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Politicians must take care when blowing hot about wind power  

Credit:  The Herald, www.heraldscotland.com 19 April 2011 ~~

The recent ramping up of renewable energy targets for Scotland for electoral purposes is further dangerous evidence that politicians do not understand what they are claiming, and what sort of country they will be creating, if they are given their head.

(“SNP’s 100% green aim is ‘a fantasy’,” The Herald, April 15).

There is much talk of producing renewable power from biomass, solar arrays, wave energy, sea currents and off-shore wind but the reality is that the vast majority of Scottish developments in this important sector are planned to be of wind power, and wind power that is located on-shore.

Consequently much of our countryside – hills, moorland, shores, forests and farm land – is being targeted as sites for large turbines and their associated access roads, buildings and power lines. Comparisons with England in this respect are shocking. England plans to locate more than half of its turbines out of sight at sea; almost all of those in Scotland will be highly visible.

The most extreme situation can be seen by comparing the south west regions in each country. For every 20 large wind turbines operational or planned to be built in Cornwall, Somerset, Devon and Dorset there are over 1000 turbines to be located in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Galloway.

South west England has higher than average wind speeds. So this has little to do with wind resources but everything to do with Scottish political priorities and the weakness of our local democracy, which often wants to, but cannot stop inappropriate developments.

A kilowatt hour of wind-generated electricity is worth less than a kilowatt hour of electricity generated on demand by any other means. For a third of the time, when little wind blows, we will need to make electricity much as we do now – so no power stations should be permanently closed. If power stations are closed we will for the first time in our history have to start importing electricity from south of the border and that could cost serious money. For a third of the time we will be exporting some electricity provided it can be balanced by those receiving it using responsive gas-fired power stations – costly on CO2 emissions as well as money. For a third of the time we will be trying to export large and variable amounts of electricity, often at little or no real value. Ask the Danes, they have this situation now.

Forget feed-in tariffs and subsidies, these are short term incentives which can be quickly altered; electricity only has real value at the second the customer needs it.

Having a theoretical surplus of power is of limited use unless it can be brought under close control. There are ways of achieving this in the long term but the costs are enormous; increasing our hydro storage and distribution by a factor of 10.And the costs in terms of the further damage to the Scottish environment would also be enormous.

Wind power has a place but it should be carefully targeted so as not to put Scotland in a position of commercial weakness or so degrade Scotland’s environment that many will choose to stay or visit elsewhere.

Bruce McIntosh,

Corriedoo,

Dalry,

Castle Douglas.

As someone who has been involved in renewable energy for more than 35 years, I am concerned that neither Alex Salmond, nor experts your writers consulted, appear to understand the laws of physics.

How much renewable energy Scotland can produce by 2020 has very little to do with political will and everything to do with engineering reality.

No matter how large the installed capacity of intermittent renewable energy devices, this does not mean that we can produce the amount of electricity we need at any given time; your article is silent on the back-up generation that will be required to meet the electricity demand.

A report which will be published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on Scotland’s energy policy will demonstrate that meeting the original target of 50% of electricity from renewable resources by 2020 will be exceedingly difficult with current strategy.

Increasing that target to 80% or 100% by 2020 has to be seen as political posturing and the probable outcome is that Scotland’s crucial renewable energy targets will become discredited.

Ian M Arbon,

Merkland, Pinmore

Girvan, Ayrshire.

I regret that almost all discussion of energy matters in Scotland ignores the elephant in the room: the fact that energy policy is largely not devolved and that the UK is in the middle of a dash for wind which is impelled by the UK Government’s desperate attempt to meet the 2008 EU Directive that the UK should produce 15% of all its energy requirements from renewables by 2020.

The UK started from a low base and should perhaps never have accepted the terms of the directive.

The SNP is riding this wave of public investment in wind, but the SNP Government has accepted the need for baseload in its National Planning Framework, revised in 2008.

The 100% claim is no fantasy. It does not mean that energy from wind will be able to match demand as it occurs, unit for unit, but simply that gross output from renewable power sources in Scotland in 2020 will (roughly) equal gross Scottish demand for electrical power.

Wind energy is oversubsidised by electricity users in the UK but it is not a useless technology as some critics assert. It consumes space; it seems to many to despoil landscapes, and perhaps the SNP should fight harder to avoid that, but renewables are a range of technologies we are right to pursue with vigour for the opportunities they present.

Norman Lawrie,

Fair Fields,

Newton Port,

Haddington.

Source:  The Herald, www.heraldscotland.com 19 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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