I have read with interest the ongoing debate regarding wind farms in the Borders.
I, like many other people, am concerned about our environment and the impact the need for energy has on the planet. However, after reading several recent articles on the subject I am not convinced that wind power is the best option to service our current or future energy requirements.
Other European countries appear to be reaching the similar conclusion that wind power is a very expensive, uncontrollable and unsustainable energy option.
Holland has become the first European country to abandon its EU renewable energy target because subsidies for wind/solar power proved too expensive. Denmark, despite having more wind turbines per head, has one of Europe’s highest energy tariffs, approximately twice of Britain, yet data shows that the Danes still rely on fossil-fuel plants for most of their everyday needs.
During the very cold winter data shows that on December 7, when electricity demand was one of the highest ever recorded, the contribution to the grid by Britain’s wind turbines was 0.4 per cent and we were having to import power from nuclear stations in France.
Germany is looking to expand its mix of renewable power plants to balance the intermittent energy produced by wind and solar power, while upgrading the electricity grid system.
In the UK renewable electricity subsidies are drawn from consumer bills and the figure in 2010 was £1.1billion and will increase every year. Yet we are subsidising a wind farm industry that does not deliver.
On April 5/6, due to overnight high winds, the National Grid paid substantial “constraint” payments totalling almost £900,000 to a number of Scottish wind farm owners to stop the turbines for several hours as the grid could not absorb the excess energy generated. Some of these payments were 20 times the value of electricity that would have been provided.
What is not often discussed is the environmental issues that surrounds wind farms.
The ecological problems inflicted on the communities of northern China in the extraction of the minerals required to produce the magnets that every wind turbine needs to generate power. The construction of the turbines generate large CO2 emissions as a result of the mining and smelting of metals, together with the carbon intensive cement required for the foundations and building the many miles of road needed in remote places. Building the turbines on peat bogs, where many of them are situated, releases large amounts of CO2 which has been locked up in the peat.
There is little doubt that we will be facing a large energy gap in years to come and it will be preferable not rely on unstable, unreliable energy sources from other countries.
The government should perhaps be providing smart meters and other energy-saving devices for all homes so the consumer can see how much energy is being used/wasted.
More emphasis should be put into researching a mix of alternatives such as hydro electricity, biodegradable waste, biomass and solar technologies, as it appears to me that at the moment the only winners are the wind farm owners, with the environment and consumers paying too high a price for too little energy.