Rebuttal of the letter from DECC by Dr Phillip Bratby

NB  The DECC responses are all couched in terms of “we”.  Who are “we”?  Who has consulted with the citizens of the UK to determine what ‘we need’ or what ‘we want’?

 

DECC:  We need to move from finite, high-carbon fossil fuels to clean, secure energy.

 

Response:  The resources may be finite, but there are sufficient known reserves to last for several hundred years.  Long before that time all future energy needs will be met by nuclear fusion or other means.  Use of fossil fuels in modern power stations is a very clean method of generating electricity.  Why is no mention made of nuclear fuels, which are also clean?  Nuclear and fossil fuels provide a secure form of energy, so to intimate that they are not secure is misleading.

 

DECC:  The UK faces an unprecedented energy challenge – we must replace around a fifth of our existing electricity generation over the next decade – and as such we need to call on all the tools at our disposal to keep the lights on.

 

Response:  The unprecedented challenge is the result of unprecedentedly bad Government policy decisions made over the last 20 years.  We do not need to call on all the tools at our disposal; we need to select just from the best available.  Replacement of existing despatchable power stations with modern despatchable coal, gas and nuclear power stations will ensure that the lights are kept on.

 

DECC:  This means having a balanced energy policy, comprising a mix of nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture, and a major roll out of renewables.

 

Response:  There is no such thing as “carbon capture”; fossil fuels contain carbon, the burning of which is providing the energy needed to generate electricity via a steam turbine and generator.  If DECC mean “carbon dioxide capture”, then DECC should use precise language.  It is noted that there is no technology capable of capturing carbon dioxide and storing it; such a technology is never likely to be developed – there are too many risks associated with the technology and the costs would be prohibitive.  If DECC thinks otherwise, they should provide the evidence and costings.

 

Response:  Why do we need a major roll out of renewables?  The cost of electricity generated from renewable sources is prohibitively expensive and there are no guaranteed reductions of carbon dioxide emissions.  DECC provide no evidence to demonstrate that the renewable technologies actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions, taking into account the carbon footprint of the technology and the full impact of operation of the technology on the emissions of conventional power stations acting as back-up to balance supply with demand and thereby maintain grid stability.

 

DECC:  As well as onshore wind, we want to see large expansions in both offshore wind and sustainable bio energy.

 

Response:  Why do we want onshore wind, since the electricity produced is at least twice as expensive as conventionally generated electricity?  Why do we want a large expansion of offshore wind since it is about three times as expensive as conventionally generated electricity?  Who exactly is it who wants to pay such high prices for electricity?

 

DECC:  Onshore wind is one of the more cost-effective and established renewable technologies so it makes sense to use it.

 

Response:  Onshore wind is not one of the more cost-effective renewable technologies as examination of the generation tariffs under the Feed-in-Tariff scheme shows:

500kW facilities, tariffs applicable from April 1st 2014 (Ofgem):

Wind:                                      14.82p/kWh

Anaerobic digestion:           11.52p/kWh

Solar PV                                6.61p/kWh

Onshore wind is not one of the more established renewable technologies.  Hydroelectricity is by far the most widely used form of renewable electricity generation and by far the most established.

 

DECC:  Studies indicate that the UK has one of the best wind resources in Europe.

 

Response:  The fact that the UK may have one of the best wind resources in Europe has no relevance.  Nobody has ever discovered the sources of statements about the UK wind resource.

 

DECC:  and of course the wind itself is a free and unlimited source of fuel, so it protects consumers against the volatile but generally increasing cost of fossil fuels.

 

Response:  The fact that the wind is free and unlimited is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the cost of the electricity produced from the wind and, as is obvious from the subsidies required, electricity produced from the wind is expensive and unaffordable.  Fossil fuel prices may be somewhat volatile, but there is no evidence to suggest that they will increase in the future.  Anything else is pure speculation.  There has been little increase in the cost of coal this century and with the increase in world-wide shale gas exploration and development, gas prices have also been little changed.  There is no evidence of any mismatch between supply and demand which will cause prices to rise markedly.

