We have now had a government announcement about their plans to massively increase the number of offshore windfarms in their bid to raise the percentage of renewables for our energy supplies. In fact it is reckoned that a wind turbine could be in view from almost every clifftop in Britain. Not surprisingly environmental organisations are well pleased with what they are hearing so why is this environmentalist not opening the champagne right now?
Superficially it all looks very good. But of course it will come at a high cost financially, although in fairness the better alternatives of tidal and current power would also be phenomenally expensive in their early days at least. As I have stated before the unreliability of wind strength is my overriding concern. You only have to look at the past few days to get a sense of this - last Sunday off the south west coast the winds were storm force 10 gusting to violent storm 11 yet on hearing the weather reports on Tuesday morning's shipping forecast what did I hear: "Scilly automatic, wind calm ... " In less than 48 hours the wind in that area had gone from one absolute extreme to the other, both situations being unsuitable for wind generation.
When government minister John Hutton talks about this new generation of wind farms being sufficient to supply all the electricity needed by domestic customers I start thinking that is typical political sleight of hand. It is possible that all these wind farms working at their absolute optimum just might supply all of our domestic needs although I'm sceptical of even this. But to imply as Hutton seems to be doing that they would be adequate 365 days a year is plain wrong. We really do need some sort of independent audit as to the degree to which they could supply our power needs over the course of a typical year rather than having to rely on the spin from the government and the wind turbine companies.
For the sake of balance I have to state that wind farms all round the coast (assuming they are working that is) would assist in reducing power losses because with the present situation in which a lot of the power generation is 'up North' the amount of power lost through the long transmission lines is colossal. But this doesn't invalidate my basic argument.