Following the proposal for the siting of 20 wind turbines on Davidstow Moor some myths and truths need to be addressed about their validity.Wind turbines produce clean energy, but cannot physically reduce any type of pollutant, carbon or otherwise. The turbines do not actually reduce emissions indirectly.
For every 1,000 units of electricity they generate (1,000Kwatt/hour) the turbine company will auction off what is known as Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC).
The big companies, especially the power generating companies, are committed to reducing their carbon emissions and can do this by buying these certificates and therefore offsetting their emissions. The certificates sell for about £45 to £47 each; the electricity itself is also sold for around 4 to 6p per unit (1Kw/h).
Because we need such enormous amounts of electricity the turbines cannot be used to replace power, only add to it. Therefore the electricity generating companies still produce the same amount of pollution and have only appeared to avoided doing so by buying the ROCs . So you could say the turbines are indirectly assisting the problem of pollution.
Quite often you will hear people say that we will wish we had turbines when the lights go out because the power stations will fail. Well, if you rely on the variability of wind or solar electric power they most certainly will go out as wind turbines are at best only 22 to 27 per cent efficient and solar electric power only about 5 per cent efficient in this country.
The UK generates about 375,000GW/h of electricity by gas coal and nuclear power, about 2GW/h from wind turbines and there are about 1,900 turbines in the UK. Therefore we would need 185,000 times as many wind turbines again to replace all the conventional power stations and the wind will need to be persuaded to blow 365 days a year all day at the right speed.
It is estimated that the UK will need another 25GW/h generating capacity by 2020, so unless we build 22,500 more generators we will not replace any of our future power stations with clean power and therefore our emissions will increase; if we use the wind power it will stay the same.
Another point is that if we replace our transport with electric or hydrogen vehicles when oil gets too expensive we will need even more electricity.
A family car having a power rating of 100hp equates to 74.6Kw of electricity.
So for no net gain to the environment we will have 20 126-metre-high structures placed on the moor where all the tourists can see them, where millions of starlings like to roost every winter and where geese come in to Crowdy Reservoir.
When the turbine company came to Davidstow to give a presentation it said it had it on good authority that the wildlife would not be affected and the Forestry Commission representative said not a single tree would be cut down.
The irony is that most environmental groups will back wind turbines but are beginning to disagree with ROCs. If they eventually get the ROCs withdrawn the turbines will become low earners and we could see them not only marring our countryside but falling into dereliction.
R L English
31 July 2007
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