Azara Blog: Wind power in the UK is allegedly not up to scratch

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Date published: 2011/04/06

The BBC says:

Wind farms are much less efficient than claimed, producing below 10% of capacity for more than a third of the time, according to a new report.

The analysis also suggested output was low during the times of highest demand.

The report, supported by conservation charity the John Muir Trust, concluded turbines "cannot be relied upon" to produce significant levels of power generation.

However, industry representatives said they had "no confidence" in the data.

The research, carried out by Stuart Young Consulting, analysed electricity generated from UK wind farms between November 2008 to December 2010.

Statements made by the wind industry and government agencies commonly assert that wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year, it said.

But the research found wind generation was below 20% of capacity more than half the time and below 10% of capacity over one third of the time.

It also challenged industry claims that periods of widespread low wind were "infrequent".
...
Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables, said no form of electricity worked at 100% capacity, 100% of the time.

She said: "Yet again the John Muir Trust has commissioned an anti-wind farm campaigner to produce a report about UK onshore wind energy output.

"It could be argued the trust is acting irresponsibly given their expertise lies in protecting our wild lands and yet they seem to be going to great lengths to undermine renewable energy which is widely recognised as one of the biggest solutions to tackling climate change - the single biggest threat to our natural heritage.

"We have yet to hear the trust bring forward a viable alternative to lower emissions and meet our growing demand for safe, secure energy."

The BBC unfortunately failed to reproduce some of the relevant numbers from the report, but these numbers can be obtained from the report's website. For example, "the average output from wind was 27.18% of metered capacity in 2009, 21.14% in 2010, and 24.08% between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive". Well, 27% is "only" 10% below 30%, so perhaps not that bad, although the 2010 figures are more alarming.

The really worrying aspect of this BBC article is the response from the industry flunky, Hogan. If she has any quibble with the data, which was obtained from publicly available sources and has been made available in spreadsheet form by the John Muir Trust, or if she has any quibble with the data analysis, then she should say so. In fact, in their official press release responding to the report, the only real counter-argument given is that:

He claimed the load factor for wind for the period of November 2009 to November 2010 was 22 per cent, however GL Garrad Hassan, an independent consultancy firm, found on average it was in fact 24.8 per cent. We recognise this is lower than the 30 per cent average load factor, however this was anticipated as it had been an exceptionally calm year.

Well she better hope that the "exceptionally calm year" is not exceptional. And GL Garrad Hassan is not "independent" in any real sense, as is obvious from their website, where they tout their wind energy expertise, i.e. have a vested financial interest in the technology. And unfortunately Hogan also falls back on the straw man argument that climate change demands renewable energy (whether it works or not), and that is just pathetic.

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