The Wind Farm Scam

The march of turbines across Withiel continues, and the worst is yet to come. The three monster turbines on the parish boundary at Roche may soon be joined by a tower of similar size at Great Brynn Barton, the Firkin and Varcoe turbines are running in adjacent fields nearby, the Drake turbine has been joined by the Hawkey turbine and the Piper tower is expected soon to rise between them, while REG Windpower will be erecting five of the tallest turbines in Cornwall on St Breock Down. Across Cornwall hundreds more turbines are in progress, and we can expect little help from our councillors or MPs – Cornwall Council is said to have applied to itself for twelve turbines.

While they are generating fabulous sums of money for their owners – the Dingle Brothers’ fly-built turbine at Bodmin makes them £300,000 a year – the galling fact is that these turbines are practically useless and most will never save the amount of greenhouse gas that was generated in making them and putting them up. The public has been fed a diet of propaganda by well-funded interests; the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor, and the issue of climate change is not addressed at all.

The usefulness of turbines is expressed in terms of ‘installed capacity’. This is the figure the BBC uses when they say a turbine “could produce enough electricity to power XX homes”. In fact, that is the power produced if the wind blows strongly all day and all year, and real production is around one-fifth of that. Furthermore, the power cannot be efficiently distributed. Turbine owners are not paid at your meter for what you use, but at their turbine. Much of what they are paid for never reaches an end user, or even the main Grid. I asked an engineer from REG Windpower how much of what they are paid for is ever used, and he admitted he had no idea; he agreed that much of the time it was very little, and sometimes none at all.

Electricity must be used the instant it is generated – the Grid cannot store it – and the small percentage of wind power that reaches a user only cuts greenhouse gas emissions if it supplants fossil-fuel generation. That means that somewhere, a coal-fired power station must be decelerated to take account a puff of wind in Cornwall (nuclear produces no greenhouse gas and can’t be decelerated anyway) and in practice, power stations cannot respond to the shifting requirements of erratic electricity pushed towards a Grid that was only ever designed as a one-way delivery system. It has been suggested that wind turbines not be connected to the Grid at all – that way we would meet our European quota for renewable generation without lumbering the Grid with nuisance factors it can’t handle. Well, it makes as much sense as other aspects of the turbine industry.

In terms of payment for what is used, wind power is far and away the most expensive electricity to the consumer. The huge amounts of money involved, and the religious zeal of the Green Taliban who promote this madness, mean there is little we can do. We fought and won against the Drake and Piper turbines, only for the democratic process to be swatted aside by the government’s planning inspectors. Landowners who want a turbine can call on Ainscough Wind Energy Services Ltd at Newquay Airport. Ainscough is jointly owned by Goldman Sachs and Texas Pacific Investments, the most rapacious merchant banks in the world. They may be driven by concern for the environment, but getting fantastically rich may also be a factor. We are casting billions of pounds to the wind. Subsidies are incredibly opaque, but it’s estimated to cost the average family £300 a year. And we have old folk sitting in the cold because they can’t afford power bills.

Even if wind turbines were efficient they’d be pointless. Germany is building 35 new coal-fired power stations, and India and China are opening one a week, each. Turbines cannot be built in beautiful parts of Britain like the Lake District, but Cornwall is easy meat for the profiteers and soon it will be impossible to find a calendar view anywhere. We sought help from our MP Dan Rogerson at the beginning of this process but he has done nothing to save Withiel from the turbine plague. Dan Rogerson has agreed to come to Withiel Village Hall on Wednesday October 1st to discuss this issue; all are welcome. – Pat Malone

*If you want a greater understanding, read ‘The Wind Farm Scam’ by John Etherington, Reader in Ecology at the University of Wales.