Onshore wind is the cheapest renewable resource, so why is it not being built

Why is this not returning to a be a common thing

From 2015 to last year, there was a defacto ban on onshore wind. This was because of a change by David Cameroon, who changed planning rules, so it took just one objection to block a wind project. This was a stupid idea, and indeed was only put in place as a result of NIMBY (not in my back yard) concerns from wealthy donors and conservative MPs.

Why should we care, if these wealthy people blocked onshore wind for all that time? Well it is estimated that the lack of extra onshore wind capacity is costing around £510 million to the UK public, because it is easily the cheapest electricity. To put that in perspective that is £182 per household (this is from july 2022-june 2023).

We need to reverse this foolish decision now. We need every wind turbine we can get, in the effort to reach carbon neutral power generation in the UK as soon as possible.

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Largest offshore windfarm just powered up, and its just off UK

This vast wind farm can produce around 3.6 gigawatts of power when turned on. To put that in perspective, peak demand in the UK is currently around 61 gigawatt hours, This means that even at peak demand, this wind turbine is capable of providing roughly 5% of the UK power demand. By contrast, the average house in the UK has a low-point in power demand, during the night, when around 0.2kwh is used an hour. This equates to around 5gigawatt hours. In other words, this single wind farm is likely to be able to deal with all baseload demands of the UK housing. Of course there is other demand, from shop lights being left on, to night shifts in factories.

However, what is clear, is that this is a significant amount of power, and is likely to greatly reduce the amount of gas required to be burnt for power production.

Given that this adds to the already installed stock, we now can create around 30gwh of electricity from wind – when it is at its peak.

Now, of course the wind does not blow at this required rate to produce the maximum amount of power 24 hours a day, so these numbers are not available all day.

To put these numbers in context, in 2022, wind delivered around 26% of UK electricity. Given all the large wind farms planned, this will grow.

Despite the promise to reverse their insane ban on on-shore wind turbines, there are fears that this what is going to happen

On-shore wind-turbines are far and away the cheapest (currently) and easiest form of renewable power to roll out. The UK is targeting net zero emissions by 2050 (as well as a 68% reduction on 1990 levels by 2030), so any rejection of the cheapest and one of the simplest means of power generation goes against all this. More urgent, the aim is to have a power grid that is 100% green by 2035 – just 12 years away.

Why should a very noisy minority be able to stop the countries efforts to cut our carbon footprint.

The simple fact is, that farmers up and down the country can make good extra money by hosting turbines. Whether crops or grazing is the primary use of the land, wind turbines take up a tiny proportion of the land, and have no discernible effect on output.

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Placing small wind turbines on street lamps? interesting idea

Street lamps do not consume a great deal of electricity. Unfortunately, as there are many of them this rapidly builds up.

A new turbine that spins horizontally rather than vertically may make a big difference. Apart from anything, these turbines will be forced to turn as traffic passes, guaranteeing plenty of electricity each day. While these turbines are never going to make large amounts of power, given the large number of street lamps around the UK, it could generate a lot of power (it is estimated that it could create 6mw of power a day, enough to power a small village.

In Britain, the may gales allowed record amounts of electricity to be made from wind turbines

One of the real pushes in the UK towards clean energy is through the vast wind turbine farms placed out in the North sea.

With expectations of these growing dramatically over the next decade, these areas are very windy and therefore an incredibly reliable source of electricity generation.

Due to more and more wind turbines being built this record will not hold. At the moment wind power makes up roughly 20% of Britain’s energy generation. Over boxing day during a large storm, wind power produce more than 50% of the UK’s electricity.

Last year was the first time that more electricity came from renewables (wind water sunlight and wood) which produced 42% of the electricity in the UK compared to the 41% that came from fossil fuel sources.

This clearly suggests the UK has some way to go. However as the UK increasingly brings more and more wind farms online, and the pace of solar generation starts to pick up again after the government’s foolish eradication of financial support, it is conceivable that in the next 20 years the remaining 41% of our power generation reliant on fossil fuels could fall all too close to zero.

One of the big advances in recent years is the vast batteries that are starting to come online. In the past peaker plants (these are power plants that come online to support high periods of demand) have been the most dirty power. These are likely to quickly be replaced by batteries as they are expensive to run.

For the first time the idea of running a carbon-neutral economy, does not seem that far-fetched when looking at our current setup

A third dam in last 5 years is about to rupture in Brazil

Dams are often talked about as a fantastic way to cut carbon emissions. Aside from the fact that many dams in the world are more like a battery (water is pumped up when electricity is cheap and then flows down when it is expensive creating electricity) dams built in rainforests have such a huge initial carbon footprint from the destruction of the rainforest that sat on the land that in some cases the carbon savings will never make up for the carbon loss.

Communities downstream of a dam are hit twice. Not only does their water supply reduce, if the dam collapses their homes are often destroyed
Copyright: Rogério Alves/TV Senado

I am not saying that dams are useless. Far from it. However, if your dam is there to cut carbon emissions, it is in the wrong place.

Brazil has gone into dams in a large way. Unfortunately, these are so poorly constructed that they are collapsing. This means that land downstream gets hit twice – firstly loosing most of their water supply as the dam fills and then again as they are deluged with months or years of water in one go. What is worse here, is that many dams here are holding back toxic mud, left over after mining work. As such even after the flood of water has gone down, much of the land it has touched will be less productive.

It is not an either or choice for countries like brazil. They aim to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, however 28-33% of that will come from non-hydropower sources (70%). Indeed in Brazil wind power is generating increasing amounts of their power. Indeed, in terms of installed wind power, Brazil now ranks just 8th in the world. Also given it is a country lying in the tropics, it gets a great deal of sun – there are currently 8.5GW of solar installed meeting 1.5% of Brazils needs. However 3.4GW were added just in 2020. It is therefore highly likely that assuming this acceleration continues perhaps 20% of Brazils electricity needs could come from solar by this date.

We need to cut our emissions dramatically in the next 10 years, however political pressure is often meaning that these efforts are going in the wrong direction.

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