Memorandum by the Mynydd Llansadwrn Action
The Mynydd Llansadwrn Action Group accepts the
need for an energy policy that focuses on emission reduction,
but as the contents of this submission show, wind power is not
an effective technology for achieving these policy objectives.
Evidence shows that wind power is an unreliable
and intermittent source of energy that cannot provide firm predictable
generating capacity; it is extremely expensive compared to almost
every other energy source, and, it has limited value in reducing
carbon dioxide emissions because of the need for spinning reserve
backup from fossil-fuelled power plants. Wind farms are deeply
unpopular with a growing number of people who object to the visual
intrusion, the noise and light pollution and the damage to the
environment and wildlife. We are paying a high costsocially,
environmentally and economicallyfor poor results.
Wind-generated electricity is intermittent and
unpredictable and, therefore, requires spinning reserve backup.
Fluctuating energy supplies from wind turbines cause problems
for grid operators, who have to stabilise supply with demand.
1.1 Spinning reserve
The intermittent and unpredictable nature of
output from wind farms causes problems. In order to stabilise
supply and demand, grid operators must maintain continuous spinning
reserve backup ready to go on stream immediately in response to
changing weather conditions. This spinning reserve is emitting
CO2 even when not producing electricity.
1.2 Spinning reserve in Denmark and Germany
The more wind energy penetrates the grid system,
the more spinning reserve becomes crucial in meeting demand. The
2003 West Danish Grid [ELTRA] System Report | identified Spinning
Reserve capacity as between 300MW and 500MW per 1000MW of installed
capacity which means that with a Danish load factor of about 20%,
"backup" can be of greater capacity than realised generation.1
The power company E.ON said it would take 50 GW of renewable energy
for the UK to meet EU targets, but this would require 90% backup
from gas and coal plants to ensure supply when "intermittent
renewable supplies" are not available.2
1.3 Unusable wind-generated electricity
Evidence from Denmark shows that even a large
wind farm system is incapable of providing firm predictable capacity.
Sometimes output is low when demand is high; sometimes output
is high when demand is low. As a result, Denmark exports most
of its wind-generated power to its neighbours at a financial loss.3
The UK has no grid connections with other countries; therefore
our unusable wind-generated electricity cannot be sold, even at
a loss. It is wasted.
1.4 Grid instability
As more wind penetrates the grid system, more
problems arse. Hugh Sharman has warned of the problems that can
arise when trying to stabilise supply and demand. He concludes:
The Government is advised that the UK's system
can accept anything up to 26 GW of wind power|. this advice cannot
be regarded as sound. Ample evidence from relatively large wind
systems in Denmark and Germany exists to prove that 10 GW (+/-25%0)
will be the probable safe upper limit of all wind capacity. Wind
power's contribution at 10 GW, albeit small and costly, can be
significant. However, its construction will do nothing to offset
the inevitable loss of firm generating capacity.4
2. WIND TURBINES
AND CO2 EMISSIONS
Estimates of the Contribution of wind power
to a reduction in CO2 emissions are generally exaggerated.
2.1 Exaggerated claims
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) assumes
that wind will replace coal-fired capacity unit for unit and bases
its calculation for emission savings on this assumption. The BWEA
figures are used to support developers' claims in their planning
2.2 CO2 emissions from spinning reserve
The estimated emission savings from wind turbines
must be balanced against the emissions from the fossil-fuelled
spinning reserve required to balance supply and demand when wind
power is brought into the grid system.
[Reserve] capacity is placed under particular
strains when working in this supporting role because it is being
used to balance a reasonably predictable but fluctuating demand
with a variable and largely unpredictable output from wind turbines.
