I took my kids to Eureka the other day. Frankly, it was ace. There were little streets for them to play in, things to touch and press and twist and pedal and generally have a cracking good time.
As we were leaving, I noticed a “wall of power” facing out through the windows. It showed various means of electricity generation. There was a tidal station, some solar panels, a hydroelectric dam and a bunch of windmills. Colourful chains of light showed these contributions powering a factory, a couple of cities and cars while children ran around flying kites.
It was quite fetching. Although I noted with a wry smile that there was not a single coal, gas or nuclear power station in sight.
Of course, I was looking on from a carpark 4 or 5 inches deep in snow. Today, as I write, it is -8oC outside. And flat calm. The air is so clear that I can see the Pennines from my window, and a colossal wind farm nestled among the icy hills (I think it’s the one at Ogden Water). The blades aren’t spinning. There is no wind.
Looking at the national statistics for UK power generation (and you’ll need IE to view them) you can see the net effect of this.
Tomorrow – forecast to be the coldest day of the year, wind turbines will likely only deliver a tenth of their capacity. Right as I’m writing, that stacks up to be fully 1.2% of total power use.
There are currently 3149 wind turbines installed in the UK and this is what they are contributing to our needs at the peak demand of the year?
Meanwhile, the coalition of the damned is still committed to the unbelievable target of having 20% of Britain’s power generated from renewables by 2020.
OK. So today is perhaps an atypical example. But it proves a central point. Without the wind actually blowing, the notional ‘capacity’ of wind farms is meaningless. We’ve known this for years. A study earlier this year showed that, on average, wind was only producing 20% of its capacity. So to reach the figure of 20% of our energy coming from renewables (and in the UK, that means wind) we would need to build 5 times more capacity than we actually need. And still have to hope that the wind blows when we need it to.
Do you dig? Can you understand the madness of that? It’s like building a car with 20 wheels because on average only four of them would work at any point in time. Chris Huhne clearly couldn’t give a fuck. His own energy is spent elsewhere, perhaps.
Anyway, if we relied on wind for 20% of our capacity today, we would be facing power cuts on the coldest day of the year. And you know what happens to people without heating in the cold?
They die. People die. People will die. How stark a reality do you want?
So in order to keep the heating on, we still need to have those nuclear, gas and coal power stations that didn’t exist according to the “power wall” at Eureka. So not only do we need to build 5 times as many wind turbines as we actually “need” but we will also have to build or keep enough existing generating capacity online for when the wind doesn’t blow.
In other words: we’ll have to keep all our power stations open as well. Fuck me!
We’re broke!!!! We have no money! We owe trillions. And we’re proposing that we spend billions of the money we do have on perhaps the least efficient method of energy generation there is. And all to a chorus of polite applause from the well-meaning chattering classes and the sound of riots about possibly paying something towards your own education.
Meanwhile, our nuclear stations – due to enter decommissioning over the next 10-15 years and that provide 15-20% of our electricity every day – will receive no government funding. Not a penny. I recommend, next to your stockpile of cash, you start stockpiling coal.