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The great wind scam's profitability is equalled only by its futility  

It is six years since I first referred here to “the great wind scam” – the bonanza enjoyed by the developers of wind turbines, thanks to the hidden subsidy we all give them through our electricity bills. Under the Government’s Renewables Obligation, they receive twice as much for such electricity as they produce as the owners of conventional power stations: a 100 per cent top-up which makes our wind energy the most heavily subsidised commodity in history.

Last week, the Financial Times finally woke up to this racket, in a series of articles explaining why wind industry profits in Britain are higher than anywhere else in Europe. But, astonishingly, the FT completely missed the other reason that this is such a scandal: namely why the amount of power we get as a result is so derisory.

The paper fell for the oldest trick in the wind propaganda book by referring to turbines’ “capacity” rather than the mere 27 per cent of that figure which, with the fickleness of the wind, they actually produce. Thus the FT overstated the contribution of wind to our electricity needs by 300 per cent.

Interestingly, a victim (or perpetrator) of the same confusion is the industry’s chief lobby group, the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), which accuses me of misleading my readers by suggesting that, to meet our EU target, we need to build 20,000 turbines by 2020. To obtain “38 per cent of our electricity” from wind, the BWEA claims, we need no more than 8,500 turbines.

Let me remind them of the maths. According to the latest Government figures, our average annual electricity demand is 46 gigawatts (GW), ie 46,000 megawatts (MW): 38 per cent of this is 17.5GW. Let us generously say that the installed capacity of the average new turbine, onshore or off, is 3MW. But they produce only 27 per cent of capacity, so to generate 17.5GW would require capacity of 65GW. This needs over 21,500 turbines – more than I suggested.

Since this would require us to build more than two giant turbines a day – remember that offshore turbines can be almost the height of the Eiffel Tower – at a cost of far more than £100 billion, even the BWEA must know that there is no way this could be done.

They should stick to farming their subsidies and leave the rest of us to hope we can build enough nuclear power stations, at less than a quarter of the cost, in time to keep our lights on.

• Scared to Death by Christopher Booker and Richard North can be ordered for £14.99 plus £1.25 p&p from Telegraph Books on 0870 428 4115 or books.telegraph.co.uk

By Christopher Booker


10 February 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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