Consequently, operating fossil capacity in this mode generates
more CO2 per kWh generated than if operating normally|Thus the
CO2 saving from the use of wind in the UK is probably much less
than assumed by Government advisors, who correctly believe that
wind could displace some capacity and save some CO2, but have
not acknowledged the emissions impact of matching both demand
and wind output simultaneously. As a result, current policy appears
to have been framed as if CO2 emissions savings are guaranteed
by the introduction of wind-power, and that wind power has not
concomitant difficulties or costs. This is not the case.5
The amount of CO2 emissions a wind turbine can
save is a matter of conjecture since there are no mechanisms in
place to take accurate measurements. However, Denmark, the country
with the most wind-generated electricity per capita, has shown
no reduction in its overall CO2 emissions; in fact, Denmark's
CO2 emissions are rising.6
3. WIND TURBINES
Wind turbines will have no significant effect
on global warming trends.
3.1 Wind farm construction and global warming
Electricity generated by wind turbines is emission-free
at the point of generation, and to this extent it does not contribute
to global warming. However, there are many emissions and pollutants
associated with turbine manufacture and delivery and in the construction
of the wind farm site with its access roads, grid connections,
substations, etc. Each turbine foundation requires between 500
and 1,000 tonnes of concrete and aggregate; concrete manufacture
is one of the largest sources (about 7%) of man-made CO2 emissions.
3.2 Removing CO2 "sinks"
Many wind farms are being proposed on Forestry
Commission land, which will mean chopping down vast areas of trees,
which, if left standing, would absorb CO2. According to the Environment
Agency, one acre of coniferous trees absorbs 3.5 tonnes of CO2
each year. However, when trees are clear felled, the decomposition
of vegetation that is left behind actually adds to the CO2 emissions
Building a wind farm with all its associated
works and grid connections is a major construction project that
inevitably causes environmental damage.
4.1 Visual intrusion
Wind farms are built on high-altitude prominent
sites, marring some of the UK's most scenic regions. Modern turbines
are about 400 feet tall, three times the height of a typical electricity
pylon, with a bladespan greater than the wingspan of a jumbo jet.
Our remote and beautiful landscapes are further degraded by hundreds
of miles of pylons and transmission lines.
4.2 Environmental degradation
Turbine construction will inevitably affect
the local environment, probably destroying wildlife habitats.
Building access roads, crane pads, and concrete foundations, felling
trees and draining peat bogs change the soil composition at the
site. The result is faster run-off during heavy rainfall with
the associated risk of flooding in the lowlands.
4.3 Damage to peatlands
Peatlands represent more than 50% of the world's
terrestrial wetland and hold around 25% of the global pool of
soil carbon. Peatlands contain more than three times the amount
of carbon that is stored in tropical rainforests. During the construction
of a wind farm at Derrybrien, Ireland, in 2003, there was a bog
slide. Here is an extract from the report on this incident:
Peatlands are the one part of the landscape where
wind farm construction results in significant additional and ongoing
CO2 release.. It is thus difficult to understand the logic of
disturbing and releasing such long-term carbon stores in order
to install devices whose whole purpose is to reduce carbon emissions.
If wind farms are to be built, it is surely sensible to avoid
using a habitat which, as a result of the wind farm, will release
CO2 into the atmosphere throughout the life of that wind farm.7
5. NOISE POLLUTION
The low-frequency noise and vibrations from
wind turbines can be very disturbing for some people and have
serious health implications.
5.1 Low-frequency noise and vibration
Noise of the mechanical gearing system is similar
to that of a motorcycle and this can be quietened to a limited
extent. But the low-frequency, penetrating sound of the rotating
blades is more troublesome. It has been compared to the low thud
of base notes from loud music, or the sound of a helicopter at
a distance. So far there has been no success in eliminating this
noise, which can continue day and night for extended periods.
Low-frequency noise, which is sometimes inaudible, is ground borne
and felt through vibrations that can resonate with the human body;
it travels for several miles, much further than audible noise.
