March 6 2005
South: Wind farm worries
Politics Editor, BBC South
It sounded so attractive, so clean, so natural. But has the government underestimated the cost of wind farms, and the scale of opposition? Could power from wind end up as an expensive pipe dream?
Tony Blair has set ambitious targets for Britain to lead the world in developing wind power, with an aim of 20% from renewable sources by 2020.
It should be possible. Britain is one of the windiest parts of the world. Forty percent of the wind that blows across Europe crosses our shores.
In theory, it could provide three times our current energy needs.
Taking wind power seriously would set a real example as all governments begin to wake up to the threat of global warming.
Hang on a bit ...
But worrying reports are coming across the North Sea from the country who, up until now has taken the lead in wind power.
Germany has built 15,000 wind turbines in the last 15 years, half in the last five years.
For every turbine, 800 miles of cable have to be laid, roads have to be built and the electricity grid has to be adapted to cope with the sudden fluctuations in power.
The Germans estimate that wind energy is three times more expensive than conventional power. To avoid emitting one tonne of carbon dioxide costs up to 77 Euros.
They suggest that being more energy efficient might be the more immediate goal.
As the questions of cost grow, there is growing discontent at the environmental impact of massive wind power schemes.
The Romney Marshes in Kent are a haven for birds. But the planned new arrivals would transform these flatlands for ever.
The wind farm would provide electricity for 75% of homes in the Shepway area providing electricity for nearly 50,000 homes.
But at the site there would be 27 turbines covering 1,000 acres of Romney Marsh.
Each turbine would be 370 ft tall, with concrete foundations sunk 110 ft into the earth.
More than six miles of new roads would be built across the marshland, requiring 50,000 tons of road stone.
The height of the wind farms would be the same as a 30-story block of flats.
The proposal has been unanimously opposed by every elected authority in the area, including 12 parish councils, two district councils and two county councils.
But as our energy use continues to grow, power generation has to keep up.
To avoid the disastrous consequences of global warming it is essential that a growing proportion comes from renewable sources.
Wind power may be expensive, it may provoke anger in the communities where farms are located. But what other option is there if we want to save the planet?
RESIDENTS' DELIGHT AT WINDFARM VICTORY
09:00 - 05 March 2005
Opponents of a windfarm proposed beside the Dounreay nuclear site in Caithness were celebrating last night after the plans were rejected on appeal - the first decision of its kind in the Highlands.
CRE Energy's plan for a 10-turbine venture on farmland was the subject of a five-day hearing at Thurso.
The company - a subsidiary of Scottish Power - had challenged Highland Council's refusal of planning consent for the development on Borrowston Farm.
But yesterday the company learned that Scottish inquiry reporter Bill Patterson had rejected its appeal.
In his written findings, Mr Patterson ruled that the two rows of turbines with a blade-tip height of more than 300ft would have had an unacceptable impact on nearby residents.
He stated: "From the evidence and site inspections, I consider that it would be unjustifiably complacent or optimistic not to find that there would be significant detriment to individual and community residential amenity."
Mr Patterson noted that Scottish Executive guidance made clear that the wider cause of renewable energy would be set back by adverse public reaction to developments that are insensitive to neighbours.
"This consideration is some comfort for not being able to approve a scheme that would make a direct contribution to reducing carbon emissions," he said.
The decision was welcomed by local objectors, who clubbed together to hire a QC for the appeal hearing.
Angie Craig, secretary of the recently-formed Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, said the outcome was a huge relief for people in the area.
"The residents of Achreamie, Dounreay and Balmore are delighted with Mr Patterson's verdict," she said. "We are very much relieved that he has agreed with ourselves and the council. It has been a very stressful time and yet again it has been local people who have had to bear major costs to get the correct result."
Mrs Craig said the outcome supported the council's stance and she hoped it would help the authority in the way it resolved future windfarm applications in the far north.
She said: "They must remember how many of the public are unhappy with industrialisation of the county.
"We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us."
Among the objectors was Caithness West Community Council, which is concerned about the rash of turbine developments earmarked for the area.
Locals had to stump up £6,000 to fight the windfarm proposal.
German hot air bodes ill for wind power
Author: TREVOR SYKES
Publication: Australian Financial Review
Wind farms are fashionable, ugly and of low practical utility.
Babcock & Brown is buying a portfolio of wind farms in Spain, Pacific Hydro is installing more windmills around Portland and the Greens are pushing for increased development of renewable energy sources.
Facing this political and financial pressure, the federal government has been conned into subsidising wind power by forcing generators to effectively buy it twice. Before Canberra commits more money to the mandated renewable energy targets scheme, someone should look at what has been happening in Germany.
At last count, Germany accounted for one-third of the world's wind power capacity, much of it installed around Schleswig-Holstein near the Danish border.
One party that is highly critical of wind power is E.ON Netz, the owner of the grid system that includes 44 per cent of Germany's installed wind-farm capacity. Last year it published a report (summarised in Downtown on November 6) saying that the electricity generated by its wind farms averaged only 11 per cent of capacity.
Worse, the high variability of wind strengths meant that the wind farms had to be 80 per cent backed by conventional power. This also implies that if wind power becomes too large a component of an electricity system (15 per cent seems to be the crucial figure), its variability has the potential to unbalance the entire grid.
