The answer to our energy problems is not blowing in the wind

The answer to our energy problems is not blowing in the wind


Today we start a new feature in which invite guest columnists to express views on a matter dear to their hearts.

First up is Cllr David Chapman who has strong views on the Rampion wind farm.  The views expressed are solely those of Cllr Chapman and do not reflect the views of Worthing Daily.   Worthing Daily welcomes your comments.

David Chapman writes …

I noted that Adur and Worthing Council are presently looking at an application for planning permission for the Rampion Wind Farm electricity generation scheme.

My eye was drawn to the overall cost of the scheme at £2 billion which seems a lot of money.   It will have a capacity of 700 megawatts.

These figures are meaningless to me, so I did a little research and thought it might be interesting to compare this to the cost and capacity of our own little power station at Shoreham.    This costed £150 million when built in 2002 and has a capacity of 420 megawatts.

That means that our wind farm will cost 13 times more than Shoreham power station to produce less than twice the amount of electricity.     Even with inflation, that sounds very, very expensive.

Further more we understand that the 700 megawatts the Rampion will deliver, is an upper estimate and because the wind does not blow all the time we will be lucky to see half or a third of that capacity being delivered.   EON who are delivering the project themselves state that they only expect 35% of the capacity to be delivered.  Practical experience from other similar plants suggest it could be much less.    Shoreham power station on the other hand, can deliver the required electricity up to its capacity on demand as will any other conventional or nuclear power station.

There will be 175 wind turbines spread over 139 square kilometres.  So we are despoiling our seascape views, threatening wildlife and creating a hazard to our shipping with a forest of wind farms for a return which we could have achieved for a more modest sum and far less environmental impact by simply building another little Shoreham power station.

But that is not all.   During my research I saw that the Royal Academy of Engineers noted that because of the unreliability and variability of our winds, there would have to be a matching capacity of conventional fossil based power stations ticking over to ensure that power needs were met when the wind does not blow.

This means that whilst coal and gas powered generating stations can produce electricity at 3.5 pence per unit, marine wind farms cost over twice as much at 7.2 pence per unit.    In other words, one way or another, we will be paying twice what we need to pay for our electricity with little gain in terms of reduced emissions.  We might as well forget the wind farms and just use the fossil fuel plant we will have to have in place as back up anyway!

Further research reveals that recently built Thameside gas power stations cost in the region of £580 million with a capacity of 1275 mega watts – nearly twice the capacity of Rampion at a quarter of the price.    The much maligned nuclear power stations will deliver 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts at a price of £3 billion.

Bearing in mind that some individuals doubt that the marine based wind farms will reach anything like the 25 to 50 years life forecasted and the extreme marine environment will reduce the working life of the plant to 10 to 15 years.  In any event common sense tells us that the costs of maintaining of these 175 units will be horrendously expensive.  How long before they become a derelict eyesore?

It is fairly obvious from the above figures that even if we have forests of wind generators around our coasts, it is not going to meet the growing demand for power. We are unnecessarily shutting down our conventional fossil burning electricity generation plants, and facing future demand from our growing population, rising living standards as well as our desire to drive round in electric cars!

These are the economics of insane madness!  Energy bills are already difficult to manage.   It is my worry on behalf of those on low and fixed incomes will see energy costs rocket out of control so that many will not be able to afford to heat our homes – and in the bitter cold windless winter high pressure days, there will be no electricity to even run gas boilers – and we will all freeze.

We must think very carefully before going ahead with this project.  We will be suffering no end of disruption by the building process and bringing the power on shore, irreparably damaging our sea scape – important for tourism, causing unknown damage to wildlife and wasting billions of pounds for little in the way of return and doing nothing to influence climate change.

Cllr David Chapman

Sept 2013

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