5.2 Health issues
For some people living near wind turbines there
is no effect, but for others the low-frequency vibrations can
cause health problems such as pulse irregularity, headaches, dizziness
and sleep disturbance. A recently identified disease, vibroacoustic
disease (VAD), has been observed in people exposed to low-frequency
noise.8 In a press release on 31 May 2007, the Centre for Human
Performance, a non-profit organization dedicated to research into
VAD, gave the following statement based on their studies of several
families living near industrial wind turbines:
These results irrefutably demonstrate that wind
turbines in the proximity of residential areas produce acoustical
environments that can lead to the development of VAD in nearby
6. LIGHT POLLUTION
Strobe effect and shadow flicker caused by wind
turbines and pulsating lights that are sometimes installed on
the turbines themselves are sources of light pollution.
6.1 Strobe effect and shadow flicker
The strobe effect when sun is behind the rotating
blades can, according to medical opinion, cause dizziness, headaches
and trigger seizures. Shadow flicker and reflected light from
the blades can also cause problems. These light disturbances are
experienced inside the home as well as outside. In April 2005,
the BBC reported that the owners of a wind turbine near the Whitemoor
Prison in Cambridgeshire had agreed to turn the turbine off in
the early mornings to prevent possible "security problems"
because the prisoners were becoming upset by the flickering shadows.
Homeowners suffering from shadow flicker are not able to strike
such a deal with the wind farm operators.
6.2 Pulsating lights on turbines
Because of the great height of the new generation
of turbines, which are built on high hill tops, there may be need
to install flashing red lights to prevent aircraft collisions.
There are pulsating lights on turbines in France, for instance.
7. THREAT TO
Wind farm construction is a threat to wildlife,
Once operational, wind turbines kill birds and bats. Noise and
light flicker from turbines can disturb livestock.
7.1 Bird and bat kills
According to the RSPB, birds may be scared away
from their usual locations during construction and/or operation
of wind turbines. Access roads may destroy feeding, breeding and
roosting sites There is considerable evidence from around the
world that spinning blades have killed huge numbers of birds.
This seems inevitable when one considers that turbine blades weigh
in the region of 1.5 tonnes and their tips can travel over 180
mph. According to the RSPB, birds may fly into the towers or the
blades, especially during storms and conditions of poor visibility.
The first major study into bird kills, carried out in northern
Spain, found that about 6,000 birds and hundreds of bats were
killed by turbines in one year.9
Bats kills are also a serious problem. It is
suspected that bats are killed from turbine chop and shock death
from wake turbulence. Scientists with the Bat and Wind Energy
Cooperative studying two wind farms sites in the USA found that
the 66 turbines at the two sites killed as many as 2,900 bats
during the six-week period of the study. They concluded that this
was not a sustainable kill rate.10 All bats are protected species
under UK and European law.
8. JOBS AND
Wind farms threaten the local tourist industry
and create few, if any, jobs.
8.1 Threat to the tourist industry
Evidence from Europe suggest a 40% drop in tourism
in areas where there are wind farms. The 2002 VisitScotland Survey
of visitor attitude showed that tourists avoid landscapes with
wind turbines. A typical wind farm employs one maintenance person.
8.2 Effects on the rural economy
The effects of a drop in tourism will be felt
most keenly in rural areas. Most tourists travel to countryside
to enjoy the peace and tranquillity and to engage in outdoor activities.
Wind farms are incompatible with this type of tourism. The result
will be fewer visitors to rural areas and, therefore, fewer tourism-related
jobs in communities where employment opportunities are already
very limited. Our Action Group is aware of three rural business
enterprisesa game shoot and two sound studioswhose
continued existence is under threat from proposed wind farms.
All these businesses employ local people, and visits from clients
from outside the area to these businesses are a benefit to the
9. PROPERTY VALUES
Wind farms have been shown to reduce the value
of nearby properties.
9.1 Legal ruling on loss of value
There has been a legal ruling on the loss of
property value against a couple in the Lake District who sold
their house without telling the buyers that a wind farm was likely
to be built nearby. The judge, Michael Buckley, upheld the purchasers'
claim that their house had been de-valued as a result of the noise
pollution, light flicker and damage to visual amenity caused by
wind turbines, and he ordered the vendors to pay compensation
of 20% of the purchase value of the house.
