. We need reliable electricity 24 hours a day and as I write, there is not a breath of wind. Furthermore, output from these machines is small in all but very strong winds. As a result, existing turbines only generate about 25% of their rated capacity. Is Mr Knight willing to manage without electricity for most of the time? I think not. No conventional power station can be closed down as a result of the presence of these machines, but must be kept on standby for non windy periods. There is some evidence from the continent that even in windy conditions, demand on other power stations is not reduced. The reasons are technical and due to the surges introduced into the grid by wind turbines. Some countries have decided not to build any more wind turbines.The suggestion they can be considered as temporary, until something better comes along is also misguided. Each machine is built on a concrete base larger than an Olympic swimming pool. Concrete requires large amounts of energy in its manufacture. So much so, that each wind turbine will take six years to pay back the energy used in its construction. You can bet the concrete base will not be removed when the turbine is decommissioned, but will remain in the ground for millennia. As more turbines are built in areas with no grid infrastructure, there will also be the need for more pylons to distribute the power, adding to the despoliation of the countryside.
Unfortunately for Mr Knight, there is only one answer to carbon-free electricity in the quantities needed and that is nuclear power. We have benefited from nuclear generated electricity of around 25% of our needs for decades. The French (having no coal, gas or oil reserves) obtain nearly 80% of their electricity from nuclear power. New power stations can be built on existing sites as the old ones are decommissioned and use the existing grid system. Large power stations also take many years to pay back the energy used to construct them, but this makes much more sense if they have a life span of 40 or 50 years. Modern nuclear power stations are very safe and produce negligible pollution and much less waste. Bear in mind, that it takes several hundred of even the largest wind turbines to match the output of a nuclear power station – on a windy day.
Sadly, time is running out as it takes many years to build power stations. Meanwhile, as our old nuclear power stations reach the end of their life, we will be relying heavily on imported gas – which can be cut off at any time, coal (the worst fuel for carbon emissions) some renewables and a tiny amount of erratic wind power. I predict power cuts, the effects of which will be much more serious than they were in the 1970s.
I am not a NIMBY, and will not be affected personally by these machines. However, as an engineer, I do not think there will be any measurable benefit from building industrial machines in our beautiful countryside. Some people have been taken in by misleading information provided by developers (who will be heavily subsidised) as to the benefits of wind power. It is unfair that the notion is purveyed that anyone opposed to wind power does not care about the future of the planet.
R DUFFIELD BSc Ceng MIChemE,
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