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[cdn-nucl-l] The War of the Winds
This confirms what the engineering profession has said for decades, in
experiential terms that even a politician can understand, i.e., that informs
their voters. You may want to send this to many politicians and voters.
Regards, Jim Muckerheide
From icWales, the national website of Wales
How the pollution from this War of the Winds makes my blood boil
Jul 26 2004
Duncan Higgitt, The Western Mail
Plans for a wind farm off the South Wales coast at Porthcawl, and visible
across the entire Swansea Bay, have brought widespread criticism. Writing
here after the scheme was approved by the National Assembly, Professor Niall
Ferguson outlines his opposition to the turbines
IT IS A SCENE worthy of HG Wells. Hideous, grey metallic monsters - some of
them more than 400 feet high - are invading our green and pleasant land.
There are literally thousands of them, emitting a deafening hum as their
huge heads revolve. Some can scale our mountains.
Others stalk our shores. At night they can still be seen by their flashing
red eyes. Soon these hideous aliens will be everywhere.
And yet, in the best traditions of science-fiction, these are not, strictly
speaking, aliens at all. Like Frankenstein's monster, they are our own
creation. How could mankind have been so foolish? What madman allowed
Britain to be overrun by this monstrous new species?
The monsters in question are wind turbines. The madmen responsible for them
are our politicians.
And if the people of Britain do not act soon to halt this alien invasion,
hundreds of miles of our ancient countryside and shoreline will be
disfigured for a generation. This is not the War of the Worlds. It is the
War of the Winds.
As I write this, looking out the window of our newly acquired house on the
Glamorgan coast and trying to imagine how the 30 turbines due to be built
directly opposite will look and sound, I am of course a sitting duck. My
opposition, someone is sure to say, is mere "nimbyism".
Surely something has to be done to wean the world off fossil fuels - because
if we don't switch to "renewable" sources of energy such as wind, our planet
will soon be engulfed by a climatic catastrophe. I agree: Something does
have to be done to slow down carbon dioxide emissions. It's just that the
construction of 9,000 giant wind turbines is not that something.
The truth is that the Government's commitment to wind power is a huge con
being perpetrated in the name of environmentalism. Not only will it do
virtually nothing to halt global warming. It will impose majoreconomic
burdens on ordinary Britons as tax payers, energy consumers and property
The sole beneficiaries of this misconceived policy will be a few power
companies and, no doubt, their friends in high places.
Let's get this straight. I could just about live with Britain's biggest wind
farm - 30 giant wind turbines, each 443 feet tall, just three-and-a-half
miles away - if I genuinely believed wind power was a viable solution to the
problem of global climate change. But the thought that their construction is
no such thing - that it in fact represents a new and quite unnecessary form
of pollution - makes my blood boil.
The view from Sker Point, west of the pretty seaside town of Porthcawl, is
breathtakingly beautiful. On a clear day, you can see across the Bristol
Channel to Somerset and Devon. To the west, the Gower peninsula is clearly
visible; and beyond it the open Atlantic. The long sandy beaches and rocky
promontories here are a delight for walkers. And there few prettier spots in
South Wales than the Kenfig and Margam Burrows, which have been designated a
"Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest".
Even United Utilities admit that their wind farm will wreck - sorry,
"significantly affect" - what they poetically call the "visual amenity".
A beauty spot near you could be next.
There are already a thousand of the things, mainly at sites in the north of
the country. The bad news is that plans currently exist to build 8,000 more
- 2,000 on land and a staggering 6,000 around the coast.
Nimbyism aside, my objection is not just that wind turbines are a much more
expensive way of generating power than conventional power stations. We could
all put up with bigger bills if it meant, in the cant phrase, saving the
planet. The key problem is that wind power is so inefficient that it
scarcely replaces conventional sources of energy at all.
United Utilities make the typical claim that their Scarweather wind farm
will have a total capacity of "up to 108 megawatts" - "enough energy every
year to power 82,000 homes, equivalent to a city the size of Swansea".
What's more, the company argues, their turbines "will save just under 6
million tonnes of carbon dioxide [from] being released into the atmosphere".
The price tag? A snip at £60m - even if it does last only 22 years.
