Wind power

The dual needs to reduce pollution and seek alternative sources of energy are two of the most pressing problems we face today. Some people see wind turbines marching across the landscape as symbols of our concern for the environment and future energy supplies. However, these problems are too important for mere symbols; we need to be guided by facts and figures.

Download a printable version of our “Q and A on Wind Power”

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KHG believes that a massive wind power station in Hampshire would be a waste of valuable resources which would not be in the interests of the wider community. The idea that wind is a free, green energy source is an illusion.

Why an illusion?

Electricity from wind turbines cannot be stored on a meaningful scale. Wind is an intermittent and unreliable energy source, poorly suited to the demands of the grid. It requires 90% back-up from reliable, controllable energy sources such as coal, gas and nuclear power stations. Wind power requires not only duplication of energy generating capacity but also duplication of infrastructure to collect a feeble supply of electricity from a widely dispersed source. All this has a cost, which we ultimately pay, and a carbon footprint.

As part of an extremely expensive route to our future energy supplies, it contributes to driving up costs to industry in this country, displacing production to countries like China which are building two coal-fired power stations a week. Coal is the worst polluter. Remember it is global warming, not Hampshire warming we are concerned about.

It also squanders a precious non-renewable resource, the rural landscape. How can all this be called green?

So why are so many wind power stations still being built?

The answer lies in a combination of politics, ideology, lobbying and profit-seeking; not much science or economics. Politicians have been desperate to be seen to be doing something, and wind turbines are a very visible symbol. They can point to them and say “look what we’ve done”. What has really driven it, however, is the fact that it is the easiest way for energy companies to access the subsidy pot. They can be constructed relatively quickly on an industrial scale. They are effective as subsidy harvesting machines. We can contrast them to the smaller, community-based projects in which the subsidies benefit householders.

It takes a brave politician to oppose what is perceived as a “green” cause, however mistaken. What should count is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, not the proportion of electricity that comes from renewable generation. Political alliances in Europe and a poorly conceived EU Renewables Directive gave the wind industry the opportunity to lobby hard on a green ticket and make billions from subsidies.

Is KHG against wind power altogether?

Not entirely; there is an argument for a small percentage of wind power in the national mix of renewables. Logic would suggest that the windiest parts of the UK would make the best use of resources.

For electricity companies, wind is the cheapest way of putting renewable energy into the grid, whether it is helpful to the grid or not. There is an established industrial chain from production to installation; it is easy for them. However it is still an extremely expensive source of power with severe drawbacks. If energy companies were not allowed to carry on erecting wind turbines at the current rate, they would be forced to do more research into more reliable alternatives. There are some promising alternatives out there, but they look expensive because figures tend to be based on partially developed technologies.

Until there is a realistic way of storing wind energy the drawbacks will always be there. It is only due to the bloated subsidy system that wind turbines are being considered in Hampshire at all.

Conclusion

Money and resources are needed to tackle carbon emissions and secure our future energy supply. A massive wind power station in the Hampshire heartlands would not be a rational use of resources; it would be a futile sacrifice of a precious landscape in the interests of big business.

“With wind as a direct motive source of power, during a calm season the whole business of the country would be thrown out of gear”
William Stanley Jevons, 1865, Political Economist