Adam Smith Institute anti wind power report ‘smacks of desperation”, says RenewableUK

Wind farm industry says latest report ignores crucial facts about benefits of clean technology source.

A new report that criticises wind turbines for being inefficient and calls for an urgent review of UK energy policy “smacks of desperation”, RenewableUK has said.

A study by the Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance, published today, argues that wind farms are unreliable and intermittent because there are long periods each winter where their output is very low.

The report by the influential think tank suggests a 10GW fleet of wind farms would require 9.5GW of back-up capacity from fossil fuel plants to ensure a steady supply of wind power to the grid.

“The probability that the wind fleet will produce full output is vanishingly small,” it states. The study also downplays the potential benefits of a pan European grid or “supergrid” on the grounds that wind power in northern Europe is also unreliable.

Writing on Conservative Home, report author Capell Aris said the government’s wind power policy was “not fit for purpose”, while Ben Southwood, head of policy at the Adam Smith Institute, told the Mail on Sunday that wind farms are “a bad way of reducing emissions and a bad way of producing power”. He added that they are “expensive and deeply inefficient” and suggested that they “reduce the value of housing enormously in nearby areas”.

However, trade association RenewableUK today dismissed the report’s conclusions, arguing that it “smacked of desperation” from the anti-wind farm lobby at a time when the industry was “stepping up to the plate” to provide power when other sources were struggling.

Last Wednesday, the UK’s wind power fleet generated more power that nuclear plants as a result of high winds and a series of faults at nuclear facilities that forced reactors to be closed. National Grid said wind made up 14.2 per cent of all generation and nuclear offered 13.2 per cent.

“To come out with this [report] a week after record highs of electricity from wind smacks of desperation,” said Jennifer Webber, director of external affairs, for ReneawbleUK, adding that last year wind provided enough electricity for over five million homes, and contributed to a decrease in the amount of fossil fuels burned for electricity. “That’s why the Committee on Climate Change sees expanding the amount of wind power we have as a crucial way to deal with reducing our carbon emissions, with today’s fleet already saving 11 million tonnes CO2 equivalent each year.”

She also highlighted that National Grid has said it is managing wind on the system well and warned that the alternative to wind power would be to “see our dependence on imported foreign fuels continue to soar”.

Gordon MacDougall, managing director of wind farm developer Renewable Energy Systems and a member of the British Wind partnership, said the report overlooked “crucial facts”, including that onshore wind is already cheaper than new nuclear and new coal power plants.

“Onshore wind farms produce significant amounts of energy even at low wind speeds,” he said. “It is also supported by 70 per cent of the public compared to 42 per cent supporting nuclear and 29 per cent fracking, according to the government’s latest annual Public Attitudes Tracker of April 2014. If the facts are ignored it will be consumers who are left to foot the bill and security of supply that will be put at risk.”

By Jessica Shankleman