The more I learn about renewable energy, the more I am convinced that the answer is not blowing in the wind.
Some obvious drawbacks of wind turbines include unsightliness, intermittent availability, unreliability, bird and bat kills. A less obvious and downside is the fact that, because output is highly dependent on wind speed, the average overall output is only 25% to 30% of nominal capacity – and much of this is wasted because the wind just blows when it blows, whether the power is needed or not. There is no effective way of storing electricity.
However, the overwhelming disadvantage of wind power is the need to have back-up generating capacity on permanent stand-by when there’s little or no wind.
Such conditions prevailed over much of northern Europe for the four weeks of April just past.
On a micro level, wind power makes some sense in a selfish sort of way, in so far as a wind turbine on your house, factory or town will give you some cheap energy while the wind blows at the right speed.
But when it stops you expect to simply plug into the national grid and instantaneously get all the power you need from stand-by power plants all fired-up, fully manned and humming away.
The combined carbon footprint is likely to be much worse than before.
Denmark, after years of massive investment in wind power, discovered that it is unable to decommission a single power plant.
I hope I’m missing something because I would hate to think that we’re being conned by, what is now, a massive and powerful industry.
Dick Keane, Glenageary, Co Dublin
22 May 2007
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