Wind power — the answer is still not blowing in the wind

Wednesday 15th February 2012 12:00 am

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I LISTENED in disbelief to the radio as a Downing Street spokesman described wind power as a cost-effective energy source! If this is true, then why is it necessary for this Government to subsidise the construction and operation of these wind turbines?

In 2009-10, wind energy companies received over £520-million in subsidies, which came not from a special government fund but from a surcharge on our business and domestic electricity bills. This Renewable Obligation Charge currently adds £26 to everyone's annual electricity bill and this is predicted to increase to £50 by 2016.

There could well be good environmental reasons for supporting windpower development – but in truth I am not able to think of all that many. Let us, however, not kid ourselves that it is a cost-effective source of electrical energy.

There are two major electricity generation projects proposed for the South West which bear comparison — the Atlantic Array offshore wind turbine farm and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Each will cost around £5-billion to construct and have the capacity to produce approximately 1,500 megawatts of electrical power. However, Hinkley C has a working life of up to 60 years and capacity for electrical energy output of over 80%, whilst the Atlantic Array will only have a working life of 25 years and struggle to achieve 20% electricity output.

If we are seeking a cost-effective investment then it is clear that the privately-financed Hinkley C nuclear power station has the edge over the Atlantic Array which will continue to require subsidies from electricity consumers. The answer is still not blowing in the wind even if the Downing Street spokesman is adding a puff!

Giles Chichester MEP

Conservative MEP for South West England and Gibraltar


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