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Turns for worse

One of the most depressing features of the current ignorance about energy policy in Scotland is the idea that wind energy is an alternative to nuclear energy (Letters, 31 January).

The SNP taps into traditional Scottish antipathy towards nuclear power to whip up support for its wind agenda. Yet despite overshooting its targets for renewable energy generation, the Scottish Government has not announced plans to shut down Scotland’s nuclear power stations.

In fact, it is extending the life of both Torness and Hunterston nuclear power plants into the next decade.

Only in Teletubby-land do turbines replace fossil fuel and nuclear power stations. In the real world the technological drawbacks of wind as a generator of electricity mean that it will never be able to meet the electricity needs of a modern industrial economy.

Because wind power is inherently intermittent and unpredictable, it requires “spinning reserve” – power stations that are constantly idling (like a car at traffic lights) but can spring into action at a moment’s notice when the wind drops.

Since every megawatt of wind-generated electricity requires the same in spinning reserve, it’s clear that the more wind there is in the energy mix, the more back-up generation is required.

Nuclear power cannot act as “spinning reserve” because it cannot be turned up and down quickly enough; only the most polluting kinds of fossil fuel power station are agile and flexible enough to balance the spikes and troughs in wind generation.

However, the big advantage nuclear generation offers over wind is firm, predictable generating capacity which can be integrated much more easily into the grid. This means it requires much less spinning reserve.
Germany proves the point.

Phasing out nuclear in favour of massive expansion in wind and solar has forced Germany to build more than 20 of the dirtiest coal-burning power stations (and it’s not just in increased carbon dioxide emissions that Germany is paying for its renewables revolution; renewable subsidies have produced some of the highest electricity bills in Europe and a political crisis for Angela Merkel).

Grid engineers will tell you that renewables are a marginal distraction, an expensive green indulgence which cannot keep the lights on. For all the spin about wind energy, the real choice is between fossil fuel power stations and nuclear.

Linda Holt

Scotland Against Spin

Pittenweem, Fife

ALYN Smith MEP writes (Letters, 31 January) that “curiously” I am attacking the SNP government for overshooting its target on renewables.

No wonder. Alex Salmond’s obsession with wind power has now littered some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes with 1,900 giant industrial turbines, while another 3,000 are in the planning pipeline. The estimated cost of all 5,000 will be around £9 billion and yet these monster machines only deliver a trickle of electricity and need constant back-up from coal or gas-fired power stations to ensure our lights don’t go out when the wind isn’t blowing.

This is why the SNP’s energy policy won’t make any serious impact on CO2 emissions. It will, however, make a significant impact on electricity bills. Ten thousand individuals have written directly to the SNP government to object to this mad dash for wind, but their pleas have been ignored. Maybe Mr Smith would be better switching from “transmit” to “receive” so that he can hear what the people of Scotland are saying about his party’s energy policy.

Struan Stevenson, MEP

President, European 
Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change