Monday, September 27, 2010

Wind Farm Will Milk Britons of Billions.

Thanet Wind Farm

In all the publicity given to the opening of "the world's largest wind farm" off the Kent coast in Britain last week, by far the most important and shocking aspect of this vast project was completely overlooked. Over the coming yearsthe British taxpayer will be giving the wind farm's Swedish owners a total of $2 billion in subsidies.

I still have my doubts about the safety of nuclear power but that same sum, invested now in a single nuclear power station, could yield a staggering 13 times more electricity, with much greater reliability.

The first all-too-common mistake in the glowing coverage accorded to the inauguration of this Thanet wind farm by the British Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, was to accept unquestioningly the claims of the developer, Vattenfall, about its output. The array of 100 three-megawatt (MW) turbines will have, it was said, the "capacity" to produce 300MW of electricity, enough to "power" 200,000 (or even 240,000) homes.

This may be true at those rare moments when the wind is blowing at the right speeds. But the wind, of course, is intermittent, and the average output of these turbines will be barely a quarter of that figure. The latest official figures on the website of Mr Huhne's own department show that last year the average output (or "load factor") of Britain's offshore turbines was only 26 per cent of their capacity.

Due to its position, the wind farm's owners will be lucky to get, on average, 75MW from their windmills, a fraction of the output of a proper power station. The total amount of electricity the turbines actually produce will equate to the average electricity usage not of 240,000 homes, but of barely half that number.
A far more significant omission from the media reports, however, was any mention of the colossal subsidies this wind farm will earn.Wind energy is subsidised in Britain through the system of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), unwittingly paid for by allBritons through their electricity bills. Electricity supply companies are obliged to buy offfshore wind energy at three times its normal price, so that each megawatt hour of electricity receives a 200 per cent subsidy of £100.
This means that the 75MW produced on average by Thanet will receive subsidies of £60 million a year, on top of the £30-40 million cost of the electricity itself. This is guaranteed for the turbines' estimated working life of 20 years, which means that the total subsidy over the next two decades will be some £1.2 billion.

Based on the costings of the current French nuclear programme, that would buy 1 gigawatt (1,000MW) of carbon-free nuclear generating capacity, reliably available 24 hours a day – more than 13 times the average output of the wind farm.

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