 

DECC:  It’s also reliable, with the likelihood of low wind speeds affecting 50% of the country occurring less than 100 hours per year.

 

Response:  Wind power is not reliable.  To be reliable it would have to be capable of starting on demand and operating in a controlled manner for as long as required, with low likelihood of failure.  On all counts wind power is unreliable, due to the fact that the fuel (moving air) cannot be stored or controlled.  The fact that the wind speed cannot be predicted accurately and that the energy in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed just adds to the unreliability of wind power.

 

The likelihood of low wind speeds affecting 50% of the country is an irrelevant factor; it is the likelihood of low wind speeds affecting the whole country that is important.  Low wind speeds resulting in no electricity, or an insignificant amount of electricity, generated by the country’s total wind fleet occurs on a regular basis.  In particular it occurs during intense periods of cold weather in winter when demand for electricity is highest.  That is why this country will always need conventional power stations whose total capacity exceeds predicted maximum demand with a safety margin.  The ability of wind power to provide electricity when demand is at its highest, is zero.

 

DECC:  The chance of turbines shutting down due to very high wind speeds is very low.

 

Response:  The recent storms showed that a large percentage of the wind fleet shut down due to high wind speeds.  An independent observer would think that wind turbines would be designed to operate in high wind speeds, since that is the only time when a sensible amount of energy can be usefully extracted from the wind.  But of course wind turbines aren’t designed to operate in high wind conditions.

 

DECC:  It is the Governments’ views that the evidence of the impact on property prices of the presence of a wind farm is mixed.  Any development may have a negative impact on the value of adjacent property (although we have yet to see compelling evidence that there is a general fall in property prices around onshore wind farms that is caused by the presence of the wind farms). But in itself, that does not mean that a planning authority was wrong to allow it, or that the developer should be required to compensate the owners of such property.

Studies by the Berkeley National Laboratory (2009) and the UK Centre for Sustainable Energy (2011) found no conclusive evidence that house prices have been affected by wind farm development.

The US Government funded a study by the Berkeley National Laboratory in 2009 and 2013 to look at the impact of wind turbines on property prices. A link to that research can be found here: http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2013/08/27/no-evidence-of-residential-property-value-impacts-near-u-s-wind-turbines-a-new-berkeley-lab-study-finds/.

The study found no conclusive evidence that wind turbines have an overall negative impact on property values, although there could be a link in some individual cases, it concluded:

“Specifically, neither the view of the wind facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities is found to have any consistent, measurable, and statistically significant effect on home sales prices.”

Although there have been claims of significant property value impacts near operating wind turbines that regularly surface in the press or in local communities, strong evidence to support those claims has failed to materialize in all of the major U.S. studies conducted thus so far.

The UK Centre for Sustainable Energy (2011) found no conclusive evidence that house prices have been affected by wind farm development. A link to that evidence can be found at http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf.

This report by the Centre for Sustainable Energy in May 2011, reviewed studies from around the world and concluded that these show that there is no devaluation in property prices nearby once a wind farm is operating. It suggested that fears are driven largely by the “anticipation stigma” found to exist during the planning and construction of wind farms, often bearing little relation to the actual community opinion or local property markets.

Any development may have a negative impact on the value of adjacent property (although we have yet to see compelling evidence that there is a general fall in property prices around onshore wind farms that is caused by the presence of the wind farms). But in itself, that does not mean that a planning authority was wrong to allow it, or that the developer should be required to compensate the owners of such property.

As a matter of planning law, impacts on property values are only to be taken into account in so far as they may provide evidence of the potential loss of amenity involved in a proposed development, which is a material consideration in relation to a decision to grant or refuse planning permission. In the case of wind farms, what needs to be assessed therefore are the potential landscape / visual and noise impacts.

