Never Mind the Wind Rush

Jonathan Leake, writing in the Sunday Times on 29th March 2009 betrays a certain ignorance, and casual disregard for sound European Renewables policy :-

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5992864.ece
“Consumers beware the costly spin of wind turbines”

In this article he writes (amongst other contentious statements) :-

“Will wind farms turn out to be a truly revolutionary source of energy for the future or an expensive folly ? Whatever the final answer, there’s no doubt about the expense. Over the past decade developers have grown rich on lavish – and, critics would say, misdirected – government subsidies. Wind farming is the new gold rush.”

“In Britain, however, while the government has thrown money at renewable energy generators, it seems not to have anticipated the huge additional costs that wind brings with it. The problem is this: wind does not blow all the time, so if Britain is to keep the lights on when the breeze slackens, wind power needs support from other forms of power. This means that for every wind farm we build, there must be a coal or gas-fired power station waiting in the wings to take over.”

I don’t think he’s qualified to utter pronouncements on the Wind Energy industry as he has made a few serious mistakes here. Plus, he’s omitting some very important facts that completely undermine his arguments.

Now, I’ve checked his academic background in a very rudimentary fashion, by using the results of a famous Internet search engine, and found this document from July 2008 :-

http://www.ncar.ucar.edu/resrel/jfellowship/presentations/NCAR_Journalism_Fellows_Bios.pdf

“Jonathan Leake : Jonathan has worked as Science and Environment Editor for The Sunday Times since 1999 … His beat includes all the sciences as well as environmental issues. Jonathan is responsible for assigning stories to other journalists as well as researching and writing his own articles. Jonathan’s academic background includes a degree in Marine and Environmental Biology, taken in 1984, and a shortish spell curating fossils at the Natural History Museum in London, including some collected by Charles Darwin. Last year he spent 10 days on a fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which he found useful, both for improving his background knowledge and for generating story ideas.”

Nowhere does it mention experience in the field of engineering, especially electrical engineering, which would be vital in forming his opinions regarding Wind Energy.

Let’s ask some real Energy experts what they think, shall we ? Let’s ask the Claverton Energy Forum about Wind Power. I already have, and the future is definitely pointing towards a wind rush.

In a groundbreaking conference last year, I met Dr Gregor Czisch, who has shown with great computing zeal, that not only is a European Renewables supergrid doable, it would even be low cost :-

http://www.claverton-energy.com/european-super-grid.html

I also met Dr Graham Sinden there, who very convincingly tore down Jonathan Leake’s fallacial argument about wind power requiring 100% backup from other forms of generation, for example from burning coal.

But the biggest error that Jonathan Leake makes is this : he asserts correctly that wind power will require massive investment – but he neglects to mention that all other forms of energy will require massive investment in the very near future.

The electricity grids in all countries are ageing, plus the International Energy Agency believes that energy demand is going to increase around the world :-

http://www.iea.org/W/bookshop/add.aspx?id=321

“To meet increasing demand and replace ageing power units, considerable investment in new power generation will be required over the next decade. In most IEA countries a new investment cycle in power generation is looming…”

http://www.iea.org/textbase/press/pressdetail.asp?press_rel_id=275

“These trends call for energy-supply investment of $26.3 trillion to 2030, or over $1 trillion/year.”

All forms of new Energy infrastructure cost money, not just Renewables, but the IEA recommends that if since we’re going to spend, we should spend green :-

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2008/06/07/iea-45-trillion-needed-to-cut-co2-emissions-50-by-2050/

“The International Energy Agency says that it will take $45 trillion in additional clean technology investments between now and 2050 in order to reduce CO2 emissions to 50 percent. That’s 1.1% of average annual global GDP over the period.”

The central point about Renewables is this : the fuel is free.

Once you’ve made the capital expenditure, the plant makes a guaranteed return.

Now, if the prognosis on Peak Oil is correct, the same cannot be said of any new Fossil Fuel generating plant.

So, I would suggest, Jonathan Leake researches his articles with more rigour in future, and talk to the Energy experts before launching a tirade, tilting at windmills.

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