Environmental groups have today pressed the case for wind power with the publication of a new report which claims to “debunk the myth of intermittency”.
The report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth, was published to coincide with the planned closure of England’s only large-scale wind turbine manufacturing plant.
The Vestas facility in Newport on the Isle of Wight is due to close this month with the loss of over 600 jobs. Production will be transferred to China and the USA.
Friends of the Earth’s report concludes that there is no technical reason why a significant amount of energy generated by wind cannot be used to supply the National Grid.
Report author David Milborrow, an energy expert with 30 years experience said: “Utilities worldwide generally agree there is no fundamental technical reason why high proportions of wind cannot be assimilated without the lights going out.”
National Grid said it welcomed the report.
“We welcome this report and the way that it highlights the implications of integrating wind into our electricity network,” said National Grid future transmission networks manager Chris Bennett.
“The report complements the consultation document that National Grid issued in June which highlighted the different solutions available to ensure a safe secure and economic supply of electricity is maintained.”
Friends of the Earth and co-commissioners Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF are calling on the UK Government to put in place funding and incentives to encourage investment in much more wind power and to grant priority access to the energy market and the electricity grid.
They claim wind energy is a key technology to help the UK meet its target of 15% renewable energy by 2020.
Friends of the Earth is also joining forces with trade union Unite to call on the Government to save the country’s wind power jobs.
“Investment is needed in the renewables industry to ensure it survives the recession. The Government talks about how green jobs will help the country climb out of the recession, so we hope they will take action,” said Unite deputy general secretary Jack Dromey.
Today’s report sets out how wind power does not need large amounts of extra conventional - fossil, nuclear or gas - energy backup to stop the lights going out. While the instant loss of a large conventional power station is a real risk, it is extremely unlikely that the same amount of wind will disappear instantaneously, it says.
“The National Grid is more than able to manage the variable input created by wind power, as it is already designed to manage fluctuations in demand and supply - variations in wind power are considerably less than variations in consumer demand, which can vary on an hourly basis according to the weather, rush hour and even TV scheduling.
“There are no significant costs associated with managing variability - If the UK meets its renewable energy targets and within this provides 32% of our electricity from wind by 2020, it will only add £2 to every £100 spent by consumers.
“New technology would reduce this slight increase in price even more, and would reduce the need for fossil fuel station back up - technologies already exist which can hep manage the variability of wind energy and reduce associated costs, and these can be expanded upon . More accurate wind forecasting could help reduce these costs by as much as 30%.
“Wind power will provide significant job opportunities in the UK - there are already 400,000 people working in the wind-energy sector worldwide and this could reach one million by the end of the decade,” it says.
The British Wind Energy Association backed the report.
“For some years now BWEA has been saying that managing variability is neither a major technological challenge, nor is it set to significantly impact consumer bills,” said BWEA chief executive Maria McCaffery.
“In fact, added renewable energy capacity on the system will ensure against fossil fuel price volatility.”
“This report is the final nail in the coffin of the myth of intermittency. We now need to move on and do more to have increased amounts of wind energy on the system, in as short a time as possible.
“As a source of energy wind is free and manageable. Integration costs will be more then offset by insuring ourselves from the inevitable rises in fossil fuel prices, and we could be looking at net savings as we deploy more wind,” concluded McCaffery.