The operation of the development control system means that, up to a point, a person who has purchased a property has to accept some disruption and inconvenience, or even loss, which may be caused by the lawful activities of another. The planning system does not exist to protect the private interests of one person against those of another, although the protection of individual interests is an important aspect of the public interest as a whole and private interests may coincide with public interests in some cases. Lawful development may take place which does give rise to some loss of amenity. The basic issue is whether a proposal would unacceptably affect amenities and the existing use of land and buildings which ought to be protected in the public interest. Where such matters are material considerations, they must be taken into account at an inquiry and weighed against the merits of the proposed development.

 

Response:  The Government has its ‘views’ on the effect on property prices adjacent to wind farms (and presumably individual wind turbines), but is clearly out of touch with reality and for a reason which is not explained, is referencing old data from the USA, which has no relevance to the situation in the UK, and a biased report from a pro-wind organisation.  Evidence from on the ground in a rural area where wind turbines and wind farms have become prevalent shows that there is a significant impact on house prices.  To any normal person this is self-evident.  People who purchase properties in a rural area do so to get away from noisy industrial developments.  See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/10543073/Wind-farms-can-wipe-one-third-off-house-prices-MP-claims.html.

We still await a Defra report on the effect of wind turbines on house prices; this report appears to be being blocked by DECC.  See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/10260729/Secret-wind-farm-report-into-house-price-blight.html.

 

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4 Responses to Rebuttal of the letter from DECC by Dr Phillip Bratby

  1. Nowhere in the response to DECC is climate change / global warming mentioned. It has been ignored completely.

    If it was a choice between a wind turbine and no power, or between a wind turbine, nuclear, coal or gas, then the decision would be very clear.

    It seems you want electricity but want someone else to have it in their back yard.

  2. Ed Davey lives in a fantasy world, which is why I did not mention “climate change/global warming”. He thinks “we are driving dangerous climate change”. He has no evidence to support such nonsense – it is all based on computer models that have no validity and have proved to be totally incapable of calculating climatic behaviour. None of the 100+ computer models used around the world forecast the current hiatus in global temperature (the lack of global warming or the absence of climate change). All models are wrong.

    Anybody who thinks that the addition of 1 molecule of CO2 for every 10,000 molecules in the atmosphere is having a measurable impact on the climate is either delusional, has been seriously misled or does not understand basic physics (or all three). The atmospheric trace gas CO2 is not a giant control knob on the climate. All the evidence shows that the global temperature drives the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, not the other way round. In fact the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is at a historically dangerously low level and an increased concentration over the last 50 years has significantly improve plant growth and greened the planet.

    It is not “a choice between a wind turbine and no power, or between a wind turbine, nuclear, coal or gas”. Wind turbines are asynchronous generators and can never replace synchronous generators (such as nuclear, coal and gas). We need synchronous generators to maintain grid stability and provide baseload, load follow and peak load capability. There are plenty of redundant power station sites that can accommodate the much need new power stations to “keep the lights on” in winter when the wind doesn’t blow. Wind turbines are a complete liability to the grid.

    The decision to subsidise wind turbines was never an engineering decision, an economic decision or an environmental decision; it was purely a political decision. Politicians are renowned for making the wrong decisions – it is the taxpayers who bear the costs of such stupid political decisions.

  3. Wind turbine subsidies are intended to kick-start the volume production of wind turbines, and larger farms in certain areas will soon produce power at cheaper rates that new fossil fuel generation. For instance the US EIA is predicting wind at 8 cents / kWh by 2019, alongside NEW coal in the 10 to 12 cents / kWh in the same time frame.

    Governments invested heavily in developing nuclear technology many years ago, and there is every reason to do the same for wind and solar, for which the fuel is free and there is no radioactive waste.

