EVERY SO OFTEN there is a story in Scotland’s media that hails the great advances being made by technology designed to be environmentally friendlier and help us reverse climate change. That’s fair enough, but what is absent in these reports is any sense of balance, any sense that the other side of the coin is being considered.
It’s almost as if a press release has been copied and pasted as an article without any scrutiny, just without question. I thought raising questions was the role of the media, especially when it’s so easy to look up available facts and figures and research on the Internet?
One such example occurred on Monday of this week when a report in The Scotsman proclaimed (almost proudly, as if “Whae’s like us?”) Wind turbines ‘generating 98% of electricity demand’.
Great claims were made by WWF for the generation of electricity by wind turbines, and especially onshore wind turbines, stating that we need far more. I have written many times about the problems of relying too heavily on only one source of electricity generation and feel it necessary to do so again, if only to provide the balance that was absent in this PR puff swallowed whole.
In supplying electricity, the quantity of electrical energy in KWh is far less important than the capacity to meet the instantaneous power demand in kW. If we ever develop cheap methods of storing electrical energy, than the stance taken by WWF will be important. Until that happens, to justify wind turbines on the number of kWh is misleading.
Yes on 23rd October 2018, wind output was very high. At 8.20 am, wind generation was about 10,000 MW across the UK and Scotland was exporting 3,800 MW to England and this level was maintained for many hours.
Only one week later, however, wind speeds were much reduced in Scotland and there was a dramatic reverse in the situation. At 2.35 am, wind power was producing 4,900 MW (mainly in England). There was not enough generation in Scotland so that it was importing 174 MW via the England interconnector. The situation deteriorated and for the rest of the day, Scotland was importing over 1,000 MW from England, peaking at 1,800 MW at 8.35 pm. This is a blatant illustration that wind power is not dependable for an advanced economy.
Even worse windless days than the 30th October 2018 can occur in the winter. On 11th January 2018, from 1.00 pm to 7.30 pm, wind power never reached 1 per cent of electricity demand and disaster was only averted by adding 9,000 MW of coal-fired stations to the base load nuclear. Scotland exported no electricity to England that day.
It is unethical for the WWF and other vested interests that stand to make money from wind turbines to present only the data that is favourable to their case and conceal the statistics that undermine it.
Electricity and sunshine… unlike water… cannot be stored easily or cheaply. It would be wonderful to store the sunshine from summer when there’s a surplus to transfer to the winter but it is not yet possible. We must therefore have reliable electricity generation for heating, lighting and power, even though it is unnecessary for long periods.
Paul Spare CEng FEI FIMechE