|Windfarms - Submission to the House of Lords
|CALL FOR EVIDENCE: THE PRACTICALITIES OF DEVELOPING RENEWABLE ENERGY
|The Science and Technology Select Committee of the House of Lords has appointed Sub-Committee II, chaired by Lord Oxburgh, to conduct an inquiry into the practicalities of the proposals in the February 2003 White Paper, Our Energy Future - Creating a Low Carbon Economy, Cm 5761.
This is the evidence presented by the author.
SECTION A: Windfarms do not save CO2 as claimed.
SECTION B: The United States government no longer banks on windpower.
SECTION C: Windfarms kill millions of birds, including eagles, red kites, storks, swans, geese, migrating songbirds and even bats – ospreys and puffins may soon join the death list.
SECTION D: It takes 3000 wind turbines set on hilltops, ruining the sights on thousands of square miles, to produce the same quantity of electricity as one single conventional plant tucked away in a low-lying and already degraded area. And we must still build that CCGT plant for backup.
SECTION A: NO CO2 SAVINGS AS CLAIMED.
I - HOW CLEAN IS THE ELECTRICITY PRODUCED BY WINDFARMS?
A country must have generators able to deliver enough to supply consumption at its highest peak, plus enough in reserve to allow for maintenance, breakdowns and other emergencies, as well as record-breaking peaks. Windfarms on the production line cannot be counted as reserve, for the wind may not be blowing when the emergency arises. Indeed, there are days in the year when the whole territory is without wind.
The consequence is that we must build more conventional power plants regardless of the number of wind turbines we may have, and regardless of their installed capacity. Talking in terms of security of supply, it is as if they did not exist.
Investing in wind energy generation is therefore made over and above dispatchable generation – not in lieu of it. This has important cost implications that are rarely reflected in official documents; but they will, in the end, be passed-on to the consumer, just like the high price of wind energy itself is passed on to the taxpayer. To date, windpower has been "piggybacking" on the existing reserve of conventional power, but shortages have become a serious risk, and the decision to build back-up units cannot be withheld any longer.
It is clear that intermittent wind energy cannot replace conventional power: it only displaces part of its production from time to time, when it pleases the wind.
Wind-plant promoters contend that, when the wind is blowing, power produced by their turbines displaces a like quantity of conventional-plant-produced-electricity; so we are saving the greenhouse gases that would otherwise be emitted by those power stations.
But this claim is flawed. Fossil fuel generating units must be used at all times to backup the intermittent, highly variable output of wind turbines. To do so they must be running at less than full capacity, or in spinning reserve mode, ready to be ramped up every time the wind slacks, or dies down completely. In fact, they complement the production of the windfarms, adjusting their production up and down constantly, following the vagaries of the wind - frequency and voltage must be kept constant on the grid.
Their efficiency factor is thus far less than optimal, operating on part load so as to be able to increase production when the wind falters. And this means that more greenhouse gases are being emitted, because they are burning their fuel less efficiently in that mode. To use an analogy: a car used in city traffic conditions emits more harmful gases than on the highway at a reasonable and constant speed.
In short, the electricity produced by the windfarms is NOT "green": for every "clean" Kwh produced by a wind turbine, we have to take into consideration the increased emissions of the backup plants running at reduced load.
The example of Denmark confirms this: that country has not reduced its CO2 emissions in spite of producing 15% of its electricity from wind - see Denmark’s CO2 emissions graph on:
And then we have the gases emitted during the construction phase of the windfarms. These must be counted over and above everything else, as overall excess, because the country''s electricity production is not increased by the wind turbines: it is just temporarily displaced.
II - HOW RENEWABLE IS THE ELECTRICITY PRODUCED BY THE WIND?
Wind is renewable, but landscapes are not. A permanent loss will be suffered by residents in terms of noise, stress, quality of life, property values, safety, problems with horses (they get startled by moving wind turbines), quality of grazing and groundwater (projection of lubricating liquid by the rotors), wildlife habitat fragmentation (access roads) etc. Tourism-associated jobs will be lost in the areas affected by the visual impact, if not the noise.
