- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Wind turbines: Do they increase carbon emissions?

My name is George Wood, formerly a National Grid Power Systems Operations Engineer at both Regional and National Control Centres and latterly the person who developed the contractual and testing parameters of generation operations on the National Grid Network for Ancillary Services which included load management operation specifications for frequency response and reserve strategies. These strategies were carried over to the existing NETA balancing services.

I do believe that K Le Pair’s research and others have some merit in being critical of the minimal CO2 savings in the deployment of wind turbines in Electricity Networks. Also, I believe that the more wind-turbines that are deployed, the situation will be exacerbated and that is why more interconnectors to Europe are currently being planned to export or import power to try and even out the wind energy generation outputs when excesses or shortfalls occur. In my view the economics of continuing the ‘dash for more wind turbines’ is nonsensical and will be detrimental to the UK’s ability to compete industrially because of the increased electrical energy costs that would be incurred by having a higher proportion of intermittent wind energy. Wind energy costs twice as much on-shore and three times as much off-shore to that of existing conventional energy power stations and the potential for using shale gas through CCGTs at much lower costs should become an even lower cost alternative strategy, with lower CO2 emissions. These developments could replace existing power stations on existing sites without the need for new transmission connections. Also, existing nuclear power plants should be replaced by new nuclear developments on existing power station sites and again avoiding the need for new transmission networks.

I do not believe you can escape the double capacity build of power plants through the deployment of wind-turbines in the UK, as the possible huge scale of interconnection builds with Europe will not overcome the fact that in the middle of winter there can be high pressure weather zones over Europe and the UK at the same time. Power systems are designed to meet the highest electricity demand conditions which, as has been mentioned, will undoubtedly often occur at the same time in Europe and the UK. So, all-in-all, I doubt that a true economic case can be made for building many European interconnectors on the grounds of one system aiding the other to avoid capacity shortfalls and there must be a limited number of interconnectors that could be justified through daily transfer exchanges.

I offered Chris Huhne and DECC to set up a team of unbiased Engineers and Mathematicians that would, through my leadership, evaluate the UK’s power network to determine the major CO2 emissions question and all I received from Charles Hendry through my local MP, Jeremy Wright, was an answer that 1MW of energy generated by wind-turbines is 1MW of CO2 emissions saved from conventional energy generation. This is clearly NOT the case. The other significant area of omission by DECC is the carbon footprint of the double power station build requirements to support the deficiencies of wind turbines, their enforced inefficient reserve operations and the increased carbon footprint of additional transmission network requirements and their power losses through remote connections. Clearly, Ofgem, as the electricity and gas Regulator, should be overseeing that these analysis are accurately and unbiasedly performed to benefit the nation economically.

If there are minimal or no CO2 emissions savings through the deployment of intermittent wind-turbines, which I believe is nearer the truth, then the vast sums of monies, in the many £-billions per year that would be incurred and charged to the public, cannot be justified.

George Wood, retired Power Systems Operations Manager.