November 7, 2012
England, Letters

Renewable energy comes at a cost

Salisbury Journal | 7 November 2012 |

With reference to the letter in last week’s Journal supporting wind farms. They are expensive, inefficient and unreliable and together with the infrastructure needed to operate and maintain them, they are a blot on the landscape. They are little more than an excuse for land owners to claim government subsidies.

A recent issue in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy shows that as the proportion of renewable energy penetrating the electricity grid grows, the reduction of CO2 emissions drops sharply.

By the time wind power (and, by analogy, solar) reaches about 20 per cent of the grid, the savings in CO2 emissions are negligible, of the order of 1 to 2 per cent.

The result seems counter-intuitive – surely the more renewable energy,the greater the reduction of CO2 emissions. But the reason for this finding can be found on the miles per gallon sticker on the windows of new cars. The mileage for highway driving is always greater than that for city – stop and go – driving. When we touch the brake pedal, we change the engine speed. The lower mileage for city driving means less efficiency from the gasoline, and more pollution per mile driven.

In the same way, when back-up electricity (mostly natural gas power plants) is ramped up and down (when there is no wind or sun), there are more CO2 emissions compared to when the back-up is running full blast.

Result – much of the emissions savings from using wind power or solar is lost. If the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions, wind and solar are not fit for purpose.

If the Wiltshire Council’s climate topic paper claims that the case for renewals (wind and solar) is compelling, they are clearly not up to speed with the science.

M LENNARD, Woodfalls

THE arguments for renewable energy sources are: reducing carbon emissions; and reducing dependency on imported fuel. The problem is that, in practice, renewable energy comes at a cost, and in the case of onshore wind, a very high cost.

Firstly there is the direct cost added to our fuel bills. This affects us all, but is a disaster for those in fuel poverty. It adds substantially to the costs of business, and prices us out of energy-intensive industries. This may reduce Britain’s carbon footprint, but somebody, somewhere still makes the steel and cement that we use.

Added to this are the indirect costs – the noise, the well-documented health impact on those living near a wind turbine, the blight on the landscape, the effects on tourism and land values, and the destruction of birdlife.

Your correspondent Caroline Lanyon ignores all these issues. She dismisses any consideration of the low utilisation and unpredictability of wind power compared to conventional power. There is the world of difference between the planned maintenance of a power station and the random availability of wind power, totally unconnected with demand. She invokes energy storage as a solution, but this adds yet more cost and inefficiency.

In placing a restriction on the minimum separation between wind turbines and residential properties, Wiltshire Council is sensibly seeking to protect local residents from the worst of the environmental impacts of these monsters.

I do not deny the need for diversity in energy supply, but it seems to me that onshore wind is uniquely ineffective and damaging to our environment to form anything but a small proportion of the mix. I welcome Wiltshire Council’s decision.


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