Wednesday, 1 February 2012

New British study: There is no economic or environmental case for wind power

Offshore wind parks are indordinately expensive

There is no economic case for wind power. Neither is there a case for cutting CO2
emissions by using wind power. These are the two main conclusions in a new study ("Electricity Costs: The Folly of Wind Power") by the renowned economist Ruth Lea, published by the independent think tank Civitas. 

These are the inconvenient facts about wind power that both the British government and other European governments so far have chosen to ignore: 

Onshore wind looks relatively competitive on the MM (engineering consultants Mott MacDonald) data. But MM exclude the additional costs associated with wind-power. When allowance is made for these additional costs, the technology ceases to be competitive for both near-term and medium-term projects.
Offshore wind (even before allowing for additional costs) and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies are inordinately expensive.

Nuclear power and gas-fired CCGT are therefore the preferred technologies for generating reliable and affordable electricity. There is no economic case for wind-power.

Wind-power is also an inefficient way of cutting CO2 emissions, once allowance is made for the CO2 emissions involved in the construction of the turbines and the deployment of conventional back-up generation. Nuclear power and gas-fired CCGT, replacing coal-fired plant, are the preferred technologies for reducing CO2 emissions. (Chapter 3)

Wind-power is therefore expensive (chapter 2) and ineffective in cutting CO2 emissions (chapter 3). If it were not for the renewables targets set by the Renewables Directive, wind-power would not even be entertained as a cost-effective way of generating electricity and/or cutting emissions. The renewables targets should be renegotiated with the EU.

Some additional facts about why wind power is not effective in cutting CO2 emissions:

At first glance it could be assumed that wind-power could play a major part in cutting CO2 emissions. Once the turbines are manufactured (an energy-intensive business in itself) and installed then emissions associated with the electricity could be expected to be zero - as indeed for nuclear power.

But, as pointed out in chapter 2, wind-power is unreliable and intermittent and requires conventional back-up plant to provide electricity when the wind is either blowing at very low speeds (or not at all) or with uncontrolled variability (intermittency). Clearly the CO2 emissions associated with using back-up capacity must be regarded as an intrinsic aspect of deploying wind turbines. This is all the more relevant given the relatively high CO2 emissions from conventional plants when they are used in a back-up capacity.

As energy consultant David White has written:
 "…(fossil-fuelled) capacity is placed under particular strains when working in this supporting role because it is being used to balance a reasonably predictable but fluctuating demand with a variable and largely unpredictable output from wind turbines.

Consequently, operating fossil capacity in this mode generates more CO2 per kWh generated than if operating normally."

 "…it seems reasonable to ask why wind-power is the beneficiary of such extensive support if it not only fails to achieve the CO2 reductions required, but also causes cost increases in back-up, maintenance and transmission, while at the same time discouraging investment in clean, firm generation."6

In a comprehensive quantitative analysis of CO2 emissions and wind-power, Dutch physicist C. le Pair has recently shown that deploying wind turbines on "normal windy days" in the Netherlands actually increased fuel (gas) consumption, rather than saving it, when compared to electricity generation with modern high-efficiency gas turbines.7,8 Ironically and paradoxically the use of wind farms therefore actually increased CO2 emissions, compared with using efficient gas-fired combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) at full power.

(image by wikipedia)

1 comment:

A K Haart said...

The amazing thing about all this is that a pilot study would surely have uncovered the problem.

Now we have windfarms that are literally worse than useless when compared to gas-fired or nuclear power stations.