December 13, 2011
Scotland, U.K.

Storm shutdown is blow to future of wind turbines

The Sunday Times, 11 December 2011

Wind energy plans face a setback after it emerged that the power output from wind turbines plunged by more than half during last week’s storms

Britain’s plans for a huge expansion in wind energy face a setback after it emerged that the power output from wind turbines plunged by more than half during last week’s storms.

At the height of the bad weather, one turbine in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, caught fire while others automatically shut down to prevent damage from high winds.

Data seen by The Sunday Times reveals the full extent of the failure of power generation from turbines as storms and winds of up to 165mph hit Scotland. At about 9am on Thursday, the wind turbines were generating more than 2,000 megawatts. This slumped as the strong winds blew across the country and the turbines shut down. By midday, output had fallen to 708 megawatts. The turbine operators had predicted they would be operating normally.

Further doubts about all forms of alternative energy – including wind turbines – will be highlighted tomorrow in a joint report from the Adam Smith Institute and the Scientific Alliance, which argues that the government’s focus on renewable energy sources is misguided.

The report, Renewable Energy: Vision or Mirage, says plans for renewables are unrealistic and the technologies cannot provide the secure energy supply the country needs.

If current policies are pursued then Britain faces an energy crisis by the middle of this decade, the authors warn.

“As renewable energy sources produce power intermittently, they cannot replace gas, coal and nuclear generation, even with further development,” the report says.

The storms have raised serious concerns among energy experts about the reliability and cost of wind turbines which will face another test this week as forecasters warn of more rough weather to come. The Met Office predicts severe gales early in the week, with gusts of up to 70mph.

During last week’s storms 105,000 homes in Scotland lost their electricity supply and 10,000 were still without power yesterday.

The Sunday Times revealed last week that Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, is planning to build up to 32,000 new turbines to help meet green targets. There are now almost 3,000 onshore wind turbines in the UK. The Scottish government aims to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s own electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Sir Bernard Ingham, secretary of the pressure group Supporters of Nuclear Energy, led the charge against wind turbines this weekend. He said: “They are no good when the wind doesn’t blow and they are no good when the wind does blow. What on earth is the point of them? ”;

Energy experts say the unreliability of wind turbines means extra expenditure is needed to ensure they are always backed up by other power sources. John Constable, director of policy and research for the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “It is a very expensive way of generating power because this shows you need two systems running in parallel.”;

A spokesman for the National Grid said more work was needed on accurately predicting the amount of power that would be generated by turbines.

Robert Norris, a spokesman for RenewableUK, the trade association for the wind industry, said wind turbines represented good value for money.

“Once they are constructed, your source of energy is free and they cut carbon emissions,” he said.

URL to article: