Conclusive Figures Expound Wind Farm Myths

wind farm myths

An analysis of data from the National Grid by The Guardian has revealed that, contrary to the claims of anti-wind farm lobbyists, wind generated power is helping to lower emissions on a national level.

Indeed, on the 14th of this month, wind turbines connected to the grid provided some 80 gigawatt-hours of power, constituting over 10% of the UK’s power generation. Whilst this was a particularly good day, by no means does it represent an anomalous outlier. The four thousand on and off-shore turbines currently connected to the grid met 6% of the nation’s electricity requirement throughout September, with an average daily production of 48GWh. Furthermore, this figure doesn’t take into account the 2 GWh generated by turbines that are connected directly to local networks.

Despite this fact, many quarters remain vocal about the perceived short comings of wind turbines. For example, The Telegraph journalist Chris Brooker recently claimed that:

Ramping the back-up gas plants up and down would mean running them very inefficiently, and give off so much CO2 that we could end up increasing our overall emissions rather than reducing them

whilst the author, Matt Ridley, makes the similar assertion that:

The total carbon emissions saved by the great wind rush is probably below 1%, because of the need to keep fossil fuels burning as back-up when the wind does not blow. It may even be a negative number.

These arguments are largely based on the principle that the open gas cycle turbines used to back up wind turbines as weather conditions fluctuate are less efficient than the combined cycle gas turbines which are used to supply most of the country’s gas-fired electricity. If these claims were right, as wind power ramped up and down the use of OGCTs would lead to a rise in gas-derived emissions.

However, a detailed study of the data gathered from the National Grid over the last three months demonstrates a clear correlation between windy conditions and a fall in gas-fired input. For every GWh of wind energy supplied, gas-derived energy fell by a roughly equivalent amount. As a result, based on current daily generation, over the course of the year, wind stands to save us about 6.1m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Arguments about the inconsistency of wind leading to problems for the grid fail to properly account for the wide geographical spread of installations and that, thanks to our ability to forecast wind to a decent degree of reliability, the Grid can plan for an appropriate generation mix ahead of time. Besides, variations in the supply capabilities of wind power pale in comparison to the problems caused in spikes and dips in demand. Commercial breaks in popular TV shows can cause surges of hundreds of GWh that are for harder to deal with.

Whilst the UK is the windiest country in Europe, we are well behind other European nations in terms of generation. Spain, for instance, derives more than half of its electricity from wind at times. A rapid increase in wind power could see us enjoying similar figures and, as the data demonstrates, the affect on the grid would be minimal.

Green Steve’s Reaction

Whether or not these findings will do anything to silence the wind naysayers I don’t know but it should be proof enough for most people. The figures just don’t lie, wind energy does reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and our greenhouse gas emissions.

I can only imagine that the anti-wind brigade will find some other reason why we should be utilising this cheap energy source.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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