Reported in the Telegraph Monday 23 December 2013, Nigel Williams, Head of Electricity Systems Operations at the National Grid, said that scares about grid failures were ‘overblown’. The mains frequency could drop a little and some apparatus would run slower but most people wouldn’t notice. He also praised wind generation that peaked at 6GW this month, equal to six big power stations.
Now I would have thought that as Head of Systems he would have known that Big power stations, like Drax in Yorkshire produce 3.8GW on their own, and that many medium sized stations, using gas, coal, and nuclear produce in excess of 2GW each.
It is interesting that the number of wind turbines on land and in the surrounding seas totalled 5000 in August 2013. The peak capacity was 10GW and at no time has this ever achieved higher than 6GW. During the year so far the average generation has been approaching 2GW, now that we are in a windy month.
According to the European Wind Energy Association the cost of wind turbines equates to between 800 & 1100E/kW, say £800/kW peak capacity. This means that for the present peak capacity of 10GW it is likely to have cost £8 Bn to install those turbines to achieve an average output of no more than 2GW. This is calculated for a maximum life with maintenance of 20 years.
Worst of all though is not the average but the minimum generation. Whilst the generation peaked at 6GW on 29 November it was less than 0.6GW on 28 November and 1 December and was below 1GW again on 6 December 2013. The concept of intermittent generation using wind and solar is nonsense, because generation needs to be available when required.
The proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley point in Somerset is expected to cost £14 Bn and will produce 3.3GW of power continuously, day, and night and when the wind doesn’t blow, for in excess of 40 years!
Not only that but the whole site for two new reactors will occupy no more than 220 acres. This is compared with the literally hundreds of square miles of landscape and seascape that have been defaced by the unreliable wind turbines.
Fortunately the variability of output from all the wind farms can be counteracted, by ramping up or down existing coal and gas fired power stations. As more wind farms get built and more conventional stations get closed down, the ability to compensate for the variability gets more difficult and eventually the grid output becomes unstable. Not only that of course but the subsidies for increasing numbers of wind farms makes all electricity more expensive.
The only reason wind farms exist is because of green lobby has declared CO2 as a pollutant and that subsidies are available, so there is money to be made. Labour, Conservative and especially Liberal are all committed to wind farms. The only party that is not is UKIP. A vote for any other party will ensure onshore and off-shore wind farms continue to be built.