Following a public enquiry the government has given the green light to the construction of the 66 megawatt wind farm at Fullabrook Down. Putting the geography into context Fullabrook Down is part of the high ground about halfway between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The 22 turbines will each stand about 360 feet tall. Energy minister Malcolm Wicks stated that the project would generate enough clean electricity to meet the average annual needs of 30,000 domestic customers or about 30% of total electricity consumption in North Devon. He also said it would also save almost 65,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.
Here are my thoughts. Firstly I'm not an enthusiast of onshore wind energy. Not primarily because of the look of the wind turbines - if I thought they were effective 24/7 and 365 days a year and they really were the best option for 'clean' energy then I might revise my opinion. However as usual government figures in support of the go-ahead have to be taken with a very generous pinch of salt. It's not explained whether the provision of enough power to supply 30,000 homes is based on the assumption that the wind will be at its optimum speed at all times which obviously it won't. Why doesn't the minister come clean on this issue? And how does he define North Devon? And why do they talk about so many tonnes of CO2 saved each year? To the ordinary person such figures are absolutely meaningless, they could be ten times bigger or smaller it wouldn't mean anything.
Because of the constantly varying speed of the wind such developments would never be able to supply the base load for the National Grid. I've heard it said that as the wind blows stronger then electricity use increases. I'm not convinced at all by this argument. For a start think of the obviously huge chunks of energy that are needed which are totally independent of wind speed, power in factories and hospitals for instance. On occasion we have very cold but still nights where extra heat is needed. And increasingly in the summer (although not this last one I admit) there is demand for cooling fans in shops, offices, etc when it is very hot with no breeze.
Supporters of onshore wind energy have never made their case to my satisfaction. I do support genuine environmental initiatives but in this country with such variability in weather conditions I have to say these onshore wind factories are not the way to go.