Pick your side in the wind farm debate
I’ll say it right up front ? I like wind farms. I like their dramatic profiles and graceful spinning, and, as I gaze at them, I get a nice warm feeling as I think of all that energy being generated without any greenhouse gas emissions.
So the news that two very large offshore wind farms have been given the go ahead in the UK pleases me. They will be built on sandbanks in the estuary of the Thames river, about 12 miles from the coast.
The bigger project is called the London Array and will site about 270 turbines in an area of 245 square kilometres (95 sq miles) ? you can see a PDF map of the site here. Each turbine will be 85 to 100 metres above the sea surface, and up to 175 metres from the sea bed. The farm aims to generate 1000 megawatts of power ? enough for about 750,000 homes. That’s a lot in my book.
The second wind farm, called the Thanet scheme, will host up to 100 turbines off the north Kent coast, generating 300 megawatts,
card of humanity, or enough for 240,000 homes.
So what about the usual objections to these projects. Well, I can’t put it any better than David Suzuki, who wrote a comment piece for us last year (see The beauty of wind farms). He wrote: “With the growing urgency of climate change, we cannot have it both ways. We cannot shout from the rooftops about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and shout even louder about the ‘dangers’ of windmills.”
Worse, the campaigns against onshore wind farms drives the developments offshore where they are more expensive and time consuming to build, and may perhaps harm birds (see Sea birds might pay for green electricity.)
Not that there aren’t issues to bear in mind. England’s winds farms were expected to produce 30% of their theoretical maximum,
cards agianst humanity, but have only managed 26% (see UK not as windy as thought). And there may be some unpleasant ecological surprises if developers are not careful.
So, like many things, it’s complicated. But I am convinced wind farms, onshore and offshore, are good things. Are you?
Damian Carrington Online EditorAll comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please let us know, quoting the comment in question.
The recent report by the Renewable Energy Foundation is a good example of how statistics can be spun to support your campaign. (Lets not forget they are essentially an anti onshore wind group set up by Noel Edmonds). The year they chose gave an average capacity factor for the UK of 28.4%. Put another way this means wind turbines hit government targets by 95%,
buy cards against humanity! All they have proven is that average tends to mean some are below target and some are above.
By Anonymous on December 18, 2006 6:08 PM
I believe that 28.4% figure is actually an unusually high one. The average capacity factor has normally been around 24%. That is why he should look more carefully at such an intrusive technology as industrial wind power, which is destructive in its own right. The point is that ‘picking a side’ is insufficient. To stand a chance of protecting the collective good that is the biosphere, we will have to submit to decisions that we do not want to agree with.
By Anonymous on December 18, 2006 8:57 PM
Surely we could design something around these wind turbines to protect birds.
By alkaloidgirl on December 18, 2006 10:24 PM
Wind farms can not supply a significant percentage of the UKs electricity, well not reliably anyway. The only way we are going to seriously tackle climate change is with nuclear power. The only question is will we wake up to that fact in time. However i do like wind farms I think they look very impressive but the constant whirring would drive me to insanity if it was im my back garden.
By Anonymous on December 19,
cards humanity, 2006 12:42 AM
Try raising the height of the wind towers. Fewer birds fly higher up. Doubling the height approximately doubles the windspeed. Doubling the wind speed means eight times the power which in turn means the area the blades sweep through can be reduced to one eighth for the same amount of power. These turbines are set against the background of the Waterton national park in Alberta, Canada. However, if small gains are added together the cumulative effect is greater. If a nuclear or fossil give 30 50% efficiencies (output) why is it not better to just to add more responsible (used loosely) sources that give a lower O/P but do not contaminate or destroy on anywhere near the same magnitude.
By Anonymous on December 19, 2006 3:13 AM
wind farms are good, eh! the government should just get everthing in there country and negate the prices for everyone involved. It seems funding research to mitigate these engineering issues would be a better investment than, for example, unrealistic Kyoto based economic ponzi schemes.
where can you get cards against humanity 504