(copied from http://www.bmpg.co.uk/windmonster.html )
A personal statement from John Etherington PhD DIC BSc ARCS
Dr John Etherington was Reader in Ecology in the University of Wales until his retirement to Pembrokeshire in the early 1990s. He was educated at Imperial College in the 1950s-60s. Much of his research and teaching was in the field of environmental chemistry and physics. He first wrote about the impact of human activity on carbon dioxide emission and "greenhouse-warming? in his "Environment and Plant Ecology?" published in 1975 and re-editioned in 1982. John has published several other books, many research papers, and is a Thomas Huxley Medallist of the Royal College of Science. He was co-Editor of the international Journal of Ecology from 1988 to 1991 and for the past 15 years has edited a local history Newsletter based in the Vale of Glamorgan village of Llancarfan. This article is adapted from material presented at ?Where the land meets the Sky?, an exhibition of paintings by David Bellamy and friends at the Erwood Station Gallery.
I have battled for ten years to publicise the truth about commercial indpower.
My personal crusade started in 1993 with the building of the Taff Ely wind power station, perched above the Vale of Glamorgan looking own toward its "big cousin", Aberthaw Power Station. This wind "farm" is rated at 9 Megawatts (MW) but actually yields a long-term verage of below 3 MW. In those ten years, Taff Ely has generated less than 263 Gigawatt hours of electricity. Aberthaw generates this mount in just over a week!
A "back of an envelope" calculation originally told me that these machines would be worthless to the power system. It was equally obvious that the proliferation of huge industrial structures quite deliberately placed where no other planning permissions could be granted would manoeuvre us into a situation where further objections could not be justified on "landscape" grounds. This was the very situation which landscape preservation bodies and wildlife experts had battled to avoid, throughout the 20th century.
I first saw wind turbines in Wales in the mid-1980s when the former CEGB started its Carmarthen Bay trials under the shadow of BurryPort Power Station (now demolished). Looking across the Lougher Estuary from Whitford Point, on the Gower Peninsula I thought "How wonderful" - elegant little devices, dwarfed by the filthy, smoke-belching monster which towered over them.
It was not until 1993 that I realised the sad truth. The Burry Port turbines were tiny, tiny machines. My brother, a CEGB engineer in "big" power, scornfully dismissed them as "toys" and demolished my impression that they might hold our future. The output of those first turbines was so small, compared with the power station, looming above them, that they might just as well not have existed.
Today things are different. The Welsh Affairs Committee told the Commons in 1994 that it would be "concerned if wind turbine towers became significantly taller than at present." The Llandinam turbines, built in 1992, for example, are just 150 feet tall.
The industry has ruthlessly trampled such concerns and now, we shall have 327-foot machines near the summit of magical Plynlimon and 440 foot turbines set into that silver jewel of the Severn Sea, and silhouetted against the distant Exmoor heights. Worse is in store.From Llyn Brianne, past Capel-y-Mynydd, to Strata Florida, 165 twitching giants may "add some life" to the remote hills which are the magnificent backdrop to Tregaron and its National Nature Reserve.
The biggest onshore machines today, like a potent sports-car, are marketed by "top speed". In this case it is their installed capacity of 1.5 MW. Such is their dependence on wind, however, that they actually generate no more than one third of this maximum capacity (the DTI suggests 28% and Danish experience, perhaps only 20%).
So - a huge wind turbine generates no more than 0.5 MW. To replace the output of Wales' biggest power station, Aberthaw, would need 3000 of these giants in the tiny 8000 square miles of our magical land. Not much hope of replacing fossil fuel (or, sadly, nuclear electricity) with clean, "green" wind then!
Even Plaid Cymru, the most vociferous political exponent of wind power confesses that we cannot replace more than about 15% of Welsh generation with wind. If there were more, it raises the spectre of what might happen on a windless day.
If all our electricity came from wind, literally nothing would happen - the country would black-out. A few hospitals and businesses would resort to dirty diesel generators and the rest of us would take our chance.
This is why 15% to 20% would be the outside limit. Even then, there is a problem. Wind speed can fall dramatically and is not easily forecast. Thus, it is essential that backup from conventional fuel can be switched on at minutes notice. Because conventional power station turbines take many hours to warm-up from cold, the backup must be kept hot and running - either idling or below peak generation, either way consuming extra fuel because steam turbines are very inefficient if not at full load.