A study of eight properties near a proposed
wind farm in Carmarthenshire estimated that the total loss in
value if wind turbines were built nearby would be in excess of
£1.5 million, or typically 20-25% on each property.11
10. THE ECONOMICS
Wind power is one of the most expensive forms
of electricity; it survives on direct and indirect subsidies.
This extra cost to taxpayers is not good value because wind energy
cannot provide firm generating capacity nor can it make a significant
contribution in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
10.1 Cost of wind power
According to a report by the Royal Academy of
Engineering12 the cost of generating electricity from onshore
wind farms is 5.4 pence per kWh with standby generation. The cost
of generation from offshore wind farms is 7.2 with standby generation.
(The cost of the standby generation capacity was based on an open-cycle
gas turbine, which is the cheapest new plant option.) In comparison,
the cost of generating electricity from gas-fired (CCGT) plant
is 2.2; from nuclear fission plant, it is 2.3, which includes
decommissioning costs. (Decommissioning costs are assumed to be
neutral in the calculations for the cost of wind power.)
10.2 The subsidy system
Wind-generated electricity is too expensive
to be commercially viable without huge subsidies. It has been
estimated that wind farms receive about thee times as much in
subsidies as they do producing electricity.13 The Renewable Obligation
subsidy system pays for wind power at the point of generation,
not delivery. This means that even the wind-generated electricity
that is lost in transmission or wasted because it is generated
when there is no demand is rewarded with government subsidies.
The Committee of Public Accounts Report on Renewable Energy, published
in 2005, concluded that the Renewable Obligation subsidy system
gives undue support to wind power at the expense of other renewable
10.3 Cost to consumers
The Committee of Public Accounts Report on Renewable
Energy, published in September 2005, estimated that the Renewable
Obligation subsidy system will be adding £1 billion a year
to electricity prices by 2010. The expansion of transmission capacity
needed to meet the government's 10% renewables target will add
another £1.5 billion to consumer costs.
10.4 High cost for poor results
This high cost of wind power for taxpayers and
consumers is unjustified given the poor performance of wind turbines
in providing firm generating capacity and reducing greenhouse
gas emissions. Wind power is not an effective technology in fighting
global warming, nor can it make a reasonable contribution in meeting
the UK's growing energy demands.
We are paying a very high cost for very poor
6 June 2008
1. "The Renewable Energy Debate" by
Henry Thoresby, Chairman of the London School of Economics Environmental
Initiatives Network, appeared originally in the September 2004
edition of Business-Money
2. The Guardian, 4 June 2008
3. Hugh Sharman, "Why wind power works for
Denmark" Civil Engineering 158, May 2005
4. Hugh Sharman, "Why UK wind power should
not exceed 10 GW" Civil Engineering 158, November 2005
5. David White, BSC, C Eng, Fl Chem E "Reduction
in Carbon Dioxide Emissions; Estimating the Potential Contribution
from Wind-Power" Commissioned and published by the Renewable
Energy Foundation, December 2004
6. V C Mason, "Wind power in West Denmark:
Lessons for the UK", October 2005. See www.countryguardian.net/vmason.htm
7. R A Lindsay and O M Bragg, Wind Farms and
Blanket peat: The Bog Slide of 16 October 2003 at Derrybrien,
Co. Galway, Ireland. University of East London, 2004
8. N A A Castelo Branco and M Alver-Pereira,
"Vibroacoustic Disease" Noise and Health, 2004,
9. See www.iberica2000.org
10. Reported in Charleston Gazette, Charleston
WV, 8 June 2005
11. Gareth Scourfield, "Report on a sample
of properties inspected near a proposed wind farm at Esgairwen
Fawr, near Lampeter, Ceredigion" 11 July 2005
12. The Cost of Generating Electricity,
The Royal Academy of Engineering, March 2004
13. The Economist, 18 March 2004