Wind power is not the answer

My goodness, Jocelyn McCarthy is good at categorising people, especially those she vehemently disagrees with (Gazette letters, July 27).

She can be as airy-fairy as she likes about all this climate change malarkey, but she really must survey a few facts

“There are those who believe if we improve the planet by acting co-operatively, as opposed to competitively...our world...can continue” – fine, but try talking to China and India about such a lofty ideal before your home audience.

In her eyes there is no question: wind power good, nuclear bad. Let us examine the claim.

Wind turbines at sea produce their maximum capacity about 35 per cent of the time (for onshore turbines the figure is 30 per cent). Both of these compare with 50 per cent for hydro-electric power, 75 per cent for coal and for the great unspoken of nuclear power, 90 per cent.

Lord Vinson has pointed out the intermittency of wind means the output of marine turbines is a third of their capacity. Furthermore, because of marine corrosion, they will have a working life of approximately one third that of a nuclear plant.

Their overall cost was presented starkly by the energy minister of the last Labour government. In November 2008, he compared the various costs of generating electricity: nuclear power £38 per megawatt, coal £51, gas £52, onshore wind £72 and offshore wind an eye-watering £92.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change was told recently by Centrica and other energy companies that if Britain was to spend £100 billion on installing thousands of wind turbines, it will require the building of 17 new gas-fired power stations merely to provide back-up for all the occasions when the wind drops and the windmills produce even less power than usual. We will therefore have to spend an additional £10 billion on those 17 power stations.

Moreover, if Jocelyn McCarthy is worried about CO2 emissions she would do well to consider the massive amounts created by wind turbines in their construction, transportation and site development.

As Peter Greenhill pointed out in The Sunday Telegraph last month, the concrete forming the base for each turbine weighs 1,000 tonnes and the cement used will have created one tonne of CO2 gas for every tonne produced. The manufacture of the tower, turbine head and blades will have generated further significant amounts.

Even if the turbines were operating 24 hours a day throughout the year, at the maximum output figures claimed by the manufacturers, the CO2 deficit would take years to overcome.

Concentrating for the moment on the great unmentionable, nuclear power, France is the largest generator of it in Europe. Almost its entire power requirement is produced by about 20 nuclear power stations. Any nuisance value is nothing compared with the 20,000 wind generators proposed in France that will not even replace a single conventional power station, which will have to stay put because of wind power’s sheer unpredictability.

Fortunately, sane voices from unexpected quarters are beginning to regard nuclear power less of the no-go area it once was. Mark Lynas in New Statesman wrote in March that, by contrast with disasters in other energy sources, including coal mining and the BP episode in the Gulf of Mexico, nuclear power ‘has kept an enviable safety record even during accidents and the new design reactors will make it even safer’.

And what of the epitome of new-age thinkers himself, George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian: ‘The Fukushima crisis has subjected atomic energy to the sternest of tests, yet the resulting impact on people and the planet has been small. It has converted me to the cause of nuclear power’.

Would that Mr Monbiot had a similar change of heart about GM crops, the matter that has produced environmental hysteria in this country. That is one of the areas we should truly be looking at instead of being religiously concerned about climate change.

The future production of food is of immediate burning necessity and, in countries where tests have been permitted, overwhelmingly GM crops have provided the answer.

The second great concern we should be concentrating on is population growth. The Optimum Population Trust has shown that for a country our size, we should be at 1880 levels, around the 30 million mark, while business leaders are blithely talking about 71 million in a generation and having the temerity to proclaim how we should be building on greenfield sites to accommodate the situation.

Conversely we could follow the OPT line and make a sweeping start by getting to grips once and for all with the lunatic level of immigration. Cut it completely and then we shall be in with a fighting chance of reducing our future numbers.

Of course, in order to be able to do that, we need to get out of the stranglehold of the European Union, which is another story.

Edward Thomas

Collington Close