Mr Blair will blow billions on wind power


From Christopher Booker's Notebook, Sunday Telegraph, (Filed: 17/02/2002)

LAST week's Government energy review, proposing a massive expansion in wind power to produce electricity, perpetuated one of the most bizarre confidence tricks of the modern world. So ludicrously expensive and inefficient is this form of power generation that Denmark, the world leader, which produces 13 per cent of its electricity from wind power, has just called a halt to the programme which has given it the most expensive electricity in Europe, and yielded no reduction in the emission of "greenhouse gases".

Yet at this very moment Mr Blair's advisers in his Policy and Innovation Unit call for an expansion in wind generation which, in order for Britain to equal Denmark's current level of 13 per cent, would require at least 20,000 new turbines, in addition to the 900 we have already.
To see how absurd this is, one has only to consider the proposal to erect 165 two-megawatt turbines over 48 square miles of the Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales. Each will be around 400 feet high, the size of Salisbury Cathedral or Millbank Tower. Because they cannot operate when winds are either too weak or too strong, they produce only a quarter of their capacity, requiring permanent backup from conventional power stations. Total output will be about enough to provide power for a large village, yet each turbine will require a subsidy of #100,000 a year, and any carbon dioxide emissions it saves will be made up by that emitted from just four container lorries.

The intermittent output of the 900 turbines which already dominate vast tracts of upland in northern and western Britain amounts to only 150megawatts, while a single industrial plant, the Angelesey aluminium factory, requires 220 megawatts of continuous supply.
The Blair Government is eager to expand our wind programme, in order to meet targets for renewable energy set by the European Union; but to achieve even half of Denmark's figure of 13 per cent of total electricity output would mean windfarms covering more than 3,000 square miles of countryside. In the face of mounting opposition to these ugly, noisy installations, the Government is now pushing many of them through by diktat, without need for planning permission or public enquiries. They will be sited wherever our energy minister, Brian Wilson, decides to allow them to be sited.

What is extraordinary is how successful propagandists for wind power have been in creating the illusion that it is in any way environmentally
friendly. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds cites a poll showing that only 3 per cent of the population oppose wind farms, although one such large farm in California alone kills up to 300 redtail hawks and 60 golden eagles a year with its revolving blades. So sickening is the montonous "whump" of those blades that house prices in areas near wind farms drop by up to a half, and studies show a marked decline in the popularity of such areas with tourists. Even the supposed benefit of reducing greenhouse gases is more than negated by the emissions generated in the construction of the huge steel or concrete pylons, and for them to be backed up by other forms of generation. But what makes wind power indefensible is its need for massive subsidies, through the "non-fossil fuel obligation" by which the turbines have to be financed through a levy on electricity produced by conventional means.

This has persuaded the Danish government to halt the wind programme which has hoisted electricity prices to 13p a unit, compared with 7-8p in Britain. As a result, Denmark's turbine makers, with 50 per cent of the world market, are desperate for new customers. And who could seem more gullible than Mr Blair, falling for the great wind fantasy just when the Danes have recognised it as one of the silliest delusions of our age?

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