The aim of the National Opposition to Windfarms

To establish a national body to oppose windfarms by tackling policy. The alliance will also be a source of collective knowledge and strategic help.

Contents

  1. Landscape and wildlife
  2. Unreliable energy source requiring backup
  3. No reduction in CO2
  4. Additional grid infrastructure
  5. Subsidies
  6. Employment, business and property

 

1. Landscape and wildlife

Windfarms reduce landscape value, kill birds and compromise wildlife habitats. They also compromise essential environmental services.

• It was established in the Public Inquiry into the Cumulative Effect of Windfarms in Powys in 2001 that windfarms always have a negative effect on the landscape; the question is whether the level of negative impact remains acceptable. The conclusions reached by the Planning Inspectorate indicated clearly that the cumulative impact of such proposals on the visual and recreational quality of the upland areas in Powys would be unacceptable; these conclusions were agreed in full by the National Assembly for Wales. The height of turbines has increased by over 40 metres since then, increasing the impact and area visually affected immeasurably.

• Installing a manmade structure out of proportion with its surroundings such as a large wind turbine affects individual perception and understanding of the view, natural and cultural landscape and distorts people's engagement with what they see; the value of citizen's engagement with their surroundings is acknowledged by government.

• "We need to help people appreciate the historic environment and 'read the landscape' - not just the obvious elements such as castles and chapels, but also the pattern of quarries, ancient trackways, field systems and cairns. The rewards are not simply personal satisfaction for individuals. The historic environment creates our 'sense of place' and therefore our sense of shared belonging and of roots. Nurturing a living sense of what it is to be a citizen of Wales is a key priority for the Assembly Government, and citizenship cannot be a theoretical concept. It is about emotional ties and imagined community, as much with previous generations as with ones to come." © Crown Copyright 2009. Heritage Minister's Ambition for the Welsh Historic Environment

• James Pearce-Higgins et. al. (Journal of Applied Ecology vol 46, Issue 6 pages 1139- 1357) have found that birds, including buzzards, golden plovers, curlews and red grouse, are abandoning countryside around upland windfarms. The study used upland areas because they have the strongest winds and so are preferred by wind-farm developers and are favoured, by some of Britain's most vulnerable bird species. They found evidence for localised reductions in bird breeding density; birds tended to stop nesting within half a mile of any turbine. Since the effect extends around each machine, up to three quarters of a square mile could be affected by one turbine. Results highlight significant avoidance of otherwise apparently suitable habitat close to turbines in at least seven of the 12 species studied. The impact is not huge now because there are still some areas without wind farms but the researchers warn that, with hundreds more planned, plus an increase in the size of turbines, the effect could become much worse.

• Where wind farms are proposed, their development should not contravene the protective measures that apply under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; Schedule 1 Birds, Schedule 5 Animals and Schedule 8 Plants.

 

2.Unreliable energy source requiring backup

Electricity from windfarms is unreliable and cannot be stored. Wind is an intermittent and unpredictable energy source; it can provide neither the base-load nor the load-following power required by the Grid. It is beyond dispute that windfarms require at least 90% backup from reliable controllable energy sources.

• National Grid data shows that windfarms cannot be relied upon to provide us with energy when we most need it. The cold weather of December/January 2009/10 illustrated this problem. With high pressure and a lack of wind only 0.2%, of a possible 5% of the UK's energy was generated by wind turbines during this time of greatest need.

• Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG), gave warning that this unreliability could turn into a crisis when the UK is reliant on 6,400 turbines for a quarter of UK electricity. He said the shortfall in power generated by wind during cold snaps seriously undermined the Government's pledge to build nine major new wind 'super farms' by 2020. "If we had this 30 gigawatts of wind power, it wouldn't have contributed anything of any significance this winter," he said. "The current cold snap is a warning that our power generation and gas supplies are under strain and it is getting worse."

• In Germany their 20,000MW of wind energy require 90% back-up from conventional sources; indeed Rupert Steele of Scottish Power/Iberdrola admitted on 22.4.09 that the 30GW of wind proposed for the UK would require 25GW of back up. What this means in practice is that as more wind farms come on line they require a greater proportion of back up by reliable generation; 90% according to EON Netz.

• E.ON said that it could take 50 gigawatts of renewable electricity generation to meet the EU target. But it would require approximately 90% of this amount as back up from coal and gas plants to ensure supply when intermittent renewable supplies were not available. This will require a significant increase in Britain's generating capacity, at considerable cost, simply to maintain the current level of secure supply, as evidenced by National Grid's own estimates, which show that by 2025 the Nation needs a 21% increase in generating capacity to meet a 2% increase in demand.

• The impact of ensuring reliable backup is:
- Capital cost of building 90% more generation than we actually need in inefficient plant that will give lower return to investors as it will frequently be idling rather than producing energy for which they will be paid. UK government has already committed £10 billion to back-up generation in 2011.
- Increased wear and tear on plant that has to be turned up and down with less than four hours notice. Higher costs of maintenance and reduced life of machinery.
- Reluctance to build conventional power plants where the maintenance and reduced life are unknown costs.
- Increased payments from National Grid to generators when they are required to go off-line, as their generation is not required. Wind is most expensive so National Grid uses all available wind as first option and compensate conventional generators when the wind is blowing. In Scotland (01.05.11) wind generation exceeded demand and National Grid paid wind farm companies £1.2 million to switch off the turbines. In 2012 National Grid paid windfarm companies £25 million to switch off line.

 

3. No reduction in CO2

There is no evidence that increasing the number of windfarms is reducing national CO2 emissions in UK or any other country adopting wind energy.