    While CO2 could indeed have greened the planet had it been given the chance, humans have this unfortunate tendency to cut down the green forests to grow palm oil and fodder for beef, Restricting the land area which can grow stuff with a high density of CO2 causes this problem. So CO2 is not going to do any good because we aren’t letting it.

    There’s some very basic physics which says that CO2 absorbs upcoming IR radiation at 15 microns wavelength from the earth’s surface and then re-emits it in every direction, including back down to the ground. It is fairly simple calculate the approximate effect on temperatures, though a computer simulation is much more accurate. It shows that the signature of the greenhouse effect, caused by additional 100 ppm of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, is a decrease in the temperature of the upper stratosphere, which is what the world is seeing. This decrease in temperature causes at 15 micron emissions into to drop just a tad, which is enough to unbalance the world’s input of solar radiation against the combined total of light and infra-red radiation emitted. This causes the surface to warm. It has warmed and is now continuing to warm, though natural variability is superimposed on top of this trend so sometimes it is faster and sometimes slower. As soon as we get a full El Nino it will become faster again.

    The point about location is that you expect the benefits of electricity, but also expect that the generation should be close to someone else, and not near you. There is no evidence for any untoward effect on humans at a reasonable distance because low frequency vibrations from turbines spread out very rapidly. Occasion flying wildlife can be killed, but wind is far better in this regard that fossil fuel generation.

    Wind turbine generators are not particular different from fossil fuel generators, but wind is clearly a variable resource. At present more wind in one part of the day means fossil fuel generation is decreased and less wind means more fossil fuel generation. Overall the fossil fuel used is reduced. And yes the grid despatchers have to work harder than before, but wind, though variable, is pretty predictable – to 10% of rated capacity 24 hours ahead and to 4% one hour ahead. With high levels of wind and solar penetration you have to take additional measures to control frequency, but these are no big deal.

    In short there is no reason why UK should not get just as much power from wind as Germany does (now > 30 from renewables) and their grid stability is the envy of the world (average 16 minute outage per customer per year over the last 5 years despite huge increases in wind and solar). Or more.

    Regards,
    Peter

    • mabrake says:

      Subsidies seem to be needed for ever because wind can never be a viable source of electricity. Wind turbines will never be cheaper than fossil fuels, because the cost of backup has to be added on.
      All fuels are free; it is converting the fuel to electricity that is the cost.
      Stupid political decisions for biofuels are the reason forests are cut down to grow palm oil.
      Your understanding of basic physics is wrong. The earth’s surface is heated by the sun and cooled by direct infra-red radiation to space and by convective cooling by nitrogen, oxygen and the water cycle. Back-radiation is a fantasy dreamt up by climate “scientists” and has no basis in physics. The top of the atmosphere is cooled by IR radiation to space, mainly from water. All the talk of “heat trapping” by “greenhouse gases” is more pure fantasy.
      The point about location is that you expect the benefits of electricity, but also expect that the generation should be close to someone else, and not near you. There is no evidence for any untoward effect on humans at a reasonable distance because low frequency vibrations from turbines spread out very rapidly. Occasion flying wildlife can be killed, but wind is far better in this regard that fossil fuel generation.
      I have lived quite close to a large coal-fired power station and very close to a nuclear power station. I have no problem with that, but I would never live close to a wind turbine.
      Power stations use synchronous generators; wind turbines are asynchronous generators. They are totally different; the former aiding grid stability, the latter being a liability to the grid. Taking account of backup emissions means that fossil fuel use is not reduced by having wind turbines. Inspection of wind production forecasts by Elexon (BM data) show that they are frequently wrong by over 100%, even only one hour ahead.

      Despite being connected to the European grid, Germany has huge problems with grid instability due to too much wind power and solar power. Its neighbours do not like Germany exporting its grid problems. To discover how dire the situation is in Germany, I suggest you read the article at http://notrickszone.com/2014/09/24/eike-german-power-grid-more-vulnerable-than-ever-on-the-brink-of-widespread-blackouts/

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