Sir, – Your “Energy options for Ireland” series (February 21st-24th) states correctly that our CO2 emissions are rising. They will continue to do so as long as our Government continues to pursue what is essentially an “all-wind strategy” as a means to decarbonise our energy system.
A substantial body of peer-reviewed evidence shows clearly that the current wind strategy and energy policy are environmentally and economically unsustainable.
Wind speeds vary by nature on an hourly basis so wind turbines produce electricity intermittently and back-up plant, or “spinning reserve”, is required to have reliable power available on short notice to compensate for a drop in wind or indeed a plant outage.
The intermittent nature of wind presents a challenges for the grid operator as electricity must be available on demand. Electricity cannot be stored in reserve unless large-scale hydro is available. In fact the supply must be balanced to exactly match the variable demand, second by second. Wind adds a large variable along with the variability of a conventional plant going out due to a breakdown.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) uses models to extrapolate the specific amount of fossil fuel used by gas plants which continuously cycle in the background as a support for wind energy. Its most recent report on this, Quantifying Ireland’s Fuel and CO2 Emissions Savings from Renewable Electricity in 2012, shows that national CO2 emissions following 20 years of investment in wind have fallen by an abysmal 2.6 per cent and our fuel imports by 2.3 per cent. Despite this, we plan on doubling the number of wind turbines. It is worth noting that there are many studies which show that spinning reserve can halve and even quarter these claimed savings.
Regardless of savings to date, it is clear that the more wind that is added to a system, the less CO2 saving is achieved as cycling plant increases. Before we move from 20 per cent to 40 per cent wind on our system, there is a need for robust independent analysis to ascertain the exact CO2 and fuel savings we will make. Having 40 per cent wind sounds compelling but is utterly pointless and a waste of resources if permanent back-up cycling gas plants erode any CO2 savings.
Numerous wind farms are currently being contracted at enormous future costs to the State. An immediate pause is required until a robust and comprehensive analysis is complete.
A failure to do so may result in huge costs imposed on our economy, enormous damage to our environment and divided rural communities forced to live in this industrial landscape, and all for paltry CO2 savings. – Yours, etc,
Wind Aware Ireland,