• Recent work by Fred Udo is based on EIRGRID real time data on carbon emissions and wind energy production. His abstract states: "In the absence of hydro-energy the CO2 production of the conventional generation increases with wind energy penetration. The data shows that the reduction of CO2 emissions is at most a few % if gas fired generation is used for balancing a 30% share of wind energy."

• A carbon payback equation should be part of each Environmental Statement. The Scottish Government has made an algorithm to calculate this for peat land. (Ref: The Scottish Government Calculating carbon savings from wind farms on Scottish peat lands - A New Approach http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/06/25114657/9)

• A full carbon equation should count of the carbon cost of:
- Building, transportation to site and construction
- Grid connection
- Running a turbine
- Clean coal, gas, nuclear power stations running less efficiently, developing and maintaining the back up power stations
- Upgrading highways
- Peat displacement by an average of 300cu m concrete per turbine, as well as aggregate for turbine bases, crane pads, sub-stations and access roads.
- Forestry clearance
- The Capacity Credit, i.e. the percentage of wind generated energy that actually displaces conventionally generated energy. Bearing in mind that a percentage of this is nuclear and therefore would be carbon free anyway.

• There is no evidence that wind is an alternative to nuclear. As early as 1994 Welsh Affairs Select Committee, the British Wind Energy Association (now RenewablesUK) have admitted that the future is a mix of nuclear and renewables.

 

4. Additional grid infrastructure

Additional grid connection is needed to meet the installed capacity of wind installation; increasing the number and size of transmission infrastructure and cost to the consumer; increasing impact on landscape value.

 

5. Subsidies

No developer will build windfarms without subsidies. Electricity companies are compelled to buy this expensive electricity. Both are funded by an extra charge on every electricity bill. This is not a government subsidy, which would be open for scrutiny. We are now paying £1 billion a year.

• Electricity Companies are compelled to buy this expensive electricity using Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), and put an extra charge on every one of your electricity bills. The cost of onshore wind to the consumer is some £200/MWhr taking into account the ROC subsidy, back up generation and additional transmission costs. This is over four times the cost of energy from conventional or nuclear sources. The cost of off-shore wind is even higher at over £250/MWhr (March 2011 Sir Donald Miller, former Chairman Scottish Power). For industry the cost is incrementally higher making electricity in the UK a very expensive and possibly unaffordable overhead. This may lead to relocation of industry abroad where energy costs are less.

• Subsidies for on-shore wind are higher in the UK than for virtually any other European country with a large wind investment. (EU Report into European Energy Market 2010).

• Even taking into account the minimal 10% reduction in subsidies currently being considered it is likely that by 2020 the cost of ROCs will be £15 billion – 1% of GDP. The UK is already facing unprecedented levels of fuel poverty and, although not solely attributable to wind power generation, this will inexorably increase with subsidies, the cost of large infrastructure projects from remote locations, the cost of expensive 90% back-up; research and development of storage projects essential for use of wind power such as development of a smart grid.

 

6. Employment, business and property

There is no evidence that windfarms bring significant local employment, but they can impact adversely on traditional industry and tourism and on property values, and thus the level of available investment in local businesses.

• Turbine manufacturers use their own trained staff for construction, off-site monitoring and maintenance. The majority of wind farm developers in Britain are non-UK so "for an average £50m wind farm, approximately £35m will go abroad. The employment they bring to a local community is limited. During construction there may be several jobs, but once completed a large wind farm can be run by two or three staff with technicians called in for maintenance, they are certainly not the answer to stimulating the jobs economy." (Mary Scanlon, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands).

• Site preparation is specialist and few contractors have the equipment available e.g. Cefn Croes windfarm was said to use local labour; in fact Jones and Co, the contractors building roads and turbine bases were from Rhuthin, some two hours away.

• A major renewables study commissioned by the European Commission (Employ- RES research project for European Commission DG Energy and Transport 2009) drew a number of interesting conclusions:
- The renewables sector has the potential to create many jobs, predominantly in the solar, hydro and biofuels areas;
- Wind energy is only an important contributor to the labour economy where the country manufactures the turbines;
- The countries that could benefit the most from the growth of renewables are Eastern European (biomass production);
- Some countries (UK and Spain are cited as examples) will experience a net loss of jobs.

There is evidence that wind power does not stimulate the economy across Europe:

• "Wind power costs Spain €1.1 million per job in subsidy and setting minimum prices for renewably generated electricity far above market prices, wastes capital that could be allocated to other sectors. This has resulted in 2.2 jobs being destroyed for every 'green job' created." (Gabriel Calzada Álvarez, et al (2009) Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy sources. Universidad Rey Juan Carlos)

• Evidence gathered shows that local enterprises are often developed by releasing collateral in the family home by re-mortgaging. The reduction in value of homes where windfarms and associated infrastructure are proposed is impacting upon the money available to develop small local businesses.

• Tourism enterprises, especially but not exclusively where the individual caravans and chalets are owned, have suffered considerably when windfarms and associated infrastructure affect them. For example, there has been a 40% drop in lettings and a collapse in caravan sales at Nab's Wood site in North Yorkshire after construction of a wind turbine site in the vicinity two years ago.

• A survey carried out by the Welsh Tourist Board indicated that the commonest reasons for visiting the country were the scenery, wild landscapes and an unspoilt environment whilst for 71% of respondents the things which most spoilt landscape views were pylons, transmission lines or wind turbines. Remarkably similar results were found from research carried out for a Visit Scotland and here over a quarter of respondents said they would actively avoid areas with windfarms and a further 25% preferred areas without windfarms.