I hear the same misinformation, misleading stories and misunderstandings crop up all the time regarding renewable energy, particularly wind, which is an area I have worked in for over three years now.
Anti-wind websites, often set up by “not in my back yard” residents, determined not to have wind farms built near their homes, reuse these same mistaken arguments against wind. Politicians such as Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and Roger Helmer MEP also put forward these same disproven arguments.
I have linked some example websites below to illustrate a cross section of some of the repetition of these anti wind statements that are incorrectly passed off as wind facts.
Some of the statements that crop up frequently:
“Wind turbines do not reduce emissions”
“Wind farms only work 30% of the time”
“Wind requires dedicated backup of conventional generation for when the wind isn’t blowing”
“Wind turbines kill birds”
“Wind farms are noisy”
“Wind turbines are dangerous”
In a series of blog posts I intend to dissect and sense check these myths and explain why, though wind has its challenges, it’s a valid and necessary technology to invest in.
Before we delve headlong into myth busting, I feel it is necessary to build the case for renewables. In this post, I will introduce how we generate electricity now, and why we need to change the way we generate electricity. In future posts I will steer the discussion through the technology alternatives, before coming back to the topic closer to my own interest; wind energy.
The energy field is such a broad field of discussion that thousands of papers and books have been written on the subject, and it is a topic of endless debate. It is necessary, and somewhat unfortunate, that I must cut down the scope of discussion, though I will happily address specific questions if anyone raises them. For now, let us stick to the electricity production. There are other types of energy, used for heating transport, but these have their own challenges (though granted, they are linked to many of the same concerns).
We currently generate electricity in the UK mainly through gas turbines and coal-fired steam turbines. In the industry, these are referred to as conventional generation. As opposed to these new-wave hippy forms of generation like renewables presumably.
Conventional generation has been very convenient in the past. Fossil fuels are energy dense, so a relatively small plot of land can provide gigawatts of power. They are also controllable – if you want more or less electricity, you push more or less fuel into the system and the output will increase or decreasing accordingly.
However, there are strong arguments why we cannot continue to do this indefinitely:
a) The overwhelmingly strong evidence for anthropogenic (i.e. human influenced) climate change caused in part by the large amounts of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
b) A concern over security of supply of our electricity; in other words, from where we import the fuels we use to get electricity.
c) The growing concern that fossil fuels are a finite resource and the rate of growth of our demand for electricity worldwide cannot be sustained using such a resource.
Next time I’ll start looking at these concerns.