Top scientist savages think tank’s wind power hatchet job
A THINK TANK has claimed that wind power is by far the most expensive form of energy generation and that wind turbines can emit more CO2 than gas-fired power stations. But an energy expert has slammed the report for selecting “extreme” estimates and being out of step with the scientific consensus.
Civitas, whose mission is to “facilitate informed public debate… by producing objective and balanced publications”, makes its controversial claims in what some might call a remarkably unbalanced new paper called Electricity costs: the folly of wind power.
Ruth Lea, the economist who wrote the report, uses an age-old objection to wind power: the fact that the wind doesn’t always blow. This, she says, is a major drawback because it means that fossil fuel power stations are needed to provide back-up on still days.
Lea writes: “This means that energy users pay twice: once for the window-dressing of renewables, and again for the fossil fuels that the energy sector continues to rely on.”
The upshot is that over its ‘lifecycle’, the cost of electricity from wind is the most expensive bar none. Nuclear, gas and so-called ‘clean’ coal-fired power stations are all cheaper, she says.
Perhaps Lea’s most controversial claim is that wind power “backed by conventional gas-fired generation” can actually produce more CO2 emissions than “the most efficient” gas power stations.
The basis for this bold assertion is a study published in October 2011 by Dutch physicist C. le Pair. He found that “deploying wind turbines on ‘normal windy days’ in the Netherlands actually increased fuel (gas) consumption, rather than saving it, when compared to electricity generation with modern high-efficiency gas turbines”.
The report concludes that wind-power “is expensive and yet it is not effective in cutting CO2 emissions.”
But Civitas and Lea have been attacked for being “widely out of step with the scientific consensus” by Dr Robert Gross of the UK Energy Research Centre. As the director of the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology at Imperial College, he is an expert in wind power’s main drawback: ‘intermittency’ - what the layman might refer to as ‘still days’.
Dr Gross told The Guardian that his research shows that the cost of intermittency for wind power in the UK is less than £9 per megawatt hour as opposed to the £60/MWh claimed by Civitas.