Over the next four years, visitors to Brighton and the Sussex coast are in for a shock. Visible all the way from Beachy Head to the Isle of Wight, they will see 100 or more colossal wind turbines rising up to 700ft into the sky, nearly 200ft higher than Blackpool Tower. These will form one of the world’s largest wind farms, covering more than 60sq miles of the English Channel.
If they wonder what purpose is served by this vast industrial installation, last week given the go-ahead by Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, they should not be fooled by the claim of the Rampion wind farm’s developers, the German energy giant E.on, that it will have the “capacity” to generate 700 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Buried in small print on its website, it admits that, thanks to the intermittency of the wind, the actual output of this £2 billion scheme will at best average only 240MW. To see how derisory this is, the latest gas-fired power station opened by another German firm, RWE, at Pembroke two years ago, at only half the capital cost, £1 billion, can reliably produce nearly 10 times as much electricity, 2,000MW, all the time.
Of course, no one would dream of building such a gargantuan wind factory as Rampion if it were not for Mr Davey’s ludicrous subsidy system. It may earn E.on some £325million a year. But £220 million of that will be subsidy, paid for by all of us through our electricity bills. Where the power from that Pembroke plant is costing us only £50 per megawatt hour, for that fed to the grid from Brighton we shall pay £155 per megawatt hour, more than three times as much.
Mr Davey happily brushes aside the immense damage his scheme will inflict on the natural environment, from the thousands of seabirds that will be killed by those whirling blades, to that wrought by the 15-mile long trench, up to 40 yards wide, needed to bury the huge cables connecting his windmills to the grid, much of it across the South Downs National Park. Davey may be happy to see the billions of pounds of profit from all this being repatriated to Germany. But he says nothing about the electricity that will be needed to provide back-up for the two-thirds of time, on average, when the wind is not blowing. And that, of course, will have to come from the fossil fuels he so likes to scorn. Future generations looking out to sea from Brighton will be astonished that we could have fallen for such insanity.
• When I recently observed that the output of a 50 kilowatt (KW) windmill near me on the Mendips would, in return for a £17,000-a-year subsidy, average only 13KW, I said this would be enough to boil just 13 kettles. This was based on our own old 1KW kettle. Since modern versions are now 3KW, I should have said four kettles.
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