Bird species are not renewable either, for if they may be brought back from near extinction levels by costly reintroduction programs, no such reintroduction is possible in an environment occupied by bird-killing machines thrashing the air at speeds up to 250 Kmh (this is the actual speed of the tip of the blades – their apparent slowness fools the birds as it does people). See:
Birds and windfarms - Bird Genocide at windfarm sites
Birds and windfarms – Bird and Bat Behavior at windfarm sites.
More on birds: SECTION C below.
III - CONCLUSION
Wind turbines do not save as claimed on CO2 emissions. Denmark covered itself with wind turbines, and yet its greenhouse gas emissions have not reduced - hence the recent turnaround in Danish energy policy.
Windfarms are not a renewable source of energy, for they consume enormous quantities of birds (see chapter on birds below). And landscapes are not renewable: we only have a limited quantity of pristine wilderness and unspoiled countryside.
(B) UNITED STATES MOVING AWAY FROM WINDPOWER.
In August 2003, the US Department of Energy (DOE) released a far-reaching strategic plan spelling out its objectives for the next 25 years. Energy efficiency and the vigorous promotion of the clean hydrogen economy are its main characteristics. Thanks to the new “clean-coal” technology, hydrogen will be produced without CO2 emissions. The role of windpower is insignificant (less than 1% of the electricity production in 2025).
It includes a chronology of targets to be met:
• Between 2003 and 2008, weatherize approximately 771,000 homes of low-income families.
• By 2010, bring down the cost of the hydrogen equivalent of a gallon of gas to $1.50.
• By 2010, accomplish FreedomCAR technical milestones established with industry partners.
• By 2012, develop and demonstrate technologies that can reduce emissions more than 70 metric tons of carbon (MMTCE) and equivalent green house gases (and 117 MMTCE by 2020).
• By 2015, evaluate policy instruments that foster the delivery of commercial quantities of hydrogen based on the economic success for hydrogen research and development.
• By 2015, develop technologies that allow a decision by industry to commercialize fuel-cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure.
• By 2025, have renewable energy sources (excluding hydropower) reach 12.0 quadrillion Btu (quads), nearly double the energy production of 6.46 quads in the year 2000.
• By 2025, develop and demonstrate technologies to bring systems that generate both heat and power within 90 percent efficiency.
• By 2025, have solid-state lighting reduce energy demand for lighting by one-fifth compared to that of 2000.
The full Strategic Plan may be downloaded from:
COMMENTS: Of particular interest is the third last paragraph: non-hydro (NH) renewables doubling their production in 25 years. As in that period consumption is likely to double as well, NH renewable electricity production will go from less than 1% of total US consumption in 2000 to less than 1% of same in 2025.
Obviously, the DOE knows something about the inefficiency of windpower that the general public does not know. In other words: windpower is already obsolete (never was a viable alternative).
SECTION C: MILLIONS OF DEAD BIRDS.
We are being told that windfarms are benign to birds. But evidence to the contrary has been accumulating:
1) In Navarre (Spain) a government employee leaked the copy of an official report*: in just one year, the blades of 368 wind turbines had killed 409 vultures, 24 eagles, falcons, hawks and eagle owls, 670 bats and 6150 small birds. And it is not the fact of one poorly located windfarm: the turbines belong to 10 different ones.
*Lekuona report: http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/LEKUONA_REPORT.pdf
*Analysis of same in English: Birds and windfarms - Critical analysis of 4 reports on bird mortality at windfarm sites.
2) A 5-year study commissioned by the California Energy Commission* reports that the Altamont Pass windfarm kills an average of 40-60 golden eagles a year, and "several hundred" hawks, falcons and other raptors (small birds were not even considered). The windfarm is acting like a "black hole", affecting bird populations as far as Canada.
Another thing is evident from the report: the birds get used to the turbines. They fly among them, seeing them as part of the landscape, and never realizing how dangerous they are until too late.
* see section 3 of: Birds and windfarms - Critical analysis of 4 reports on bird mortality at windfarm sites.
3) The Everaert report*, from Belgium, documents a minimum mortality of about 20 birds/turbine/year, which is in line with the findings of researchers Lekuona in Spain and Winkelman in Holland. Extrapolating to over 1,000,000 wind turbines worldwide, which is the figure the windpower industry is aiming for at the moment, the result would be 20 million dead birds a year, many belonging to protected species.