Wind farms have now ignited a political furore in Germany after a study commissioned by the federal government into the extension of wind power.
This is a pet project of the German Greens, who hold 55 seats in the four-party coalition that forms the German government. The Greens' target is to increase installed wind capacity in Germany from 23 terrawatt hours to 77 TWh by 2015. That would equate to more than 16 per cent of Germany's electricity consumption. (A terrawatt hour is one trillion watt hours.)
The study was conducted under the aegis of the federal energy agency. Those participating included the government, the big electricity concerns, the German Wind Energy Institute, Cologne's Commercial Energy Institute and the wind power industry body, Windkraftbranche.
They met on January 17 to ratify the experts' report, which would then go to the government. Instead of agreeing to the report, the Windkraftbranche representatives insisted on an editorial revision. Otherwise they could not allow the report to be made public.
The 490-page report, written by scientists, concluded that wind power would be more expensive than previously claimed. Their report is still censored, but a copy has been leaked to Der Spiegel, which published the main conclusions:
* 845 kilometres of massive high- tension routes would have to be built at a cost of EUR1.1 billion ($1.84 billion) to link the burgeoning wind farms to the grid.
* Despite considerable investment in improved technology, risks to the electricity supply could not be ruled out.
* The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions could be achieved more cheaply by other means.
* The net additional costs of the wind-generated electricity from 2003 to 2015 were estimated at EUR12 billion to EUR17 billion.
The report is sensitive because, while the Greens and the Socialists have been backing wind farms in parliament, the public is becoming increasingly restive about them. By their nature, wind farms tend to occupy shorelines, high points and open country, making them highly visible.
To catch the maximum amount of wind, the windmills have to be well separated and cannot be built in neat lines or the rear ones will be in the slipstream. Der Spiegel says: "Resistance to the encroaching 'asparagusing' of the landscape by the affected population is growing across the country."
On top of that, investors in wind farms have been disappointed. "Capital investors must take into account that the profit forecasts by wind farm operators and investing farmers are showing themselves to be sometimes doubtful," Der Spiegel said.
This has generated a bigger political storm than any wind farm could have. The wind farmers have suppressed a scientific report, with the connivance of a friendly government. The Greens are claiming that the scientists got the numbers wrong, and so the report isn't fit to be read by the public, they claim.
Meanwhile, the president of the Federal Industrial Association, Jurgen Thumann, said: "We risk the blackout of the electricity supply if we go on with the promotion of renewable energies."
Given the doubts that are arising in Germany the country that has embraced wind power most enthusiastically let's hope the Australian government goes very slowly before deciding to throw more money at the merchants behind the wind farms of Australia.
Western Morning News
MP FEARS WINDFARMS WILL KILL WILD BIRDS
Date : 04 March 2005
The possible threat posed to birds by wind turbines has prompted one Devon MP to call for an investigation. North Devon MP Nick Harvey said he was concerned because his constituency provides habitat for a large number of wild birds and plans have been announced for a major wind turbine development in the Braunton area.
"It would appear that there isn't only a quality of life issue surrounding residents with regard to turbines, but the fact that some birds would and could be in danger from the turbines," said Mr Harvey. "Given the rich variety of wild birds we have in North Devon this is of particular concern to me. I have read information from several sources which show that birds were killed by turbines and I will be asking for an investigation."
Research in the USA has found a significant number of bird deaths have been caused by turbines. The tips of the blades can travel at speeds of about 100mph, which birds find difficult to judge, with catastrophic consequences. A windfarm in Navarra, Spain, has killed griffon vultures and other raptors as well as small migratory birds and bats.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has lodged a formal objection to a wind farm proposed for the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides. The area proposed for the 234-turbine site is protected under European law for a variety of birds, including golden eagles, merlins, black-throated divers, red-throated divers, dunlins and greenshanks. The RSPB is also worried about the amount of concrete needed for construction.
The charity said it was extremely concerned about the implications of climate change and supported the erection of sensibly located windfarms as part of efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuel, but in its submission to the Scottish Executive, the RSPB argued that the large-scale industrial development on Lewis was in "exactly the wrong place".
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) said it was a "myth" that windfarms killed lots of birds. A spokesman said: "With sensitive siting there is no adverse effect on bird populations." He added that millions of birds are killed each year by cars.
With Devon's first commercial windfarm at Bradworthy already complete, there are fears that the way is now clear for further development.
An application has been submitted by Devon Wind Power for 22 360ft turbines at Fullabrook Down between Braunton and Ilfracombe. The firm claims the turbines will be capable of providing 60 per cent of Devon's recommended onshore wind energy capacity target of 103 megawatts by 2010.
The amount of concrete needed for bases for the turbines has prompted local district councillor Roy Lucas to warn that they could cause flood problems.
"According to Devon Wind Power's information it would take about 1,200 tonnes of concrete plus another 44 tonnes of reinforcing steel for each turbine base," said Coun Lucas.
"As they plan to erect some 22 turbines this would amount to, in total, 26,400 tonnes of concrete plus 968 tonnes of steel. The natural balance of this area is very delicate."