Why are we building wind turbines? To save emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) which are causing climatic warming (so we are told).However, with an average electricity yield of a third of rated maximum, wind turbines won't save much anyway, and if this is compounded by the emission from hot backup what then? The expert engineering organisation in this field, the Institution of Chemical Engineering, warns that perhaps 50% of the saving may be lost to backup, based-on the experience of Denmark, with more windpower than any other land on the planet.
Denmark is also a very fortunate land because its neighbour, Norway, has a surplus of instantly available hydroelectricity, which Denmark uses as backup. Without this, and some input from Sweden and Germany, the Danish electricity network would not function securely, even with its present amount of windpower.
Do you believe government and its wind industry friends when they say we must have these machines? Or do you believe a professional engineering judgement, which warns that our wind energy policy is flawed, that "forward price projections should carry a major 'health warning' and it is foolhardy to base a major plank of the nation's energy policy on such a tenuous extrapolation?"
Controlling climate change - science, non-science or nonsense?
Read any newspaper. Study school and university curricula. Watch theTV. One and only one conclusion can be drawn. "Global Warming" is a threat. Prime Ministers and their hench-persons use words such as "catastrophe" to describe the consequences if we don't change our ways - and - no, not tax aircraft fuel, or subsidise energy efficiency, but build wind turbines. Other "renewables" are mentioned but realism says they will not be here in time for the 2010 or even 2020 targets.
If climatic catastrophe looms so close, why does a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) specifically warn that its mathematical models of future climate need to be treated as hypotheses, not as predictions? : -
"No judgement is offered in this report as to the preference for any of the scenarios and they are not assigned probabilities of occurrence, neither must they be interpreted as policy recommendations " (IPCC Web-site, 2003).
A giant wind turbine costs several million pounds to deploy offshore. This looks pretty much like a policy decision to me!
As a professional ecologist, with specialist knowledge of recent environmental history and pre-history I am appalled at the way in which the promoters of windpower and their political supporters have deliberately ignored very pertinent questions concerning climate-change. They have indeed been swept under the carpet, for example by lack of discussion of submitted evidence during the WAG EDC Renewable Energy report consultation.
We live in an interglacial period, of which there have been previously six or more, recurring cyclically. The peak temperatures at our latitude became sub-tropical (fossil evidence) and this will happen again. 'Fossil' evidence from ice-cores in the Antarctic and Greenland tells us that atmospheric CO2 and methane (another greenhouse gas) increased in concentration during these interglacial warming periods (possibly even causing them) and then declined again as the following glacial periods ensued.
During our current interglacial, the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere has been rising in sporadic fashion since the glacial maximum (c.18,000 years ago). Warming was faster during the final de-glaciation (ended c.10,000 years ago) but has continued ever since - much more slowly in the past 2-3,000 years.
By the middle of previous interglacial periods the sea level had risen several metres as a result of thermal expansion and partial melting of landlocked "ice-caps". Wales, including Pembrokeshire, has some spectacular remains of "raised-beaches" which record the last such event and it is certain that this will happen again. The sea will reach a similar level within possibly hundreds, and certainly thousands, of years. We can do nothing to prevent this and need to plan for it.
It is indeed possible that the human contribution to CO2 enrichment may slightly speed the warming process but, as the IPCC quotation above shows, this has to be treated as an unproved hypothesis, not strong enough to support implementation of policy.
The proponents of warming must explain how CO2 and methane increased previously without human intervention. More crucially, how did the concentration decline again as the climate cooled into the succeeding glaciation? There were no humans during this time and thus no industrial emission of CO2 .
Earth's climate has remained within the limits tolerated by life, for several billion years. During this time the planet has experienced unimaginable volcanic events which liberated huge amounts of CO2 , we have collided with extraterrestrial objects which triggered either increase or decrease of temperature and even the energy flow from the sun has altered over such a span of geological time.
And yet here we are! Life remains. The global temperature is well within life's limits - indeed the present-day is cooler than much of previous geological time. There is one circumstantial conclusion and one only. Earth's climate, and probably the climate of all other planets, self-regulates.