* Birds and Windfarms - Wind turbines and birds in Flanders (Belgium) - Preliminary results 2000/01
4) So far, the following endangered species have been documented* to fall victims to the wind turbines: white-tailed sea eagles, red kites, black storks, lesser kestrels - as well as other emblematic birds like mute swans, barnacle geese, harriers, short-toed eagles, peregrine falcons, booted eagles, golden eagles, goshawks etc.
* Birds and windfarms - Critical analysis of 4 reports on bird mortality at windfarm sites.
*BIRDS FOUND TO HAVE BEEN KILLED BY WIND TURBINES IN GERMANY
Mr. Tobias Dürr, ornithologist of the Brandenburg State Bird Conservation Centre, is in charge of compiling information about dead birds that have been found in Germany, killed by the blades of wind turbines. Word Excel document available upon request.
The British Windpower Association argues: cars, windows and domestic cats also kill many birds. - Indeed they do, but they do not kill eagles, swans, geese, harriers etc. Besides, birds already face enough hazards as it is, so why add another one? It is the salami effect, said ornithologist Baz Hughes in a BBC documentary: "death by a thousand cuts… loss of habitat, loss of food, and now the development of windfarms", and we could add to the list: collisions with tension lines, electrocutions, shooting, poisoning, etc.
Besides, windfarms will need to be linked to the national grid, from the remote areas where they are often located, by thousands of kilometres of new tension lines - as deadly to birds as they are ugly to us. If just 10 kms of new lines are on average needed for each and every windfarm (conservative figure), and if the UK will have 200 windfarms, that´s 2000 kms of new tension lines that will be killing more swans, geese, eagles, etc.
All in all, the 1,000,000+ wind turbines to be installed in the world will drive many emblematic bird species to extinction and reduce the number of other birds at the rate of about 20 million per annum. And that estimate is probably on the low side.
In such a context, the resolutely pro-windpower policy of the RSPB top management is unfortunate. And it is difficult not to establish a link with its financial interest in the windfarm business, as it receives between £ 10 and £ 80 for each customer switching to Scottish and Southern Energy for its supply of electricity and gas - see:
click : “our products” (left margin), then “RSPB energy” under the 3 red squares
It is called: "RSPB energy”, and its sales-pitch is based on clean, renewable energy, i.e. windpower (even if most of the energy sold comes in fact from existing hydro-power).
So we have an industry whose machines kill birds by millions, and a bird society that promotes it.
I have just investigated the situation in Scotland: the eagle population stands to be wiped-out, as windfarms are being installed on eagle ranges in Argyll, on the Isle of Skye, on Mull, on Ardnamurchan, on the Western Isles. I have a full report available on this if needed.
SECTION D: 3,000 GIANT TURBINES PLUS ONE POWER PLANT.
Drax is the largest fossil fuel plant in Europe: it has an installed capacity of 3,800 Mw. On a yearly average, it produces roughly 80% of that – i.e. 3,000 Mw. To produce an equivalent amount with windpower, we would need:
11,000 x 1 Mw giant wind turbines producing on a yearly average 28% of their installed capacity (this is the actual percentage produced in the UK and in Denmark).
Or: 4,500 x 2 Mw giant turbines (300 feet high)
Or: 3,600 x 3 Mw giant turbines (400 feet high)
To bring this down to the level of more common, average power plants and windfarms, it would take about 3,000 x 1 Mw wind turbines to produce as much electricity as one 1.000 Mw conventional plant.
The UK has presently 1030 wind turbines, and already much of the neighbouring population is up in arms. We would need 3 times as many to produce as much as a single conventional plant, and ruin in the process considerable amounts of pristine landscape in Wales, Scotland and around the Lake District.
Besides, we would still need to build that 1,000 Mw conventional plant for the days without wind, and to stabilize windpower production year-round as it goes up and down following the vagaries of the wind.
We would achieve the same overall production just building that one conventional plant. And with the clean-coal technology it would be pollution free.
So why sacrifice our landscapes, our birds, our country-dwellers with costly machines that are already obsolete?
October 20th, 2003
Spokesperson, ACEC - Asociación Cultural y Ecologista de Calpe
Apartado 35, Calpe, 03710 Spain
por: Mark Duchamp (20/01/2004)
Mark DuchampWildlife advocate