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Don’t count on windfarms… output figures not adding up  

Credit:  Cameron McNeish, Strathspey & Badenoch Herald, www.strathspey-herald.co.uk 13 April 2011 ~~

With the on-going consultation about the Allt Duinne windfarm proposal stirring up some local concern, I went along to a meeting in Kincraig where the community council wanted to gauge local feeling about the proposed development.

If it goes ahead, 31 125 metre-tall wind turbines will be erected on land within three miles of Kincraig and within a mile of the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park in the Monadhliath between Kingussie and Kincraig.

Representatives of the developers, RWE npower, were present at the meeting and a PR girl gave a slick presentation about the proposed development.

She very much concentrated on the fact the turbines wouldn’t be seen from Kingussie, Kincraig or Aviemore, but did admit they would be visible from some far flung high points of the National Park.

She showed some fuzzy photographs to show how small the turbines looked from say, Cairn Gorm, but didn’t offer any images taken from closer at hand, for example from the popular Corbetts of Carn an Fhreiceadain or Geal Charn Mor, or from the Glen Feshie Munros.

One of the technical team, who looks after the nearby Farr windfarm, when questioned about capacity, mentioned that his windfarm was producing an output of some 37-40% capacity.

This figure was picked up by a colleague from the press, Iain Ramage, who queried this.

The technician was, at first, adamant it was the correct figure, but when it became obvious that Iain knew something about windfarm generating capacity, the representative from RWE stuttered and muttered a bit, said something about not being able to pull the correct figures out of the air, and promised to send the most up to date figures on to Iain at a later date.

Now, perhaps I’m being a little cynical, but I find it extraordinary that someone who is responsible for running a windfarm can’t quote the current output capacity correctly.

I suspect he did just pull the figures out of the air, but it’s extremely unlikely that the Farr development is producing that kind of capacity.

When you hear of proposed windfarms being able to power 40,000 homes etc, it’s a good idea to ask if that figure is at full generating capacity or not, because there isn’t a windfarm anywhere that runs at 100 per cent capacity.

Why not? Because the wind is intermittent, and often doesn’t blow at all, particularly when an anti-cyclone brings very cold, very still weather conditions – conditions that are very familiar to us here in Badenoch and Strathspey.

Research published this week by Stuart Young Consulting, with support from the John Muir Trust, concludes that the average power output of wind turbines across Scotland is well below the rates often claimed by the wind industry and government.

For numerous extended periods of time all the wind turbines in Scotland linked to the National Grid muster less than 20MW of energy – that’s enough power for a mere 6,667 households to boil their kettles for a cup of tea.

Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, the UK’s leading wild land conservation charity, told me: “This report is a real eye-opener for anyone who’s been wondering just how much power Scotland is getting from the fleet of wind turbines that have taken over many of our most beautiful mountains and hillsides. The answer appears to be not enough, and much less than is routinely claimed.”

In actual fact, the average output from wind was 27.18% of metered capacity in 2009, 21.14% in 2010, and 24.08%between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive.

It’s highly unlikely then that the Farr windfarm is producing between 37 and 40% capacity, and the figures suggested of what the output from the proposed Allt Duinne scheme could be should be taken with a very small pinch of salt.

It was also claimed that these turbines wouldn’t pose any threat to the local golden eagle population. “A wind turbine hasn’t killed a golden eagle in Britain,” the PR girl claimed.

Yet that very day a white-tailed sea eagle introduced to the Killarney National Park from Norway three years ago was killed after colliding with a wind turbine near Kilgarvan, in County Kerry.

Although such collisions have been well documented in Europe and the US, it is the first time a sea eagle has died here, or in Britain, due to a wind turbine. Inevitably, as more turbines are erected in Scotland, there will be more raptor deaths.

Sadly, many of those at the Kincraig meeting were taken in by the developers’ hype, and although some good questions were raised not enough time was given for proper debate, or even to get a reasonable response from the developers.

When asked why 80% of Norway’s wind turbines now stand idle, because that country has virtually given up on wind, the representative of the developer said: “But it’s windier in Scotland than it is in Norway.”

According to the Stuart Young report, it obviously isn’t.

Another very relevant question, from local worthy Cameron Ormiston, asked who was paying for all the hand-outs to the community and the local landowners, went completely unanswered.

The answer of course, as Cameron fully knew, was that we, the consumers, are paying for these huge cash handouts.

At the end of the night support, by a very slim majority, went to the developer, with a large number of folk indicating that they hadn’t made their mind up yet.

Sadly, that slim majority will be used by the developer to suggest they have won public opinion and if that is the case, then misinformation perhaps fooled many into supporting the scheme.

The windfarm industry and misinformation, sadly, appear to go hand in hand.

Source:  Cameron McNeish, Strathspey & Badenoch Herald, www.strathspey-herald.co.uk 13 April 2011

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

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