How could this happen? The answer centres on another IPCC admission - that it does not understand cloud formation or the effects of cloud and water vapour on energy exchange: "The sign of the net cloud feedback is still a matter of uncertainty." (IPCC 2000)
It surely is uncertain - in February 2003, US meteorologists announced the discovery of a hitherto unknown high-level cloud layer. This truly must have thrown a spanner in the works of the IPCC 'guesstimated' models.
I don't claim to have the answer, but a feasible and circumstantially likely mechanism is that rising temperature increases water evaporation at the surface, allows extra cloud formation and this cloud reflects back more solar short wave radiation which would otherwise warm earth.
I believe it is quite likely that 'global warming' is a non-problem. However, the worst and precautionary scenario is that it is happening, and Mr Blair's 'catastrophe' is ahead.
What should we do? Stop emitting CO2 . Sir John Houghton, IPCC, recently wrote (for WAG's energy consultation) that even if we totally stopped all world emissions (no industry, no transport, no fossil fuel and no electricity), it would take between 50 and 100 years before temperature increase and sea level rise stopped. So, if anything at all, we need to do something pretty drastic.
What is Government's response? Does it, as a matter of urgency, subsidise energy conservation, which could save perhaps a quarter of all our CO2 emission within a couple of years? Does it limit the rapidly increasing volume of air traffic from our shores? Does it suggest sensible measures for reducing road traffic and engine size?
No! Again, to reiterate: we are to build wind turbines.
Wind, for practical reasons, cannot satisfy more than perhaps 10% of our generating need and this represents less than 3% of the total UK emission of CO2 . But more to the point it is only c. 0.1% of world CO2 emission. If the problems of back-up cannot be solved the cost of this tiny contribution will be astronomical.
Just what would this achieve other than filling a windpower salesman's order book? If global warming did not exist it would be necessary for the windpower industry to invent it.
WHAT IT COSTS - SCANDAL AND SCAM. "Scare 'em to death and they'll buy anything!" The oldest patent medicine scam in the world.
The wholesale price of electricity is 1.6 p per kWh. Wind electricity commands up to 5.43p/kWh but remember, British Energy was almost bankrupted by a sales price of 1.9p/kWh in 2002!
The explanation lies in the confusing Renewables Obligation and Climate Change Levy which force the purchase of renewably generated electricity and increase its selling price to more than three times wholesale value.
The draft version of WAG's Renewable Energy Report Wind energy described the top-up as "a subsidy". In the Final Report, this was altered to "windfarms receive no direct subsidy". This was a scandalous attempt to deceive.
WAG says very truthfully "at this price many renewables are economic." YOU BET!
Other WAG documents tell us that the capital cost of windpower ranges between £0.5 million and £1.5 million per MW installed. A simple calculation shows that, just to defray this capital cost would take between 14 and 22 years if the wholesale price of 1.6 p/kWh were charged. Add on bank interest and the economics just do not stand-up. Indeed, at an interest rate of 4.5% the annual interest alone would equal the value of the electricity!
The top-up payment, which has Danish and American windpower companies flocking to our hills, will be passed back down through the supplier and will appear on our bills. Take warning from Denmark, the most "turbinised" country on the planet. Danish electricity costs nearly twice as much as ours and this year Denmark was forced to almost halve the wind-subsidy! The final Danish-lesson is that the country's CO2 emission has now risen back to pre-windpower levels!
The destruction of landscape and potential damage to tourist income is a horrific prospect as it is Wales' largest rural industry. We may not like the fact, but tourism has to be the future of Welsh countryside life. It earns almost £2 billion a year for Wales, contributes 7% to Welsh GDP and far outweighs agriculture (less than 2% GDP). The electricity industry also contributes less than 2% to GDP so, even if the Government's target of 10% of electricity from renewables (mainly wind) is achieved, the windpower industry will be worth much less than 0.2% of GDP. There is accumulating proof, such as the 2002 VisitScotland survey of visitor attitudes, that tourists will avoid wind-industrial landscapes. So, for a tiny wind-electrical industry with no raison d'être beyond political advertisement and huge private profit, we are to jeopardise our main rural source of income which is over 35-times larger!
We must not allow our country to be further desecrated by this uncontrolled and purposeless industrialisation. Common sense and facts are entirely on our side. The time has come to complain. Cardiff Bay and Westminster need to reconsider every facet of this deeply flawed and damaging industry.