Christopher Booker: Wind Turbines Policy Is All At Sea

  • Date: 08/12/13
  • Christopher Booker, The Sunday Telegraph

The wear and tear on offshore wind farms means that within a decade we will have to pay tens of billions of pounds to replace them

Flawed: the effects of weather and salt corrosion will badly hit electricity output
Flawed: the effects of weather and salt corrosion will badly hit electricity output  Photo: ALAMY

It has long been obvious that by far the most delusional element in the Government’s shambles of an energy policy is how it subordinates all else to an obsession with building thousands of hopelessly inefficient and absurdly oversubsidised windmills. This is now only made worse by George Osborne’s bid to appease his backbenchers by transferring a fraction of the 100 per cent subsidy paid to those increasingly unpopular onshore wind farms to the giant offshore wind farms, which already receive a 200 per cent subsidy, making such electricity as they produce six times more expensive than that we get from coal.

It is now a year, however, since a report for the Renewable Energy Foundation by Prof Gordon Hughes, a former senior energy adviser to the World Bank, dropped what should have been a further huge bombshell into the energy debate.

Using official data from the UK and Denmark, Prof Hughes showed that we have now been building turbines long enough to see that, due to wear and tear on their mechanisms and blades, the amount of electricity they generate very dramatically falls over the years; so that a turbine that initially produces on average at 25 per cent of its “capacity” can degrade over 15 years to produce less than 5 per cent. With offshore turbines, the effects of weather and salt corrosion are so damaging that output falls from 45 per cent to barely 12 per cent.

This means, as Prof Hughes observes, that either we will have to build many more turbines than the Government is allowing for, to comply with our EU requirement to generate 32 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2020; or, within a decade, we will have to pay tens of billions of pounds more for most of those turbines to be replaced.

I gather that Prof Hughes showed his research to David MacKay, the chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, who could not dispute his findings. So DECC is fully aware of this devastating flaw in its projections, but presses on with its insane policy regardless.

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