Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Is Scotland's Renewables Policy Unrealistic?
Yesterday this part of Scotland was bathed in sunshine: a bright beginning to a New Year. There was little or no wind and although it was around 7 degrees at the height of the day, it felt warmer owing to the lack of the wind chill factor.
Unfortunately the lack of wind wasn't good news for a local small town which depends upon the wind blowing the turbines which decorate a nearby hillside. The people of this town were bribed into accepting the wind farm by promises of considerable amounts of money, on a regular basis, for years to come. I'm informed the monetary income has been far short of what was promised and the reason given to the townsfolk is that the 'right kind of wind hasn't blown often enough'. The wind farm owners have yet to explain what they mean by the 'right kind' of wind.
But the right kind of wind is possibly just one of their problems. In a report by Professor Gordon Hughes of the University of Edinburgh, one of the UK's leading energy and environmental economists, one of his findings involved Scotland:
Analysis of site-specific performance reveals that the initial load factor of new UK onshore wind farms, normalized for wind availability and size, declined significantly from 2000 to 2011, especially in Scotland. It seems that progressively worse sites are being developed.
His study highlights three important implications for wind generation policy. The first suggests that the subsidies are too generous and should be cut. The second mentions the actual life-span of wind turbines which is 12-15 years. I know the town here which bought into this particular market were sold it on the basis that the turbines would function for a minimum of 25 years. Professor Hughes' report cuts that by 50%.
It's all well and good for the Scottish Government to have a target of 100% of Scotland's electricity consumption coming from renewables by 2020, but at what cost to Scotland's consumers? Last month Ed Davey have a speech in Edinburgh where he stated that, in an independent Scotland, Scottish consumers would have to bear excessive costs for power. Westminster scaremongering aside, he is not the first to say that costs would be even higher than currently, the Renewable Energy Foundation warned the government a year ago that the impact on the Scottish consumer would be approximately £300 per household, of which about £140 would be for subsidy alone.
There's also the question of what happens to these turbines once their productive life is over. This should be addressed as soon as possible because planners need to start being honest with people who are affected by wind turbines. The Scottish public should be told the cost of dismantling and disposing of these massive machines. It could make the suggested £300 seem very optimistic.
Alex Salmond and his government must re-examine their energy policy now that further evidence is available regarding wind farms. To allow further wind farm developments in the light of Professor Hughes' findings would be irresponsible.