ENGLAND is simply not windy enough to justify more onshore wind turbines, the head of the industry’s trade body admitted yesterday.
Hugh McNeal, the chief executive of RenewableUK, said that – while there was still a case for more onshore farms elsewhere in the UK – wind speeds in England were just not strong enough for new turbines to make economic sense.
Critics said his comments proved what they have argued all along – that wind farms are an expensive and ineffective power source.
Dubbing wind power a ‘failed medieval technology’, they said that Mr McNeal’s remarks called into question the viability of ‘several thousand’ new turbines currently in the planning stages which are still set to go ahead – as well as England’s existing 1,200 turbines.
Mr McNeal, who joined the industry body from the Department of Energy and Climate Change two months ago, said that new wind farms in England would not be able to compete with the price of electricity produced from gas plants. ‘We are almost certainly not talking about the possibility of new [onshore] plants in England,’ he said.
‘The project economics wouldn’t work; the wind speeds don’t allow for it.’ His comments came after the Government’s decision that from this month wind farms will no longer be eligible for generous taxpayer-funded subsidies – know as Renewable Obligation Certificates – which are offered to renewable energy projects. Britain has invested £1.25 billion in wind power, making it the country’s biggest renewable energy source.
But opponents point to figures which reveal that on some days wind farms meet as little as 0.5 per cent of the nation’s electricity demand – and are only profitable because of massive subsidies paid to operators.
Last year the UK’s 5,300 onshore wind turbines cost taxpayers £800 million – equivalent to an extra £10 a year on energy bills – in Government handouts, but generated less than 10 per cent of all the country’s energy.
Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Forum, said Mr McNeal’s comments were a ‘cry by a desperate lobbyist who is conceding that wind turbines can only survive if the Government continues to hand out the cash’. He added:
‘But it is ordinary families that are paying for these subsidies and they continue to rise – renewables are predicted to cost us £8billion in subsidies by 2020.’
Despite the subsidy scrappage, ‘several thousand’ turbines that have been granted planning permission will still qualify. And ministers remain committed to wind as part of their green energy strategy, which aims to produce 15 per cent of all energy from renewables by 2020. [....]