Well, perhaps not quite such a snip. As the Royal Academy of Engineering has
pointed out, coal, gas and nuclear plants produce power for between 2p and
3p per kilowatt hour, compared with 5.4p for land-based turbines. What's
more, because of the technical difficulty of building, servicing and
transmitting the power from them, offshore turbines are even more expensive,
generating power at 7.2p per kilowatt hour.
But that's not all. Wind, in case you hadn't noticed, varies. Sometimes it
howls. Sometimes there's scarcely a breath. Modern wind turbines start
producing some electricity when the wind reaches a speed of about 8 miles
per hour; they perform optimally when the wind hits 33mph, and they cut out
altogether at around 56mph. What that means is that any energy supplier
wanting to buy power from wind farms must also line up substitutes for those
days when the wind is either too weak or too strong.
But hang on: I thought wind farms were supposed to be a substitute for coal,
gas and nuclear power stations. Wrong. They can stand in for them only when
the wind is not too weak and not too strong but just right. The rest of the
time, the more reliable power stations have to step in. This means that the
true cost of wind power includes the cost of providing back-up power to
compensate for the wind turbines' intermittent output. And guess who picks
up these extra costs? Step forward the consumer - not to mention the
This is not a theoretical debate. Other countries are already far further
down the eco-friendly path to wind power than we are. In the United States,
there are already more than 20,000 wind turbines scattered across thousands
of acres of land in no fewer than 30 states, not least progressive
Closer to home, the German government says it aims to be the "Wind Power
World Power". They already have more than 15,000 wind turbines. If you want
to walk through a veritable wind turbine forest, visit the Uckermark region
north of Berlin.
But in a devastating report published in March, the news magazine Der
Spiegel exposed what it called "The Windmill Madness". What had begun as
"the dream of environmentally friendly energy" had turned out to mean the
'highly subsidised destruction of the landscape'.
The figures are hair-raising. The German wind power industry has already
received tax breaks worth an estimated 1.1 billion euros just to erect their
turbines. On top of that, the "windustry" is guaranteed a price of 8.8 cents
per kilowatt hour, compared with the average market price of 3.5 cents. Yet
the German grid is now plagued by the unpredictability of wind power
generation. In one region, the wind was strong enough to utilise more than
half the available capacity on only 36 days of the year - less than one day
in 10. On 150 days, less than 10% of capacity was being used. It has turned
out that for every megawatt of wind power, the system needs 800-900
kilowatts in reserve from other sources.
Not only are all these costs now being passed on to ordinary Germans in the
form of rising electricity and tax bills. An even bigger price is also being
paid by home owners next to wind farm sites, where property values have
collapsed. The only beneficiaries have been the super-rich Germans who have
invested in wind farms because of the huge tax breaks - not to mention the
politicians in the industry's pocket.
Are we in the process of making the same mistakes in Britain?
The answer is yes.
Not a single wind farm would be built here were it not for the Government's
starry-eyed commitment to increase the share of energy we produce from
"renewable" sources from 3.9% to 20% by 2020, with a long-term goal of
cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 60% over the next five decades.
The Department of Trade and Industry has decided that nearly three-quarters
of the additional "renewable" energy should come from wind turbines.
To ensure that this happens, electricity suppliers are being forced by law
to buy a rising proportion of their power from wind farms.
What this represents is a return to the planned economy in the name of
environmentalism - a kind of Green Stalinism.
The consequences are the familiar Soviet ones: centralised decision-making
and localised devastation. In our case, the inspector's report, drawn up
after a public inquiry, clearly recommended against United Utilities'
proposal. It was simply ignored by the four-member subcommittee of the Welsh
Assembly, who gave the green light.
What is so absurd is that no matter how many wind turbines we build, global
dependence on fossil fuels will scarcely be diminished at all.
Indeed, if we are not careful, we ourselves could end up relying even more
on precisely the sources of power the Government claims it is against.
Why? Because even as it has pumped money into the white elephants known as
wind farms, the Government has been unthinkingly running down the one
reliable source of CO2-free power.
Over the next 20 years, all but one of the UK's 16 nuclear power stations
And it will take a lot more than an invasion of 400 foot turbines to
compensate for that.
Niall Ferguson is Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior
Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford, and a Senior Research Fellow of
Jesus College, Oxford. His two books Colossus, and Empire: How Britain Made
the Modern World, have been made into television programmes which he has
Copyright: Niall Ferguson