The 2006 Annual Prestigious Lecture to The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers and The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (North East) held on Thursday 26th October 2006 A suggestion for meeting the UK Government’s renewable energy target because the adopted use of windfarms cannot meet it.
[Illustrations, footnotes and references available in PDF version]
The UK Energy White Paper was published by the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in May 2003. It proposed the objective of a contribution to reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by use of ‘renewables’ mostly in the form of windfarms (i.e. local assemblies of wind turbines) to provide 20% of UK electricity supply. This objective was endorsed by the UK’s Energy Review that was published by the DTI on 11 July 2006. However, this paper suggests the use of windfarms cannot make significant contribution to reducing the emissions and suggests the construction of tidal coffer dams instead. Windfarms for power generation provide intermittent power so they merely displace thermal power stations onto standby mode or to operate at reduced efficiency while the thermal power stations wait for the wind to change. They make no significant reduction to pollution because thermal power stations continue to use their fuel and to produce their emissions while operating in standby mode or with reduced efficiency that can increase their emissions at low output. And this need for continuously operating backup means that windfarms can only provide negligible useful electricity to electricity grid supply systems. But the large scale use of windfarms requires upgrading of an electricity grid, more complex grid management, and operation of additional thermal power stations to protect against power cuts in time of supply failure. These effects increase the cost of electricity supplied by the grid in addition to the capital, maintenance and operating costs of the windfarms themselves. And the windfarms cause significant environmental damage. Tidal coffer dams would not have these problems and could provide continuous and controllable power supply at similar cost to off-shore windfarms.